Don’t Panic! The FDA is NOT Saying Grain-Free Diets Cause DCM

  • 29 July 2019
  • Pet Wants

Finding the right food for your pet can be challenging, especially with pet food recalls, animal allergies and complicated ingredient lists. When you add the FDA’s investigation of “certain diets” and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) into the mix, knowing what’s right for your individual pet can seem impossible.

Before we get into the importance of considering nutritional value rather than just ingredients and making dietary decisions that best suit your pets’ needs, let’s take a minute to look at the FDA’s investigation and subsequent reports.

In July 2018, the FDA first alerted the public about a possible link between DCM and “certain pet foods.” The FDA then followed that report with an update in February 2019 and a second update in June 2019. According to the most recent report from the FDA, which was released on June 27, 2019, 1 case of DCM was reported in 2014, 1 case was reported in 2015, 2 cases were reported in 2016, 3 cases were reported in 2017 and, after the FDA’s report in July 2018, 320 cases were reported in 2018 and 197 additional cases had been reported by April 2019.

The FDA’s report continues to say that “The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States. Most dogs in the U.S. have been eating pet food without apparently developing DCM.”

When you do the math, the total number of reported cases comes to 0.00068 percent of the number of dogs in the USA.

The June 2019 report lists the brands of pet foods the animals with DCM were eating and, while Pet Wants was not one of those brands and grain-free was not specifically called out in the report, we are concerned that the news coverage, blogs and social media buzz has people panicked over grain-free diets.

To be exact, the report warned about “diets in cases reported to the FDA frequently list potatoes or multiple legumes [our emphasis again] such as peas, lentils, other ‘pulses’ (seeds of legumes), and their protein, starch, and fiber derivatives early in the ingredient list, indicating that they are main ingredients.” The FDA also says “the prevalence of reports in dogs eating a grain-free diet might correlate also to market share: these products have become exceedingly popular over the last several years.”

Pet Wants does have two grain-free varieties that use legume and pulses as a carbohydrate base. We have crafted our grain-free formulas carefully, unlike many competitors going after the marketing hype of grain free to obtain sales. We offer grain free as an alternative for those pets that many have sensitivities or are seeking a food higher in protein and fat. Our grain-free formulas use moderate amounts of protein and fat while staying away from higher glycemic carbohydrates such as white potatoes.

Grain-free diets have risen in popularity in the last decade because several decades ago many in the pet industry saw what was happening to our pets in regard to obesity and other health issues and wanted to do something about it. This led many manufacturers on a path to developed “biologically appropriate” diets for pets that had a high inclusion of meat, not grains, and high fat with minimal low glycemic carbohydrates to combat the issues plaguing our pets. This movement resonated with customers and a message of “grain free is better” prevailed over nutritional profiles. However, not all grain-free diets are created equal because of this.

Whether you’re looking to link pet food to DCM or another pet health issue, like allergies or cancer, it’s about more than a broad stroke of dietary choices. At Pet Wants, we don’t think you can put all grain-free diets into one category. While mass market pet food companies are often focused on having the right ingredient list and doing the best marketing, Pet Wants prioritizes making sure every product we sell is designed to meet pets’ nutritional needs and that those products are fresh so that nutritional value is preserved.

It may be surprising to learn that most food that you purchase at the store can be at least 3-6 months old before it even hits your dog’s bowl. Freshness matters in nutrition because as food sits it loses nutritional value over time. An expiration date on dry mass-produced pet food is not the day in in which it will make your dog sick, it is the day in which it is no longer a complete diet. This means that food loses nutritional value every month it sits in storage which can include vitamins and fat.

Here at Pet Wants, we believe fresh food is better. The sooner we can get our food into your pet’s bowl the more nutrition your pet receives. That’s why we have a freshness guarantee.

The FDA is NOT advising dietary changes based solely on their current reports. Their Questions and Answers section online, updated in June 2019, suggests that, if you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or its diet, you consult your veterinarian, who may consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist for individualized advice that considers your dog’s specific needs and medical history.

We are proud that Pet Wants offers grain-free pet food formulas and we stand behind all of our products. Our mission is focused on education and finding the best nutrition for your pet, while providing high-quality fresh food free from corn wheat, soy, artificial preservatives and fillers. We have several varieties of food to meet the unique needs of your pet. Here at Pet Wants we focus on nutritional profiles and finding the right fit for your pet’s lifestyle.

While the FDA will continue to investigate and will provide updates to the public as information becomes available, the organization is encouraging pet owners and veterinary professionals to report both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases of dogs and cats with DCM that are suspected to be linked to diet online at While we believe grain-free is not to blame for DCM, we want to make sure the FDA has all the data it needs to make an independent determination.

To learn more about DCM in dogs, we would suggest reading this report from published author Linda P. Case from Whole Dog Journal: