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Is grain-free dangerous?

Recently it was reported that the FDA is investigating possible links between grain free dog foods and a type of canine heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. The concern is with foods that contain peas or other legumes or potatoes, which are common replacements for grain in grain free kibble. This disease had previously been seen almost exclusively as a genetic predisposition in a handful of breeds, including large and giant breeds, such as Great Danes, as well as smaller breeds, including Cocker Spaniels. The investigation, being done in conjunction with veterinary research universities, comes after reports of dogs contracting the disease that are atypical breeds. One common factor is that the impacted dogs “consistently” ate grain free kibble with legumes or potatoes as primary source ingredients.


Unfortunately, that is all of the information that has been provided—we do not know how many cases were reported, nor do we know if there are other common factors between the dogs. There has been some discussion within the research community about low levels of taurine found in some of the dogs, but other cases show normal levels. This is, therefore, simply a preliminary investigation and should be treated as such. Also, it should be noted that there is no evidence of cats having these issues—cats have very different nutritional needs than dogs and cat food is formulated differently.


While we wait for more conclusive results, there are a few things to consider. We do know that foods with high-quality ingredients are nutritionally better for your dog. This is inarguable, and while dogs can live long, happy lives eating what is more or less junk food, just as people can, it is less of a gamble to start with good ingredients for your dog’s longterm health. We also know that dogs on grain free diets in general do very well in terms of skin and coat health, weight, digestion, and energy levels, and have done so since before the introduction of mass-produced dog kibble from agricultural waste and by-products in the 1950s, and after the first grain free diets came onto the market in the 1990s.


Howl does offer dry food with grain—oats, rice, and barley have long been good choices for those wishing to feed grain, and the Nutrisource line of kibble with grain is an excellent alternative. We will never carry kibble with wheat or corn in it, as those provide little nutritional value for your dog and will not be found in any high quality food. In September, we will also begin carrying Nature's Logic, which contains no legume seeds or potatoes (get 15% off when you purchase any of these products through Labor Day).


We at Howl are dog owners ourselves, we feed what we sell, and we always strive to offer the best foods on the market to our canine friends. We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as we are able to obtain them. For now, we suggest what we always do: switch up your dog’s kibble now and then to a different protein or even a different line. We also have many varieties of canned and raw food to introduce variety into your dog’s diet. If you feel concerned about feeding kibble with legumes or potatoes in them, we can show you what we have that doesn’t contain those ingredients. As well, please consult your veterinarian first if you notice signs of illness in your pet. Helping to keep your pets healthy and happy is our main priority and always will be—it’s what we do!


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