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If you dabble in social media and love pets like we do, you have probably seen the FDA release about BEG diets. A lot of attention has fallen to these pet foods manufactured by boutique companies, containing exotic ingredients, and/or identifying as “grain-free”.

There is a lot of information to sort though, though, and opinions abound. The staff at Rutland Veterinary Clinic wants to help shed a little light on what is going on so that our pet owners can make the best decisions for their pets

What We Know About BEG Diets

In recent years we have been noticing an uptick in a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in pets. While certain breeds are well known for their predisposition to this potentially fatal heart condition, we have been seeing more and more cases in breeds that are not typically affected.

This trend was enough to catch the attention of the FDA, who opened an investigation. What they found is that a large number of pets affected by DCM were being fed diets that could be described as BEG diets. They were grain-free, contained exotic ingredients, and were manufactured by boutique-style companies.

So what we know at this point is that:

  • The FDA feels that there is a correlation between the increase in diagnosed DCM and diet
  • Pets with dietary induced DCM were all being fed BEG diets
  • No pets being fed Hill’s Science Diet, Iams/Eukanuba, Purina, or Royal Canin Diets have been identified as affected to date
  • DCM is not easily detected until the later stages of disease
  • DCM can be fatal

What We Don’t

When it comes to the risks associated with BEG diets, there is still a lot we don’t know. The FDA feels that there is a strong enough association to issue a warning to the public, however we are still unclear as to the mechanism of the development of DCM in these pets.

There are a lot of questions left unanswered including:

  • What causes some pets fed these diets to develop DCM and not others?
  • Is there a dietary imbalance?
  • Are these diets missing or in excess of something?
  • Which BEG diets are safe and which are not?

Because we aren’t yet sure exactly what the risks are, it is hard to advise which grain-free, unique, or boutique diets might be okay to feed. Also, because we don’t know what is leading to the development of DCM we can’t just tell people to supplement or remove something from the pet’s diet. 

For instance, while taurine deficiency has been implicated in DCM in the past, it is not deficient in most of the pets identified so far. Therefore measuring taurine levels or supplementing taurine is unlikely to be helpful.

What to Do About BEG Diets

So what should you do if your dog or cat is eating one of the implicated diets? Our stance at this point is to change to a diet that does not fall into the BEG category. 

BEG diets have not been shown to have any health benefits for pets, except perhaps with true grain allergies, which are quite rare. This means that there is no reason to risk your pet’s heart.

If you choose to remain on a BEG diet, having an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) performed periodically is the only way to catch DCM before it progresses. In the early stages many pets do not have a murmur or even obvious signs of trouble. 

If you need help deciding what diet is right for your pet, please give us a call. While we are sure that you can find many opinions out there, we hope that you will trust our education and years of expertise when it comes to providing the best for your pet