Dogs and Grain-Free Diet

Somewhere around the time that Scout came into my life, 2009, I heard rapturous things about the grain-free diet. It wasn’t just for dogs with allergies. It was for all dogs so they could go back to their roots to what they used to eat when they were wild. (Kind of like that paleo diet, I suppose.) Since I’m always trying to do what’s best for my guys, I started feeding them grain-free.

In the past eight months, there has been a rising clamor against grain-free diets as they have been linked to dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart disease that once only affected a handful of breeds but now seemed to involve many breeds not typically associated with the disease. Last July, the US FDA released a newsbrief indicating that they had become aware of the association of legumes and potatoes in grain-free diets with DCM and were looking into it.

When I asked my vet about it months ago, information was still vague so I didn’t switch Scout from the diet and then proceeded to sweep it out of my mind until this past week. On Monday, a friend of this blog posted her fears in a group on FB that the grain-free diet she fed her guys may have been responsible for their deaths.

I quickly logged off FB and started to Google, as you do. Since the last time I looked at the information, much more has come up especially the linking of DCM to boutique diets rather than just grain-free.

I have immediately started feeding Scout and Sophie Stella a new grain-included diet that is low on exotic ingredients.

Today was Scout’s 6-month senior evaluation. My vet paid special attention to his heart to make sure that he doesn’t have DCM. He’s good and we are relieved. He has to have his teeth cleaned and maybe one pulled, but this is another story.

If you are a dog-owner and still feeding your dog boutique grain-free food because you were unaware of the situation, please look at the links above, Google for more info, and make sure to talk to your vet. We all try to do the best we can for our furry pals, so it’s frustrating and disheartening when we find out that the best might have been the worst.


31 thoughts on “Dogs and Grain-Free Diet

  1. Worrying Sascha, but glad you’ve got it sorted. I;m glad Maggie doesnt need a special diet. Bakers dried Meaty Chunks for her (she doesn’t like the biscuits, so has those separate).

    1. I remember years back when melamine was found in some of the dog and cat foods here I was glad to be feeding “special” stuff. And now this. ha. Always hard to know. When my girl Cha had to go on a special diet due to kidney disease, she wouldn’t eat the food so I ended up cooking for her. πŸ™‚

      1. We discovered it helped her with travel sickness as a puppy and we just kept with it. The vet said it was OK as long as it didn’t affect her toileting, and apart from about a year when she ‘went off them’ she’s had them ever since.

      2. Sophie Stella has turned out to be a counter surfer so I have to be careful if egg is on the counter or it will be in her stomach. She’s the first counter surfer I’ve ever had.

      3. Maggie has perfected the scrounge when we were house hunting and staying with our friend. She thought we didn’t notice the little titbits under the table, but Maggie soon got into a habit we can’t break short of shutting her away and we’ve never done that for any reason.

      4. She sits and looks imploringly at you when you’re eating. Guilt smacks you in the face and you give in. She wins………… every time! She doesn’t even have to beg. The looks says it all and you feel sorry for her, poor starving unloved thing…………… she’s got us right where she wants us, under her paw! Her dinner is in her bowl, she has biscuits of her own, but whatever we’re eating always tastes better. It’s our own fault though. πŸ™‚

      5. …I should have figured the scrounge. I’ll blame it on lack of caffeine. I know…there’s a reason why they say “puppy dog eyes” and it wins every time!

      6. lol My Cha was very good at it as is Sophie Stella. Scout is only bothered if it’s something he really likes. Since I’m veg, that happens more if take-out food is involved….

  2. A lot of legumes are not good for canines. Grain-free should mean more like cat food, higher protein, and without the addition of starches of any kind. Cats are true carnivores, so the biscuits with starches make cats fat and unhealthy in myriad ways. I always check the ingredients, and if they’re not listed, the product isn’t purchased.
    Dogs are more omnivores, but grains, nuts, seeds, beans, etc. shouldn’t be in the bikkies. Potatoes, pumpkin, carrot, etc. I’m not sure about, but I will be checking them out today! Pepsi likes roast pumpkin …

    1. I don’t think pumpkin is an issue. In fact, I know that vets frequently recommend it as an additive to food…I’m stuck for the circumstance. I went through having 3 dogs very ill for a few years. But the legumes….argh. I checked one label and it was represented 3 times in 3 different ways–peas, pea fiber, pea grain.

