FDA warns of possible link between dog food and heart disease, and identifies 16 food brands

  • The Food and Drug Administration is investigating a possible link between certain dog foods and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), which can cause congestive heart failure.
  • The investigation involves 560 cases of dogs diagnosed with DCM. Of those, most consumed foods that were grain-free (91%) and contained peas and/or lentils (93%), the FDA has found. 
  • The FDA on Thursday identified food brands most frequently identified in the case reports that it’s studying. These include Acana, Zignature, and Taste of the Wild.
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The Food and Drug Administration is investigating a possible link between certain dog foods and a potentially fatal heart disease in dogs.

The investigation involves 560 cases of dogs diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease of the heart muscle that often leads to congestive heart failure. Some 119 of the dogs have died, according to the FDA.

Out of those 560 dogs, most consumed foods that were grain-free (91%) and contained peas and/or lentils (93%), the FDA has found. 

The agency first issued an alert about the possible link between certain foods and DCM in July 2018. The FDA is now identifying the food brands most frequently identified in the case reports that it’s studying. 

Photo: The Food and Drug Administration

The FDA has not issued a recall of any of the foods on the list, and said it has not yet determined how they may be linked to DCM. 

“It’s important to note that the FDA doesn’t yet know how certain diets may be associated with DCM in some dogs,” the FDA stated in a notice posted to its website on Thursday. “However, the FDA is first and foremost a public health agency, and takes seriously its responsibility to protect human and animal health. In the case of DCM, the agency has an obligation to be transparent with the pet-owning public regarding the frequency with which certain brands have been reported.”

11 PHOTOS11 warning signs of cancer in dogsSee Gallery11 warning signs of cancer in dogs


If your dog collapses, get to the vet immediately. Collapsing, weakness, and general lethargy (not greeting people at the door like usual or less interaction) are common signs of cancer, says Jake Zaidel, DVM, of Malta Animal Hospital in upstate New York. “I see this particularly in large breed dogs—even if they fall down and seem better the next day, bring them in because it could signal a tumor of the spleen,” says Dr. Zaidel. And don’t miss these 10 silent signs that mean your pooch is actually sick!



Coughing doesn’t automatically signal cancer; for example, small breed dogs tend to develop coughs because they have windpipe problems. “If the dog coughs once or twice, it’s of no concern, but if it continues to cough for more than a few days, that’s a concern and could signal lung cancer,” says Zaidel.


Weight loss

Weight loss is the number-one dog cancer symptom Dr. Zaidel says he sees. It’s often the sign of a gastrointestinal tumor. “I’ve had a lot of dogs stop eating because of gastrointestinal tumors, so they lose weight very rapidly,” he says. Cancer can also cause dogs to lose weight while maintaining their regular appetite. If you notice your dog shedding pounds, either rapidly or slowly, make an appointment with your vet. Make sure you know the surprisingly common dog dangers that lurk in your backyard!


Mouth changes

Sores, lumps, a strange odor, bleeding, or a change in gum color can be a sign of oral cancer, particularly in older dogs. This cancer sign in dogs often goes unnoticed for too long. “We commonly find visible oral tumors because people don’t examine their pet’s mouth,” says Dr. Zaidel. “Many oral tumors can be really devastating because people don’t find them until it’s really advanced.” He also suggests brushing on a regular basis.

It’s a good idea to watch when your pet yawns or eats, advises Timothy Rocha, DVM, an oncology specialist in New York City. See a vet if you notice something out of the ordinary.


Nose bleeds

Nosebleeds are never normal, says Dr. Rocha. “With an older dog, a nosebleed is particularly worrisome. It can be a sign of cancer in the nose,” he says. “With younger dogs, I would worry more about something like a foreign object stuck up there before cancer.” (These are the 12 common foods that could be detrimental to your dog’s health!)


Diarrhea or changes in bathroom habits

Occasional diarrhea usually isn’t a sign of cancer in dogs, says Dr. Rocha, but if it persists or gets worse, get your dog to the vet. Constantly begging to go out to go to the bathroom, difficulty peeing/moving bowels, vomiting, or blood in the urine or stool are also potential dog cancer symptoms, according to PetMD.com.



Persistent discharge from the nose or eyes is cause for concern, says Dr. Zaidel. Nasal discharge is a common sign of facial tumors, and eye discharge can signal an eye tumor. (Check out these 23 facts about animals that are actually all wrong!)



