grain free dog food

Grain Free Dog Food Linked to Heart Disease

Updated 05/17/2024 by Ava Jaine

Are you thinking about switching your dog’s food to a grain-free diet?  So far, there is no data to support the idea that grain-free diets are better for dogs.

Veterinarians are warning pet owners against giving their dog grain-free dog food because of the risk of developing a canine heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).

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Table Of Contents


The Grain-Free Marketing Trend

Many High-End dog foods have developed a Grain-Free option for your dog’s diet.  They boast that the food is better for dogs because removing the grains and gluten reduces allergic reactions in some dogs.

This dog food marketing trend is targeting pet owners with dogs who have various food allergies.

For some dogs, grain-free dog food may be easier to digest versus the dog food choices with grains.  Another reason dog food companies started the grain-free marketing trend was to help dogs with weight issues.  Being overweight can lead to more diseases and even injuries.

Stop Giving Your Dog Grain-Free Dog Food

Unfortunately, many grain-free dog foods are made with starch from potatoes, peas, or lentils and they may have a higher fat content.

If you cut out the grains but increase the calories, your dog is going to actually Gain Weight.

Every dog requires a different diet to meet their individual needs.  Work with your dog’s veterinarian to find the best diet that will work for you and your dog.  See my list of Recommended Dog Foods that aren’t grain-free below.


The Truth About Grain-Free Dog Food

“In July of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an investigation of grain-free, dog food diets and a common type of canine heart disease (DCM).”  – Cardiac Care for Pets

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle.  It enlarges the heart and causes it to not function properly. 

The dilated cardiomyopathy disease is a common cause of heart failure in certain large dog breeds.  These dog breeds include Dobermans, Boxers, and Great Danes. German Shepherd Dogs and some medium sized breeds such as English Springer Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels are also known to be affected.

Small breeds Rarely develop DCM.  But, here is the problem with Grain-Free Dog Food: Veterinarians are now noticing that since the Grain-Free Dog Food Boom, all dog breeds that weren’t susceptible to DCM are now getting the disease!

grain free dog food

If your dog doesn’t have a clinical reason (ex: food allergies, GI issues) to eat a limited ingredient dog food diet, it is suggested to use alternative diets instead.  The best way you can be sure your dog is getting a well-balanced diet is to research your dog food’s manufacturer.

Make sure that your dog food manufacturer has good nutritional expertise and excellent quality control.  Search for companies that actually have a qualified nutritionist working for their company.

The right qualifications should include a Ph.D. in animal nutrition or board-certification by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

Change your dog’s diet to a food that is made by a well-known company that contains quality ingredients: chicken, beef, rice, etc.. (instead of meat “by-products”).


Here is a news channel video from YouTube that warns dog owners about Grain-free Dog Food.

Which Dog Food Brands Cause DCM?

The Dog Food Advisor website has collected a large list of named dog foods that have been reported to have more cases of DCM.  You can check out the information on their website here.

Dog Food Allergies

My dog, Artemus, was severely allergic to anything Beef Flavored.  We bought him a large beef flavored cow femur from the store and the next day he was vomiting, itching and licking his paws constantly, and his face was blew up like a balloon.  That was a pretty clear indication that beef was at least one of his food allergies.

Food Allergies can occur in any dog, but there are some dog breeds that are more susceptible to developing food allergies, which include Dachshunds, Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Pugs.


What Ingredients in Dog Food Cause Allergies?

Corn, carrots, wheat (gluten), rice, soy, dairy, and meat ingredients are the biggest food allergy culprits! 

Processed dog foods include additives, food coloring, and preservatives which may also cause allergy issues.

Smaller dog breeds, like Dachshunds, have a harder time digesting starchy vegetables like corn and carrots.  Unfortunately, corn is a very common filler ingredient in dog food.

Always check the dog food label and avoid foods that use a lot of starchy fillers, especially in the first 5 ingredients.

Symptoms of Food Allergies in Dogs

  • Itching
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy paws
  • Constant licking
  • Hot spots
  • Scaly skin
  • Pink colored skin, Rash
  • Elephant skin texture
  • Eye discharge
  • Red eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Ear infections
  • Yeast infections on the skin or ears

If your Dog Suffers from Food Allergies, don’t rush to the store and buy the grain-free dog food.

Instead, talk to your vet and get your dog allergy tested.  This simple test can save a lot of trial and error when trying different dog food ingredients.  Your vet may have a medication that can alleviate your dog’s allergies altogether.

grain free dog food

Dog Food Recommendations

My Dog’s vet cautioned that I should avoid Grain-free dog foods that have any chickpeas, lentils, peas, or beans in the first 5 ingredients on the dog food label.

Trying to look around for different dog foods and reading all the marketing can be confusing and overwhelming.  Here is a list of recommended dog food brands that don’t have Peas, Lentils, Legumes, or Potatoes.


Dog Foods without Peas, Lentils, and Potatoes:

  • Hill’s Science Diet Lamb and Rice Formula
  • Royal Canin Health Nutrition Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Wellness Complete Health Natural Lamb, Barley Meal Recipe
  • Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice Dry Dog Food

  • Fromm Dog Food

Dachshund Specific Dog Foods:

For our Dachshund Fans, here is a list Dog Foods recommended by my veterinarian for our little long-dogs.

  • 1

    Hill’s Science Diet Lamb and Rice Formula

  • 2

    Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Dachshund Adult Dry Dog Food

  • 3

    Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Dachshund Loaf

grain free dog food

Grain-free dog foods are Not Healthier for your dog.  Grain-free dog foods have become popular due to clever marketing tactics only.

Vets suggest finding a reputable dog food company that employs a Veterinary Nutritionist and performs feeding trials

My Dog’s Vet Recommends: Science Diet, Royal Canin Dog Foods, and High End Purina Dog Food.

bull dog laying on food bowl