Let's talk
about DCM

 

Dear Pet Parent,

I'm Dr. Whitney Miller, Director of Veterinary Medicine for Petco, and I'm writing about the FDA's recent update on their investigation into a potential link between certain diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart condition in dogs.

As a pet parent, I understand you may have questions. As a veterinarian, and in my role at Petco, I'm responsible for making sure we're always looking out for the best interest of your pets. That includes closely following any potential health implications connected to any food or product in our stores, on petco.com and across the industry. We take our role in caring for the well-being of your pets very seriously. We're carefully monitoring and reviewing the FDA investigation in partnership with our vendor partners, our own veterinary staff and third-party veterinary nutrition experts – and we will always share what we know with our customers.

First and foremost, if you have concerns about your pet's health or current diet, please contact your veterinarian immediately. There is no substitute for proper veterinary care and regular consultation.

The most important things to understand about this today are:

  1. The FDA is "not advising dietary changes," nor have they recommended any recalls.
  2. To date, a definitive cause behind the reported health conditions has not been identified.
  3. No direct causal link has been identified between any brands or diets and the development of DCM.
  4. The investigation is complex, ongoing and not conclusive; there is still much to be learned about the cases of DCM reported to the FDA.

I know choosing what to feed the pets you love is a responsibility you take seriously. I also know it can be confusing. That's why Petco established new, industry-leading nutrition standards earlier this year. And it's why we continue to offer a broad selection of nutrition options, including grain-free, with-grain, limited-ingredient, fresh, frozen and others. Because pet nutrition is not a "one-size-fits-all" science.

If you're considering a change to your pet's diet, I encourage you to visit your local Petco to discuss your pet's unique circumstances and needs – including age, breed, activity level and more. We will always support your veterinarian's recommendation, and while we stand behind all the brands we carry, if you're looking to make a switch, we're here to help. We believe nutrition is the foundation for overall pet health and wellness, and we're committed to helping you make the best choices for your pets.

For more information, frequently asked questions about DCM and links to additional resources, see below.

Thank you,

Whitney L. Miller

Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM
Director of Veterinary Medicine
Petco

As always, if you are concerned about your pet’s health or current diet, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know you have questions.

Because we’re pet parents, too. We’re also here to help.
That’s why we’re sharing everything we know about the FDA’s investigation on DCM.

Because we’re pet parents, too. We’re also here to help. That’s why we’re sharing everything we know about the FDA’s investigation on DCM.

On June 27, 2019, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released an update on their investigation into a potential link between dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs and grain-free and certain other pet foods and diets – including some with-grain diets. The FDA first alerted the public about this investigation in July 2018 and provided one previous update in February 2019.

To date, the FDA has not identified a definitive cause of the reported health conditions; neither the FDA nor our suppliers have recommended a recall; and the FDA is “not advising dietary changes” based solely on the information gathered so far.

The investigation is complex, ongoing and not conclusive; there is still much to be learned about the cases of DCM reported to the FDA.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition where the heart muscle becomes thin and cannot pump blood normally. As the disease progresses, the entire heart becomes enlarged, eventually losing the ability to pump blood to the rest of the body, which causes fluid to accumulate. If untreated, the heart muscle eventually becomes overwhelmed by the increased fluid volume, resulting in congestive heart failure. If diagnosed early and not connected to genetics, heart function may improve in cases that are not linked to genetics with appropriate veterinary treatment, dietary modification and, if necessary, medication and supplement administration.

The exact cause of DCM in dogs is unknown, however it is believed to stem from infectious disease, nutrition and/or genetics. Hereditary or genetic DCM is more prevalent in certain breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Newfoundland, Scottish Deerhound, Saint Bernard, Irish Wolfhound, Great Dane and other deep chested breeds. Taurine Deficient DCM is found more commonly in breeds that are prone to nutritionally related taurine and carnitine deficiency, such as Cocker Spaniels, Newfoundlands, English Setters, Golden Retrievers, Irish Wolfhounds and Saint Bernards. The FDA is currently investigating the role a pet’s food/diet/nutrition may play in the development of DCM, and has stated it is “a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.”

Some of the more common symptoms are:

  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Weight Loss
  • Labored breathing
  • Coughing
  • Panting
  • Abdominal distension
  • Sudden collapse

If you are concerned about your pet’s health or current diet, or if you believe your pet may be displaying symptoms of DCM or any other health condition, please contact your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may refer you to a board-certified veterinary cardiologist to definitively diagnose DCM and/or for more specialized care. There is no substitute for proper veterinary care and regular consultation.

Typically, large breeds or deep chested breeds are most often associated with hereditary DCM, such as Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Scottish Deerhounds, Saint Bernards, Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes, English Setters, Golden Retrievers, and Cocker Spaniel. The current FDA investigation includes reports of DCM in breeds not previously known to have a genetic risk. To date, 338 of the 515 dog cases listed were associated with dogs considered to be large breeds.

We don’t know exactly how many dogs are impacted by DCM each year; however, to provide context on their current investigation, the FDA points out that "The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States. As of April 30, 2019, the FDA has received reports about 560 dogs diagnosed with DCM suspected to be linked to diet. Tens of millions of dogs have been eating dog food without developing DCM."

To date, the FDA has not identified a definitive causal link between any brands, diets or ingredients and the development of DCM. The agency has said that, based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, they believe that "the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors. additional information is needed to understand how these animals developed DCM."

Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the FDA believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors including genetics, nutrition, or a combination of the two.

