From Nutrition Support Services at UC Davis Veterinary Hospital:
There are recent concerns about reports of heart disease in some dogs eating commercial diets. We are aware of these reports, including the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine update released July 12:
Taurine is an amino acid that is not nutritionally essential for dogs and is not required to be in dog foods. However, there are dietary factors (such as protein source, fiber type and concentration, and cooking or processing methods) and individual dog characteristics (such as breed and calorie needs) that impact how efficiently taurine may be made by the body.
There have been recent cases seen in our hospital and elsewhere of dilated cardiomyopathy secondary to taurine deficiency in dogs that have been associated with commercial diets containing certain ingredients (such as legumes - beans, lentils, and peas - and root vegetables - white and sweet potatoes). Data collection and interpretation is ongoing for these recent cases. In the past we have also seen cases of dilated cardiomyopathy and taurine deficiency in dogs eating home-prepared diets (with either cooked and raw ingredients and those with and without meat), and other commercial diets with various ingredients and nutritional profiles. Some of those cases and investigations have been published:
Backus RC, Cohen G, Pion PD, Good KL, Rogers QR, Fascetti AJ. Taurine deficiency in Newfoundlands fed commercially available complete and balanced diets. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2003 Oct 15;223(8):1130-6.
Fascetti AJ, Reed JR, Rogers QR, Backus RC. Taurine deficiency in dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy: 12 cases (1997-2001). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2003 Oct 15;223(8):1137-41.
Tôrres CL, Backus RC, Fascetti AJ, Rogers QR. Taurine status in normal dogs fed a commercial diet associated with taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2003 Oct;87(9-10):359-72.
Bélanger MC, Ouellet M, Queney G, Moreau M. Taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy in a family of golden retrievers. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2005 Sep-Oct;41(5):284-91.
Freeman LM, Michel KE, Brown DJ, Kaplan PM, Stamoulis ME, Rosenthal SL, Keene BW, Rush JE. Idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy in Dalmatians: nine cases (1990-1995). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1996 Nov 1;209(9):1592-6.
Due to the variable and sometimes incomplete reported diet history information for affected dogs, the inability to predict diet performance in any individual from nutritional profile/ingredient information, and lack of proof of causation, it is not possible to identify specific dietary characteristics nor specific products that are or are not recommended at this point.
If you have concerns specific to your own pet, we encourage you to reach out to your primary care veterinarian for guidance, possible testing (which may include a physical exam, blood tests, radiographs and/or an echocardiogram), and dietary recommendations. Taurine status can be assessed by measuring it in blood. Ideally two blood samples are assessed at the same time, and collected prior to changing the diet or adding supplements: 1) heparinized whole blood and 2) plasma that has been centrifuged and separated from blood cells immediately after collection.
Samples can be submitted to the UC Davis Amino Acid Laboratory or through your veterinarian’s regular clinical pathology laboratory service:
The FDA encourages veterinarians and pet owners to report cases of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs suspected of having a link to diet by using the electronic Safety Reporting Portal or calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.