Downeast Dog News

Good News About Grain-Free Foods-Confusion Reigns Over the Cause of DCM

By Downeast Dog News | Nov 30, 2020


In July of 2018, grain-free pet foods and a disorder called DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in dogs were all over the news for many weeks. A small group of veterinarians and the FDA held a press conference announcing a surge in reported cases of DCM. They attributed the increase due to grain-free pet foods. Yet, at the same time, one of the veterinarians involved seemed also to implicate dog food made with exotic proteins by "boutique pet food companies." The media circus continued for months, causing panic among pet parents and the pet food industry.

When this all started, animal nutritionists I trust were saying the FDA's conclusions did not add up. There was no evidence to implicate grain-free foods, exotic proteins, or specific types of pet food companies. They indicated that DCM is a very complicated disorder with many factors. It turns out, the people I trusted were correct as now the FDA is saying the same thing.

At the end of September, Kansas State University held a scientific forum to discuss DCM and pet food. Information presented at the meeting is just now circulating in the media. I'm still digesting the reports and will write more in the future, but here is the good news from the FDA.

"The agency concluded that there is nothing inherently unsafe about a grain-free diet."

"Evidence shows that the absence of grains in a dog's diet is not linked to the development of DCM, as the presence of grains in a dog's diet does not prevent against DCM. We hope this brings clarity to pet lovers and gives them the confidence and trust to select the best diet for their dogs."

Additionally, there is no evidence to implicate "exotic proteins" or "boutique pet food companies" as contributing to DCM. Suppose you were previously feeding dog food without grain or one with exotic proteins or dog food made by a small, family-owned pet food company. In that case, you can feel safe feeding it again.

If you have a dog with DCM or are concerned about DCM, here is the bad news. "The results show that DCM is a multifactorial issue with potential variables including, but not limited to, breed, age, weight, gastrointestinal disease, atopy, infection, and more." In other words, as many animal nutritionists were saying as early as July 2018, the FDA was off on a wild goose chase. Sadly, much more research needs to be done to help dogs with DCM, and based on what I've been reading, much of the research in the past two years may have been a waste of time. I hope I am wrong, as losing a pet to DCM is something no one wants.

Tragically, there is worse news for all of us. At the September conference, it was stated, "Nevertheless, these observations must be subject to rigorous scientific investigation before conclusions are made." Which is exactly what did NOT happen before the press conference in July 2018. The FDA should know better and realize they need to do some serious work on their reputation.



Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG's Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

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