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 glyphosate residue found in eighteen out of eighteen bags sampled. One of which was labeled as being non-GMO, and was found to have HIGHER levels of residue than some of the other tested foods. Not only did this research find glyphosate residue in all of the foods tested, including non-GMO, grain, and grain free foods, but concentrations of the weedkiller ranged from 80 to 2,000 micrograms per kilogram. These are alarmingly high levels and the implications of the effect of glyphosate consumption to your dog or cat is worryingly dismissed as harmless. However, Dr. Michael Antoniou of King’s College London, who has conducted research on the health impacts of glyphosate herbicide, adamantly disagrees. He comments on the study:

“The authors of this study, as quoted in the original article, are ignoring established scientific principles and evidence in arriving at their conclusion that the levels of glyphosate residues found in the pet foods are ‘within a range that would be deemed safe for humans.’

“First, they do not acknowledge the well established principle of low dose toxicity, especially through endocrine disruption, which does not follow a linear ‘dose makes the poison’ model. Second, they ignore a large body of evidence that shows that daily intake of glyphosate well below what regulators have ruled as safe, causes ill health to multiple organ systems such as the liver, kidney and reproductive system (Mesnage R et al (2015), Food Chem Toxicol 84:133-153).


“Work published by my own group has shown that in rats, ingestion of Roundup herbicide at a glyphosate-equivalent level of just 4 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day, which is an astonishing 437,500 times below the regulatory acceptable daily intake in the USA, causes kidney and especially liver damage in the form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and the more severe non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (Mesnage R et al (2015), Env Health 14:70; Mesange R et al (2017), Sci Rep 7:39328).


“Given that similar levels of glyphosate contamination have been found in the human food supply (Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project, ‘Glyphosate: Unsafe on any plate’; EWG, ‘Breakfast with a dose of Roundup’), the authors should be concerned about the potential ill effects on their own health, as well as the health of their pets.” (GMWatch, 2018) The take-home message here folks, is that bag of questionable crunchy stuff you’re pouring into Fido or Princess’ bowl on the regular, is more than likely, deteriorating your pet’s health. – Furious yet? No? …Alright, let’s continue…


When I entered the veterinary medical field in 2003, vaccine reactions were well known, and owners were advised of some potential risks involved in vaccinating their fur-children. Side effects from vaccination vary from mild itching and swelling, to anaphylactic shock and even death. Cats have been known to develop vaccine sarcomas, which are cancerous growths that develop at the injection site. Dogs have been known to suffer the same, as well as developing autoimmune diseases. These reactions are so common, that veterinarians began vaccination protocols so they could later determine which vaccine caused the ailment. Rabies is always given on the right, distemper (and sometimes others) always on the left. – Just to drive that home, let me say it one more time. These vaccine reactions are so common, that veterinarians began injecting the same vaccines in the same spot every time, so they could later determine which vaccine caused the issue. More often than not, the vaccines are given on a rear, lower limb, so that if sarcomas develop, the limb can be easily amputated and the pet’s life spared. HELLO PEOPLE!!!! THAT RIGHT THERE SHOULD CAUSE ALL KINDS OF ALARM!!! I’m going to pause here for a second to make sure everyone is strapped in tightly, because I’m about to open a huge can of vaccines-are-detrimental-to-health worms, and if I haven’t already broken the internet discussing this highly controversial topic, wait until I wrap up the next paragraph. Report to your battle stations my friends people are going to get rowdy.


