The LifeCentre: Grain Free Dog Food – What you need to know!

As we’ve reviewed in other posts, The LifeCentre is comprised of many different veterinary specialty practices.  One of them – CVCA – Cardiac Care for Pets has been integral in assisting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as they study grain-free dog food diets and a potential link to a common type of canine heart disease.

For our blog this week we wanted to link to the most up to date, and accurate information we have about grain-free, dog foods and the concerns about dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Here is a link for more about this condition:

This is the information available on and their current recommendations:

CVCA Guidance for Pet Owners

At this point in time, we are not certain of the exact causal relationship between grain-free and/or high legume diets in atypical dog breeds with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  Taurine deficiency of these pet foods does not appear to be the primary issue in these DCM patients as we have found normal taurine levels in many of these pets with DCM.  However, in some breeds such as the Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever, we have found low plasma taurine levels.

At this time, if there is not a clinical reason (i.e. food allergies or gastrointestinal upset) for use of a limited ingredient, unique protein source (kangaroo, alligator, bison, etc.) diet, we would suggest using alternative diets.  Consultation with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist should be considered.  Another possible consideration is to use two/three pet foods from different manufacturers including a diet that is not full of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, peas) and has some grain in the product.  As we continue to investigate the link between the increased incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy in atypical canine breeds with grain-free diets, we hope to ultimately determine the definitive issue but, for now, we currently do not have that answer.

Your Dog’s Diet 

Reconsider your dog’s diet. If you’re feeding a boutique, grain-free, or exotic ingredient diets, we would reassess whether you could change to a diet with more typical ingredients made by a company with a long track record of producing good quality diets.  And do yourself a favor –  stop reading the ingredient list.  Although this is the most common way owners select their pets’ food, it is the least reliable way to do so.  And be careful about currently available pet food rating websites that rank pet foods either based on opinion or based on myths and subjective information. It’s important to use more objective criteria (e.g., research, nutritional expertise, quality control in judging a pet food). The best way to select what is really the best food for your pet is to ensure the manufacturer has excellent nutritional expertise and rigorous quality control standards (see our “Questions you should be asking about your pet’s food” post).

Change your dog’s diet to one made by a well-known reputable company and containing standard ingredients (e.g., chicken, beef, rice, corn, wheat). Changing to a raw or homecooked diet will not protect your dog from this issue (and may increase the risk for other nutritional deficiencies).  If your dog requires a homecooked diet or has other medical conditions that require special considerations, be sure to talk to a veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist ( before making a dietary change.  You can contact the Cummings Nutrition Service to schedule an appointment (

For even more information – please visit this page:

One of CVCA’s board-certified veterinary cardiologists, Steven Rosenthal, DVM, Diplomate, ACVIM (Cardiology), was interviewed for The New York Times article here:

View the links below for additional information and review questions and answers from the FDA:


Visit us at for more information about our team of veterinarians and the equipment, diagnostics, and treatments we have available day and night.

Our phone number is – 703-777-5755 and we are located on Fort Evans Rd. across the street from the outlet mall. 165 Fort Evans Rd. NE Leesburg, VA 20176

Look for our building, so you are familiar with the location!  It may save you time if your pet needs us.

Our Facebook Page is– facebook/tlcvets  – Follow us for behind the scenes stories about  us and our work at The LifeCentre – where together, we are redefining veterinary emergency and specialty care!


[Ask The Expert is a promotional program sponsored by Loudoun Now. The writers have held out that they have experience, training, education and/or certifications to qualify as experts in their fields. Although shared on Loudoun Now‘s online platforms, the writers are solely responsible for this content.]

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