Early this am, at first glance, I was concerned that I would need to address more of the same (below) warnings about the dangers of novel protein/raw diets, etc. from this new FDA warning…
BUT, I am pleased to see that the FDA is focusing here on the problem with “grain-free” diets which simply replace grains/starches with different, yet **just as problematic** starches/carbohydrates: peas, potatoes, and legumes/seeds.
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. <snip> Diets in cases reported to the FDA frequently list potatoes or multiple legumes such as peas, lentils, other “pulses” (seeds of legumes), and their protein, starch and fiber derivatives early in the ingredient list, indicating that they are main ingredients. Early reports from the veterinary cardiology community indicate that the dogs consistently ate these foods as their primary source of nutrition for time periods ranging from months to years. High levels of legumes or potatoes appear to be more common in diets labeled as “grain-free,” but it is not yet known how these ingredients are linked to cases of DCM.”
“Grain-free” diets are being linked with cases of potentially deadly DCM in dogs caused by a nutritional taurine deficiency after/while eating these foods.
Even if we don’t fully understand the mechanisms behind how this is occurring (I suspect some form of mycotoxin and/or anti-nutrient/inhibitor such as phytates (found in whole grains, nuts and legumes), lectins (in whole grains and legumes), tannins (in tea, wine, grapes, chocolate, nuts…), protease inhibitors (in legumes and grains) or saponin (in legumes, oats, quinoa, amaranth, soy…)
We already know that these “grain-free” foods, which can be very costly, are NO BETTER if not WORSE for your dogs because they are usually higher in sugar (big topic)! Please stop feeding them if you want your dog/cat to be as healthy as possible.
Where the Taurine?
Hey, you know which food most elegantly and ideally meets all of our dog’s nutritional needs so you don’t need to worry about all of this? A species appropriate diet which is meat/animal protein based. Drop the grains, drop the grain-free carbs/fillers/starches and vegetable based ingredients that dogs/cats have a very hard time getting any nutrition from, they have zero nutritional requirement for, and simply don’t work for their bodies!
Feed The Correct Foods According to Biology
We ran into this same problem when we were feeding animal proteins to ruminant animals such as cattle, designed to graze and consume plants/grasses (remember BSE/Mad Cow?). Just try feeding a snake or bird of prey a diet of vegetable matter (oats, carrots or cabbage, for example) — anyone knows that this is simply not the kind of foods they are designed to eat/digest!
Preferably you can feed fresh meat/bones/organs/eggs/seafood/raw dairy (for our dogs & cats, the organs = “vitamins/minerals”), preferably raw — and there are a lot of ways to accomplish this! Take a wild guess which foods are biologically appropriate and nutritionally most bioavailable for dogs and cats? These are also the same foods that are naturally the best, richest source of taurine? Food such as meat & seafood!
Please, stop feeding them kibble = which is cereal = which is really just sugar, and incredibly harmful to their health!
Updated 7/7/2018: this live video posted by Rodney Habib which addresses this topic:
My own responses over the past few months to those that inquired about the article can be found below:
Sent: Saturday, June 23, 2018 4:41 PM
Subject: FW: A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients – Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School
Sorry this took a while to reply to…
Please scroll down to see my original/past responses to this article, which people have been asking about over the past few months. You can see my replies and reactions, plus additional information for raw feeders below.
IN CONSIDERATION OF THE SOURCE
In addition to my replies below, we should consider the source of this information/article: Lisa Freeman, DVM.
Dr. Freeman has a reputation for being an anti-raw veterinarian. Her work appears to be influenced not only by her anti-raw position/bias, but by Nestlé Purina. One of our members pointed this out today – which I think needs to be considered. You can Google her for more about her past writings/articles and research collaborations with Nestlé Purina, including her facility, which was funded entirely by Nestlé Purina:
“Nestlé Purina Funds Nutrition Center at Tufts University A new nutrition center funded by Nestlé Purina PetCare at Tufts University’s Foster Hospital for Small Animals in North Grafton, Mass., is helping to enhance the veterinary nutrition program. The Tufts Nutrition Center, which opened in January, is conveniently located within the teaching hospital where Tufts clinicians treat more than 22,000 animals a year. <snip> Lisa Freeman, D.V.M., Ph.D., DACVN, associate professor of clinical sciences says, “The Nutrition Center is a boost to our nutrition program. While the former nutrition area was located in a small part of one of our hospital wards, the new Nutrition Center is both convenient and beautifully organized.” Besides having a sleek appearance and efficient organization, the Nutrition Center features Plexiglas canisters for holding and dispensing dry formulas and glide-out vertical drawers with adjustable shelves for various can sizes and boxes of softmoist product. <snip> The Tufts Nutrition Center is one of four veterinary nutrition centers nationwide that Nestlé Purina has funded through the Nestlé Purina Veterinary College Program. Others are located at Michigan State University, Colorado State University, and the University of California-Davis.”
Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems with veterinary nutritionists and veterinary nutrition research/science is that it IS just so heavily influenced and associated/funded by large food corporations with an intense interest in supporting their brands/maintaining market share by any means (including Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Nestle Purina PetCare, P&G Pet Care, and Royal Canin).
At this point, because of industry associations, what has become the veterinary nutrition “machine”, it is very difficult (nearly impossible?) to get truly accurate, unbiased information.
