Up until recently, DCM in dogs remained fairly under the radar. But a few years back, this all changed. All of a sudden there was a jump in the number of canine DCM cases around the world. Pet owners even started placing the blame on grain-free diets. Unfortunately for leading grain-free dog food brands, this blame was wrongly placed.
Even though there was an increase in the prevalence of DCM as of late, the disease is still extremely rare. As it turns out, DCM cannot be attributed to grain-free dog foods (or any other type of canine diet for that matter). All research studies from the past and present point to the same root cause for canine dilated cardiomyopathy: genetics.
DCM Basic Facts
Before we get into the link between DCM and genes, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of DCM. The disease has always been common in large dog breeds, and it affects the way a canine’s heart functions. When DCM is present, a dog experiences a weakening of the heart’s ventricles, which makes it difficult for the organ to properly pump blood throughout the body.
When this happens, the heart muscles become larger so that pumping can still be performed. Eventually, even enlarged heart muscles can’t help, and this is the point where congestive heart failure is possible. Pet owners should see the common signs and symptoms long before this happens. When caught early enough, a DCM screening can determine a proper treatment method and save a canine from congestive heart failure.
In order to catch the disease before it sets in, you must be aware of the common sighs pointing to the presence of DCM. Wheezing and coughing are both very normal in dogs with DCM, as are extreme fatigue and appetite loss. For more obvious symptoms, check your dog’s mouth for pale gums or feel its belly for a distended abdomen.
It’s All About a Dog’s Genes
Contrary to what is being said in the media, DCM is all about a dog’s genes and has nothing to do with a dog’s diet. This has been a known fact for many years, and even the recent increase in DCM cases supports this. Even in recent studies, the majority of dogs tested have been members of predisposed breeds. These breeds include Boxers, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Cocker Spaniels.
Unless your dog is showing symptoms of DCM after switching up its diet, there’s no need to be concerned about grain-free dog foods. A leading source on the science behind DCM says the very same thing:
“Any dog owner would want to make sure they’re doing their best to keep their pets healthy, so the temptation to switch food because of this investigation is totally understandable. But according to most vets, and even the FDA itself, the best course of action is to pay attention to your dog’s symptoms and work with your own vet to determine the right approach.”