The Pet Food Related DCM Links NOT Being Discussed – Truth about Pet Food

Pet owners are familiar with the link made to DCM of grain free pet foods. But what about the other links? Why are those being ignored?

From the very beginning the news of increased cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs came to light, the ONLY link discussed was grain free pet foods. Numerous veterinarian nutritionists, cardiologists, and even the FDA all focused on just this one link – pet foods that do not include grains.

But, in the latest FDA update on the DCM issue, the Agency actually provided other links to DCM. In the 16 brands of dog food that FDA data showed to have ten or more cases of DCM reported to the Agency:

  • All 16 brands were dry (kibble) dog foods;
  • All 16 brands included one or more meat meal ingredients (example chicken meal or lamb meal); and
  • All 16 brands were feed grade pet foods.

Put in another way, all 16 brands of dog food the FDA reported to have 10 or more cases of DCM each were highly processed pet foods that are allowed by FDA to include very inferior quality of ingredients.


Some ingredients in kibble pet foods are heated/cooked/processed four times before your pet consumes them. From (bold added to emphasize heat or cooking steps):

Kibble is a cooked dough-type pet food (comparable to dough used to make a cookie or a cracker – with meat). Because it is made from dough, all ingredients in a kibble pet food need to be ground fine before mixing. Raw ingredients are “brought together in a mixer” with added supplements (mixer can hold 10,000 pounds or more of ingredients). Next the dough “is heated in the preconditioner prior to introduction to the extruder.” “The extruder, essentially a giant meat grinder, is where the primary cooking phase for dry extruded pet food products occurs. The dough is cooked under intense heat and pressure as it moves toward the open end of the extruder.” At the end of the extruder the dough is forced through a “shaping die” and cut into desired shape. “Kibble is dried in an oven until its moisture content is low enough to make it shelf stable like a cookie or cracker.”

If a meat meal is included (as in all 16 brands listed by FDA), there is one more processing step. Meat meals are made by finely grinding animal parts or whole carcasses, cooking the material, and separating the remaining moisture from the solids. The solids are dried into a powder like substance. This processing occurs prior to the ingredient being further cooked through the actual manufacturing of the pet food.

Feed grade ingredients.

The FDA openly allows feed grade pet foods to include very inferior quality of ingredients. As recent as 4/30/2019 the FDA publicly stated (see FDA Final Response):

“We do not believe that the use of diseased animals or animals that died otherwise than by slaughter to make animal food poses a safety concern and we intend to continue to exercise enforcement discretion where appropriate.”

Safety concerns aside, meat or meat meals sourced from diseased animals or decomposing animal carcasses (animals that have died otherwise than by slaughter) are not quality ingredients – is not quality nutrition. These are actually illegal ingredients – per the Federal Food and Drug Cosmetic Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act – allowed by FDA to be disposed of into pet food with no warning or disclosure to pet owners.

Inferior nutrition.

Though exactly how it happens is currently unknown, the root cause of diet related DCM remains as a lack of proper nutrients in the pet food – it is NOT ‘Complete and Balanced’ as the label claims.

So why isn’t FDA or many pet nutrition experts discussing the potential of inferior ingredients and high processing as a potential link to disease in pets?

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
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