HEART HEALTH: Keeping your dog's heart healthy & happy
It’s not always easy to understand what activities and what nutrition can strengthen your dog’s heart and boost their overall health. That’s why the v-dog team wants to help you understand the best practices and the latest studies that involve this powerful muscle.
What is heart health?
It's undeniable that the health of your dog's heart is vitally important to the quality of their life and their longevity, and we want to make sure that we always support their cardiovascular welfare.
Here are 6 areas of your dog’s life where you can help them maintain a healthy heart:
- Keeping your dog at a healthy weight will reduce the stress and strain on their heart.
- A nutritionally complete food not only helps manage your dog’s weight but also ensures that your dog is absorbing the nutrients they need to thrive.
- Just like humans, dogs need an adequate amount of exercise to keep their hearts strong and their spirits high.
- Make sure you employ the proper prevention against fleas, ticks, and heartworms, all of which can compromise your dog’s heart and lead to heart disease if unchecked.
- Neglecting your pup’s dental care also affects their heart health, especially when senior dogs have to deal with years of plaque buildup and gum disease.
- Finally, remember that your local veterinarian is a powerful ally in the fight against heart disease. It’s important that you schedule regular checkups so that your vet can monitor your furry friend’s heart and identify any areas for concern early on.
We all want our furry friends to live their best (and longest) life, and a healthy heart is essential to make sure that your dog has a happy and incredibly bright future for years to come.
What is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)?
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a condition of the heart where some or all of the heart’s chambers enlarge as a result of ongoing stress, either from a genetic or developmental anomaly. Many heart conditions can lead to this same tragic result, so it’s incredibly important that all people take their dogs (whether eating an omnivore, carnivore, or plant-based diet) to the vet for regular heart checkups. DCM is a slow-progressing condition and is not something that will simply happen by switching to a new diet.
We have seen tens of thousands of pups thrive on plant-based diets over the past 16 years, including our own. V-Dog continues to stay informed about any new scientific/clinical research or regulatory claims, and we actively conduct our own internal reviews and studies about our formulation.
We love our dogs, and when we hear about studies involving DCM and taurine in the news, it’s only natural that we all want to make sure we’re not inadvertently choosing diets that affect the long-term health of our canine companions. With this resource, you can now learn all about these health-related issues and understand their relation to vegan diets.
Debunking Nutritional Link between Heart Illness and Pea Protein
Recently, FDA studies have tried to link DCM to foods containing potatoes, peas, lentils, and other legumes; however, no studies have demonstrated a single substantive link between any legume and the development of DCM. Any nutritionally complete AAFCO-certified food like v-dog that sufficiently supplements with the essential amino acids that dogs need to thrive (including taurine) will help prevent our canine companions from developing many different debilitating heart conditions.
Although there haven't been any studies confirming a relationship between legumes and DCM, some speculate that these ingredients may block the absorption of taurine. Here at v-dog, we’ve never seen a single report of taurine deficiency linked to our kibble, and we've been using peas as our main ingredient (in addition to lentils and potatoes) since our founding in 2005. Another recent study at Ross University showed that taurine levels in dogs consistently increased when switched from a conventional meat-based diet to v-dog’s plant-based kibble. So too, it’s important to bear in mind that no studies have even attempted to separate hereditary from non-hereditary DCM in their trials and that a percentage of dogs have (tragically) always been affected by heart-related disease that have absolutely no common link to diets (another point that all these studies and nutritionists seem to conveniently miss).
DCM is a very complicated condition, and it’s only been in the limelight within the past couple years in the United States. (Other countries that feed treats and kibbles with peas--both vegan and meat-based--to their dogs report no DCM development associated with these foods.) Though it might be tempting to draw some link between a few ingredients and a horrible, tragic disease, we encourage everyone to evaluate the science behind these flimsy claims, and we’re confident that once you read the breakdown of these studies, you’ll feel reassured that your dog is safe and healthy eating v-dog.
What are veterinarians and nutritionists saying about the FDA's investigation into potential causes of non-hereditary dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs?
