Canine DCM and Grain-Free Foods

There is a lot of misleading information out there and more information coming all the time. Check back here for updates or call the store at 610-688-0769 if you have concerns or questions. Thank you.

Article Resource links:

Canine DCM and Grain-Free Foods – The Braxton’s Perspective.
Why Braxton’s Has Confidence In the Pet Foods We Carry…


On July 12, 2018, the FDA issued a statement entitled: 

FDA Investigating Potential Connection Between Diet and Cases of Canine Heart Disease

Here the FDA stated that they are, “… alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.” To read the complete statement, click here.

On the surface, this sounds quite scary, and we can understand why pet parents and vets are concerned. Braxton’s believes it is important to break down what the FDA statement means based on the information we have at this time. 

Click here to read the FDA’s full February 2019 update on the investigation. 

In the February 2019 update, the FDA asserts that “Based on the information gathered as part of our investigation to date, our advice to pet owners remains consistent. The agency has not identified specific recommendations about diet changes for dogs who are not displaying DCM symptoms, but encourages pet owners to consult directly with their veterinarians for their animal’s dietary advice.” 

In the Q&A section of the June 27, 2019 update, the FDA expresses that, “At this time, we are not advising dietary changes based solely on the information we have gathered so far.”At Braxton’s, we agree with the FDA and feel that pet owners should not make any rash decisions regarding their pet’s food.

Canine DCM: Links to FDA Updates & FAQ’s

Potential Connection

The FDA is investigating a potential connection between diet and DCM in dogs. They issued this statement in order, “… to solicit reports from pet owners and vets that may know of related cases. The data provided through reports will help inform the investigation.

Certain Pet Foods

The statement makes the claim that they are investigating,certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.” Certain does not mean All. As of June 27, 2019, the F.D.A. named for the first time the pet food brands most frequently associated with adverse events. In descending order of most incidents of heart disease, the brands are Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro and Rachael Ray Nutrish.

It is important to remember that The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States, most of which are not developing dilated cardiomyopathy, according to the F.D.A. statement. 

What Is Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle which causes the heart to weaken and enlarge. DCM usually affects both the left and right sides of the heart. Typically, both the ventricles and the atria are enlarged and often the muscular walls of the heart are much thinner than normal.

“While there are dog breeds (typically large and giant breeds, plus Cocker Spaniels) that are known to have a genetic predisposition to dilated cardiomyopathy, the reports to the FDA continue to span a wide range of breeds, many that do not have a known genetic predisposition.”

Here is a brochure from Penn Veterinary Medicine’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital explaining DCM. Click here for brochure.

What Is A Main Ingredient?

In the pet food industry, a main ingredient is an ingredient in the top five to six listed and as ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, these would make up the bulk of the formula. 

It is important to look at the entire makeup of your pet’s food.

We at Braxton’s tend to prefer high meat inclusion foods, whether it has grains or is grain-free because that leads to higher protein and fat while reducing the amount of carbohydrates. Excessive carbs are key factors in 3 major health concerns in dogs: cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

To state that all grain-free dog foods are bad is painting with too broad of a brush. Just like foods that contain grains, there are different levels of quality among grain-free foods. Braxton’s takes pride in researching, carrying, and recommending high-quality ingredient foods from reputable manufacturers formulated on sound nutritional science. 


In 2003, there were similar concerns found in foods containing lamb meal and rice, turkey and barley, or beet pulp potentially causing a taurine deficiency which can lead to DCM. While researchers were unable to replicate this disease in a lab setting, most responsible pet food companies made sure that the ingredients were of high quality and started adding taurine or methionine, used by dogs to synthesize taurine on their own, to their diets. Foods containing lamb and rice have been some of the best selling and beneficial in the market over the past 15 years and dogs have thrived on these diets.

Canine DCM: Links to Pet industry trade journals

  • Update on grain-free diets and DCM cases in dogs, Whole Dog Journal, 07/09/19.

Who Do I Trust?

For over 80 years, you have trusted Braxton’s to find the right foods for your pets, and we do not take your confidence lightly. We research ingredients and evaluate ingredient panels. We carefully and critically evaluate every food and the companies that manufacture them before we decide if they are a good fit for our customers.

During this time we ask that you continue to trust in us and talk to us about your questions and concerns. We will do our best to help you make the decision that is right for you and your pets.

What do I do if I think my dog has DCM?

If your dog is displaying symptoms of DCM, contact your veterinarian. 

Here is the symptoms list from Penn Vet brochure:

  • heavy or labored breathing
  • coughing
  • fainting spells
  • severe exercise intolerance
  • restlessness
  • lethargy

The FDA encourages pet owners and veterinary professionals to report cases of DCM in dogs suspected of having a link to diet by using the electronic Safety Reporting Portal or calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. Please see the link below about “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint” for additional instructions.

For Further Information, Please Consult with One of Our Senior Staff Members 610-688-0769

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