The Great Grain Debate: Is the Lack of Grains Causing Heart Disease (DCM)?

Oct 04, 2023 Dan





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, and heart valves may leak, which can lead to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen (congestive heart failure).

Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, and Saint Bernards are breeds common to a genetic predisposition to DCM.  It is usually the larger breed dogs that are most often diagnosed with DCM.


Over 5 years ago, in July of 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a public alert stating that they had reports of an apparent increase in the national incidence of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. At the time, it was speculated (without evidence) that the perceived increase in cases was related to the consumption by dogs of a large and diverse group of commercial dog foods that were marketed as being grain-free.

What followed was a fair bit of panic, a whole lot of hyperbole, and of course, a social media feeding frenzy. Dog owners and pet professionals lined up on sides, joined social media groups that aligned with their respective beliefs, and created catchy but pejorative acronyms that targeted the suspect products. It did create a major topic of conversation across Facebook groups, in dog parks and in veterinarian offices. 

In addition, the big pet food manufacturers (that happen to supply most of the prescription food you find in vet offices) put a big “scare” push into the marketplace, into veterinary associations and veterinary offices across the continent.

In fact, we had several customers whose dogs were thriving on a real food diet and went back to feeding a grain-based kibble on the recommendation of their vet.  They were afraid that their loving pet could get DCM.


Then, in December of 2022, the FDA announced plans to end routine updates on the investigation of case reports of nonhereditary canine dilated cardiomyopathy and of certain dog foods and ingredients. Why?

There was no scientific evidence. None.  Zero. Zilch.

So why are veterinarians still talking about not feeding grain-free diets to our canine friends?  They were certainly quick off the mark in 2018. Now, after several scientific, peer-reviewed studies showing there is no correlation between grain-free diets and canine DCM, why are vets STILL raising this issue?  Why are the veterinary associations not directing their members to cool it about grain-free diets and DCM? 

Our vets, by way of training, are scientists.  Like our own medical doctors, they follow the science and recommend accordingly.

However, in this situation, the scare of DCM and grain-free diets back in 2018 was not based on scientific evidence.  But now, the scientific evidence is clearly showing there is no correlation.  Ugh.

Again, before I go further, this is not a blog intended to bash vets.  I have the utmost respect for what they do and feel veterinarians play a very important role in helping us maintain a healthy pet while giving them the best chance at a long and happy life.

I guess my message is that most vets are not able to give good nutritional advice to pet parents.  Their science is outdated, and they have very little real education on nutrition.  Furthermore, when a veterinary offices revenues are dependent on a feed that is high in carbs, high in starches and is full of suspect ingredients, then I don’t think their nutritional advice is objective.  Just my opinion.

If your vet or vet tech or groomer or dogwalker or breeder or brother-in-law tries to scare you about the lack of grains in your dog’s bowl, ask them to show you the evidence.  The scientific evidence.  I can guarantee you that there is none.  But don’t believe me, check in to it yourself. 

You are your loving pets BIGGEST ADVOCATE for a long and healthy life.

The Proof is in the Poop!