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Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is recognized as a genetic condition in dogs, typically in large or giant breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, or the Irish Wolfhound. It is also seen in Cocker Spaniels associated with taurine deficiency. It is believed to be less common in small and medium-breed dogs. We suspect that cases are underreported because animals are typically treated symptomatically, and diagnostic testing and treatment can be complex and costly to owners. FDA has observed a reporting bias for breeds like Golden Retrievers due to breed-specific social media groups and activities that have raised awareness of the issue in these communities and urged owners and vets to submit reports to FDA. Because the occurrence of different diseases in dogs and cats is not routinely tracked and there is no widespread surveillance system like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have for human health, we do not have a measure of the typical rate of occurrence of disease apart from what is reported to the FDA.

Additional breeds with more than one report include Afghan Hound, Australian Cattle Dog, Beagle, Belgian Tavern, Border Collie, Boston Terrier, Bull Terrier, Chihuahua, Dalmatian, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Flat-coated Retriever, French Bulldog, Gordon Setter, Hound (unspecified), Irish Setter, Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Jack Russel Terrier, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzer, Old English Sheepdog, Pomeranian, Portuguese Water Dog, Pug, Retriever (unspecified), Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Rough-haired Collie, Saluki, Samoyed, Schnauzer (unspecified), Shepherd (unspecified), Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Standard Long-haired Dachshund, Vizsla, Whippet, and Yorkshire Terrier.


Genetic forms of DCM tend to affect male large and giant breed dogs beginning in middle to older age. DCM cases reported to FDA CVM have involved a wide range of dog breeds, ages and weights. There have been a greater proportion of males than females, consistent with what is seen in genetic forms. The significance of this is unknown, but it may be that some cases are genetic in origin or a combination of diet and genetic tendencies.

Table 1: Mean Age and Weight - DCM Cases in Dogs Reported to FDA-CVM

Dogs Mean Range

Age (years) 6.6 0.4-16

Weight (lbs) 67.8 4-212

Table 2: Mean Age and Weight - DCM Cases in Cats Reported to FDA-CVM

Cats Mean Range

Age (years) 6 0.4-17

Weight (lbs) 10.7 7-13

Table 3: Sex of DCM cases reported to FDA-CVM by species (%)

Sex (%of cases) Male Female

Dogs 58.7 41.3

Cats 62.5 37.5



Diet Information from Reported Cases.

Review of the canine reports shows that most reports were for dry dog food formulations, but raw food, semi-moist food, and wet foods were also represented.

When examining the most commonly reported pet food brands named in DCM reports submitted to the FDA, it is important to note that the graph below is based on reports that included brand information and that some reports named multiple brands. Brands that were named ten or more times are featured below. For a granular, case-by-case breakdown of DCM reports submitted to the FDA, see Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy Complaints Submitted to FDA-CVM Through April 30, 2019. FDA urges pet owners to work with their veterinarians, who may consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, to obtain the most appropriate dietary advice for their pet's specific needs prior to making diet changes.

To better characterize diets reported in DCM cases, product labels were examined to determine whether the product was grain-free (did not contain corn, soy, wheat, rice, barley or other grains), and whether the products contained peas, other lentils including chickpeas and beans, or potatoes (including sweet potatoes). Because so many products contained peas and/or lentils, a category was created for “peas and/or lentils”. More than 90 percent of products were “grain-free”, and 93 percent of reported products had peas and/or lentils. A far smaller proportion contained potatoes.


Animal protein sources in the reported diets varied widely, and many diets contained more than one protein source. The most common proteins in the reported diets were chicken lamb and fish; however, some diets contain atypical protein sources such as kangaroo, bison or duck. No one animal protein source was predominant.


Product Testing

Before the July 2018 DCM Update, FDA/Vet-LIRN had tested multiple products for minerals and metals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, cobalt, copper, zinc, selenium, iodine) and amino acids including taurine, cysteine, and methionine. That product testing did not reveal any abnormalities.


Since the July 2018 DCM Update, Vet-LIRN tested both products labeled as "grain-free" and those containing grain for the following:

• protein, fat, moisture

• crude fiber, total dietary fiber, soluble fiber, insoluble fiber

• total starch, resistant starch

• cystine, methionine, and taurine


The average percent protein, fat, total taurine, total cystine, total methionine, total methionine-cystine, and resistant starch content on a dry matter basis (in other words, after removing all moisture content) were similar for both grain-free labeled and grain-containing products. For more details, please see the Vet-LIRN DCM Update.

Additional food testing is in progress.

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Taurine & Amino Acids.

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 published in the AAFCO Official Publication (OP).


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.

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