Last week or so the FDA came out with a new statement with regards to the whole DCM story I’ve written about before on the old blog, for those of you that followed that. I wanted to bring this up again as it is something affecting quite a lot of dogs, although percentage wise it might not seem like much.
For those of you who haven’t read up about this, DCM stands for Dilated Cardiomyopathy. In this case, it is about an enlarged heart caused by lack of an amino acid called Taurine. This lack of Taurine has caused a lot of issues in the past in cats, but since dogs can make their own taurine it was never thought to be an issue.
The amount of cases of DCM in dogs caused by a dietary deficiency went up from 3 in 2017 to 320 in 2018. In the first 4 months of 2019 there are already almost 200 cases reported. Now look, in regards of the total number of dogs, percentagewise 500 dogs is not that many. Around 1% only. But the thing is, these numbers have risen tremendously, and these are only the dogs that have been tested.
Now, what causes this rise in issues? For now, it’s still unknown. The FDA started their investigation in June 2018. Unfortunately, we all know that animal products are not a major concern for the FDA so the research is going slow. There’s a lot of theories out there, but the main one now is that the high amount of peas and potatoes in dog food has been the culprit.
In the human medical field, it is well documented that peas, potatoes and other legumes suppress the ability for the body to take in the needed building blocks to make taurine. In small amounts this causes no issues, but with the rise of fancy boutique foods who use whole meat instead of meat meals this may cause issues, since the product will have way less meat in it than initially put in the pot, so to say.
How that works is as follows, let’s have a look at protein content in food. Whenever you use a meal, you use the dry matter of the meat. A high-quality meat meal is basically just meat with the water already evaporated. Let’s say I put 60% meat meal in my food, and 40% pea protein. Since both are dry matter, at the end of the processing stage I will still roughly have the same percentages.
Now, let’s look at it the other way around. A lot of foods are currently advocating the use of fresh meats, but that’s where the problem starts. A free-range chicken breast is about 32% dry matter. That means that in the processing stage all the other 68% evaporates. So, when I put in the same 60% in meats but now fresh meats, and 40% of pea protein I will end up with a totally different product at the end.
Let’s say we put in 6 kilos of chicken breast and 4 kilos of pea protein, we would end up in the end with only 1.29 kg dry chicken meal and still around 4 kilos of pea protein. That means that you go from a 60% vs 40% food to approx. 25 % meat vs. 75% protein from peas.
Just to mention, this is just an example. There is way more that goes into the calculation of begin product vs. end product, but it gives you a little bit on an idea what is going on currently in the food industry. Also, please don’t read into this wrongly, I’m an avid believer in feeding fresh and wholesome meals and later in this piece I will tell you what it is I currently feed Olive.
Now one thing that I’d like to add to the above, ingredients are not everything. Apart from the raw ingredients one of the most important things about a food is the actual vitamin and mineral content of the food and how it is chemically put together into a well-balanced meal. Just like for us humans it is important to get a bit of the entire spectrum of foods, the same counts in a different way for dogs, they obviously have very different needs than us but they still need certain amounts of certain nutrients.
So, back to DCM and the taurine deficiency it seems caused by. How can we check our animals and make sure they are okay, and how do we prevent DCM from happening? Some brands have started adding taurine to their meals. The problem with this is that peas still suppress the ability to take in these amino acids, so just simply supplementing seems of no use. Of course, it is also important to point out that the current research available is not nearly enough to make a conclusion and we still don’t know 100% sure that these foods are the cause, it’s just the best guess since all the suffering animals have these types of food in common.
So instead of telling you what to do, I’m going to tell you what I chose to do with Olive. Before the research started, Olive was on Acana. Now in all honesty I was considering different foods already because I was not totally happy with how she was doing. On the DCM Facebook group they advised me to get an echo or taurine blood test done on Olive to make sure she is clear but at that stage I didn’t find the research comprehensive enough to spend over 500 euro on tests. Secondly Olive was only on Acana for such a short period that I didn’t feel like it was the right step.
That said, I felt like leaving her on Acana wasn’t the right step either. If there is no conclusive answer yet I felt like it wouldn’t be good to put her at risk so we decided to change foods. Initially I changed over to Farmina Ancestral Grains which I really like and even Olive liked it a lot, but I noticed she was shedding a lot on this food so we decided to change over again last month to a food I thought I would never feed, Purina Pro Plan.
Why? You might ask. Well. The ingredients are not ideal, no, but interesting is that literally every owner I know that feeds this food, both in the Netherlands and outside of it, has an amazingly healthy looking dog that is happy and energetic. There has never been a recall on this food, there has been loads of research done and again, the people feeding the food are the proof. So, we took the jump and are currently in the process of changing her over.
That said, I’m an avid believer in feeding fresh and wholesome foods, so we supplement whenever we can with raw meals and she gets a couple of natural supplements like green lip mussel powder and an omega supplement.
Anyway, the point of this blog is not to scare you or to make you change foods, but more so to make you aware of what is going on in the food industry now. I’d also like to point out that this piece is just my view and opinion on this matter. In the end, we all need to feed the dog that is in front of us, and make decisions based on what we believe is best for our dogs. I just hope that this info will help you in your decision!