US Agency attacks “grain free” dog food.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration attacks ‘grain-free’ dog food

As reported in The Daily Telegraph the USFDA announced in July that it is investigating a causal link between heart disease and ‘grain-free’ dog food []
They are monitoring reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating pet foods containing potatoes or legumes such as peas, lentils or ‘pulses’ (seeds of legumes) as main ingredients. They have noted a preponderance of ‘grain-free’ foods in reported cases
Several of the dogs also had low blood levels of the amino acid taurine. Taurine deficiency is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM
Now, the USFDA can over-react to issues be they related to the human or pet food chain (and their findings could simply be caused by the increased popularity of grain-free diets) but in this case they have a point. There are two issues to focus upon –
1. The first is that, despite The Telegraph’s headline, the USFDA are not attacking ‘grain-free’ per se (indeed the term ‘grain-free’ is just a marketing gimmick). Most dogs do indeed struggle to digest whole grains but grains are only part of the problem – dogs struggle to digest any complex carbohydrate – and starch is the real enemy (even a ‘grain-free’ dry food (or kibble) will contain about 40% starch). What the USFDA are saying is that the cheap, high starch carbohydrates such as potatoes, peas and legumes that are used instead of grains as filler to bulk out a dry food may be to blame. This isn’t news to raw feeders who know that dogs require a diet of 70-80% meat and bone and that it’s incomprehensible that a packet of kibble (grain-free or not) will usually only disclose the analysis of about 30% of the ingredients on the label – the other 70% are the very items cited by the USFDA (plus of course the very manufacturing process of a kibble requires starch to be sprayed onto the food in order to form the pellet)
2. The second is the mention of taurine. Taurine is found in meat, especially organ meat and is usually completely absent from kibble. Indeed FEDIAF (the EU regulator of pet food) doesn’t believe dogs have any requirement for taurine. Again, raw feeders know better and their diets will typically contain 10 to 15% organ meat
In the US the issues have been taken up by their regulatory body, the US Pet Food Institute (PFI), who are monitoring the situation and have stated –
The common factor was a diet heavy in peas, lentils, chickpeas and potatoes — carbohydrates typically intended to replace grains.
Their equivalent in Europe, FEDIAF, are also ‘monitoring’ but remain silent on the issues. This isn’t surprising as their guidelines are designed for the kibble manufacturers and it is their loose regulations that allow only 30% of the ingredients to be analysed on a typical packet of kibble. They have also completely missed the taurine point
Dog owners will draw their own conclusions but a good quality raw food will be not only grain-free but more importantly, low in starch and will contain taurine from fresh organ meat. For more information visit