‘Boutique’ dog foods linked to deaths; 16 brands named

A move to boutique dog foods, often billed as grain-free and made with non-meat ingredients such as peas, chickpeas, lentils, sweet potatoes and potatoes, may be contributing to dogs across the US dying of heart disease, the US Food and Drug Administration reports.

The issue first surfaced one year ago when the FDA warned that there may be an increase in dogs dying from dilated cardiomyopathy, also known as DCM or canine heart disease, which can result in congestive heart failure.

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VIDEO: The FDA is warning about a possible link between specific dog food and canine heart disease

The disease, which in the past had been considered genetic in some large breeds such as golden retrievers, in recent years starting showing up in several other breeds. The FDA last year first hinted at a link between the disease outbreak and so-called grain-free dog foods that have become popular in recent years.

Flash forward one year and the FDA on Thursday updated its warning, saying its ongoing investigation of the issue appears to point to certain ingredients as the culprit. The FDA also noted that the problem is impacting cats to a lesser degree. It’s suspected that the ingredients are spurring a deficiency in an amino acid called taurine and that deficiency is causing the heart disease. FDA officials say the exact cause of the increased dilated cardiomyopathy remains unclear and that “there are other causes of DCM other than taurine deficiency.”

But the agency warns pet owners that “the common thread appears to be legumes, pulses (seeds of legumes) and/or potatoes as main ingredients in the food. This also includes protein, starch and fiber derivatives of these ingredients. …Some reports we have received also seem to indicate that the pets were not eating any other foods for several months to years prior to exhibiting signs of DCM.”

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