Nom Nom brings a new research angle to the investigation of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
What is DCM and why do we need to study it?
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a heart disease that may lead to congestive heart failure or sudden death 1. Some breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes, are genetically at higher risk of developing typical DCM 2,3. Certain balanced commercial diets have recently been suggested as a potential factor in the development of DCM in “atypical” breeds. Other diets deficient in taurine and taurine precursors have been previously shown to cause DCM 4–7.
Why are we specifically concerned about Golden Retrievers?
Historically Golden Retrievers were not thought particularly susceptible to DCM. Therefore, a recent increase of DCM reports in this breed has understandably alarmed pet parents and veterinarians 3,8. Some researchers assume that a relative deficiency of taurine, an amino acid commonly found in meat, may be responsible because it was observed that DCM symptoms in some Golden Retrievers were improved after supplementation with taurine 4,5. Many but not all Golden Retrievers had low levels of taurine in the blood even on balanced commercial diets 9. Certain genetic lines of Goldens have been shown to be particularly susceptible to taurine-deficient DCM 4. The role of grain-free diets has not yet been conclusively established in this breed 10,11, but some researchers feel strongly that there is an association.
What’s unique about what we’re doing?
The FDA and others have gathered data to identify whether particular components of dog food are associated with the rise in DCM across breeds, but no conclusive results have yet been obtained 3,8,12. Our study will expand beyond the diet and incorporate gut microbiome data in Golden Retrievers to see if their gut bacteria has any relationship to taurine status and/or DCM. The gut microbiota is known to play a role in nutrient absorption and metabolism and are known to influence taurine resorption. Finally, unlike our approach, the FDA did not exclusively report data in Golden Retrievers, even though the development of DCM in this particular breed may be different from others 4,5.
Why the gut microbiota?
Previous investigations mainly examined intake of taurine and other components of the dog’s diet, but these measurements may not entirely reflect the amount absorbed or excreted in the intestines. In cats, for example, it was demonstrated that changing the gut microbiota with antibiotics decreased taurine loss even when their diet remained the same 13. We think the gut microbiota might have a similar direct impact on taurine levels in Golden Retrievers.
Another role the microbiota may play in DCM has to do with its involvement in bile acid metabolism. Taurine is used to make bile acids, which are released into the intestine to help absorb dietary fats 14. The gut microbiota can metabolize bile acids, and therefore has a direct impact on the amount of taurine excreted in the stool 15,16. It is possible that the increased loss of these taurine-containing bile acids may lead to a decreased taurine level in the blood. Taurine is thought to help the heart to contract which may explain why low blood levels can be correlated to DCM 17.
I want to help, can my Golden Retrievers participate?
We have already recruited a number of healthy Golden Retrievers and analyzed their microbiome. However, if your Golden has had a normal echocardiogram performed by a veterinary cardiologist in the last six months, we would love to have you participate.
In addition, if a veterinary cardiologist has diagnosed your Golden Retriever with DCM or abnormalities consistent with pre-DCM cardiac changes (with or without taurine deficiency) after an echocardiogram, we would also invite you to participate. We are looking for dogs that have both recently been diagnosed and those diagnosed in the past few years. Based on the number of responses, we may narrow the inclusion criteria.
What do I need to do if I participate?
Here are three things you will have to do:
- Complete this survey to confirm your participation in the study. It only takes about 10 minutes but you may need access to your Golden’s veterinary record(s) or your vet’s help to fill it out.
- Provide us a microbiome sample (💩) from your Golden Retriever. We will be providing one Insights Microbiome Kit (regularly $90) at no cost for the microbiome sample collection. You will also need to complete or update your Golden’s Insight Surveys, which only take about 12 minutes.
- Provide us a copy of your Golden Retriever’s veterinary record(s). We will be reaching out to you for these after you have confirmed your participation. They help us learn about the parameters used for DCM diagnosis, if applicable. No veterinary or other confidential information shared will be provided to third-parties or used for marketing purposes.
What are the benefits of participating?
Upon study completion, you will receive a $25 Amazon gift card (or an optional $50 credit for Nom Nom customers) for each enrolled Golden Retriever.
Ready to get started?
It’s very easy to get started. Just fill in this survey to help determine your eligibility and we will get back to you!
- Martin MWS, Stafford Johnson MJ, Strehlau G, et al. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy: a retrospective study of prognostic findings in 367 clinical cases. J Small Anim Pract. 2010;51: 428–436.
- Meurs KM, Fox PR, Norgard M, et al. A Prospective Genetic Evaluation of Familial Dilated Cardiomyopathy in the Doberman Pinscher. J Vet Intern Med. 2007;21: 1016–1020.
- Center for Veterinary Medicine. FDA Investigates Potential Link Between Diet & Heart Disease in Dogs. In: U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 7 Feb 2019. Available: http://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy
- Bélanger MC, Ouellet M, Queney G, et al. Taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy in a family of golden retrievers. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2005;41: 284–291.
- Kaplan JL, Stern JA, Fascetti AJ, et al. Taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy in golden retrievers fed commercial diets. PLoS One. 2018;13: e0209112.
- Kittleson MD, Keene B, Pion PD, et al. Results of the multicenter spaniel trial (MUST): taurine- and carnitine-responsive dilated cardiomyopathy in American cocker spaniels with decreased plasma taurine concentration. J Vet Intern Med. 1997;11: 204–211.
- Fascetti AJ, Reed JR, Rogers QR, et al. Taurine deficiency in dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy: 12 cases (1997-2001). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2003;223: 1137–1141.
- Center for Veterinary Medicine. Vet-LIRN Update on Investigation into Dilated Cardiomyopathy. In: U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 7 Feb 2019. Available: http://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/science-research/vet-lirn-update-investigation-dilated-cardiomyopathy
- Kramer GA, Kittleson MD, Fox PR, et al. Plasma taurine concentrations in normal dogs and in dogs with heart disease. J Vet Intern Med. 1995;9: 253–258.
- Mansilla WD, Marinangeli CPF, Ekenstedt KJ, et al. Special topic: The association between pulse ingredients and canine dilated cardiomyopathy: addressing the knowledge gaps before establishing causation. J Anim Sci. 2019;97: 983–997.
- Kim SW, Rogers QR, Morris JG. Dietary antibiotics decrease taurine loss in cats fed a canned heat-processed diet. J Nutr. 1996;126: 509–515.
- Wildgrube HJ, Stockhausen H, Petri J, et al. Naturally occurring conjugated bile acids, measured by high-performance liquid chromatography, in human, dog, and rabbit bile. J Chromatogr. 1986;353: 207–213.
- Ridlon JM, Kang DJ, Hylemon PB, et al. Bile acids and the gut microbiome. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2014;30: 332–338.
- Backus RC, Rogers QR, Morris JG. Microbial degradation of taurine in fecal cultures from cats given commercial and purified diets. J Nutr. 1994;124: 2540S–2545S.
- Schaffer SW, Jong CJ, Ramila KC, et al. Physiological roles of taurine in heart and muscle. J Biomed Sci. 2010;17 Suppl 1: S2.