This question list is compiled based on common objections/questions surrounding the FDA's investigation into DCM in atypical breeds in association with grain-free/high-pulse diets. The information provided comes from my personal knowledge background as a veterinary student, conversations I have had with cardiologists, nutritionists, and veterinarians close to the subject, public interviews or statements from experts, and published academic literature on the topic, the latter two linked where referenced or at the end. If you have any questions or input, please use the contact form to the right, the comment section of the post, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This is intended to be educational only. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health, please contact your veterinarian to schedule an examination.
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- Wasn't this all started by a nutritionist in the pockets of pet food companies?
- The FDA's most recent update said diets aren't at fault, right?
- Didn't an analysis of 150+ studies find no link between grain-free diets and heart disease?
- Isn't DCM a genetic disease? Aren't most of the reported breeds predisposed?
- It isn't just diet, what about other factors?
- The FDA said "DCM is a complex medical condition that may be affected by the interplay of multiple factors such as genetics, underlying medical conditions, and diet." What does that mean?
- If the dogs that recover also get medications, how do we know the diet switch matters?
- Why don't we have a definitive cause yet? Are there any good past comparisons?
- Who is funding this research?
- Didn't the FDA only ask for reports from grain-free diets?
- Doesn't the data just show that people who buy more expensive food are more likely to take their dog to the vet?
- This issue doesn't seem very widespread considering how many dogs eat grain-free diets. Why be concerned?
- My dog has an annual check-up so I know there isn't a problem.
- Grain-free diets are healthier, aren't they? My dog has allergies/intolerance.
- Can't we just add taurine? Or fresh grains as a topper?
- Is a diet fine as long as it isn't grain-free?
- What should I be feeding my dog?
- Published studies and further reading
This was published in 2018, and now in the face of continued caseloads and emerging findings, researchers still, in some cases even more strongly than ever, believe that there is a strong risk factor for the development of DCM secondary to certain diets. However, it is clear that this 2018 piece in no way claimed any kind of certainty.
Even still, several major brands manufacture and sell grain-free diets (such as Purina and Hill's). These major brands also have not experienced catastrophic loss of market share to boutique brands. The insinuation that they would feel so threatened by smaller manufacturers that they would craft an elaborate conspiracy involving a federal agency investigation into the death and illness of dogs rather than just shifting course on their own marketing strategies is, for lack of a better word, absurd.
- "If there is one point I want to drive home, it’s that the best thing you as a pet owner can do is to talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s dietary needs based on their health and medical history."
- "Our veterinarians, animal nutritionists, epidemiologists and pathologists have been working with veterinary cardiologists and nutritionists from academia, industry and private practice to better understand the clinical presentation of the cases and potential ties to diet, such as bioavailability of critical nutrients and how well a dog digests these nutrients."
- "As we look further into the role that diet may play in these cases, we hope to explore additional avenues of inquiry such as formulation, nutrient bioavailability, ingredient sourcing, and diet processing to determine if there are any common factors."
- "In human illness outbreaks caused by foodborne bacteria or contaminants, FDA works in concert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state boards of health, which collect and track cases of foodborne illness. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent for pets, which means that it is difficult to accurately evaluate the scope of an outbreak."
- "Very little is known about the possible causes for non-genetically related (acquired) Fanconi Syndrome cases in dogs, but certain toxins, medications and infections have been linked to its development in dogs and people."
- "When a person dies unexpectedly, it is not unusual for a medical examiner to perform an autopsy to try to determine the cause of death. When a pet dies, it is much less likely that qualified veterinary pathologists will have the opportunity to examine the body. By the time FDA receives reports of deaths in pets, the body often has already been cremated or buried, eliminating the chance for scientists to gather more information about potential causes for the pet’s illness. "
- "Finally, FDA has limited access to market data about food items for pets. FDA regulations do not require product registration for foods, whether they are intended for people or animals. "
Many of these challenges and limitations can easily apply to the DCM investigation as well.
Update: In March 2021, the reason for grape toxicity may have finally been uncovered.
- "Few medical questions have stirred such public interest or created more scientific debate than the tobacco - health controversy . The interrelationships of smoking and health undoubtedly are complex . The subject does not lend itself to easy answers . Nevertheless , it has been increasingly apparent that answers must be found ."
- "It is not feasible to submit human beings to experiments that might produce cancers or other serious damage , or to expose them to possibly noxious agents over the prolonged periods under strictly controlled conditions that would be necessary for a valid test . Therefore , the main evidence of the effects of smoking and other uses of tobacco upon the health of human beings has been secured through clinical and pathological observations of conditions occurring in men , women and children in the course of their lives , and by the application of epidemiological and statistical methods by which a vast array of information has been assembled and analyzed."
- "Among the epidemiological methods which have been used in attempts to determine whether smoking and other uses of tobacco affect the health of man , two types have been particularly useful and have furnished information of the greatest value for the work of this Committee . These are ( 1 ) retrospective studies which deal with data from the personal histories and medical and mortality records of human individuals in groups ; and ( 2 ) prospective studies , in which men and women are chosen randomly or from some special group , such as a profession, and are followed from the time of their entry into the study for an indefinite period , or until they die or are lost on account of other events ."