BENTONVILLE, ARK. — Animal nutritionists and veterinarians with BSM Partners and the University of Missouri have published a research article indicating grain-free diets did not negatively impact cardiac function in canines and, furthermore, were not a catalyst for the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

The study follows an additional piece of research spearheaded by BSM Partners and the University of Illinois, which showed neither grain-inclusive nor grain-free dog food had negative effects on food digestibility in dogs.

“This is the longest prospective study to date evaluating diet and cardiac function,” said Stacey Leach DVM, DACVIM, co-author of the study, and chief of cardiology and associate teaching professor of cardiology at the University of Missouri’s Veterinary Health Center. “To identify any changes in cardiac function over time, our multi-disciplinary team collected and examined a wide cross-section of data.”

Four dog food formulas were created specifically for use in this study, including two grain-free diets containing pulse ingredients — namely peas and lentils — and potatoes, as well as two grain-inclusive diets and did not contain pulses or potatoes. In each grain-free or grain-inclusive set, one diet was formulated with a high level of animal protein, while the other was low in animal protein.

The study took place over a seven-month period, during which 65 dogs, a combination of purebred beagles and mixed breeds, were fed one of the four test diets. Throughout the study, researchers measured cardiac biomarkers, echocardiographic data and endomyocardial biopsies to determine whether the diets had any impact on canine cardiac function.

At the end of the study, researchers did not detect the development of cardiac dysfunction in dogs fed any of the test diets, and none of the subjects developed DCM.

“While our study was unable to identify any dietary correlation to DCM, we continue to encourage our peers to perform and publish peer-reviewed controlled studies in order to improve our understanding of cardiac function and the development of DCM,” said Stephanie Clark, Ph.D., VTS (Nutrition), co-author of the study and a board-certified companion animal nutritionist with BSM Partners.

Find the full peer-reviewed study here, published in Frontiers in Animal Science.

Read more about DCM and grain-free diets in dogs.