Eli Caouette, left, and Trevor Kramer pose with William, a three-year-old miniature Schnauzer. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Trevor Kramer)

VIDEO: Doubts intensify for dog owners, vets after FDA report on grain-free food

FDA lists 16 brands that may be linked with a greater risk of a canine heart condition known as DCM

Trevor Kramer says his heart skipped a beat when he learned his dog’s premium kibble might be linked to a serious heart condition.

His go-to label, Acana, tops a list of 16 brands the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says may be associated with a greater risk of canine dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM. His miniature schnauzer’s preferred poultry-heavy flavour, Light & Fit, is linked to at least two reported cases.

The news happened to coincide with Kramer running low on kibble, so the Vancouver pet owner took that as an opportunity to switch three-year-old William to Acana’s 50-per-cent fish variety — but he wonders if it’s safe to stick with any premium brand at all.

“We invest in a high-quality, more expensive dog food assuming that we’re giving our dog the best food available,” says Kramer, a vegan who’d prefer to cut all meat from his dog’s diet.

“When you see a story like this your heart sort of skips a beat because it makes you wonder: Would he be better off on a cheap supermarket dog food versus this supposedly higher-quality, grain-free boutique brand?”

The FDA’s latest update has intensified doubts about grain-free diets, which the federal agency first raised as a concern a year ago when it began looking into a possible food link to the deadly heart condition.

Among 515 reported cases of DCM were breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease, with the FDA noting, “the common thread appears to be legumes, pulses (seeds of legumes), and/or potatoes as main ingredients in the food.”

Any possible link is described as “a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors” and the FDA does not suggest avoiding certain brands or diets.

Nevertheless, some veterinarians encouraged a cautious approach until more is known.

“If you’re seeing peas or lentils in those first five ingredients, then that diet has a significant amount of legumes and you may want to avoid it,” says Dr. Maggie Brown-Bury of St. John’s, N.L., who adds that concerned pet owners should consult their veterinarian before switching food.

Toronto veterinary cardiologist Dr. Regan Williams agreed, also dissuading pet owners from boutique and “exotic diets” that might include unusual ingredients. Several of the affected brands featured kangaroo or bison meat.

“Out of an abundance of caution right now we’re saying maybe avoid those things until we figure out exactly what’s going on,” says Williams, who works at a downtown Toronto emergency clinic.

DCM causes the heart to enlarge and have difficulty pumping, sometimes causing heart valves to leak and leading to congestive heart failure.

Other brands mentioned in the statement include Zignature (with 64 cases), Taste of the Wild (53), 4Health (32), Earthborn Holistic (32), Blue Buffalo (31), Nature’s Domain (29), Fromm (24), Merrick (16), California Natural (15), Natural Balance (15), Orijen (12), Nature’s Variety (11), NutriSource (10), Nutro (10), and Rachael Ray Nutrish (10).

READ MORE: B.C. hunter fined after luring bears in with greased logs, dog food

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mary Lowther column: Sometimes life gets in the way of gardening

The cover crop of winter rye still waves at me from the garden

Sarah Simpson Column: Siblings are the best (and the worst, by default)

If my brother-in-law wanted a walk, he was going to have to work for it.

Maple Bay animator helps lead Netflix’s ‘The Willoughbys’

Family comedy with A-list voices has Cowichan Valley ties

CVRD may have to delay 11 capital projects scheduled for 2020

More than 50 of the 81 projects are complete or are schedule for the year

Vancouver Island’s current COVID-19 case count officially hits zero

Of the 130 recorded Island Health cases, five people have died, 125 recovered

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Most Read