The Truth about Grain-Free Dog Food and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Here’s something that might surprise you… 

I wake up every day sincerely excited to scroll through my email inbox and answer questions from pet parents like you.

Yes...I know loving customer service isn’t a normal personality trait. But this isn’t just any kind of customer service. This is the world of canine nutrition. And in this world, I feel a personal responsibility to combat harmful lies and spread the truth about dog food to pet parents everywhere.

So...you can imagine my horror when I came into the office last week and opened an email about the ever-present topic of grain-free dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). 

The email read as follows…

“Hi Visionary Pet,

My veterinarian recommended I add grains to your food. He says grain-free foods can lead to serious heart problems. However, I feel uncomfortable adding carbs. Can you help me with this?” 

Yes, you read that right. A veterinarian actually recommended adding grains in order to combat DCM. If you don’t understand why that’s an absolutely ridiculous idea, then please - keep reading. Because what you’re about to read might save your dog’s life.

keto dog grain-free dcm 

What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition that occurs when the muscles of the heart become enlarged and weakened. When this occurs, it limits the ability of the heart to efficiently pump blood.

In both humans and dogs, DCM is a serious medical condition that can be fatal. This is why the topic of grain-free dog food and DCM is so important. And that’s why I’m writing this now - to clear up all the confusion and tell you everything you need to know about why SOME grain-free dog foods are being linked with DCM.

dilated cardiomyopathy DCM and grain-free dog food grain free

DCM and Taurine Deficiency

The latest science suggests that DCM is likely caused by a long-term taurine deficiency. Taurine is an essential amino acid for dogs. It’s abundant in the brain, eyes and heart tissue - which explains why problems with taurine deficiency can lead to DCM. 

Dogs can get taurine in 2 ways:

  1. Direct intake of taurine in their diet; or 

  2. Creating taurine from the sulfur-containing amino acids: methionine or cysteine. 

All of these amino acids - taurine, methionine, and cysteine - are present in large amounts in animal-based proteins. They’re either missing or present in very low amounts in plant-based proteins. And THAT is the key issue regarding grain-free foods and DCM. 

Many grain-free dog foods use plant-based protein sources like pea or soy protein instead of real meat. They do this because plant-based proteins are cheaper and easier to work with from a manufacturing perspective. However, using inferior protein sources can lead to serious health problems in the long-term - including dilated cardiomyopathy. 

If you want to avoid these health issues, then you need to feed your dog a low carb, real meat dog food - like Visionary Pet. We only use animal protein and never add grains or digestible carbs of any kind.

low carb real meat dog food

Which brings us to the real question...

Are ALL Grain-Free Foods Bad? 

The answer is NO. Not all grain-free dog foods are bad. And the reason is simple. 

Labeling a dog food as “grain-free” tells you ONE thing about that food - that it doesn’t contain grains. However, it tells you literally nothing else about that same food. 

For example, let’s look at the important characteristics of 2 grain-free foods. See if you can tell me which one you’d rather feed.

Generic Grain-Free Dog Food: 

  • 22% protein, 31% fat, and 47% carbohydrates as a percentage of total calories.

  • Protein sources are soy and pea protein isolate.

Visionary Pet Keto Dry Food: 

  • 40% protein, 60% fat, and less than 1% carbohydrates as a percentage of total calories.

  • Only protein source is real meat.

If you chose Visionary Pet - congratulations! You’ve made an amazing decision for your dog’s health!

high protein real meat dog food

Our very low carb, real meat dog food is obviously superior to the sugary, plant protein mix of the generic grain-free dog food. And if you do feed Visionary Pet, you won’t have to worry whether your dog is getting enough taurine - as we only use animal protein from real meat! 

But the point I’m trying to make is not that Visionary Pet is a great food. That much is obvious. The important point here is that BOTH of these dog foods are classified as “grain-free”, even though they couldn’t be more different in terms of ingredients and nutritional quality! 

So we’ll close with this…

The Truth about Dog Food and Canine Nutrition

If you only remember one thing from this blog - make sure it’s this:

Feed your dog a very low carb, real meat diet.

If you do that, you won’t ever have to worry about whether your dog food is grain-free, or nutritionally complete, or any of the marketing terms that dog food companies use to confuse you. 

Feed low carb. Feed real meat. And you won’t need to worry about anything else. That's the truth about dog food. And that's why we do what we do here at Visionary Pet.

Waggy Tails! 

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