The Heart of the Matter: Update December 2018

Day 13 on my ‘veterinary publications advent calendar’ opened to reveal something much more nutritionally dense than chocolate…a peer-reviewed (and free-access!) article on dog diet, taurine and the potential association of both with heart disease (dilated cardiomyopathy-DCM)) in 24 DCM diagnosed golden retrievers.

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The study began with a total of 40 (no doubt super cutie) goldens, with 16 dogs subsequently excluded for the usual reasons clinical research is challenging, e.g. not up to ‘snuff echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) results, incomplete diet histories, etc. Importantly, the publication also contained one year follow-up on 16 of these dogs.

Dog diet was clearly identified, and somewhat unexpectedly (& pleasantly) a complete (i.e. treats, supplements, etc.) diet history was available on the dogs. The study team also performed a diet ‘deep-dive’ review of nutritional parameters (i.e. calories, ingredient deck, fibre composition), feeding trial information (yes they did one or nope-they did not) and/or whether formulated to meet AAFCO (or nope-they did not). Additional nutritional information included whether diets were marketed by manufacturers as grain-free and if diets listed legumes (i.e. beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, pea protein or fibre) within the first five label ingredients.

There are many reasons to give the article a read, but one (or someone trying to avoid excess rambling) could attempt to re-phrase the heart of the matter as:

In the study, dogs (16) diagnosed with DCM and available to follow-up had…”Significant improvement in echocardiographic parameters and normalization of whole blood taurine concentrations from baseline (close to when the dog was diagnosed) to follow-up visits after implementing a diet change and supplementation with taurine +/- L-carnitine…This occurred by a median of 8 months in all but one dog (15 of 16).”

The researchers identified other nutritional tidbits on this golden grouping. Two of the more interesting, (to me at least), being that: 1) many (most) dogs were eating less than their predicted diet intake needs (based on metabolic energy requirements (MER), and 2) that a clear association with diet meat protein (type of meat) was not found…stay tuned on the ‘baa baa humbug’ aspect of that one.

As I said in November, it seems that we all agree that:

a) nutrition is uber-important,

b) obtainment of a complete diet history needs to occur at every veterinary visits, and

c) we still have an awful lot to learn about pet food, taurine, K9 heart and overall health & nutrition.

However, it’s wonderful (possibly Christmas miracle category) to see such a large group of researchers collaborating to try and identify concerns towards keeping dogs safe- and maybe even learning more about what they might (or might not) need nutritionally. And that (i.e. collaboration and raised nutrition awareness) sums up what I’d asked Santa to ‘veterinary gift’ me with in 2018.

My veterinary wish list looks a bit different for 2019...but more on that (and hopefully a cup or two of spiked cider) in the New Year.


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