Recent reports from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have suggested a link between grain-free diets and incidents of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). More specifically, the FDA is investigating whether grain-free diets with legumes, pulses, or potatoes are correlated with recent cases of dilated cardiomyopathy. These statements have caused some concern among dog owners about feeding their dog(s) a grain-free diet.
Our diets at FirstMate are nutritionally sound because our first objective is to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs and cats. Secondary modifications to meet the current trends in the market are not allowed to override the primary objective of good nutrition.
It is important to note that FirstMate grain-free diets have been fed to dogs for over 20 years with no reported incidents of dilated cardiomyopathy.
Research is ongoing to try to isolate the cause(s) underlying these incidents of DCM. While DCM is known to be associated with a taurine deficiency, the relationship between low taurine and DCM is not clear. Not all dogs with low taurine have DCM, not all dogs with DCM have low taurine, and not all dogs with low levels of taurine and DCM are on grain-free diets.
Although the emotional and financial impact on families with dogs that have developed DCM can be devastating, the number of dogs with DCM is very low, often breed specific, and often has a genetic basis. Dr. Aldrich, a Kansas State University pet nutritionist, stated that:
“Given the relatively small number of dogs affected so far, the issue probably does not warrant major changes to current business practices, monumental shifts in formulas, or a rush away from peas and potatoes. While a thorough review of existing nutritional platforms and some measure of validation is probably in order, panic should be avoided.”
Despite the inconclusive evidence that taurine deficiency is the problem, pet owners can be confident that FirstMate and KASIKS are providing appropriate levels of taurine for healthy dogs. Taurine occurs naturally at high levels in fish and is also present in other meats. It is virtually absent in non-meat ingredients, such as legumes, even though some of these non-meat ingredients may be high in protein. If the amount of non-meat sources of protein is high in a pet food formulation, there is a chance that the dog may not be getting the appropriate amount of taurine. Dogs can also use the amino acids cysteine and methionine to make sufficient taurine to meet their physiological requirements. FirstMate and KASIKS diets are formulated with sufficient quantities of cysteine, methionine and taurine.
Our FirstMate Grain-Free dog food has over 70% of the protein derived from a meat source, and our KASIKS formulas have over 60% of the protein derived from a meat source, thereby suppling adequate levels of these essential amino acids. We also add taurine to some formulas that include meat known to be low in taurine (such as lamb) so that all of our diets have a minimum of 0.1% taurine.
Wendy Vandersteen, Phd, MSc, BSc
Director of Research and Development
FirstMate Pet Foods
Dr. Brad Hicks, DVM
Executive Vice President
FirstMate Pet Foods