Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and diet

In July 2018, the FDA announced that its Center for Veterinary Medicine and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network had begun investigating reports of nonhereditary canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods, many labeled as “grain-free.”(1) These foods contained a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds or pulses, and potatoes as main ingredients. 

The Food and Drug Administration announced plans to end routine updates on the investigation in December 2022. The FDA stated, “While adverse event numbers can be a potential signal of an issue with an FDA-regulated product, by themselves, they do not supply sufficient data to establish a causal relationship with the reported product(s).” 

Additional research was conducted by a group of veterinarians, animal nutritionists, and veterinary cardiologists with the consulting firm BSM Partners. (2) The results of the seven-month study were published in October 2023 in a peer-reviewed article in Frontiers in Animal Science. (3) The research did not find a causal relationship between grain-free diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

At All The Best Pet Care, we continue to follow the research closely. Fortunately, the body of research continues to grow, though at present, there is no conclusion regarding any dietary causation of the disease.

We do know that some cases of DCM can be related to a taurine deficiency. Many dogs diagnosed with DCM respond positively to taurine supplementation, even if they do not appear to be taurine deficient. In the past, kibble diets that were low in meat content were known to cause taurine-deficient DCM in dogs. It should be noted that neither grains nor legumes contain taurine. 

We carry a number of taurine-rich treats and foods that your pet will benefit from, whether or not you’re concerned about the risk of DCM. Additionally, we recommend feeding a varied diet to dogs and cats to give them the best nutritional foundation. Our pet care specialists would be happy to share ways to incorporate variety into feeding time or suggest a high-quality diet for your pet. As always, we continue to carefully evaluate every food we carry so you can know your pet is getting top-quality nutrition.


FAQs about Heart Disease, Taurine, Legumes, and Grain-Free Diets For Dogs

Q. Why did the FDA investigate a potential connection between grain-free diets and canine heart disease?

A. There were reports of an increased number of dogs developing a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The affected dogs had mostly been eating grain-free kibble diets with ingredients such as legumes and potatoes, and the FDA wanted to investigate a possible correlation. However, they did not find a causal relationship with the products.

Q. What are the causes and symptoms of DCM?

A. DCM causes the heart muscles to weaken, which reduces the ability of the heart to pump blood through the dog’s body. As this condition progresses, it causes congestive heart failure. Early signs of DCM may include lethargy, a persistent cough, difficulty breathing, weakness, or loss of appetite.

Other indicators include an enlarged heart or even episodes of collapse. However, many dogs will not show symptoms of the disease right away. If you suspect that your dog is affected, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Q. What is the role of taurine in dogs’ diets?

A. Taurine is an amino acid found almost exclusively in meat. Taurine is not considered an essential nutrient for dogs (as it is for cats) because they can synthesize it in their bodies from other abundantly available amino acids – cystine and methionine – which are present in a high-quality, rotational diet. Some breeds appear to be predisposed to taurine deficiency from low-taurine diets or diets low in taurine’s precursors, cystine and methionine. Taurine deficiency is just one potential cause of DCM.

Q. Why did they suspect a connection to legumes or grain-free diets?

A. Many reported cases were dogs who were solely fed grain-free kibble, which often contains legumes such as peas, chickpeas, and lentils as carbohydrate sources in place of grains. There is presently no conclusive data showing that legumes or grain-free diets cause DCM in dogs. While the FDA has reported a little over one thousand DCM cases that don’t appear to be linked to genetic predisposition, there are also millions of dogs eating grain-free diets in the U.S. without ill effects.

Q. Why would a lack of grains cause heart disease – do grains contain taurine?

A. Grains do not contain any taurine at all, but some grains do contain the taurine-precursor amino acids cystine and methionine. Taurine is only found in animal protein such as meat, eggs, and dairy products. One hypothesis is that it’s not the lack of grains contributing to DCM but other nutritional factors (still being researched) traditionally associated with some grain-free diets.

Q. How do I know if my dog gets enough taurine in their diet?

A. Most dogs are able to synthesize all the taurine they need from two other amino acid precursors, cystine and methionine, but supplementing is easy to do. Consider offering taurine-rich treats, such as raw or freeze-dried hearts and livers, or adding taurine-rich supplements, such as those containing green-lipped mussels. Additionally, adding raw frozen meat, freeze-dried raw meat, high-meat canned food, or lightly cooked meat to their diet will also increase taurine levels. Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are also good sources of cystine and methionine.

Q. Why do you continue to carry some of the brands named in the FDA’s initial investigation?

A. We stand behind all the diets we carry at All The Best. No one food is appropriate for every dog, and we pride ourselves in helping pet parents find the diet that works best for their pet. We have seen thousands of dogs thrive on these foods long-term in the past decade, and only recently has there been a rise in DCM reports. The actual cause of DCM in these dogs has not been determined, and DCM cases still represent a very small portion of dogs eating these diets. We will continue to offer these options to our customers who have come to depend on them. As recently as July 2023, the FDA has declared, “FDA has no definitive information indicating that the diets are inherently unsafe and need to be removed from the market.”(4) Additionally, many commercial diets have been reformulated since the initial reports, keeping pace with nutritional research on the topic.

Q. What food should I feed my dog?

A. Feeding a variety of foods from a variety of brands helps your dog benefit from a broader range of nutrients. Our pet care specialists are happy to help you find foods that meet your dog’s needs! In addition to rotating your dog’s kibble proteins and brands, we encourage you to explore frozen and fresh food options, which have numerous health benefits and no established link to DCM cases.


1. FDA Investigation into Potential Link Between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy

2. Prospective evaluation of echocardiographic parameters and cardiac biomarkers in healthy dogs eating four custom-formulated diets

3. Study Finds That Grain-Free Diets Did Not Harm Dogs’ Heart Health or Lead to DCM

4. Questions & Answers: FDA’s Work on Potential Causes of Non-Hereditary DCM in Dogs

This page was updated on October 2023