Read more about Dr. Freeman and her associations with Nestlé Purina in the following links…
Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, Camilia R. Martin, MD, MS, Michael L. … The publisher’s final edited version of this article is available at J Am Vet Med Assoc …… Supported by a grant from Nestlé Purina PetCare.
HOPE FOR UNBIASED INDEPENDENT RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
ENTER THE DOG RISK PROJECT! Yay! This is why we are so encouraged by the truly independent university level nutrition and disease management research being done by the diligent veterinary scientists involved with the Dog Risk project!
BTW: If you can help support the Dog Risk project or get involved, please do! They are doing incredible work that, we hope, will have big implications and perhaps even spur a sea change within the veterinary nutritionist community worldwide.
Sent: Friday, June 8, 2018 1:18 PM
Subject: RE: A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients – Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School
Interesting – I wrote about this a while ago to someone else that saw it, but today I got a few different people inquiring about it again, so I guess it’s making the rounds – as things on the internet do! Here’s what I wrote in messenger with another member this am:
Hi! Just read an article written by a nutritionist that said heart issues have been caused by taurine deficiencies. Of course raw diets were included as one of the culprits. Do you add taurine to the formula you make? Is there any truth that you know of heart issues being linked to taurine deficiencies?
Yes, cardiac issues can be caused by a lack of taurine in the diet …generally, this is a risk for felines, not canines. For cats, we recommend adding taurine a few times a week and/or feeding fresh whole heart 3-4 times/week. Taurine is most abundant in all meat, but especially so in heart. It is water soluble, and diminishes with each step in processing and handling…for example, when ground, frozen and most significantly when defrosted. The myoglobin (liquid that comes off meat, especially when defrosted) is where the taurine ends up, so we always tell kitty people to be sure to add this back into their cat’s meals and not discard. Taurine deficiency related disease (cardiac and ocular) is very old information, indeed, it was one of the first issues ever recorded/understood in cats nutritionally. And yes, it may affect dogs, too. But it is incredibly unlikely to happen when feeding a raw, meat based diet. I do not add additional taurine to our foods, as it is naturally present in meat in adequate amounts. Great Danes are very high risk for DCM, and heart murmurs/valve defects. I have actually reversed a valve defect in one of my Great Danes, after I adopted him. He was being fed kibble until I adopted him at 16 months of age. The condition improved dramatically to the point of being “cured” and he lived until the age of 12, never experiencing any cardiac defects or symptoms related to cardiac dysfunction. I added extra heart to his diet, and hawthorn berry plus CoEnzymeQ10…but only until his condition improved, then I was able to stop supplementing. I add hawthorn berry to my Summer Nutritive Herbs blend. I will send you my response to the other post separately…
“Thanks for sharing — this is really great information. Those “grain-free” diets are a new level of terrible — they contain even MORE sugars than grain-based diets = more damaging (pro-inflammatory, increasing risk for cancer, arthritis, incontinence, yeast/bacterial overgrowth). Uugh. And people pay a premium/more for it! I can see how this could very well be another possible issue…will be interesting to see. Any time we stray from feeding what is provided to us naturally by nature’s design, any time we feed species inappropriate, refined and denatured foods, we run the risk for serious issues down the road. Best to stick to real, whole/wholesome natural fresh foods; to choose foods that honor the true nature and digestive system (what is an individual uniquely adapted and physiologically/biologically suited to get their nutrition from) of those under our care. When we deviate from providing correct nutrition, we always run into problems!”
“Lectins may be the true issue here. Would be nice if it’s a taurine deficiency, this can often be reversible with simple supplementation — DCM is a common health issue in Great Danes (genetic).”
I feed supplemental taurine to kittens during the first year, after this, I think simply adding fresh heart a few times a week is adequate for their over 25-30 year lifetime . I do not supplement my dogs/puppies at all…unless they have a known issue or are exceptionally higher risk (siblings or parents died from cardiac dysfunction or have cardiac diseases). For example, we have a bulldog member that has been on our foods his entire life. Mother had a very serious/deadly and heritable heart condition when accidentally bred. Puppies were at high risk. We put this pup on additional heart, nothing else, and he’s now 100% normal. Mom also eventually became normal! Which was a wonderful outcome. This became an undetected issue, after including extra heart in her diet, over time. In most dogs, supplementing their healthy, balanced raw whole foods diet is not necessary. However, taurine is an incredibly safe amino acid, inexpensive, too…we sell it and you can add it in, as an insurance policy, if you’d like. I recommend all felines get either 1,000-2,000 mg taurine added to their food 1-2x/week, or fed regular servings of FRESH (not ground or previously frozen) chunks or pieces of whole heart, too. That is best, IMO.
More on taurine…
In general, raw diets are not going to be deficient in taurine for dogs (and even for cats, depending on what you are feeding and how it is handled/stored) because taurine is naturally abundant in meat and seafood, along with the amino acid precursors, methionine and cysteine (which is what dogs require). Raw diets will provide adequate amounts, if you feed a normal/advised and common enough quantity of fresh muscle meats – including tongue and heart, IMO. Seafood such as oysters provide huge amounts, too.
More great reading on this topic can be found here:
Sent: Friday, June 8, 2018 7:54 AM
Subject: A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients – Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School
Did you write about this once or have a response to this? I remember reading about taurine in one of your blogs. Can you direct me to it? The greyhound group has a member who’s vet is concerned about heart disease and telling her to get rid of the grain free kibble and go back to regular kibble. Yikes.