Legumes and potatoes are one of the primary carbohydrate sources in grain-free food, and while a majority of the cases reported to the FDA were connected to grain-free foods, it is not yet known how these foods or the ingredients within them may be related to the development of DCM. Nutritional makeup of the main ingredients, or how certain dogs process them, main ingredient sourcing, processing, amount used, or other factors could be involved as well.

According to the FDA, the prevalence of reports in which dogs were eating a grain-free diet may correlate to market share, given such products have grown in popularity over the last several years. It’s important to note that, while a smaller percentage of cases, the FDA has also received complaints associated with dogs that were consuming “with-grain” diets.

Yes, some of the brands mentioned in the FDA report are carried at Petco, as well as at grocery stores, mass/discount stores and other pet stores. Over 50 different brands were mentioned throughout the reported cases. Some of the brands mentioned that are carried at Petco include: ACANA, Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, Merrick, Natural Balance, ORIJEN, Nature’s Variety, Nutro, and Rachael Ray Nutrish.

At Petco, the health and well-being of animals is always our top priority, and we are committed to only carrying products we believe support the overall health and wellness of pets. We offer a broad selection of nutrition options, including grain-free, with-grain, limited-ingredient, fresh, frozen and others – because pet nutrition is not a “one-size-fits-all” science. We stand behind all the brands we carry, but as always, if you are not 100 percent happy with your purchase, you can return it to Petco at any time.

As always, if for any reason you’re considering making a switch in your pet’s diet, or you prefer foods with specific ingredients, we encourage you to visit your local Petco to discuss your pet’s nutrition and unique circumstances – including age, breed, activity level, your veterinarian’s recommendation and more – so we can help you find the best solution for your four-legged family member. We will always support your veterinarian’s recommendation.

To date, the FDA has not identified a definitive link between any specific diet or pet food brand and the reported health conditions. At this time, the FDA is “not advising dietary changes,” nor have they recommended any recalls based on the information they’ve gathered and reviewed so far. We stand behind all the brands we carry, but as always, if you are not 100 percent happy with your purchase, you can return it to Petco at any time.

If you are concerned about your pet’s health or current diet, please contact your veterinarian immediately. There is no substitute for proper veterinary care and regular consultation; and Petco will always support your veterinarian’s recommendation.

As always, if you’re considering making a change in your pet’s diet, or you prefer foods with specific ingredients, we encourage you to visit your local Petco to discuss your pet’s nutrition and unique circumstances – including age, breed, activity level, your veterinarian’s recommendation and more – so we can help you find the best solution for your four-legged family member. We offer a broad selection of nutrition options, including grain-free, with-grain, limited-ingredient, fresh, frozen and others – because pet nutrition is not and never has been a “one-size-fits-all” science.

For more information on how to safely make a change in your pet’s diet, read this article on How to Transition Your Dog or Cat to a New Food.

We take our role in caring for the well-being of your pets very seriously. We’re carefully monitoring and reviewing the FDA investigation in partnership with our vendor partners, our own veterinary staff and third-party veterinary nutrition experts – and we will always share what we know with our customers.

First and foremost, we’re pet parents, too. The increase in reports of DCM in pets that are not genetically pre-disposed is both curious and concerning, and we are closely monitoring the ongoing investigation, and we will always share what we know with our customers.

To date, the FDA has not identified any definitive, science-based causal link between diet and the development of DCM. They are not advising dietary changes or recommending any recalls based on the investigation so far. There is still much to be learned about the cases of DCM reported to the FDA, but the agency has stated very clearly: "we do not think these cases can be explained simply by whether or not they contain grains, or by brand or manufacturer."

We stand by the safety and quality of all of the foods we carry, and millions of pets are currently thriving on diets found at Petco, including those named in the FDA’s report. That said, the health and well-being of animals is always our top priority, and we are committed to only carrying products we believe support the overall well-being of pets.

If at any point, a food or product on our shelves is found to be unsafe or not in the best interest of the pets we all love, we will take swift and appropriate action to remove that product from our shelves.

The FDA is still gathering information to better understand if (and how) taurine metabolism (both absorption and excretion) may have a role in these reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy. According to the FDA, "Nutritional research indicates that taurine is generally not considered an essential amino acid for dogs, because these animals can synthesize taurine from cysteine and methionine. Nearly all the grain-free products had methionine-cystine values above the minimum nutritional requirement of 0.65 percent for adult maintenance food for dogs."

We do not know how much longer the FDA’s investigation will take. The investigation is complex, ongoing and not conclusive; there is still much to be learned about the cases of DCM reported to the FDA and we look forward to a definitive and swift resolution. We’re carefully monitoring and reviewing the FDA investigation in partnership with our vendor partners, our own veterinary staff and third-party veterinary nutrition experts – and we will always share what we know with our customers.

If you are concerned about your pet’s health or current diet, please contact your veterinarian immediately. There is no substitute for proper veterinary care and regular consultation; and Petco will always support your veterinarian’s recommendation.

If you’re considering making a change in your pet’s diet, or you prefer foods with specific ingredients, we encourage you to visit your local Petco to discuss your pet’s nutrition and unique circumstances – including age, breed, activity level, your veterinarian’s recommendation and more – so we can help you find the best solution for your four-legged family member. We offer a broad selection of nutrition options, including grain-free, with-grain, limited-ingredient, fresh, frozen and others – because pet nutrition is not and never has been a “one-size-fits-all” science.

For more information on how to safely make a change in your pet’s diet, read this article on How to Transition Your Dog or Cat to a New Food.