In 2005 NBC news published an article discussing the facts that we are over vaccinating our pets. Keep in mind this was 14 YEARS ago that the article came out, then think about your veterinarian’s practices today…If they haven’t changed in 14 years, SWITCH! Because I’m here to tell you a secret the industry doesn’t necessarily want you to know; veterinarians have known for years that annual vaccinations aren’t necessary. You know who came up with the annual vaccination recommendations? The vaccine manufacturers. One more time for the people in the back… What do they stand to gain from recommending this? I’ll give you a hint, starts with an M and ends in a Y. M-O-N-E-Y!!! What do we always need to do? That’s right, follow that money folks. Back in 2005 the most up to date studies showed that immunity provided by some vaccines can last longer than one year and in a lot of cases, for a lifetime. Veterinarian Jean Dodds, founder of Hemopet, the first nonprofit national blood bank program for animals, was quoted at the time of the NBC article’s release, “We know that for [canine] distemper and parvo, for example, immunity lasts a minimum of five years, probably seven to nine years, and for some individuals for a lifetime. For cats, so far we have challenged data out to nine years showing that immunity is still protective.” (Thornton, 2005) Feel bamboozled yet? Don’t fret, there are other options to make sure your pet is protected without injecting them full of mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, and all the other toxic junk they put inside that vaccine vile. Vaccine titers. I’m only going to touch on these briefly because it’s really something I plan to write an entire blog entry on soon, but I want owners to be informed the next time they take a trip to the vet. Titers are tests that measure the level of antibodies in the blood, which indicate whether or not your pet has existing immunity. Despite what your veterinarian may try to tell you, they are reliable, and costs are, or should be, comparable to those vaccines. Any measurable titer to a specific antigen, means you have immune memory cells. Titers are available for dogs, cats, and horses. I strongly advise that anyone whose veterinarian is resistant, degrading, or claims that titers are too expensive, charges astronomical amounts for them, or wants to vaccinate because a titer level is “too low”, that those individuals find themselves a new veterinarian who is better informed.


I could literally go on and on and on and on and ON about all the things that factor into our pet’s health and potential for developing diseases, including cardiomyopathy. Epigenetics, environmental toxins, glyphosate consumption, nutrition as a whole, EMF exposure, over vaccination, prescription medications, emotional stress, the health of the gut microbiome, micronutrient deficiencies, toxic flea and tick preventatives, the list literally goes on forever. My, very long-winded point is, with all of these factors considered, it is virtually impossible to pin blame on one thing specifically. Particularly on grains or the lack thereof. Homing in on one organ within the body rarely ever results in accuracy or understanding of the big picture. This is because the body works as a whole. A delicate balance between the foundations; digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acid and mineral balance, as well as hydration. In order for all the physiologic functions of the body to perform properly, all of the macro and micronutrient requirements must be met, the body must remain free of toxic burden and stress. None of which the DCM study even noted, let alone examined. Then mix in all the external factors, particularly where the study’s funding came from, and the issues of broken nutrition science, and you’re left with a study which proves absolutely zilch. Let me reiterate for the sake of clarity. There are simply too many other factors that were not considered in the original study to definitively say the lack of grains is the cause of the cardiomyopathy observed. So friends, don’t go changing Bailey or Bella’s food just because your vet or the media brow beats you into feeling like a horrible owner if you don’t. Grain free isn’t causing disease in your pet, overly processed pet “foods” and humankind are.


Know better. DO BETTER. And if you need help, I’m here.







References:

Cambell-McBride, N., MD. (2017). Put Your Heart in Your Mouth. York, PA: Maple Press.


Glyphosate Found in Pet Food. (2018, October 3). Retrieved June 6, 2019, from https://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/18487-glyphosate-found-in-pet-food


Kirn, T. F. (2019, July 18). Nutrition Science Is Broken. This New Egg Study Shows Why. Retrieved July 20, 2019, from https://undark.org/2019/07/18/science-of-eggs/?utm_source=pocket-newtab


Perlmutter, D., MD. (2015). Brain Maker. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company.


Pottenger, F. M. (1983). Pottenger's Cats: A Study in Nutrition. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation.


Teicholz, N. (2014). The Big Fat Surprise. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.


Thornton, K. C. (2005, July 18). Still vaccinating your pet each year? Retrieved August 1, 2019, from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/8572826/ns/health-pet_health/t/still-vaccinating-your-pet-every-year/#.XULi_uhKiM8


Wallach, J. D., DVM, & Lan, M., MD. (1999).