Understanding the Risks & Identifying the Signs

Heart disease has been making local and national headlines lately. But this time, it’s because of concern over the sharp increase of dogs with a particular form of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

puppy sitting in food bowlSome dog breeds have higher rates of heart disease. However, recent findings from the FDA reveal a potential link between DCM and dogs eating certain foods. While continued research is still needed, there is significant concern with recipes containing sweet potatoes, legumes – like peas, lentils, and chickpeas – and some foods containing regular potatoes in various forms, whether whole, flour, or protein.

The FDA first alerted the public to their rising concerns over dog food and DCM in July 2018. But what is cardiomyopathy, and why should we be worried?

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy

DCM in dogs is just as scary as heart disease is in people. When a dog has DCM, their heart muscle weakens, which affects its ability to pump and contract properly. As the disease progresses, their heart chambers become enlarged, and their valves can start leaking. All these changes pose serious risks for your dog, including congestive heart failure and death.

The Signs of Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dogs with cardiomyopathy can display a variety of symptoms, depending on the extent of their condition. Common signs of DCM include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to exercise
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Coughing
  • Breathing problems, including shortness of breath
  • Abdominal swelling


Unfortunately, just like humans with heart disease, dogs can have DCM without displaying any symptoms. This means a dog can suffer sudden death from dilated cardiomyopathy without showing any signs of illness.

To learn more about DCM and the FDA’s findings, we encourage you to read this coverage from the American Kennel Club. For more information on your dog’s health and whether they’re at risk of heart disease, contact your veterinarian.