Hi, everyone! Dr. Legato here.
One of the more recent bands I follow is 21 Pilots. A few years ago, they had a song titled “The Hype.” I suspect it was because “Don’t Believe the Hype” was already taken by two other artists, but I digress.
Hmm, you’re probably wondering, just where is he going with this???
Two Words: grain free. The past few years, there has been a lot of push from newer pet food companies that somehow, grain – in particular, wheat – is bad for your dog. By using fear tactics, they have convinced people that their foods are superior to the established products, such as Purina, Hills, Iams and Pedigree, simply because they no longer include grain as an ingredient.
My nutrition professor at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sherry Sanderson, used to say, “Animals require nutrients, not ingredients.” Somehow, I don’t see a wolf or dog in the wild checking to see if the deer they just ran down had consumed wheat vs. corn vs. potatoes before they consumed it!
The problem with all of this is that there are a number of companies using you and Fido as an uncontrolled experiment. The established companies keep large groups of different types of dogs and do extensive health checks on them whenever they try to introduce a new diet. This is how they establish that what they sell is safe and effective before they sell it. The newer ones have not had time to do this and seem to be focused on ingredients rather than nutrients.
So, to cut to the chase here: there have been an unusually large number of dogs that have developed heart disease over the past few years that should not have (due to breed, age, weight, etc.). Sadly, the one they had in common was, you guessed it—grain-free diets.
So, a few more details need to be put in here. The type of heart disease I’m referencing is called DCM (Dilated Cardio Myopathy) and has been affecting breeds that should NOT be getting it (Golden Retrievers seem to be most affected) and at younger ages (under 6 years). Unfortunately, we do not yet know what it is about these diets that is causing the problem. It is suspected that lentils or peas may be the culprit, but there is, as of now, not enough evidence to confirm or deny this. One company, Blue Buffalo, has offered to the veterinary community a meaningless, sort-of apology for what they have done, yet they continue to peddle the same products.
The FDA has put out a list of 16 companies whose grain-free diets have, according to complaints from customers, sickened and killed dogs. I won’t mention them here, but I know I have seen several on the shelves in Athens.
So, here is your assignment for the day, week, month, year, etc. to keep Fido happy and healthy: think of the song by 21 Pilots and Just don’t believe the hype!!