On July 12, 2018, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a brief stating they are investigating recent case reports of a type of canine heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, in dogs not genetically predisposed to the disease that may have been fed certain types of diets. The agency issued an updated on its investigation on February 19, 2019. Members of the Pet Food Institute (PFI) are committed to the production of safe, nutritionally balanced pet food and are working closely with FDA and internal experts to advance the understanding of this issue. Below, we provide answers to some questions that pet lovers may have about DCM and their dog’s diet.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

DCM is a specific type of heart disease which, in dogs, results in an enlarged heart and can be serious if left untreated. Some dog breeds are genetically prone to this disease, such as the Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer and the Cocker Spaniel. Symptoms of DCM include a decreased appetite, lethargy, coughing and collapse. Dogs displaying these symptoms should be taken the vet immediately. FDA’s investigation is specifically focusing on DCM and not canine heart disease as a whole.  

What role does diet play in DCM?

The exact cause of recent reported incidents of DCM has not yet been identified. One avenue that FDA is investigating is the possible role specific ingredients and formulations in certain dog food recipes may play in development of DCM in some dogs.

Is grain-free pet food safe for my pet?

Millions of dogs are thriving on grain-free dog food every day. In comparison, FDA has received to date a relatively small number of valid reports indicating that certain grain-free diets may possibly have played a role in DCM. FDA’s investigation focuses on certain ingredients that figure more prominently in some pet food products labeled as grain-free. FDA is focusing on certain ingredients, including legumes like peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes, in its investigation, but has not identified any established link between certain ingredients and incidents of DCM.

The exact cause of these cases of DCM is still unknown and may be the result of many factors. If you have a question about your dog’s food, we recommend that you contact the manufacturer to learn more.

Should I avoid certain ingredients or grain-free dog food as a whole?
The FDA stated on August 10 and repeated in February 2019 that the agency does not  advise any dietary changes based solely on the information gathered so far.

Why may pet food makers use certain ingredients in dog food?

Pet food recipes that are formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition offer the essential nutrients that a pet requires for his or her specific life stage, and at the proper levels. The ingredients used in pet food will help to deliver those nutrients and some ingredients may help deliver multiple nutrients. When developing a recipe, pet food makers consider many factors, such as an ingredient’s nutrient profile, its role in helping the food hold shape, flavor, digestibility and shopper preference.

Should I be concerned if my pet’s food contains one of the ingredients mentioned by the FDA?

FDA has not linked any specific pet food or ingredient to incidents of DCM and has not recommended removing or recalling any pet food from the market. It is important to make sure the food you are feeding your pet is formulated to be complete and balanced for a pet’s life stage. If you have additional questions related to a specific ingredient we suggest reaching out to the pet food manufacturer. For concerns about your pet’s health, we recommend reaching out to your veterinarian.

Are pet food ingredients safe?

As makers of the sole source of nutrition for America’s pets, PFI members hold pet food safety as the number one priority. U.S. pet food makers use ingredients that have been accepted by the FDA, meet the agency’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) standard, or have been recognized by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). For more information about how pet food and its ingredients are regulated, click here.

What are PFI members doing about this potential issue?

PFI members take seriously their commitment to provide safe pet food that provides complete and balanced nutrition and they welcome new information that can help us keep this commitment. Member company scientists, veterinarians and nutritionists are currently working closely with each other and with the agency to further advance the understanding of this issue.

What should I be feeding my dog now? Should I change what I am feeding my dog?
The first step you can take is to make sure your dog is receiving a complete and balanced diet that is formulated for his or her life stage. Our interactive infographic series “Nutrition from Nose to Tail” provides fast facts on why a complete and balanced dog food recipe is critical in supporting your pet’s health. If your pet does experience a change in health, it is important to consult with your veterinarian.

If you have questions about a specific product, we recommend that you call the manufacturer to learn more. The FDA is also recommending that pet owners seek dietary advice from a trusted veterinarian, who knows your pet and can provide information specific to him or her.