Investigation into Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a serious disease of the heart muscle whereby the heart becomes enlarged with weak contractions. DCM can result in  abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure or sudden death. In dogs, DCM most often occurs in large- and giant-breeds, such as Doberman  Pinschers, Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, and Great Danes; in these dogs, survival time after diagnosis is often only months, even with aggressive medical  therapy.

Recently, veterinary cardiologists have recognized DCM more frequently in all breeds of dogs including mixed breeds, and even those not  usually associated with DCM. There is suspicion that the disease in some dogs is associated with boutique, exotic ingredient, or grain-free (BEG) diets. Some affected dogs on such diets have shown reversal or improvement of their disease after changing their diet, supporting a potential association  between consumption of a BEG diet and development of DCM. A specific cause, however, has not been identified, despite extensive nutritional testing of  the dog foods and the canine patients. Moreover, the extent of the problem is unknown because only dogs that are symptomatic for DCM have been  reported. It is possible that more dogs may be affected but not yet showing signs of heart disease.

To investigate the extent of diet-associated heart  problems in dogs, this multi-institutional team of veterinary cardiologists and nutritionists will prospectively screen a large population of apparently  healthy dogs for DCM and compare important cardiac disease measures, including ultrasound of the heart, blood biomarker and taurine concentrations,  and the frequency of DCM in dogs eating BEG versus non-BEG diets.

Co-sponsored with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, Grant Number: 02661


Darcy Adin, DVM; University of California, Davis
Amount: $5,000 (May 2019) $5,000 (November 2019)