Grain Free and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy

I have been asked daily by friends, family, colleagues, folks on the internet, clients, and even strangers on the street, “Is grain free killing my dog?” My response to them is always, “No.” Which is typically followed up by further inquiry, “But that study”, or “My vet”, or “I saw on TV”… PEOPLE. STOP! Seriously, stop and use your critical thinking skills. Do not listen to everything you read, hear, see on television, or is presented to you as “fact”. Do not take what anyone says, regardless of their degree or status in life, as gospel. As much as these people might believe they have you and your pet’s best interest in mind, the fact is, they likely do not know the validity of what they are preaching. In the 1700s Sir Robert Walpole said, “When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun with nettles.” (Cambell-McBride, 2017) So I implore you, get your gardening gloves on, grab those nettles and start tugging. There is a lot we think we know, but, in reality, we have been brainwashed. Fasten your learning cap on tight, because this (exceptionally long) blog post could very well challenge everything you ever thought you knew.

Before everyone gets all up in arms that I am attacking university scholars, doctors, veterinarians, or your next-door neighbor, I can assure you I am not. After growing up in a veterinary clinic, working as a Veterinary Assistant for close to 15 years, and studying zoology in college, I can assure you my respect for medicine and science is immense. However, I am also a realist. No one, not even your Vet, knows everything, and lots of times, regardless of whether or not they care to admit it, they are misinformed. This is not to say that they do this intentionally, but veterinarians, doctors, and policy-makers often do not have the time or training to examine scientific papers themselves. So, in an effort to stay informed, they rely on the summaries of these papers, which unfortunately and all too often, are deceptive. In order to fully understand the findings of a study, one must read the entire paper, and meticulously examine the data in order to find contradictory results or manifest an informed opinion.

Let’s go back to 1953 when Ancel Keys, director of the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene at the University of Minnesota, first stated his hypothesis that dietary fats, including cholesterol, cause heart disease. -- Before you start asking how human heart disease has anything to do with Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), just keep reading, I promise we will get there. – Now, in order for Keys to support his hypothesis, he made a diagram showing the correlation between the consumption of fat and mortality due to heart disease in six countries for which data was available. His diagram showed perfect correlation; the more fat that was consumed, the more deaths occurred from heart disease. However, when the remaining countries were added back to the diagram, guess what happened? The correlation disappeared. In fact, the diagram then showed that there was no correlation between fat consumption and dying of heart disease at all! (Cambell-McBride, 2017) Using Keys’ method, proving just about anything is possible. To be sure we all understand, let’s use an example. Let’s say we want to prove owning a sofa results in obesity. Using Keys’ method, we would collect data from as many countries as possible on how many people own sofas and how many people are obese. Then we plot all the data on a diagram, where the horizontal line represents the sofas, and the vertical line represents the number of obese people. We end up with a lot of dots, each one representing a specific country. We then pick those dots that perfectly fall on the line going up, from left to right, erasing those which do not, and BAZINGA! We have a diagram “proving” that obesity is caused by owning a sofa… That is exactly how Ancel Keys made his diagram. As the Chinese saying goes, he “cut the foot to fit the shoe,” and that is precisely what was done with a majority of the studies that attempted to support Keys’ diet-heart hypothesis. Proponents used their data selectively. They ignored data that contradicted the hypothesis and sensationalized and advertised the data that supported it. All this despite numerous, honest studies, from around the globe proving the idea to be wrong. How was this possible? How was this ever accepted as “scientific evidence”? Because the freight train force that is political and commercial power, was in full forward motion, and there were no brakes. Because, well, money, and lots of it. FUNDING my friends. Follow the money. ALWAYS, follow the money.

