Dog Food, DCM, & Glyphosate
There is so much information out there about dog nutrition! Diet is NOT a “One Size Fits All” approach, just like in humans. They have different needs depending on lifestyle, breed, age, and environment.
I get questions weekly about the link between DCM and Grain Free kibble dog food. DCM is Dilated Cardiomyopathy, heart disease that results in dilation of the heart chambers which impairs the ability of the heart to pump, and can lead to heart failure. The FDA is currently investigating the root cause, and has identified grain-free kibble dog food brands that are associated in DCM cases. More and more, it seems that higher levels of legumes in the food is part of the cause. Cooked, raw, freeze dried, or whole food diets have not been linked to DCM at this time.
More canine specific research is warranted, but in human medicine grains are needed for appropriate microbiome health to help digest, absorb, and synthesize essential nutrients. See this link on the FDA’s website for detailed information.
So why have high amounts of peas, lentils, beans, and other legumes been linked to DCM? One theory is the high level of glyphosate found in legumes, which are in higher proportion in grain-free dog foods. Glyphosate is an herbicide spray, used in weed killers such as Round Up. Kibble is made with a lot of “fillers,” like corn and soy, in order for it to stick together in kibble form and increase calories. Canned, raw, and cooked dog foods have significantly less glyphosate levels than kibble.
When manufacturers moved towards grain-free products, they had to add something else to the kibble to hold it together. Pea protein, lentils, beans, oats, and chick peas were used as fillers. By increasing plant protein sources like lentils and legumes, they can also decrease the amount of quality animal protein in the food, which keeps the cost down of manufacturing.
In studies performed by HRI Labs its been shown that legumes have high glyphosate levels due to spraying these crops with the herbicide before they’re harvested. Glyphosate interferes with synthesizing certain amino acids (building blocks of life) that are essential in dogs, and therefore animals are not getting the essential amino acids, such as taurine, needed for everyday health.
What do I recommend at this time? For kibble it should be ORGANIC and have the actual Certified USDA Organic label for the ingredients, especially the legumes and fillers discussed above. Organic products do not use herbicides, pesticides, or other harmful sprays. Adding in a canine probiotic will populate their gut with bacteria that will help with nutrient absorption.
If your pet eats kibble, look at the ingredients on the back of the bag. If within the first 5-10 ingredients listed you see “pea, pea protein, chick peas, lentils, black beans” or other legumes, then there is a high probability that these could be interfering with your pet’s health. Look for organic legumes – these should not have been treated with glyphosate, and are potentially less harmful. *If your pet’s kibble is not organic, then stay away from kibble that has lentils, peas, chick peas, beans etc within the first 5-10 ingredients!*
For example, Organix from Castor and Pollux Chicken and Oatmeal Kibble is certified USDA Organic, with organic peas, organic chickpeas, and organic oatmeal listed within the first 10 ingredients. At the time of this article, I feel good about this food due to the relatively low exposure to glyphosate that could be interfering with amino acid synthesis in the body.
I will always recommend fresh, whole food, or freeze dried raw whole food over kibble, but that is not always convenient, or economically viable.
Dehydrated, fresh food, raw, and frozen canine food have not been implicated at this time in the link to DCM, even though some of these are technically grain-free. I suspect this is due to ingredients that are human grade, organic when possible, quality animal protein sources, and have lower amounts of legumes in the diet.
If you would like to discuss this further, and for tips on your own pet’s diet, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a consultation. Small changes can make a big difference!