‘Grain-free’ doggy diet: Helpful or harmful?

CBS4 This Morning

INDIANAPOLIS — Visit any pet store or grocery store for dog food and it wouldn’t be hard to be bombarded by a slew of “grain-free” options. Much like their human counterparts, the grain-free diet has become an increasingly popular option for dogs.

But now a growing number of experts and dog owners are raising concerns about the grain-free lifestyle and questioning whether it may be doing more harm than good.

For the past few years the Food and Drug Administration has been looking into the potential connection of grain-free food and heart problems in dogs.

In the five-year period leading up to April 2019, the FDA tracked 515 reports of Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy in dogs on a grain-free diet. The condition can be deadly, with the FDA citing 119 deaths within the same period.

If you consider the number of dogs who are pets, and on a grain-free diet, the numbers are far from forming a definitive correlation. However, veterinarians say it does raise some eyebrows.

“Now there’s some coming out in breeds we don’t normally see it in usually. I saw on the list Chihuahuas and Jack Russells, and we’re like, ‘What? Why is that happening?’ And when you see the jump from a few cases a year to several hundred, in the grand scheme of thousands of pets it’s not very many, but it’s more about letting us know they’re looking at it, they’re monitoring it,” Pet Wellness Clinics Veterinarian Rachael Campbell said.

Campbell says despite the concern, there is no need for dog owners to immediately toss out their grain-free foods in favor of something else, adding that a dog’s diet should first be discussed with a veterinarian.

“That’s of course going to be where I recommend you start. And if you don’t have one, get one before you make a big change like that. Just like any medical professional would say talk to your doctor before you change your diet and eliminate something that might be of benefit to you,” Campbell said.

Campbell says a dog’s diet should be tailored to their individual health needs. Major issues like diabetes, or kidney issues require specific food. Allergic reactions leading to stomach problems, or excessive scratching, itching, rashes, skin infections may also require a diet change.

In any of these cases, its possible a grain-free diet could be of benefit to a dog. However, the only way to know for sure is by first talking to a vet.

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