A recent study by an internist (Janet Olson, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology) found that in Golden Retrievers, grain free diets may be leading to heart disease. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is becoming more prevalent in Golden Retrievers. Dr. Joshua Stern DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Cardiology) at UC Davis, started seeing a pattern and recognized that many cases had in common, grain free diets.

Another study evaluated taurine deficiency in Newfoundlands eating a commercial dry lamb meal and rice diet. Of the 19 Newfoundlands in the study, 12 had plasma taurine concentrations that were considered deficient which was reversed by a change in diet or methionine supplementation.

Taurine is an amino acid needed for healthy hearts and muscle. It maintains normal heart contraction. “According to Dr. Stern, the majority of cases they are are seeing at UC Davis are grain free diets that are high in legumes.”

The 2 studies suggest that dogs fed otherwise complete and balanced commercially available dry diets can develop taurine deficiency because of breed predisposition or taurine availability or because minimum requirements for taurine in dog foods need to be reevaluated and pet foods reformulated.

If you insist on feeding your Golden Retriever a grain free diet, ask your veterinarian to check blood taurine levels. If levels are low, get chest radiographs. Or better yet, get off the grain free diet!


Thomblison P. Taurine Deficiency in Dogs, Clinician’s Brief 2017.

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