If you have applied for a DIBS dog, you know that we have asked about your knowledge of DCM.  We think it’s a very important topic that every pet parent needs to have a basic understanding of so here is a brief overview of DCM.

Disclaimer: We are not vets, and we encourage everyone to do their own research and have conversations with their vets.  

What is DCM?

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy or DCM, is a disease of the heart muscle that is characterized by an enlarged heart and reduced heart pumping functions. This can cause fluid to accumulate in certain tissues such as the lungs and if left untreated, it can result in congestive heart failure (CHF) or sudden cardiac death.

What Causes DCM?

DCM is something we hear more and more about each year. Certain breeds are prone to this illness due to genetics, but food has a large part to play in causing or triggering DCM in dogs.

Many dog lovers have the best intentions and have moved to boutique or grain-free diets but researchers have found that dogs eating these diets are not making or maintaining enough taurine, an amino acid important for heart health. This taurine deficiency has been known for many years to lead to DCM.

In the past, grains like oats and corn were used in dog foods, but have now been replaced with lentils, peas, legume seeds or potatoes which seem to be the root of the problem. In 2018, the FDA conducted a study that discovered that the issue is NOT exclusively with “grain-free” diets but with diets that contain peas, lentils, legumes, seeds, and/or potatoes as primary ingredients.

Not so fun fact:  Cat foods are regulated and must contain a certain amount of taurine (amino acids) but dog foods are not regulated in the same way.

Most dogs with DCM also have a taurine deficiency, so getting the right diet for your pet is important. Speak to your vet about recommendations.

Symptoms of DCM to Watch For: 

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Laboured/Rapid breathing
  • Panting
  • Coughing or Gagging
  • Abdominal distension
  • Depressed attitude
  • Sudden collapse

What Next?

If your pet has been fed a diet on the FDA list or with the known primary ingredients to avoid, don’t panic. You can have a discussion with your veterinarian who can help determine if there is any current concern and make recommendations for diet adjustments.

Here is a list of dog foods without peas, legumes or potatoes.

You can also join this DCM Facebook Group.


Study: Grain-Free Diet for Dogs Leads to Canine Heart Disease
Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in Dogs
Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs
Taurine for Dogs: Do Dogs Need Taurine Supplements?
Navigating the Link Between Pet Foods and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): 5 Ingredients to Avoid
Questions & Answers: FDA’s Work on Potential Causes of Non-Hereditary DCM in Dogs