Veterinary Alert

Grain-Free Diets and Heart Disease

By Pet Nutrition, Veterinary Alert No Comments

You may have heard about the recent FDA investigation into heart disease and grain-free pet foods.  I wanted to clear up some misinformation and help our clients understand what’s really going on.  Most importantly, I don’t want anyone to be overly concerned if their brand of dog or cat food was listed or to think that their pet is safe if it wasn’t.

The FDA has been investigating a possible link between grain-free pet foods and a type of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  The investigation is still underway, and they aren’t sure what is causing the increase in DCM cases as of yet.  Until they know more, they have been updating the public via their website periodically.

From the information they have so far, grain-free diets were being fed in 91% of the cases that were reported to them, so they are considering that as a possibility.  Without grains, pet food manufacturers have had to use other ingredients to get the nutrients as well as the consistency of dry dog food.  Some of the more common ingredients were peas, lentils, and potatoes (including sweet potatoes).  There is a possibility that those may be the source of the problem, but again, they aren’t certain.

DCM is not an extremely rare disease to begin with.  Many of the cases that were reported to the FDA were likely not related to any diet.  Since the FDA only started receiving so many reports after they first announced the investigation, it’s hard to know how much change there has truly been.  Their concern is the fact that it is occurring more in breeds not usually prone to it.

We are monitoring the investigation and will continue to keep our clients informed.  Meanwhile, let me explain that we do not believe a grain-free diet is necessary for most pets.  While some pets can be sensitive to grains, the majority of food allergies are to the protein sources in food such as chicken or beef.  So, if your pet does not need to be on a grain-free diet and you’re concerned about this possible link, you may consider switching foods.  As always, remember to switch foods gradually so as not to upset your pet’s stomach with a sudden change.

I also wanted to note some confusion in recent news reports.  Many reports have stated that the FDA “named 16 dog food brands with an increased risk” of this disease.  The truth is that those were the top 16 brands they came across in the investigation.  That may be due to the fact that they are some of the most popular brands of grain-free pet foods on the market.  They also listed proteins by frequency, and salmon came up far more frequently than goat.  That does not mean goat is better for your dog or cat’s heart; it just means that it’s a rare protein source for pet foods.

If you have any concerns about your own pet, please call us. 

If you’d like to find out more, you can see the recent reports on the FDA’s website at:

Veterinary Alert: Rabies Confirmed in Animals Found in Superstition Mountain Area

By Veterinary Alert One Comment

FLORENCE, AZ – Public Health officials in Pinal and Maricopa Counties today said the Arizona Department of Health Services State Public Health Laboratory has confirmed at least two cases of rabies from animals near the Superstition Mountains, which includes Lost Dutchman State Park, the First Water Trail and the Tonto National Forest, is a popular destination for hikers during this time of year.  Signs warning hikers and campers have been posted at numerous locations including trailheads, campgrounds and entry stations.

“From the reports we have been getting from hikers in the area, it looks like we have an increase of rabies in wild animals,” stated Pinal County Epidemiologist Graham Briggs.  “Two of the cases have been confirmed, but park officials have reported seeing dead animals along with aggressive animals on the trails.” Pinal County Animal Care and Control Director Audra Michael said that hikers should be careful when bringing their pets on a hike.“The first thing is to make sure your pets are properly vaccinated,” Michael said.  “The other is not to let them roam free while you are hiking, always have them on a leash.”

Facts about Rabies

Rabies is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord of animals and humans.  It is caused by a virus present in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted to humans through contact with the live virus. Rabies is fatal to humans once symptoms appear.  If you feel you have been exposed to an animal with rabies, see a doctor immediately.

While human exposures to rabid animals are rare, family pets are more often exposed to wild animals, including wild animals that are rabid.  Vaccination against rabies is available through your veterinarian or County Animal Care and Control.  This will prevent them from getting rabies if exposed to a rabid animal.  Unfortunately, household pets that are not vaccinated against rabies need to be put to sleep after having an exposure to a wild animal.

Rabies is found mainly in wild animals such as bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, and coyotes.  Cats, dogs, and livestock can also become infected with rabies if they are bitten by rabid wild animals and they have not been vaccinated.  Rodents such as rats, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs and squirrels are not likely to be infected with rabies.  Wild animals exhibiting unusual behavior should be reported to local animal control officials.  The best way to protect yourself and your family is to avoid touching, handling, or adopting wild or stray animals.

The first sign of rabies is usually a change in the animal’s behavior.  Animals may act more aggressive or more tame than usual.  Animals usually active at night such as skunks, foxes, and bats may be out during the day.  Rabid animals may appear agitated and excited or paralyzed and frightened.  Sometimes, rabid animals do not show any signs of illness before death from rabies.  That is why contact with wild animals should always be avoided.

Animal Care and Control recommends the following precautions

  • Keep people and pets away from wild animals. Do not pick up, touch, or feed wild or unfamiliar animals, especially sick or wounded ones. If someone has been bitten or scratched, or has had contact with the animal, report it immediately to animal control or health officials.
  • Do not “rescue” seemingly abandoned young wild animals. Usually, the mother will return. If the mother is dead or has not returned in many hours, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
  • Vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies. Pets should be kept in a fenced yard.
  • Take precautions when camping, hunting or fishing. Avoid sleeping on the open ground without the protection of a closed tent or camper. Keep pets on a leash and do not allow them to wander.
  • Do not disturb roosting bats. If you find a bat on the ground, don’t touch it. Report the bat and its location to your local animal control officer or health department. Place a box over the bat to contain it. Be careful not to damage the bat in any way since it must be intact for rabies testing.

For more information on rabies, go to