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05th Jul 2019

Grain Free Diets and Heart Disease in Dogs

by Burns Team Writer

There is increasing concern in the United States of a link between grain free diets for dogs and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM, a heart disease) in dogs. What begins in America often makes its way to the UK and pet food trends are part of that.

When grain free food first appeared in the UK, I mistakenly thought that it would be a fad which would soon pass but I was wrong.  But I have always had concerns about the nutritional competence of the alternatives to grains.  I did eventually overcome this problem by using buckwheat in my own pet food. Buckwheat is not a grain; it is a fruit seed and has similar nutritional benefits to wholegrain.

It appears that the whole question of grain free alternatives has not been effectively addressed by some pet food manufacturers and pet owners are paying the price. Several years ago, veterinary academics speaking at the North American Veterinary Conference said that;

“Grain free pet food was the greatest hoax ever on the American pet-owning public.  Grain free is promoted on the basis that dogs (and cats) cannot digest grains and that grains are responsible for causing allergic reactions.  Neither of these claims is true.  Cooked grains are more than 90% digestible by dogs and cats; animal proteins are more likely to cause adverse reaction to than grains, except wheat.”


For over forty years as a veterinary surgeon, I have been promoting wholegrains, usually brown rice, oats and maize for pets as a way of managing health problems.  This has been effective both as homecooked and commercially produced, for a wide variety of ailments such as skin disorders, digestive problems and even behaviour (mental health).

It should be noted that I am not against grain free pet food per se. However, I believe that the animal’s nutritional needs should be the first consideration when formulating pet food, rather than creating and following a market-driven trend.

At Burns we use wholegrains in a number of our diets and we have been seeing the nutritional benefits of grains for over 25 years. If you are looking to move away from grain free food we would suggest looking for a food such as our Original Chicken & Brown Rice which uses wholegrains and avoids common allergens such as wheat, dairy and beef.

However if you want a safe grain free we use buckwheat and as our founder states

‘Our grain-free is nutritionally sound and without the disadvantages of suspect ingredients or poor formulation.’

You can view our range of Grain Free Dog Food here.