The FDA named 16 dog food brands linked to canine heart disease – Here’s what to feed your dog instead


Unpacking the Myth of the Grain Free Diet

A year after the FDA warned about “grain free” diets possibly being linked to canine dilated cardiomyopathy, they have gone a step further and have identified 16 brands to be associated with the disease. While FDA is not calling for a complete stop in the use of said brands, many vets are suggesting to move away from grain free brands that don’t meet nutritional standards.

With all this controversy surrounding it, we wanted to share some facts that every pet owner should consider before taking a side.

The History

One of the arguments supporting grain free diets for dogs is the fact that wolves, the ancestors of dogs, don’t eat grains in the wild. However, dogs aren’t wolves, they’re dogs, and over time they have evolved to be able to consume grains and carbohydrates through living alongside humans. As veterinarians have agreed, the reason grain free diets for dogs have become so popular is not because they’re necessary, but because they have been heavily marketed.

The Science

Not all grain-free diets are created equal, and this seems to be the source of the problem. Many brands that sell grain-free dog foods are replacing nutrient-dense meats with plant-based proteins like potatoes, may be an inadequate substitute for real meat. When you feed your dog grain free food, it often ends up having more fats and more complex carbohydrates from those replacement ingredients like potatoes and lentils, which can lead to your dog gaining weight over time.

The other issue at the heart of the grain-free debate is taurine, an amino acid found only in animal tissue, which plays a vital role in maintaining cardiac functions in dogs. Since many grain-free dog foods are using these real meat alternatives, dogs may not be receiving the proper protein to produce the taurine they need.

The Effects

Along with causing weight gain, reports link grain free diets to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). There are over 500 cases of DCM that are currently being investigated by the FDA for their potential link to a grain free diet, among other factors, and the FDA has recently released their first list of brands to be linked to adverse health effects in pets. While the FDA hasn’t mandated for owners to change their pets diets, the FDA’s Dr. Martine Hartogensis said the FDA is “concerned about reports of canine disease, known as dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs that ate certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, or legumes or potatoes as their main ingredients.”

The warning list includes

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • California Natural
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • Nature’s Variety
  • NutriSource
  • Nutro
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

Healthy Options

One of the scariest parts about DCM is that it won’t show any notable symptoms until your dog is very sick. Because of this, you should take preventative measures against DCM and other heart diseases by consulting with your vet about diet choices.

If you’re looking for an alternative option, fresh dog food subscription companies are a healthier, higher quality option for dog owners who want to feed their dogs fresh, homemade meals, grain-free or not. Recently, there have been a lot of new companies on the scene, and while the products they’re selling are more expensive than traditional, dried dog food, a lot of people have made the switch. When it comes down to it, commercial dog food that lacks nutritional balance isn’t a healthy option for a member of your family. Why should your dog be exposed to ingredients and chemicals you wouldn’t feel comfortable being exposed to? They shouldn’t. However, because there are so many more options now than there used to be, picking the right dog meal subscription isn’t easy. While a lot of the products look the same, there are differences worth noting, so we’ve picked three of the best dog food companies to improve your dog’s health: Farmer’s Dog, NomNom, and Ollie.

Available nationwide, the Farmer’s Dog is focused not only on making your dog healthier, but making the whole world better too. The Farmer’s Dog is built upon nutritious recipes, carefully crafted by board-certified, veterinary nutritionists. All of their ingredients are sourced from local farms and well-known food suppliers, completely abiding by USDA standards. Filled with proteins, vitamins, and minerals, The Farmer’s Dog’s ingredients are fresh and never processed. Committed to the environment, The Farmer’s Dog ships their food in BPA-free, non-toxic, recyclable, and biodegradable packaging. Lastly, we love how easy The Farmer’s Dog makes it to feed your dog, without any mess to clean up. You’ll receive a pre-portioned pack of food with instructions on how much food to feed your dog. The best part? The Farmer’s Dog is extending an offer to Insider Envy readers for a limited time only. Get 50% off your first box through this link.

Ollie is all about quality. While Ollie’s headquarters are in New York, all of its cooking and packaging takes place in New Jersey, at a USDA certified facility. This means that the meals Ollie makes aren’t only edible for dogs – they’re edible for you too. Ollie’s dog food is custom formulated by veterinary nutritionists to include all of the proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats your dog needs so they don’t end up with any of the nutritional deficiencies that may be produced by grain free diets. Meals are made fresh, and each batch is tested for quality by third party testers for taste, freshness, and quality. Additionally, Ollie makes portioning your dog’s food easy, including portioning tools and instructions in every package. Ollie is also offering a limited time promotion to our readers for 50% off your first box,  which you can access here.


NomNom is dedicated to making sure your dog gets all its necessary vitamins and minerals. To achieve this, each NomNom meal includes NomNomNutrient mix and Fish Oil, so you don’t have to worry about buying extra supplements for your pup. All of NomNom’s recipes are specially made by Dr. Justin Shmalberg, one of the world’s leading veterinary nutritionists. He and his team have created four main meals: Heartland Beef Mash, Tasty Turkey Fare, Chicken Chow-Wow, and Porkalicious Pork, customizing each of these recipes based on your dog’s needs. Meals are made fresh weekly using restaurant-quality ingredients, and then are hand-inspected before being sent to you.


Our team at Insider Envy are not veterinarians, we just care deeply about dogs. We participate in a small number of affiliate programs, meaning we may receive compensation when you buy items after clicking a link on Insider Envy. Please consult an expert such as a veterinarian or pet nutritionist if you believe your dog needs a change in their diet, or may be at risk for DCM or any other disease.

At Insider Envy we only promote products we love. We participate in a small number of affiliate programs, meaning we may receive compensation when you buy items after clicking a link on Insider Envy. We appreciate your support!

by Insider Envy Staff

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