A torrent of articles on "grain free" diets linked to taurine- deficient cardiomyopathy-- a form of heart muscle failure appeared in the news last month. Just google: grain free pet food + heart disease.
They succeeded. Some of my clients are really scared. Luna's mom, is one of them. She is terrified after learning that Golden Retrievers are dying of heart failure on grain free diets. Luna has been eating one all her life.
Luna, whom I've known since she was a four pound ball of fuzzy golden puppy love, isn't only cherished by her family, me, and my staff. She is a highly trained assistance dog for kids with learning disabilities whom her soft non judgmental presence gently supports to read.
In spite of Luna's glistening coat, happy wagging tail, bouncy gait, bountiful energy, and my confident reassurances that Luna is not suffering from heart disease, Luna's mom is really worried.
For her it is Deja Vu. Her last Golden Retriever, Murphy, tragically died of heart cancer at just eight years of age.
On a Golden Retriever Facebook Page, with thousands of other Golden Retriever owners she is sharing her research. She is engaged directly with Dr. Josh Stern, a UC Davis cardiologist funded by Morris Foundation to study taurine deficient cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers.
To reassure the worried owner, we draw a blood sample into heparinized green tubes she packages on ice, Fed-Exing with meticulously completed forms to UC Davis amino acid lab.
Within a few days Luna's whole blood taurine level are reported- 205.
We are home free, I think.
There is no known risk for taurine deficiency with levels above 150!
But no, not so fast.
Luna's mom is getting inundated with condolences from her FaceBook Friends.
Where this taurine level came from is anyone's guess--indeed, the head of the UC Davis amino acid lab who authored several studies on taurine deficient cardiomyopathy who kindly wrote me about Luna, has so far been unable to answer how "normals" for Golden Retrievers were derived.
So, the owner scrambles to get Luna's heart imaged by a local cardiologist. A week later, her cardiac ultrasound reveals completely normal heart function, appropriate chamber dimensions and perfectly normal heart muscle contractility.
Finally.... after weeks, a blood test and an evaluation by a cardiac specialist, the family can put their worries to rest.
Luna is fine--something I was confident of before these tests were even ordered or completed, having seen a taurine-deficient dog decades earlier.
1989..... the year I saw taurine deficient cardiomyopathy at UC Davis.
A Vegan Dalmatian. Bad. Bad. Very BAD IDEA!
Unlike shiny happy Luna running around our lobby, that Dalmatian was a sad, pitiful sight. Her flabby heart muscle too weakened to pump blood from her lungs, drowning in fluid-- every single breath, a battle for air. Her dull spot- coated body barely able to walk.
Remarkably, six months of a standard drug treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy (digoxin, a diuretic, and a vasodilator) plus, notably, a meat diet--brought us a new shiny, vital and happy creature.
Reversal --The hallmark of nutritional cardiomyopathy.
Addition of meat, not grains, lead to resolution of heart failure in a dog of a breed not classically associated with genetically linked dilated cardiomyopathy. These non-traditional breeds now include American cocker spaniels, Newfoundlands and Golden Retrievers.
Note to self: dogs absolutely must have meat. They are giant, big, medium, little, toy and teacup, silky, long haired, smooth, curly or scruffy. Yet they are all, all........domesticated grey wolves! :)
Education. Unbiased Scientific Information You Won't Find in the Press
Add protein (amino acids), sugars and heat.
Poof...Taurine is gone!
The scientific mystery isn't so mysterious. Insufficient taurine from meat plus processing --heating protein and starches ( whether from potatoes or grains being irrelevant) causes a famous reaction you will recognize because you'vet tasted it and enjoyed the aromas.
Maillard Reaction, a non-enzymatic Browning Chemical Reaction degrades taurine when sugar and amino acids react creating hundreds of products that impart delicious aromas and complex flavors on your favorite dishes.
Please Stop Fear-mongering PR Campaigns.
This vet isn't fearful of grain- free diets.
She is worried about misinforming, mis-education campaigns birthed by the mainstream media, including America's Paper of Record --The New York Times and Washington Post publishing thinly veiled marketing for Pet Food Industry, as journalism. This is not journalism.
"...Lisa Freeman, a veterinary nutritionist and researcher with the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, sees this moment as an opportunity to view grain-free diets skeptically. “Contrary to advertising and popular belief, there is no research to demonstrate that grain-free diets offer any health benefits over diets that contain grains,” she said
Grains are an important source of protein and other nutrients in many meat-based pet foods, she continued. “Grains have not been linked to any health problems except in the very rare situation when a pet has an allergy to a specific grain.”
Why does an educated intelligent person miss the blatantly obvious and simple truth: dogs are meat eaters?
What's going on?
Well, go back and read the New York Times, Washington Post or any of many articles on this subject just published. You will inevitably be directed back to industry-the very same one whose current standards don't establish taurine levels essential in dog foods.
And this vet doesn't consider $26 Billion/ year Pet Food Industry to be legitimate medical experts. They have a very strong bias and a conflict of interest- loyalty to profit-making pet food companies rather than your pet.
She is concerned about the power and influence they wield over the FDA and Veterinary Schools.
“The truth is from a genetic perspective, dogs really aren’t that much like wolves anymore. Dogs evolved and so have their digestive tracts,” Stern said. “We’re not looking at a bunch of little wolves running around eating kibble.”
The truth, Josh, is that dogs aren't little goats, sheep or cattle galloping in pastures nibbling on corn and soybeans.