Heart Disease: Linked To Your Dog’s Diet?


We all know that what we eat can affect our overall health, and the same is true for our pets. But recent research is looking at if some of the foods we think are healthy for our pets could really be causing a certain type of heart disease. While there is still lots of research being done on this topic, recent studies are finding a small correlation between some specialty diets and heart disease.

These diets include:

  • grain-free diets
  • some homemade diets
  • raw diets
  • limited ingredient diets
  • vegan dog foods

At this time, nutritionists and cardiologists are wondering if the rise in heart disease with dogs fed “non-conventional” diets is due to the level of taurine in the food. Taurine has long been known to be a cause of heart disease in cats, but now researchers are wondering if this could be linked to heart disease in dogs as well. Taurine is a protein found in meat. Higher levels are found in meats such as beef, chicken, and lamb. The problem lies in that these are also the sources of protein most commonly found in food allergies. It is not fully known at this time if taurine is truly the cause of this increase in heart disease in breeds not commonly diagnosed with heart disease, or if there is another factor.

So what should I feed my dog?

Some dogs have to be fed a diet without chicken, lamb, or beef due to severe food allergies. What is important, is in these dogs, is that a veterinarian listens to their heart one to two times per year to monitor for any changes. The grain-free trend of recent years is actually not founded on food allergies, but mostly on marketing. There are very few truly grain intolerant dogs out there. Dogs are designed to eat a combination of protein, vegetables, and yes… grains. It’s just finding the proper balance of these ingredients that make any one dog food better than another. And of course, the calorie content is important to monitor as well. We would be happy to discuss your pet’s nutrition recommendations at any time.

What type of heart disease are we talking about?

Dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, is what cardiologists are starting to see an increased incidence of in recent years. This type of heart disease causes the chambers of the heart to stretch out and makes it more difficult for the heart to adequately pump blood through the body. This can ultimately lead to heart failure.


How can I tell if my dog’s diet is going to lead to heart disease?

Annual exams (biannual exams if your pet is over 10 years old), will allow us to listen to your dog’s heart to detect any murmurs that could be indicative of heart changes. We may then recommend other diagnostics to better assess your pet’s heart. A chest x-ray can look for changes in the size of your dog’s heart and an electrocardiogram can determine changes to your dog’s heart rhythm. An exam by a veterinary cardiologist and an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) is the only true way to diagnose DCM. If you notice any signs of heart disease: coughing, exercise intolerance, or labored breathing, please call your veterinarian right away.




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