Seizures can be a sign of brain tumors and are typically seen in older dog cancer patients, says Dr. Zaidel. If you start to notice sudden and uncontrolled bursts of activity, like champing and chewing, jerking of the legs, or foaming at the mouth, your dog could be experiencing seizures and you should see a vet immediately, according to WebMD.com.


Skin changes

“Every lump, bump, or skin change should be checked,” says Dr. Zaidel. “It could be benign or cancerous, but it’s always easier to treat the earlier it’s caught.” Feel for bumps, lumps, or swelling as you pet your pooch. If you notice something iffy, don’t delay—there’s no way to distinguish between a lump that’s benign or malignant without taking a sample. Also pay attention to any sores that won’t heal or lesions that seem itchy or painful. Also, don’t forget to keep an eye out for these dog flu symptoms.


Weight gain

Sudden weight gain or bloating can be a sign of cancer in dogs. If your dog is eating less but seems to be bulking up, take a trip to the vet, says Rocha. A sudden spike in appetite also warrants a visit.


General pain or discomfort

“Pain is a rather substantial sign of cancer,” says Zaidel. If your dog whines or cries out when you pat her tummy or pick him up, call your vet. Mouth tumors may cause noticeable discomfort when eating. (Keep your pet safe and learn which 11 household items can make your furry friend seriously sick!)


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Here’s the list of dog foods identified most frequently in the reports that the FDA is studying.

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • California Natural
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • Nature’s Variety
  • NutriSource
  • Nutro
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

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11 PHOTOS11 summer foods you should never, ever share with your dogSee Gallery11 summer foods you should never, ever share with your dog


They may seem harmless, but grapes (and raisins) are incredibly toxic for dogs. While vets don’t know what exactly causes the bad reaction, dogs can quickly experience vomiting and, later, possibly even kidney failure. 



While a little avocado should be OK, it’s best to avoid the fruit altogether. Avocados contain persin, which can be toxic for dogs. It’s in the meat, pit and skin, so you should keep your pups away from the guacamole dish. If you happen to grow avocados, keep your eye out for any dropped fruit. Keep an eye out for these silent signs your dog is actually sick.


Bones that splinter

Just because your dog’s favorite toy is a bone, doesn’t mean all bones are safe. Baby back rib bones, T-bones and chicken bones easily splinter, and if swallowed can be incredibly harmful. If you’re serving any of the above, make sure it’s clear to your guests that the remnants should not be given to your pup.



This breakfast staple, along with other fatty foods like meat scraps, can cause pancreatitis in pups. While one nibble here or there isn’t the end of the world, don’t make it a habit, otherwise, the dog’s pancreas can become inflamed and stop functioning. Bacon is also very high in salt, which isn’t good for dogs, either.



This should go without saying, but some people still don’t know that chocolate is extremely toxic for man’s best friend. It’s worse for some breeds than others, but you should generally operate with the assumption that your dog should never get even a morsel of the good stuff. (Luckily, humans can still enjoy it!)



A member of the Allium family (which also includes chives, onions and leeks), garlic is very toxic for our furry friends. According to the American Kennel Club, “Garlic can create anemia in dogs, causing side effects such as pale gums, elevated heart rate, weakness and collapsing.”


Ice cream

While ice cream is OK in moderation, dogs don’t digest dairy very well. Still want to give them a treat on a hot dog? Freeze some berries and give them to your dog as a sweet, cool treat.


Any kind of alcohol

If your dog licks up a few drops of your favorite India Pale Ale that splashed on the ground, there’s no need to freak. BUT, if they manage to lap up half your glass when you’re not looking, you should phone a vet. Alcohol has the same effect on our pups as it does us, but it takes far less to cause diarrhea, vomiting, breathing problems or worse. Here are 8 more things vets want you to know about your dog’s diet.


Macadamia nuts

While peanuts are 100 percent OK for our dogs to eat, macadamia nuts are actually quite poisonous for them. The nuts can affect their nervous system, causing vomiting, increased body temperature and lethargy.


Peaches and plums

The actual fruit in peaches and plums is OK for dogs to eat, but if the animals get their paws on the entire thing, odds are they’ll devour it pit and all. That’s where the problem lies. The seed can block a dog’s intestines, but perhaps worse, the pit contains a form of cyanide, which is terribly poisonous to dogs and humans alike. Don’t miss these other shockingly common dog dangers in your own backyard.



You should never let your dog dip into your iced coffee cup. The stimulant methylated xanthine makes a dog’s nervous system go into overdrive. Symptoms include vomiting, restlessness, heart palpitations or worse.


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