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Investigation into Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs

Status: Recruiting

Species: Dog

Veterinary Speciality: Cardiology


Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a serious heart disease, has recently been associated with certain diets. Some of the affected dogs have improved when their diets are changed, supporting the role of diet, so we are studying the cause of this important problem. DCM affects the heart muscle which causes the heart to beat more weakly and to enlarge.  DCM can result in abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure, or sudden death.  In dogs, it typically occurs in large- and giant-breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, and Great Danes, where it is thought to have a genetic component; in these dogs, survival time after diagnosis is often only months.  Recently, veterinary cardiologists have been reporting increased rates of DCM in both the typical dog breeds and in breeds not usually associated with DCM, such as Miniature Schnauzers or French Bulldogs.  There is suspicion that the disease is associated with eating certain diets which we describe as “BEG diets” – Boutique, Exotic ingredient, or Grain-free. A small proportion of these dogs with DCM have had a deficiency of taurine, an amino acid important for normal heart function, but most dogs have had normal taurine levels. The cause of the taurine deficient and non-taurine deficient forms of the disease is currently unknown. Therefore, the goal of this study is to identify the nutrients or other factor(s) contributing to diet-associated DCM in dogs eating BEG diets.


Inclusion Criteria

  • Dogs with DCM (with or without congestive heart failure).
  • Dogs can be of breeds typically associated with DCM (e.g., Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, and Great Danes,) or atypical breeds not usually associated with DCM, although we are prioritizing the atypical breeds at this time.
  • Dogs can be eating any diet at the time of diagnosis, but owners should be willing to change the diet to one recommended by Tufts (one of several high quality, reduced sodium, non-BEG dog foods made by well-established manufacturers).
  • Dogs must still be on their original diet at the time of study enrollment.
  • All visits will take place at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, MA.

Exclusion Criteria

  • Dogs less than 3 kg (6.6 pounds).
  • Dogs that have already changed their diet

Client Benefits

The study will cover costs associated with the planned measurements for the 3 study visits. If additional tests or treatments are needed for the dog’s underlying disease(s), these will not be covered by the study. Medications are not covered by the study. In addition to the benefits to owners and their dogs, participation in this study will also help us to identify the cause of diet-associated DCM which will help many other dogs.

Sample or Data Requirements

Dogs enrolled in the study will have a physical examination, ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram), electrocardiogram, complete blood count, biochemistry profile, taurine levels, and blood tests to measure heart stretch/damage. Dogs will then change to a reduced sodium, non-BEG commercial dog food and be re-examined with the same tests 3 and 6 and 9 months later.

Contact Info

For questions regarding this clinical trial, please email Dr. Lisa Freeman ( or call 508-887-4696.

For more information on this issue:

FDA Alert (2/19/19)


Dr. Freeman’s Petfoodology blog on the issue (11/29/18)

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