What You Need to Know About Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs

November 15, 2021

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A rising concern among pet parents is dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. It’s one of the most frequent questions we get. Dilated cardiomyopathy – referred to as “DCM” – is heart disease that results in a decreased ability of the heart to pump effectively.

DCM can be genetic and is most common in certain purebred dogs – including Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Boxers and Cocker Spaniels. A non-genetic form of DCM also occurs, in any type of dog with no breed predisposition. This non-genetic DCM is typically seen in older dogs.

In 2018, the FDA sounded the alarm that there might be a connection between dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs and specific canine diets. For concerned pet parents, it’s important to note that the vet community criticized the FDA’s statement for being way too broad without sufficient evidence. Today, there is still a lot that is unknown! But, that has left room for a possible association between specific ingredients and development of non-genetic DCM.

Why the concern about pea protein?

Specifically, the FDA warned that certain grain-free diets could be the link to DCM. What’s more, companies often replace grain in pet food with ingredients such as pea protein. This would implicate diets with higher amounts of pea protein and other legumes – in other words, vegan and vegetarian diets.

Because of this, dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs is a topic we take seriously at Bramble!

Throughout the formulation, production, and testing of our recipes, we rely on the advice and expertise of our board-certified veterinary nutritionists and animal nutritionist who formulate our recipes, as well as our veterinary and animal health science advisors.

Obviously, the most important question is whether certain ingredients – like pea protein – and diets that are higher in legumes cause dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. According to our animal health and science advisors, who have conducted studies and research on this very issue, the answer is no! Then why all the fuss? Because it is possible that some companies source low-quality, feed-grade ingredients that are higher in fiber – such as pea protein – and then process those ingredients in a way that lowers nutrients – such as taurine and carnitine. If these companies do not test for these lost nutrients and then formulate the diets to make up for these losses, then dogs could be at risk.

The important takeaway is this: it’s not the kind of diet or a certain category of ingredients that is possibly linked to DCM. Rather, it is likely the quality of certain ingredients and the processing done to those ingredients that put dogs at risk of heart disease, as well as other conditions!

Here’s how what we learned about DCM impacts what we’re doing at Bramble:

  1. We start by identifying nutrients that could be linked to dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. These include taurine and carnitine – nutrients with beneficial effects on the heart! Fiber is also extremely important – because fiber can affect taurine loss! When Bramble’s diets are formulated, we make sure that we provide more than just the minimum required nutrients. Bramble is high in protein and contains all the nutrients dogs need to keep their taurine and carnitine levels within the healthy range.
  1. Next, we look at our ingredients to see where these nutrients are coming from and how we can ensure their digestibility and bioavailability. We use a low-fiber plant-based protein source, along with fresh, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, to provide a ready source of essential nutrients. We also add additional nutrients directly to our recipes to ensure they are both present and available to dogs!
  1. Finally, we use a cooking process that is less likely to impair the absorption of these nutrients when our dogs eat Bramble. Our fresh ingredients are gently cooked – not over processed! This improves digestibility and maintains nutrient viability. We also take advantage of the natural antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables instead of adding artificial preservatives.

Bramble was founded by a dog mom who wanted to feed her own fur kids better in every way. We understand firsthand the trust pet parents place in us! Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs is a serious health condition, and we are confident that our foods are healthy and nutritious. We take every precaution to ensure that our diets not only meet but exceed every nutritional requirement our companions have. We strive to make products that are the healthiest and tastiest for our dogs to enjoy for many, many years to come. You can get started by ordering here!