Local vets warn dog owners about dangerous fad diet

N.D. (Valley News Live) - "His name is Aussie. He's just a snorty, little chunky ball of funny," says Brittany Anderson, a manager at the Natural Pet Center. "I'm a dog girl. It's all I'm ever going to do."

Anderson is careful with what she feeds her pug Aussie, but not everyone is so sure.

"I'm pretty deadest on what I get my dog specifically, because I know what he needs, I know what he likes," Anderson says. "We get a lot of questions from people not knowing what they want."

"A lot of the times, it's they hear something – and we have to do the research like, what are the major questions that people ask and what are the major health issues," she adds. "I don't really know why it started to get the push that it did, where everybody wanted to go on grain free. I think it just started to be, well I hear that dogs are allergic to grains. Well, some are, some aren't."

"It's marketing. It's novel, new, and it'll come to a point when it's something else. In 3 to 5 years, there will be something else out there that's the new best thing," says Dr. Brad Bartholomay, DVM, the owner and a veterinarian at Casselton Veterinary Service.

The latest food fad is going grain-free, but the trend could have lasting effects on your dog.

"The trouble with this thing is, they can go for a long time without showing any clinical signs and then you get a tipping point where the heart doesn't function quite right, " Bartholomay says. "You can have a situation where they can just fall over. And that's what the owners might see. Or just a plain old exercise intolerance where they don't play like they used to."

"And there's all kinds of other things that can happen. But probably the scariest thing is the arrhythmia, a fatal arrhythmia can occur," he continues. "It's kind of a hiding disorder, so that's where we as clinicians really have to hone in."

The FDA is investigating the link between grain free diets in dogs and dilated cardiomyopathy (or DCM). Bartholomay says he's seeing that problem here as well.

"We were seeing more and more animals that we were worried about having heart disease. And if it was related to their diet, we needed to get information out," he says.

If your dog is currently on a grain free diet, Bartholomay says some of the negative effects can be reversed, but their heart may never return to normal. That's why he recommends staying away from grain free diets until more is known about its effect on the heart. That way your furry friends can stay happy, healthy, and part of your life for a long time to come.

"I've been recommending not feeding them grain-free or anything that has legumes – lentils, peas, beans – they've been linked to this. And sweet potatoes and potatoes also," Bartholomay says.

"To live forever. To live past me, I don't want to see him die. If he can live as long as humanely possible, that's my main goal. Just to get him happy, healthy for past his life span than is expected," Anderson says.

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