Canterbury Tails

Veterinary Clinic

Dogs & Grain Free Diet

From the American Kennel Club (AKC):

The FDA is investigating potential links between canine heart disease and diet — specifically grain-free dog food diets.

“The FDA is investigating a potential dietary link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dogs eating certain grain-free dog foods. The foods of concern are those containing legumes such as peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes listed as primary ingredients. The FDA began investigating this matter after it received reports of DCM in dogs that had been eating these diets for a period of months to years. DCM itself is not considered rare in dogs, but these reports are unusual because the disease occurred in breeds of dogs not typically prone to the disease."

What is Canine Heart Disease or Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a type of canine heart disease that affects the heart muscle. The hearts of dogs with DCM have a decreased ability to pump blood, which often results in congestive heart failure.

In the FDA’s July 2019 update on diet and canine heart disease, they examined labels of dog food products reported in DCM cases to determine whether the foods were “grain-free” (defined as no corn, soy, wheat, rice, barley or other grains), and whether the foods contained peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans, or potatoes (including sweet potatoes). Their report states that more than 90 percent of foods reported in DCM cases were grain-free, 93 percent of reported foods contained peas and/or lentils, and 42 percent contained potatoes/sweet potatoes.

According to Dr. Klein, “At this time, there is no proof that these ingredients are the cause of DCM in a broader range of dogs, but dog owners should be aware of this alert from the FDA. The FDA continues to work with veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists to better understand the effect, if any, of grain-free diets on dogs.”

The FDA’s July 2019 update includes the names of dog food brands that were named 10 times or more in reports submitted through April 30, 2019. Most reports were for dry dog food, but raw, semi-moist and wet foods were all represented.

Acana (67 reports)

Zignature (64 reports)

Taste of the Wild (53 reports)

4Health (32 reports)

Earthborn Holistic (32 reports)

Blue Buffalo (31 reports)

Nature’s Domain (29 reports)

Fromm (24 reports)

Merrick (16 reports)

California Natural (15 reports)

Natural Balance (15 reports)

Orijen (12 reports)

Nature’s Variety (10 reports)

Nutrisource (10 reports)

Nutro (10 reports)

Rachael Ray Nutrish (10 reports)

Until more research is done, we do not recommend a grain-free diet for your dog. For more information, you can read the rest of the article here.

More resources:

For over-the-counter food, 

we recommend:


Royal Canin




This is less researched for cats, but still a concern.

We recommend feeding your pets commercialized food brands that have done extensive scientific research by veterinary nutritionists (such as the brands above), 

as opposed to more boutique or independent brands. 

Photo 1: 6 year old Labrador retriever on a grain-free diet

Photo 2: Regular middle aged canine heart 

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Fax: (413) 967-5205

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Ware, MA



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