Grain free diets (CDM)

Hi, I’d really like some feedback on everyone’s thoughts on grain free diets in light of the ongoing FDA investigation into a possible link to dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. I don’t really know what to go for any more as I was originally feeding my pup a diet rated really highly nutritionally on this website only to then see it’s one of highest on the FDA reported list in relation to this investigation. I see the general advice on here is to avoid grain containing diets but it appears it may not be as simple as this?

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Hello and welcome to the forum. The link between grain free diets and Dilated Cardiomyopathy is (AFAIK) still unclear. We have an existing thread on this subject - Report from FDA (USA) re Dilated Cardiomyopathy. There is another thread here. David has written a resource article on the subject - Heart Disease and Grain-Free Pet Food - Red Alert or Red Herring?.

Some grain containing foods have a better nutritional rating than ones containing no grain. This is because some grains have a nutritional advantage over certain ingredients that are commonly found in grain free foods.

The advice on here is that if the dog is doing OK on it’s current food there should be no need to change. Because dogs tend to have the same food day in, day out, sometimes for long periods of time it might be helpful to introduce some variety into the diet by enhancing it with fresh food. We have a thread on this subject: Enhancement of Dry Dog Food.


Hi, I’ve been concerned about this and have been doing a lot of reading, from which it seems conclusive (to me, at least) that this blanket ‘grain-free’ fad can be dangerous to dogs’ health. Not all dogs, of course. Particulary those who are closest related to the wild, grain free seems the best advice. But for those dogs who are dogs, i.e. who were domesticated tens of thousands of years ago, it can be a totally different matter - depending on the breed. There is a lot of reading and information out there, and it will take you on to a very interesting path of discovery. The long and the short of it is that dogs, like people, ate whatever was available in the region where they lived in with their human companions. So if they lived near the sea, seafood will have featured on the menu. If they lived in the forest, rabbit, fowl, venison… Etc. In any case, over all those millennia their systems will have got at least used to whatever the available food was. I’m not a scientist, but it seems reasonable to assume that in some aspects their systems will have even started to require some of these foods to remain healthy.
I will only cite you the example of my Dobermann Meg. No one quite knows which breeds Mr Karl Dobermann used to create this beautiful, intelligent, kind dog, and how high the percentage is that each of these are present in them today, but there are a few likelies. The German Shepherd is one, Rottweiler another, and there are few others. When you look up these breeds on the scales that show how well or badly they can digest grains, they score very highly. In short, these are breeds who at the very least have no trouble digesting grains. And if you then read the FDA study regarding the effect grain-free diets may have on DCM…
But the same argument goes for a diet that is entirely based on raw food. That seems just another fad. Dogs are not all wolves. It’s nonsense. Apart from those breeds that are still close to the wild, dogs are dogs. Depending on the breed they’ll have been eating a mix of cooked and raw for many millennia.
But I urge you not to take my word for it, and to do your own reading. Good luck!

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I’m always sceptical about studies done by the FDA and wonder where their funding comes from. Big dog food companies will say that grain free food is the cause of the issue as they are financially invested and don’t always have an animals best interests at heart. Animal welfare standards in the US are not as good as in Europe and the UK. There is an awful lot about DCM on the internet but of the scientific studies I read doing my degree I still haven’t found a perfect answer. It is most likely that this increase in cases is true, that it is related to diet and solely to diet is a different story. We have been tampering with canine genetics for years so could a decreased gene pool and inbreeding be the cause?

The best I can come up with is a balanced and varied diet ( excluding allergens when required) is the very best option. If you can only afford kibble of a certain price range then you can enhance this with any plainly cooked human leftovers…ie meat, vegetables and fruits. No gravies, no seasonings and excluding things like chocolate, grapes, onion, garlic and other human foods known to potentially be poisonous to dogs.


Thank you for your thoughts on this issue. I agree with your opinions about diet.