Those of us who are lucky enough to own a dog know exactly how much they mean to us. I know that a lot of people hate when we call them our children, but sometimes that's how it feels.
We take care of them every day, we are proud of them when they do something good, we have to discipline them when they are bad, but most importantly, we provide them with unconditional love.
However, a new study has found that some of the things that people are doing to help their dogs stay healthy are actually causing more harm than good.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a report that explains that they have found a link between grain-free dog foods and heart disease in our four-legged pals.
The FDA revealed they are currently investigating the connection further, but as of right now, they suspect that these grain-free foods are contributing to the increase in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) that has been seen in breeds of dogs that are not normally susceptible.
DCM causes the animal's heart to become enlarged, and as time goes on, it has a harder time pumping blood properly.
These grain-free options for dogs have become popular over the last few years, with claims that these protein-heavy diets are more like our dog's "ancestors." The grain-free diets are being fed to many different types of dogs, whether they are sensitive to grain or not.
The FDA suspects that this new diet trend is why breeds like golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and even Shih Tzus have been seeing an increase in DCM, because the breed isn't genetically predisposed to the condition.
Veterinary cardiologist Darcy Adin noticed the connection when two miniature schnauzers from different homes were diagnosed with the same condition. "The first clue for us was when we saw a household with two unrelated miniature Schnauzers with D.C.M.," Adin said. "They were both eating the same boutique, exotic protein, grain-free diet."
They have so far had about two dozen cases reported where DCM can be linked to a grain-free diet, but they are trying to remain calm. The total number of new DCM patients is still relatively small, but vets are taking it as a signal.
Veterinary nutritionist Lisa Freeman cleared up some of the confusion about whether or not grains are healthy for your dog.
"Contrary to advertising and popular belief, there is no research to demonstrate that grain-free diets offer any health benefits over diets that contain grains.
Grains have not been linked to any health problems except in the very rare situation when a pet has an allergy to a specific grain."
Market analyst Maria Lange revealed how this grain-free trend really started out of genuine concern for our pets. "Most pets are seen as fur babies," she said, "so owners say, "˜Maybe my dog is allergic to grains, so just to be safe, I'll feed him grain-free.' But in some ways it's a marketing ploy to catch the consumer's eye."
Freeman encourages pet owners to discuss their pet's diet with their vets instead of just following a trend.
"I know that owners want the very best for their pets, but instead of avoiding grains based on myth, I recommend selecting a pet food that contains high-quality ingredients, is made by a manufacturer with strong nutritional expertise and rigorous quality control, and has the right nutritional profile for the individual pet."
How do you know if your dog has heart failure?
There are some signs you can watch out for if you are worried about this affecting your dog:
- Reduced exercise ability
- Tiring quickly
- Rapid breathing and excessive panting
- Sudden weakness
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, seek veterinary help immediately.
The important thing is to discuss your dog's diet with your vet before you make any big changes, and make sure you do what's best for them.
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