Legumes and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy: A look at the Bigger Picture

As the FDA scrambles to figure out why 500 dogs have recently developed dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) from consumption of foods that list legumes as primary ingredients, holistic pet care experts are wondering why regulators and nutritional experts behind the formulas can’t figure out the obvious:

Dogs are carnivores that require proteins from meat sources, NOT legumes.

Although they are known for their “cast iron stomachs” and an appetite for pretty much any type of food that doesn’t eat them first, dogs may not be able to produce all of the digestive enzymes that are necessary to break down legumes into proteins that that can be readily absorbed by their bodies. Rather than getting the amino acids they need for a strong, healthy heart, they are instead receiving food ingredients that their bodies cannot fully utilize. When this happens two things will occur… first, the body will be burdened with removal of post digestive waste that will otherwise set the stage for inflammation, which in turn can lead to issues like chronic dermatitis, arthritis or worse. And second, organs with the greatest amino acid requirements will be deprived of what they need to remain functional and healthy. Like the heart.

Although legumes may be a healthy source of plant protein for humans, they really aren’t so good for dogs. So then, why are legumes used in dog food in the first place? Many animal nutritionists will insist that legumes are in their recipes to contribute to good nutrition, which may be true--- peas and chickpeas are rich with vitamins and minerals, some of which might make it through the digestive process well enough to yield some positive benefits--- but here is also a dark secret you should know about.

Although legumes may not be a good protein source for carnivores, they do serve the purpose of boosting protein claims on pet food labels.

In other words, a kibble or canned food that lists legumes as one or more of the first six ingredients may not contain the available protein your dog needs, even if the label suggests otherwise. The protein percentage listed on the “Guaranteed Analysis” of the label conveys how much protein is in the food, but doesn’t (and isn’t required) to convey how much is actually useful to your dog. Feeling deceived? You should.

The bottom line is that dog food brands that utilize legumes as a primary source of protein should be avoided.

We are fortunate that this issue has come into awareness, before more dogs get sick. So far, we only know of around 500 cases of DCM linked to legumes. With over 63 million dogs living in American households, the number could go much higher.


FDA Updates on Potentials connection between certain diets and canine DCM, Vet Practice July 3, 2019