FDA Offers "No Scientific Evidence Linking Diets to DCM," Pet Food Brands Assert

Pet food companies associated with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s latest report say more research is needed on the potential link between certain diets and cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The agency first alerted the public about its investigation in July 2018, but this was the first time the FDA included the pet food brands most frequently named in dilated cardiomyopathy reports.

Sixteen pet food brands were named in the report, including: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm Family Foods, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro and Rachael Ray Nutrish.

After the news broke, pet owners quickly began commenting and asking questions directly to brands’ Facebook pages—and several pet food brands named in the report swiftly responded to the concerns. For instance, one individual posted the following question for Mequon, Wis.-based Fromm Family Foods: "Will you be releasing a statement regarding your food supposedly being linked to heart disease? We feed Fromm to our entire crew and recommend it to our clients. I have some very worried clients messaging me."

Fromm Family Foods officials said they understood the concerns and pointed out that "there are many theories on the exact mechanism of DCM and canine taurine metabolism, but this mechanism is undeniably complex and is likely influenced by multiple factors including genetics, diet, and metabolism. However, without continued studies, the involvement of dietary characteristics in the development of DCM cannot conclusively be defined…While we carefully monitor the results of the ongoing studies, we want you to feel confident knowing Fromm has and will continue to follow the most up-to-date research. Our family-owned-and-operated company is dedicated to the health and well-being of pets and has been since we began making pet food in 1949."

Officials for Zignature, a brand of Valencia, Calif.-based Pets Global, noted on the brand’s Facebook page that the company recognizes that "these studies are of critical importance to those families whose beloved dogs have been afflicted by this heart diseases." However, officials also pointed out that DCM "impacts less than one percent of U.S. dogs, with .000007 percent being supposedly related to diet."

Zignature officials said they also want people to understand the following: "The FDA continues to believe that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors and that the actual cause has still yet to be determined. Among all the cases from all brands that were reported to the FDA, the overwhelming majority of impacted dogs belonged to breeds genetically predisposed to DCM, a disease that was first discovered in the 1980s well before the grain-free diets were available for pets. The DCM cases reported to the FDA included dogs who ate both grain and grain-free diets. The FDA states that chicken is the No. 1 protein of affected dogs, as you know, Zignature does not use chicken. The FDA also stated that no one animal protein was predominant, refuting the earlier claim that this issue is caused by exotic proteins."

Officials at Meta, Mo.-based Taste of the Wild Pet Food directly replied to an individual’s concern on its Facebook page, stating, "Thank you for reaching out with your concerns. Like the FDA and pet owners like you, we are concerned about the reported cases of DCM in dogs that are not genetically predisposed to the condition. To date, the FDA still has not found any science-based causes to link grain-free diets—including Taste of the Wild—to DCM. As they note, it is a complex issue with numerous factors to consider. We continue to monitor this issue closely and support ongoing research efforts."

Champion Petfoods in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, addressed the matter on its website, answering commonly asked questions about the investigation, such as "Why did the FDA list Champion foods in their update?" The company’s response: "FDA claims it has an obligation, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to disclose the names of brands that are reported related to any specific health concern that the FDA is researching. The FDA’s announcement provides no causative scientific link between DCM and our products, ingredients or grain-free diets as a whole, and it is unfortunate that the release of incomplete information is causing confusion among Pet Lovers about the food they purchase for their pets and the diets they follow."

Officials for Blue Buffalo, a brand of Minneapolis-based General Mills, noted on its Facebook page that the FDA’s investigation is ongoing and that there has been no definitive link between feeding a particular diet and the development of DCM.

"Blue Buffalo has been actively working with the FDA and the Pet Food Institute, the leading pet food industry association that represents over 98 percent of U.S. pet food and treats, to study this issue, and Blue Buffalo scientists have come together with other pet food makers to further advance our understanding of canine DCM and its causes… Blue Buffalo is evaluating all of the data shared by the FDA last week, and will be utilizing this data in our own research regarding canine DCM. We will continue to keep pet parents updated on this important issue."

FDA officials said that they will continue to investigate and gather more information on the potential link.