So here we are, sixty-six years later, and we are still being told that fat causes heart disease. Despite all the proof that this hypothesis is incorrect, the medical, political, and scientific establishments will likely never admit they are wrong. To admit that they are incorrect would cause too much damage to their reputation and diminish their power to influence the people. The point I am trying to make from all this, is that nutrition science has been, and still is, broken. Am I saying that the study done on DCM was fabricated? Not necessarily. What I am saying is, I am extremely skeptical and have many questions that were not addressed within the study itself. So, if the studies for our human nutrition cannot be trusted, which a quick Google search will reveal a great many articles debating, imagine how little we can trust those doing the “research” for animal nutrition. In the instance of the grain free diet correlation to canine dilated cardiomyopathy, pause for a moment to consider who stands to gain the most from this sort of research? The pet food companies. Now at this point, I feel like I could drop the mic and exit stage right, but, because I know a lot of you will ignore the examples and information provided thus far as “conspiracy theories”, let’s move on to some science on why I do not believe there is a correlation between cardiomyopathy and grain free feeds.

Washington State University College of Veterinary medicine defines DCM as, “a disease of the heart muscle that results in weakened contractions and poor pumping ability. As the disease progresses the heart chambers become enlarged, one or more valves may leak, and signs of congestive heart failure develop. The cause of DCM is unclear in most cases, but certain breeds appear to have an inherited predisposition.” Ahem. "...The cause of DCM is unclear in most cases, but certain breeds appear to have an inherited predisposition." Yes, I repeated that sentence, if you're not sure why, read it over again until you do... Heart disease, not to be confused to mean coronary heart disease, which is not common within dogs, but rather any dysfunction or ailment of the heart, results from over-consumption of processed foods. Over consumption of processed foods causes systemic inflammation. Systemic inflammation is a significant cause of heart disease. The health of the heart also reflects the health of the body as a whole. Thus, the connection can be made that cardiovascular diseases are a consequence of eating a highly processed, nutrient poor, species inappropriate diet. So regardless of what is or is not in your dog food, think about what it looks like. Does that hunk of dry, crunchy, kibble resemble any kind of food you know? Does it look like peas, carrots, chicken, beef, or whatever other ingredient the company claims it has in it? Could you go out, buy all the ingredients, and recreate this kibble at home? Would your dog’s ancestors have hunted or scavenged for this in the wild? The answer to all of those questions is, NO WAY! That is because mainstream dog food is so highly processed that the naturally occurring ingredients and nutrients are ground, baked, and leached out before they ever even make it into the bag. To then make this “food” a “balanced” diet, companies add in what are often times synthetic or man-made vitamins and minerals. They also drench them in hydrogenated, chemically mutilated oils like soy, vegetable, or canola. All of which are, among other detrimental things, inflammatory! In addition, the canine body identifies this “food” as a carbohydrate and breaks it down accordingly. This causes spikes and plummets in blood sugar, sending the body into a perpetual state of overdrive, stressing the pituitary, adrenals, kidneys, and liver. Additionally, the body requires excess glucose storage, which signals the body to create additional adipose (fat) tissue to store the glucose in. The result? An obese, systemically inflamed, endocrine fatigued dog, who at some point in its life, will likely be diagnosed with diabetes, insulin resistance, kidney and liver disease, and yes, possibly even cardiomyopathy, or congestive heart failure. You will notice I began using food in quotations when referring to the final kibble product. This is because after all the physical and chemical modifications made to the original ingredients, in my opinion, they can no longer be categorized as sources of nourishment.

Further examining the bigger picture, it is important to remind everyone that these companies are profit driven, and the ingredients they source are of the cheapest in expense to them. This means that the quality of the ingredients sourced leaves a lot to be desired. These mass-produced, dry rations often contain soy, wheat, rice, and corn. Can you guess what all those ingredients have in common? Bingo. They’re inflammatory. They not only cause inflammation within the body, but they are some of the most common genetically modified organisms (GMO crops). Soy and corn being the two most predominantly GMO crops in the world. GMOs are genetically modified to be glyphosate (aka: Round-Up) ready, meaning they can survive copious amounts of the chemical being sprayed directly onto the plants. Glyphosate is weedkiller folks. THE SAME PRODUCT THAT HAS BEEN LINKED TO CANCER IN HUMANS. Worse still, no amount of processing can remove the glyphosate completely. It’s like feeding your dog cancer causing chemicals in every bowl.

Recently, there was an article circulating the internet criticizing the latest publication in Environmental Pollution, of the Cornell University study on glyphosate residue in pet food. In it, postdoctoral researcher and lead author, Jiang Zhao downplays the significance of the