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Kibble not sole link to heart disease

This article is more than 12 months old

Do not panic just yet if you have been feeding your dog kibble from one of the 16 brands named as having a potential link with canine heart disease.

Grain-free, dry dog food has come under the spotlight as part of investigations by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into a possible connection between certain diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease that can lead to heart failure.

Popular brands sold here, including Acana, Zignature and Taste of the Wild, were among those most frequently associated with dogs with the disease in cases reported to the FDA, the agency said in a report released last week.

However, veterinarians told The Straits Times that the issue may not be specific to the named brands and diet is not the only factor in the development of the disease.

The FDA announced the probe in July last year, after a rise in cases in breeds not known to have a genetic predisposition to the disease.

The FDA said the majority of the more than 500 dogs reported with DCM were on diets of dry foods labelled "grain-free". Peas and/or lentils were also found in 93 per cent of reported diets, it said in an update.

While the nature of the link between diet and DCM has yet to be determined, the FDA said it is trying to better understand the role of taurine, an amino acid thought to promote heart health. Many DCM cases involving Golden Retrievers have been linked to taurine deficiency, the report said.

Brands named in the report have emphasised that no scientific link has been established between their foods and the risk of the disease.

Signs of DCM include lethargy, loss of appetite, breathing difficulty, coughing and fainting.

Dr Daniel Sing of Toa Payoh Vets said proving that diet is the main cause is difficult.

"Similar to heart disease in humans, it depends on lifestyle. If the dog is more active, then food plays a more minor role," he said.