An Update From The FDA Concerning DCM & Grain Free Food

June 29, 2019

FDA Announcement:

As many of you know the FDA has released an update to their original announcement questioning if grain free food can lead to DCM. 


Here is the link to the announcement from the FDA.  But basically, the bottom line is they still don't know and they are still conducting their research.  The link below has all the facts - not a few statements cherry picked to get attention on the news.  So grab a cold drink, open your computer and please take the time to read it.


For those of you who are busy and are happy with the cliff notes version of this report, here are the bullet points:

  • This report update by the FDA still does NOT provide any definitive scientific link between grain-free diets or any specific ingredients with DCM. It even says so in the report. This report is also NOT A RECALL in any way, shape or form.


  • The FDA published a graphic that names SOME brands of foods being consumed by dogs/cats with reported cases of DCM. If you look at the case-by-case link they provided, however, you’ll see there are brands like Hills and Purina on the list as well as many others and  “unnamed” or “unknown” manufacturers that were not included in the needlessly panic-inducing chart they provided. The report also says that in many cases, pets were consuming multiple brands, further muddying the waters.  The foods in this graphic are some of the highest quality, safest grain-free foods on the market, and we do not recommend a switch away from them if your pet is happy, healthy and thriving.

  • Over the past 5 years, 524 cases of DCM have been REPORTED to the FDA - this was not a scientific veterinary controlled study.  The public randomly reported these cases. There are approximately 77 million dogs in the United States. This means approximately 0.0000068% (yes, that’s millionths of a percent) of dogs in the US are afflicted with DCM. Compare that to more than 65% of dogs who are afflicted with cancer, and it might help put the “issue” into more perspective. The report even specifically states that “most dogs in the U.S. have been eating pet food without…developing DCM.”

  • Based on this report/update, we do not see any scientific link between diet and DCM.

We’ll now try to provide some more details below on these points. 


We encourage you to take the time to actually read  this newest update. We are confident, upon reviewing the information, that you will come to the same conclusion that we have – this “update” doesn’t provide much new information above and beyond the original report on DCM released last year, and it most certainly does not provide any definitive scientific link between DCM and diet. The report itself even says that (albeit at the very end):


“The FDA is continuing to investigate and gather more information in an effort to identify whether there is a specific dietary link to development of DCM and will provide updates to the public as information develops.”


In other words, this announcement provides no causative scientific link between DCM and specific ingredients or grain-free diets as a whole.


The report also goes so far as to publish a graph that shows the brands that were being consumed by those dogs and/or cats that received diagnoses of DCM (at least in 10 or more cases). We feel this is unfair and very, very confusing to consumers. Let’s talk about a few things here:


This graph does not represent or establish a link between these brands and DCM in any way. In fact, the report says “it is important to note that the graph below is based on reports that included brand information and that some reports named multiple brands.”


If a case reported multiple brands, what are those other brands? If a pet is consuming multiple brands, either simultaneously or independently over time, how can a pet guardian possibly determine which, if any of those foods, is contributing to a disorder without proper testing of each brand independently?


If you click the link that gives a “granular, case-by-case breakdown” of foods being fed to dogs in the reported cases, you will see that there are Hills, Purina and “non-named” brands/manufacturers listed as well.  It’s unfair of the FDA to publish a graphic like this if they’re not going to include all of the brands named in the cases – even if it’s just 1 – on the same graph.  It is misleading and confusing to consumers. What’s more – they simply name brands as a whole without specifying that many of these brands have both grain-free and grain-inclusive diets.


Without reading the granular, case-by-case report, this graphic is simply a useless overview that can easily be misinterpreted by consumers.  Breeds, dogs age, etc. should all be taken into consideration!


Please let us be very, very clear in this statement – while we do feel that the brands targeted in this graphic vary tremendously in terms of quality and quality control – we do NOT feel that ANY of these foods pose any sort of health risk to your pets.


Responses To The Recent FDA Announcement  From A Few Brands We Carry (we will update as we receive them):




Champion Pet Food (manufacturers of Origin and Acana)






Most of the brands listed here are the most popular foods on the market.  The chances of them being fed to the dog in this study group are high.  There are some brands listed on this vague report that have been on the market for over 25 years with no prior issues...  Just because Brand X isn't on the list doesn't mean a thing in this study.  It just simply means the selected group didn't feed this food.  There are many other grain free foods on the market that aren't on this list but whose ingredient deck reads the exact same as others listed - they just aren't as popular or as easily obtained as the others.  Same thing is to be said for grocery store brand foods.  


Also - this study group is based on information from dogs whose owners can afford to take their dogs to a cardiologist. If you can afford to take your dog to a cardiologist, you are most likely feeding a $70-$100 bag of high quality dog food, not a 50 pound bag of wheat or corn based food full of ingredients you would feed a farm animal... Canine cardiologists are not accessible to all dog owners whether it's logistics or affordability.  Just to walk in the door and get an a definite DCM diagnosis is $1500 minimum!  Don't underestimate the number of people who don't even go to the vet once a me I see it all the time in rescue.  How many dogs have DCM that are fed grain inclusive food or low quality food?  You'll never know because it won't be reported.  We get hounds in rescue with heart issues that have been on low quality grain inclusive low meat inclusion foods their whole life.  


