In the new products showcase at SuperZoo 2019, dog food makers displayed their reactions to ongoing concerns over dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). From taurine sprinkles to no-legume promises, new products addressed DCM in a wide array of ways. However, no definitive response or solution to the issue presented itself in the new products, perhaps mirroring the uncertainties surrounding DCM’s correlation to grain-free pet foods.

Taurine supplementation to fight DCM

Pet nutrition researchers suggested taurine supplementation in dog food as a potential, stopgap measure to prevent DCM while scientists search for hard answers, during a panel discussion at Petfood Forum 2019. One new product was positioned to allow dog owners to do just that for themselves. InClover’s BioVibrant Taurine Plus comes in a shaker container like one used for spices. The dog food topper is marketed as providing “the missing piece for peace of mind.”

Taurine supplementation may reduce dogs’ chances of developing DCM. A similar strategy reduces the risk of DCM in cats. Cats can’t synthesize taurine in their bodies. Cat food has to provide the chemical, just as prey animals once did for the felines. Scientists thought dogs were capable of synthesizing taurine, although a few breeds such as Golden Retrievers are prone to DCM. Now, no one is 100% sure why some dogs seem to have problems with the metabolic pathway involving taurine, or if that is even related to the current DCM cases.

Free-from claims related to DCM

Other new dog food products’ marketing focused on avoiding the ingredients noted in the FDA investigation, such as legumes, potatoes and peas. For example, Identity’s new dog treats were labeled as legume-free, along with grain-free. Essence pet food marketed their new dog and cat recipes as free from potatoes and peas. Other new products, along with displays on SuperZoo’s show floor, touted similar lacks of legumes, peas and potatoes.

Federal investigation of DCM correlation to dog

To date, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators haven’t found a causal relationship between DCM and dog foods rich in legumes or potatoes. However, the majority of DCM cases reported to federal agents have involved dogs that ate certain grain-free dog foods. However, far more dogs who ate the same foods for years never developed similar health issues. Neither federal investigators nor academics have any idea why thousands of dogs with similar breeds and lifestyles eat grain-free diets heavy in legumes or potatoes without any heart problems, while their conspecifics develop DCM. Likewise, researchers don’t know why DCM cases started appearing in only the past few years, although grain-free dog food has been readily available for a decade.