If you share our love for dogs, you may have a few questions stemming from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) ongoing efforts to explore a potential link between a dog’s diet and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). We know this is a complex topic and want to help by sharing what we know and what we’re doing to ensure the health and safety of our four-legged family members.

What Do We Know?

In July 2018, the FDA announced that they were investigating recent reports of DCM in dogs that are not genetically predisposed to the disease. The most recent update from the FDA (June 2019) hypothesized that two potential dietary factors could be legumes (peas, chickpeas, lentils) as a main ingredient or a lack of taurine. However, these are just hypotheses and the FDA has not recommended diet changes based on the information they’ve gathered so far.

In September 2020, our Lead Veterinarian and R&D Director attended a virtual, scientific forum hosted by Kansas State University and the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine to explore the causes of DCM in dogs and discuss latest research on this complex topic. Over the last two years, experts from across our industry and the veterinary community have been working to better understand the potential link between diet and DCM. The forum highlighted that a significant amount of research has been conducted and more is currently underway, but also confirmed this is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors. The FDA expects it will take several years to fully understand the nature of this issue, but it will remain a key focus for the industry.

What Actions Have We Taken?

At Merrick, we have been crafting natural recipes from the highest-quality whole ingredients for more than 30 years. As pet parents ourselves, providing your dog with the safest, most nutritious food made from the best possible ingredients has always been, and remains, the mission that drives everything we do. 

Our experienced team of animal nutritionists and veterinarians always consider the latest science when formulating our food. All of our protein-rich diets are formulated to be complete and balanced and meet or exceed the nutritional guidelines set by The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Additionally, we have proactively taken the following actions to ensure the quality and continued safety of our diets: 

  1. We have reviewed all our recipes that contain legumes (peas, chickpeas, lentils) to confirm that the inclusion percentage of these ingredients are appropriately balanced within the formulas. Additionally, our PhD animal nutritionists remain dedicated to reviewing and validating our formulas to ensure they deliver the complete nutrition a dog needs to thrive.

  2. Although dogs make taurine naturally from other amino acids found in their diet, research has shown that taurine supplementation has been helpful for some dogs diagnosed with DCM. We have been proactively supplementing taurine across all our Merrick dry dog food recipes, including those that are grain free, since August 2018.

  3. We are continuously reviewing our recipes to ensure they offer the ideal combination of protein and healthy fats to help a dog maintain optimal weight and increased energy. As a result, we updated our Merrick Grain Free recipes to reduce the amount of protein from vegetable sources and increase the amount of protein from animal sources, which contain more naturally-occurring taurine.

We will continue to stay on top of the latest science on this potential dietary issue. Our team of experts is working closely with other members of the Pet Food Institute (PFI) as well as our global nutrition colleagues at Nestlé Purina PetCare to research and better understand this complex topic. We will share recent developments with you as we receive them.

Where Can I Learn More?

If you are interested in speaking with a member of our Pet Parent Relations Team, please give us a call at 800-664-7387 or contact us via email so we may answer any additional questions you might have.

The Pet Nutrition Alliance (PNA), which promotes the importance of nutrition in the health of pets and provides resources to veterinary healthcare teams, compiled a pet food manufacturer report to help pet parents make a more evidence-based and informed decision about pet food. We provided responses to their questions, which are based on the recommendations published by The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). We encourage you to review and compare our responses here.

Pet Food Institute (PFI), whose members make the vast majority of pet food sold in the United States, serves as the national voice for dog and cat food makers and provides fact-based information about pet nutrition. Our colleagues at PFI are committed to providing resources to help pet parents and the veterinary community better understand this potential issue. They compiled a helpful Q&A on DCM, which can be downloaded here. They’ve also prepared a resource for veterinarians which can be found here.