      1. this is one (there is only a slight mention of the problems, but the protein problem is more of a risk to older dogs and pups):

        And this was the originating site (but the link to contents is gone):

        The chick-pea is likely to be fine in small doses, but only if properly and thoroughly cooked. In bikkies, it’s hard to know the answer to this, but every part of the plan is toxic when green, the beans also if uncooked (and cause severe bloating).
        My sister is a vet, but she’s not willing to comment, it could cause litigation.

      2. Thanks. I have seen that link. The issue about lectins is very similar to plants in the nightshade family as well. Considering how long chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes have been eaten (and probably consumed by scounging dogs as well) I’m doubting that they are an issue alone. There is more to this story and hopefully research will determine what the exact cause is.

  3. I read the article (thank you) and it specifically says dogs shouldn’t be fed peas, lentils, legumes “as the main ingredient.” I think we have the responsibility to read labels to ensure what we’re feeding our pups. Woof.

  4. My roommate has her dogs on a raw diet. She grinds it herself. She even makes her dog’s treats from oatmeal and pumpkin, and I don’t know what else. She’s done tons of research and says anything you buy in the store is horrible for your animals. Some literally has antifreeze in it. How often do you read about a bad batch of food killing animals? FDA regulations suck for human food, and they’re not nearly as stringent with animal food.

    1. Well, the antifreeze thing is interesting because there are two types of antifreeze: ones that contain ethylene glycol or propylene glycol. The ethylene is way deadly. The propylene, however, has been approved for use in foods…human food and dog food–by both the US and Europe) (I usually trust Europe because their practices don’t seem based on money aka lobbyists who only, as we know, care about money.)

      As for the raw food, I’ve never been a fan and it’s not because I don’t want to use the time to feed a raw diet. When my Cha had kidney disease, I home-cooked meals, meaning she only received foods I cooked, that changed her numbers and kept her going until incurable DM took her away from me at 16 1/2. So I might consider cooking for my guys but not a raw diet. As you noted, the food supply for humans isn’t always safe and considering the recalls on chicken, beef etc. in the past week for listeria or salmonella…well, I’m sure you see where I’m going.

      On the flipside, I know people who have old, very active dogs who fed Purina (or one of the other big 4) only. My cat ate Friskies and lived to 20.

      Argh, I’ve written another novel.

      1. Novels are O.K. I know how important dogs are. Animals are just like us. Smokers can live to be 90 while the healthiest 25-year-old can get cancer and die in six months. All I know, is my roommate has done tons of research and says raw is the only way to go. It’s the closest to what their ancestors would have eaten in the wild. I know evolution and breeding and generations of domestication has vastly removed them from the wild.

      2. Very much “yes” to your last sentence. Dogs have been domesticated for over 20,000 years and maybe closer to 30,000. So trying to get a dog’s diet back to then is kind of like a person doing Paleo. And there was a time when no food was cooked. Good times! Take that for what it’s worth. πŸ™‚ I highly suspect that prey animals were healthier eating thousands of years ago than they are now. There are a lot of *real* health-related risks associated with feeding raw. And before I write another novel, I’d end here. πŸ™‚

  5. Yes, dogs need a higher protein diet, not necessarily grains or legumes. They can have different health issues from a grain in diet like mine had, or they can have issues with the legumes that was connected to a lack of taurine. Taurine is found in fish/ meat so I’d recommend a raw or high protein diet with veggies that are good for dogs like pumpkin, sweet potato, green beans, etc.

    1. Thanks, Kate. I’m still muddling through possibilities. My Scout was just diagnosed with bad kidney numbers so his protein needs to be lowered so he’ll definitely be getting different food from Sophie. πŸ™‚

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