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The information provided on the show is for general information purposes only. If your pet has a health problem, medical emergency, or a general health question, you should contact a veterinarian for a consultation, diagnosis and/or treatment. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-diagnosis or treatment based on anything you have seen on the show.

It can be pretty difficult to navigate the pet food industry, especially when products in Canada are being investigated in the U.S. for possible connections to a disease that can be deadly for dogs. We all just want the best for our pets, but how do you know what to give your four-legged friend when the industry is unregulated?

Chief Emergency Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Greenstein sat down with us at Your Morning to tackle the issue, and pass along some need-to-know information so that you can make the best decisions for your pet, and keep them from getting sick with canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The Food and Drug Administration has received more than 500 complaints about cases of DCM potentially linked to consumption of certain brands of dog food. Although a few of the complaints date back to 2014, the vast majority have come in since the FDA first notified the public about its concerns last summer.

What is DCM?

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a condition thought to be related to taurine deficiency. It results in an enlarged and weakened heart, and can lead to congestive heart failure. Dogs affected with DCM may seem tired or weak, have trouble breathing, lose weight even though they eat normally, develop irregular heartbeats—and even collapse suddenly.

Some breeds are genetically predisposed to DCM (Doberman pinschers, Irish wolfhounds, Boxers, and Great Danes, for example), but more recently it has been reported among other breeds, including Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, Doodle mixes, and Shih Tzus.

What is causing these illnesses?

Grains are used in pet food as a nutritious source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, but the absence of grains could be the issue. The fact that DCM is present in breeds of dogs that were not thought predisposed to the condition is concerning, The link here is the grain-free diet. The high proportion of pea and lentils and the non-traditional ingredients could potentially be a factor.

No recalls have been issued for any dog foods that might be causing these health problems because it has not yet been determined if there is, in fact, a connection between any of them and DCM. Testing has taken place on the foods in question and some of the dogs that developed DCM, but no conclusive results have been found. The FDA says there is no reason for pet owners to stop using any specific dog foods at this point, although they recommend conversations with veterinarians about any dietary concerns and immediate care for any dogs that show signs of lethargy, difficulty breathing, cough or collapse.

Dr. Greenstein asserts that if you are not sure what to feed your dog, to ask your vet! If you read something on the internet and want to know if it’s internet legend or actual nutritional science, again, ask your vet—they know if there is a science behind something, and you should base what you feed your dog on science.