A new study by the US Food and Drug Administration highlights research linking certain dog foods to canine dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, a severe heart disease.
According to a report published on Thursday, researchers compared traditional dog foods with those that the FDA associated with DCM, looking at more than 800 compounds. Currently, peas are at the top of the list of ingredients linked with compounds that might be related to DCM.
Diets reported to be associated with DCM are often labelled “grain free” and usually contain certain ingredients, including peas and potatoes, that are used to replace ingredients such as rice or corn.
Canine dilated cardiomyopathy is a deadly disease of a dog’s heart muscle that results in an enlarged heart and weak contractions. The disease has largely been linked to a genetic predisposition in certain breeds, including Dobermann pinschers, great danes, boxers and cocker spaniels. But recent research has indicated that nonhereditary forms of DCM can occur in dogs and is often a result of factors such as underlying medical conditions and diet.
"I see this as a piece of the puzzle," says Dr Lisa Freeman, a professor and veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University, in Massachusetts, told NBC News. "This research helps us narrow down the targets to look at so we can focus on the most likely causes and get to an answer more quickly and prevent other dogs from being affected."
Upon detailed analysis through a process called foodomics, researchers found that the ingredient most strongly linked to suspect compounds was peas. However, the FDA is not considering a ban on peas in dog foods yet. According to the agency, because “legumes and pulses have been used in pet foods for many years, [there is] no evidence to indicate they are inherently dangerous”.
Rather, the problem may be one of quantity, as the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine “indicates that pulse ingredients are used in many ‘grain-free’ diets in greater proportion than in most grain-containing formulas.” – Guardian