So This Is All Overwhelming... What Do I Feed?

If you're still worried and don't want to feed grain free or any diet that contains peas or lentils.  What do you feed that is still healthy?  If your dog doesn't have a grain intolerance, diabetes, or another chronic illness that a grain inclusive diet would negatively effect, then there's no reason not to feed a high quality wholesome grain inclusive food - but there's also certainly no reason, because of this announcement,  to go back to feeding a low quality food either... That's not what this report is saying...


Let me emphasize, the FDA has not said to stop feeding a grain free diet!   BUT please review my previous blog about grain free foods and how they are not all created equal!


If you decide you'd rather not feed a grain free kibble diet or a diet that contains peas and lentils, then here is my recommendation: 

  • A Balanced AFCO Approved Raw Diet  No question about meat inclusion here (the actual amount of meat there is in a food).  It's all meat and veggies packed full of taurine and contains no fillers.  If you aren't feeding a 100% raw diet, add a little raw to their kibble for a extra nutrition.

  • Dry Food (the brands listed below are what we carry at Howl To The Chief.

    • Fromm Grain Inclusive  -- All flavors of Classic, Gold and Four Star - Contains no peas or lentils and has added Taurine

    • Nutrisource Grain Inclusive - Chicken & Rice, Lamb & Rice, Large Breed Adult, Small & Medium Breed Puppy. 

    • Verus Grain Inclusive - All formulas


And Don't Forget About Cancer:

Cancer is still the number one cause of death among dogs...If you are wanting to switch your dog's food, remember foods and treats that contain artificial colors, flavors, additives, and/or preservatives contain carcinogens that over time can cause a dog to develop cancer. Also, foods with gluten (e.g. wheat) can cause inflammation, and inflammation is associated with a host of chronic diseases, including cancer, chronic allergies, diabetes, etc.  (The main reason most people went to grain free foods to begin with).


A Few Ingredients to avoid:

  • Corn and wheat gluten

  • Meat by-products

  • BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)

  • BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

  • Ethoxyquin

  • Food Dyes (Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, 4-MIE)

  • PG (Propylene Glycol)

  • Rendered fat


So Let's Get Real, Honest & Open Here And Talk From The Heart...

There is no corporate board of directors at Howl To The Chief, no shareholders to report to, etc...  It's just me.  I do this for the good of the pet - not for profit.  


I just want pets to eat a healthy diet and have a fighting chance of not dying from something that could have been avoided.  Food selection at Howl To The Chief is a personal decision and I take what I carry in my store and what I feed my pets and all of our foster dogs very seriously.  


Last year, I lost my sweet dachshund Tootsie to DCM (she came that way to me at the age of 6 from a breeder who dumped them at a high kill shelter - along with stage 3 mammary gland cancer.  They were fed a low quality food and kept confined in cages their whole life).  Three months later, I lost my dear sweet redbone coonhound Hope to MRSA from chronic antibiotic resistant ear infections.  My sweet Houdini was diagnosed with advanced Lymphoma last week and we are coming to grips knowing his time with us is short.  The environment we live in is not our pet's friend and it's not our friend.  Pesticides, preservatives, antibiotic ridden proteins, etc are everywhere.  


I have access to purchase and stock just about any pet food on the market (not prescription) including most grocery store brands.  The products I choose to carry in the store is what I feel has the highest quality and value for our clients and is a food I would feed my own pets.  I keep up to date on industry news, latest studies and consult with my veterinarians, etc so I can help our clients make an educated decision on what food is best for all of our fur babies.  I am not loyal to any brand and if a brand I carry makes any significant changes that I don't feel is in our pet's best interest, I will discontinue it.  


One of the most major issues in the pet food industry is the way the food is labeled.  Protein percentage has nothing to do with meat inclusion.  Most pet food companies don't list their meat inclusion on the labels (Orijen, Acana, Natures Variety and Stella & Chewys do!).  We as pet parents have the right to know how much of the protein is coming from meat and how much of the protein is coming from plants!  There is a difference!!  So trust me when I say, I am following the DCM issue closely...and if any manufacturer has been substituting plant protein for meat protein - I'll pull it off my shelves!

So read the report. Talk to us. Talk to your vet. If you don't like what your vet says then talk to another vet, a holistic veterinarian or a pet nutritionist.  I am very fortunate to have a vet who is well educated in nutrition and who isn't sending their clients into a panic mode based on this very confusing report. Each pets nutritional requirements are different!   If you need peace of mind, then have your pets taurine level tested!  But, what you shouldn’t do is scan this report, see the names of pet foods listed and make unwarranted and unbacked conclusions.


I hope you have found this post informative and helpful, If you still have questions, please email me at and I will be happy to find a food that fits your needs.  Thank you for supporting a small, woman and locally owned business.



Thank you to Bag Of Bones Barkery  in Hamilton, NJ for their contribution to part of this blog.








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June 29, 2019

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