In July 2018 the US FDA announced that they were investigating reports of DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs eating certain foods, especially grain-free diets. In place of grains those diets contain other ingredients, particularly pulses such as peas. As of today, Aug 16, 2021, there are still ongoing investigations and research into the matter. The underlying cause of DCM is both complex and multifactorial. DCM is uncommon, affecting <1% of dogs. An echocardiogram is the best test for it. DCM is most commonly inherited and breed related, but can also be caused by taurine deficiency. Recent studies following the FDA’s announcement are investigating whether there is a 3rd, potentially diet related cause of DCM, which is either affecting taurine or affecting the heart in another way such as a specific toxin. Cases of DCM have been reported in dogs eating raw and homemade diets as well. Of the 16 dog food brands that had over 10 FDA reports out of the 515 cases reported from 2014 to 2019, none were plant-based. Regardless of diet, if you are concerned that your dog has heart disease (coughing, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance or collapse) please see your veterinarian. The FDA encourages speaking with your veterinarian prior to making a diet change.
V-dog kibble has been supplemented with taurine since the company's inception in 2005. Peas are the primary source of protein in v-dog kibble, and it also contains grains such as brown rice and oats. A 2018 independent study at Ross University of 34 dogs undergoing a diet change from meat-based food to v-dog kibble for 90 days showed:
- An increase in levels of 75% of amino acids, including taurine
- Normal echocardiograms (no evidence of DCM or heart disease).
V-dog continues to stay informed about the FDA’s ongoing investigation. We appreciate your concern for canine nutrition and animal welfare!
—Lorelei Wakefield, VMD (August 16, 2021)
This may be a shocker to some, but the truth is, there is not a direct cause-and-effect link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and grain-free pet foods. In fact, there has never been a single research study to demonstrate the relationship; rather, the fact is: The association between DCM and grain-free foods has been weak at best.
—Ryan Yamka, PhD (petfoodindustry.com on August 17, 2021)
What is taurine?
Though not strictly categorized as an essential amino acid, taurine is definitely an important one. Amino acids are the building blocks of more complex proteins, and many of these are crucial to the development and protection of your dog’s heart, especially taurine.
Even though most dogs and breeds can synthesize this vital amino acid from other components (namely methionine and cysteine), we make sure to supplement our kibble formula with plenty of taurine so that all dogs can absorb this nutrient from their diets. (It’s also important to note that all dog food companies—whether plant-based or meat-based—must add taurine to their formulas since the cooking process often destroys any taurine that was present in the raw ingredients. In short, taurine supplementation is not just a vegan issue.)
Here at v-dog, we value our dogs, our environment, and our community of compassionate animal advocates, and we want nothing more than to protect your beloved dog’s heart from disease and trauma in all forms. Our team constantly evaluates the science of these new studies, and we gather evidence from countless testimonials and trials. Moreover, you’re always welcome to contact us directly if you have specific questions or concerns.
Is the development of DCM related to breed, diet, and/or age?
DCM is considered a predominantly inherited condition within dogs. Some breeds are much more at risk of developing DCM as a result of many different genetic components, and we advise you to thoroughly discuss the risks to your dog’s heart health with your local veterinarian. Lately, many have started guessing about the link between diet and DCM, but there’s no conclusive evidence affirming the relationship between these common ingredients and the development of this heart condition. Countless dogs thrive on plant-based diets and never develop DCM. Unfortunately, dogs are susceptible to certain heart conditions just like people are, and dogs (like people) can develop and live with heart conditions on any diet. Again, DCM typically develops over years and years as a result of a genetic abnormality, so it’s important for your veterinarian to listen for murmurs during their regular visits, especially in senior dogs.
Why are some pet professionals suspicious of plant-based diets for dogs?
For decades, meat-based formulas have dominated the pet food industry, and consequently, even though there’s no demonstrated link between our kibble’s ingredients and the development of any heart conditions, some veterinarians and others will tend to blame plant-based diets and give the false impression that dogs wouldn’t have developed the same heart conditions on another diet. It’s important to bear in mind that DCM does not discriminate against specific diets. Tragically, many dogs develop heart conditions on any diet—whether plant-based or meat-based—but we have undergone extensive and exhaustive testing to make sure dogs aren’t developing DCM as a direct result of our formulation. Unfortunately, many individuals are misinformed about plant-based formulas and the recent studies about certain kibble ingredients, but we’re happy to talk with your veterinarian or other considered professionals to help them understand the science of the studies and reassure them going forward.