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Nom Nom brings a new research angle to the investigation of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

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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:

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!


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  2. 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.
  3. 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:
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  8. Center for Veterinary Medicine. Vet-LIRN Update on Investigation into Dilated Cardiomyopathy. In: U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 7 Feb 2019. Available:
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