Health & Wellness Facts


Categories: Nutrition

nutrition dcm research stephanie clark part two dogs

This month we conclude our interview with Dr. Stephanie Clark, who is an equally dedicated pet parent and scientist.  Dr. Clark is a co-author of a recently published literature review in the Journal of Animal Science. This peer-reviewed journal article entitled, “Review of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in the wake of diet-associated concerns,” showed no conclusive correlation between grain-free dog food and DCM.

Last week, we introduced you to Dr. Clark, and “her girls,” Anny and Gracie.  Like all of us who are pet parents, she is proud that Anny is loving and loyal, while Gracie is calm and attracted to people more than to other dogs.  In fact, the entire time Dr. Clark was getting her education, Gracie walked the halls of her university and was ‘borrowed’ by other students to practice their skills, such as listening to her heartbeat, taking her temperature, and even blood draws.  Clearly, Dr. Clark’s dedication to science and research can be considered a family affair! Below we continue our interview with Dr. Clark regarding the article she co-authored and their finding concerning the available research on dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM):

Companion animal nutritionists understand the importance of key nutrients in the formulation of pet food.  What role, if any, do nutrients play in disease prevention/preventing DCM?

Nutrition is vital for overall health. There are many nutrients that play roles in heart health, as well as other organ function. For example, one study observed that dogs with potassium deficiency had concurrent cardiovascular disease. However, there is still a need for more controlled studies to investigate a true cause and effect for cardiovascular disease and nutrients and anti-nutrient factors.

There has been information published and data released by the FDA regarding DCM that does not seem very clear to many pet parents and veterinarians.  Based on your research of documented cases of DCM, what were your findings?

One thing that is clear at this point is that many in the veterinary community are confused and concerned over recent investigations into the role that diet plays in the development of heart disease. Based on our literature review manuscript, the few studies that have been conducted looking into these claims, but these studies are difficult to perform, and so far there are too many confounding variables, lack of standardization in methodologies, and overrepresentation of specific breeds to extrapolate to the general dog population. Future studies should focus on one variable and a cohort of breeds that represents those in the dog population before we come to a clear conclusion of cause and effect. 

You and your colleagues agree there needs to be more research on the subject DCM. What is the best advice you can give pet parents at this time?

Our best advice is to feed a food that is complete and balanced, optimal for your pet’s age and activity lifestyle, and feeding an appropriate amount of food (with treats not to exceed more than 10% of the daily caloric intake). We always recommend that owners discuss any dietary concerns with their primary care veterinarian.

To quote your journal article:

“In June 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a public statement that 560 dogs were reported with potential diet-related DCM (FDA, 2019a). If the report was accurate, these 560 cases would represent 0.05% to 0.1% of dogs in the United States with DCM.”

Based on this data, which affects a tiny population of American dogs, why has an overt amount of attention been paid to DCM?

That is the million-dollar question, and being a committed pet parent myself, I understand how confusing it is for pet parents today. A preventable and more prevalent disease, such as obesity, can lead to heart disease, joint damage, and other maladies. Studies have shown that pet obesity can reduce a pet’s lifespan by two years. There are many different types of heart disease, and for dogs, DCM is in the top three.  However, there are not enough resources to draw a conclusion based on the information we have.  More research is necessary.

All of us at D.O.G. Pet Food are grateful to Dr. Clark and her colleagues for their continued research in the field of companion animal nutrition. Their ongoing scientific efforts will bring further insight aiding in the health and longevity of pets the world over.

Dr. Stephanie Clark is a Licensed Veterinary Technologist and a Ph.D. Companion Animal Nutritionist who works for BSM Partners, a pet industry consulting agency.   Here again is a link to the published literature review by Dr. Clark and her colleagues:  Dr. Clark can be reached directly via her LinkedIn address:


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