We absolutely understand why our customer are deeply concerned about last week’s press release from the FDA about grain-free dry foods possibly being linked to heart disease in dogs. No one wants to think that they are harming their beloved companion with food, and at Dexter’s we don’t want to think we’ve done so either.

What is possibly more disturbing is that we here at Dexter’s were not so shocked by this report because we have seen so many terrible situations with the regulation of pet food on both the governmental and industry sides. Big Pet Food is like Big Pharma – get things on the market with lots of pretty pictures and catchy phrases and hope that your “new and improved” product doesn’t hurt anyone in the long run.

The headlines and list of brand names without any conclusion about the root cause of the problem hasn’t provided any good information, though. This leaves the internet to explode with theories and misinterpretations.

The first thing that’s important to understand is that they still don’t know what the relationship between these dry foods and some incidents of dilated cardiomyopathy is. The foods listed are sold in very large volume and most dogs eating these foods remain unaffected.

  • Because we’re Dexter’s you know what our #1 recommendation is – get off the dry food! Feeding a species appropriate raw diet as much as possible is the best solution.
  • If you have been feeding a grain-free dry food and your dog is a high-risk breed or has been showing symptoms like lethargy, coughing, or excessive panting, have them examined by your vet immediately. This is the route to take for any concerns about your pet’s health.
  • If you’re continuing to feed a grain-free dry food exclusively we recommend adding fresh meat, eggs, and fish to your pet’s diet, along with other recommended whole food supplements. Please read our Pet Health Guide on this topic.
  • Always rotate your pet’s diet. The narrower the diet the more at-risk they are for these kinds of slow-to-develop health issues. Change brands, change proteins, and change styles of food.

Grain-free dry foods have been around for many years so we are concerned about why this problem seems to be happening now.

The questions that are coming to our minds are about the sourcing and processing of the starch ingredients (What’s changed? Where and how are they grown? What chemicals are used? How are they processed?). And as always we’re concerned about the sheer volume of non-meat ingredients in dry food. Even fiber can be a factor.

Not all of the affected dogs have low taurine blood levels. Dogs make their own taurine from other amino acids which is why adding taurine wasn’t considered a necessary part of the vitamin/mineral mix added to dry foods. Taurine and all the amino acids are abundant and bioavailable in meat (dark meat and organs in particular) so if dogs are getting enough they shouldn’t have problems with this aspect of heart disease. Other chemical elements, like Co-Enzyme Q10, are important for heart health, among many other factors.

We just don’t know yet.

We have ALWAYS been concerned about depending on highly processed diets for pets. We have always promoted fresh foods, and especially promote the addition of fresh foods to a dry food diet. Our most popular Pet Guide: Don’t Leave Dry Food Dry, is all about this, and fresh meat, eggs, and fish are always at the top of the list of what to mix into your pet’s bowl of kibble.

We are more than happy to help you find a new diet for your dog. We have several dry food options made with grains, we also have many dehydrated foods made with grains – a less processed option that can make up all or part of your dog’s new diet. We also have fresh food diets that are completely free of both legumes and grains.

We know that part of the shock was that some of the foods listed in the report are among the most expensive on the market. We would rather you fed one of our less expensive foods if that meant you’d be able to spend the difference on fresh meat to mix in. In our minds there is no such thing as a “best dry food,” it’s what’s best for YOUR dog.

We know that this kind of news can drive some folks to abandon commercial pet foods altogether. We are fans of fresh and home-cooked diets but only if they are well balanced, so please read our Pet Health Guides on raw food basics and home-cooking before you get started.

Here are links to what are so far the best online articles about this issue.