FAQ - Grain Free Kibble and Canine Heart Disease

Like many Jeffrey’s clients, you may have been hearing about a link between grain free pet foods and heart disease. We wanted to take the opportunity to help break down the current issues and concerns for you. As always, please don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions!


What’s in the news?

The news you’ve been hearing about is regarding an ongoing investigation conducted by the FDA after it began receiving reports of Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain dry dog foods in 2018. While the FDA doesn't have a definitive answer to the role that diet may play in these cases of DCM, the common thread appears to be a high proportion of legumes, pulses, and/or potatoes as main ingredients.


What is Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle and results in an enlarged heart. As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump. There are multiple possible causes of DCM. Taurine deficiency is well documented as a potential cause of DCM, but it is not the only cause of DCM.


What are legumes? What about pulses? What is considered to be a main ingredient?

Common legumes include peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts. Pulses are dried beans, dried peas, chickpeas, and lentils. A main ingredient is any of the first 10 in the ingredient list before the first vitamin or mineral ingredient.


Does the FDA know what it is about these foods that may be connected to Canine DCM?

At this time, it is not clear what it is about these diets that may be connected to DCM in dogs. However, we suspect that the high temperatures used to manufacture extruded kibble, together with a heavy carbohydrate load (common even in many grain free foods) interfere with taurine absorption. A chemical reaction can occur between taurine and carbohydrates during the process of extrusion that depletes the level of taurine in the food.


What is Taurine?

Taurine is an essential amino acid, found in organ meat, muscle meat, fish, and dairy. Taurine is sensitive to heat. That's why some pet foods companies add synthetic taurine to counteract the loss from the manufacturing process. Taurine levels are better maintained in baked foods, as opposed to extruded foods.


What is extrusion?

Almost all dry pet foods is made through what is called extrusion. Extrusion is an extreme pressure and high temperature manufacturing process used to make mass quantities of pet foods quickly. 

The dough, a mixture of dry and wet ingredients, is fed into a machine called an expander. This uses pressurized steam to cook the ingredients. Then the dough is put under extreme pressure and high temperatures. The dough is then forced (extruded) through specially shaped holes (called dies) and cut. The pressure is released and the dough puffs up.


I heard that FDA has named some brands of food in its report. What are they? If FDA is not certain about the connection between diets and Canine DCM, why is it naming them?

By naming brands and formulas, the FDA is able to make pet food consumers aware of the problem and solicit reports from pet owners and vets that may have seen related cases. FDA has named brands that had at least ten reports and they are:

  • Acana (67)

  • Zignature (64)

  • Taste of the Wild (53)

  • 4Health (32)

  • Earthborn Holistic (32)

  • Blue Buffalo (31)

  • Nature’s Domain (29)

  • Fromm (24)

  • Merrick (16)

  • California Natural (15)

  • Natural Balance (15)

  • Orijen (12)

  • Nature’s Variety (11)

  • NutriSource (10)

  • Nutro (10)

  • Rachael Ray Nutrish (10)


Has the FDA issued a recall?

As the FDA has not yet determined the nature of any connection between these foods and Canine DCM, it has not issued any recall targeting any of these pet food brands.


Does Jeffrey’s sell any of these brands?

No. While Jeffrey’s has sold Acana and Orijen in the past, Jeffrey’s has discontinued any affected brands.


I may need help choosing a new food for my dog. What is your advice?

We ALWAYS recommend a fresh, balanced, species-appropriate diet, but there are a number of changes you can make right now, if you’re concerned. Switch things up! We recommend making the change to either a full fresh or frozen raw diet, including Jeffrey’s Fresh Meat Pet Foods, or adding fresh or frozen raw food to your dog’s current diet. You can also consider switching to, or adding freeze dried or air dried foods, wet food, or a baked kibble rather than an extruded kibble.

The staff at Jeffrey’s can make recommendations for all of your options. Visit us at Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods, today!