Q. What is the latest FDA update on DCM about?
A. On July 12, 2018, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a brief stating that they were investigating recently reported cases of a type of heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM. The brief noted that some dogs who had this disease may have been fed certain types of diets. When researching a health concern, the FDA seeks to provide consumers with periodic updates on their progress. A second update was provided on February 19, 2019.
The FDA’s update of June 27, 2019 says it is “continuing to investigate and gather more information in an effort to identify whether there is a specific dietary link to development of DCM.” More specifically, its update provides no causative scientific link between DCM and our products, ingredients or grain-free diets as a whole.
Q. What is DCM?
A. DCM is a serious but rare condition. Of note, of the 77 million dogs in the U.S., 0.5% to 1% have DCM, and of those dogs with DCM, less than 0.1% are speculated to have DCM related to diet, although that is not scientifically proven. It is more prevalent in certain breeds, especially many larger dogs. While the cause of DCM is still unknown, it has recently been speculated by some that grain-free foods containing certain carbohydrates could potentially lead to a deficiency of the amino acid taurine in some dogs. Insufficient taurine in the body has been linked to DCM in several species of animals, including dogs. The carbohydrates cited in those reports cover a broad category of ingredients classified as legumes, which includes peas and lentils. In the recipes Champion makes, we emphasize fresh and raw meat with total animal-derived ingredients ranging from 50 to 85 percent of the finished product. Legumes are not a significant feature in Champion’s recipes, and never have been.
Q. What has the FDA learned so far from its research?
A. The FDA has not provided any scientific data or research on the cause of DCM, or whether or not diet has anything to do with the disease. Research on issues such as this typically take several years to complete.
Q. Which brands did the FDA list?
A. Over 50 brands were listed in the FDA’s ‘Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy Complaints Submitted to FDA-CVM Through April 30, 2019’, which included the majority of brands sold at specialty, but included non-specialty and multi-national brands.
Q. Why did the FDA list Champion foods in their update?
A. FDA claims it has an obligation, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to disclose the names of brands that are reported related to any specific health concern that the FDA is researching. The FDA’s announcement provides no causative scientific link between DCM and our products, ingredients or grain-free diets as a whole and it is unfortunate that the release of incomplete information is causing confusion among Pet Lovers about the food they purchase for their pets and the diets they follow.
Q. What role does diet play in DCM?
A. The exact cause of recent reported incidents of DCM has not yet been identified, but genetic predisposition is known to be a highly contributing factor to DCM in dogs in general. It is possible that multiple factors are playing a role.
Q. Does the FDA know what it is about these foods that may be connected to canine DCM?
A. At this time, it is not clear what it is about these diets that may be connected to DCM in dogs. There are multiple possible causes of DCM. Taurine deficiency is well-documented as a potential cause of DCM, but it is not the only cause of DCM. Nutritional makeup of the main ingredients or how dogs process them, main ingredient sourcing, processing, amount used, or other factors could be involved.
The FDA has not yet determined the nature of the possible connection between these foods and canine DCM, so we do not have definitive information indicating that the food needs to be removed from the market.
Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.
There have been a greater proportion of males than females, consistent with what is seen in genetic forms. The significance of this is unknown, but it may be that some cases are genetic in origin or a combination of diet and genetic tendencies.
Q. What’s Next?
A. The FDA is continuing to investigate and gather more information in an effort to identify whether there is a specific dietary link to development of DCM and will provide updates to the public as information develops.
Q. What is Champion doing about this potential issue?
A. Champion takes seriously our commitment to provide safe pet food that delivers complete and balanced nutrition, and we welcome new information that can help us keep this commitment. In the meantime, we have taken several actions and will continue to do so, which include:
- We held two long-term feeding trials with enhanced DCM protocols on two different breeds of dogs – Beagles and Labs. We do these trials regularly on all of our diets, but we enhanced these trials to measure taurine levels in blood to see how diet impacted taurine levels over time. Not only did the dogs appear to enjoy the diet(s), the results were very positive, and all dogs did very well on our foods. We specifically tested ACANA Pork and Squash in these trials but generally have tested all of our product families in both ACANA and ORIJEN brands over the past few years.
- We completed studies on starch, fiber, and amino acids including taurine in all our ACANA and ORIJEN diets. We compared across other industry diets that are both grain-based and grain-free. The purported theories around dietary links to DCM were not validated in any way in the data. We completed studies on starch, fiber, and amino acid in all our diets and found no concerns.
- We performed digestibility and bioavailability studies of amino acids on different diets, with positive results.
- We are actively working internally and with other industry leaders to research and learn more about DCM.
- Champion’s senior nutrition scientist is working with a committee of nutrition experts from other pet food companies who meet regularly to review any DCM developments, research data, and evaluate ideas to continue to study and understand this topic.
- We continuously evaluate all nutrients in our dog foods with the goal of constant improvement and evolution of Champion’s recipes. In September 2018, we reformulated and launched our ACANA Singles foods, adding more meat and taurine supplementation to exceed a Champion established minimum.
- Our Biologically Appropriate foods mission is based on the best available research at any one time, including research into DCM. As more facts become known and accepted, Champion adjusts its foods accordingly with the ultimate goal of creating an ideal or optimal nutrient range for dog foods.
- We created the Champion Transparency Council, opening our doors to established independent veterinarians and to pet lovers in the spirit of true openness.
Q. Is grain-free pet food safe for my pet?
A. Millions of dogs are thriving on grain-free dog food every day. The FDA’s investigation focuses on certain ingredients that figure more prominently in some pet food products labeled as grain-free. FDA is focusing on certain ingredients, including legumes like peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes, in its investigation, but has not identified any established causative scientific link between certain ingredients and incidents of DCM. In the recipes Champion makes, we emphasize fresh and raw meat, with total animal-derived ingredients ranging from 60 to 85 percent of the finished product. Legumes are not a significant feature in Champion’s recipes, and never have been. Grain-free diets can have many tangible benefits over grain-based foods in general and should not be categorized as a potential concern or problem.
Q. Should I avoid certain ingredients or grain-free dog food as a whole?
A. The FDA stated on July 12, 2018, February 19, 2019 and June 27, 2019 that the agency does not advise any dietary changes based solely on the information gathered. Grain-free diets can have many tangible benefits over grain-based foods in general and should not be categorized as a potential concern or problem.
Q. Should I be concerned if my pet’s food contains one of the ingredients mentioned by the FDA?
A. FDA has not linked any specific pet food or ingredient to incidents of DCM and has not recommended any changes to diet. It is important to make sure the food you are feeding your pet is formulated to be complete and balanced for a pet’s life stage. If you have additional questions related to a specific ingredient we suggest reaching out to us directly.
Q. What if Champion foods prove to have some effect on DCM?
A. There is still much to be learned about DCM. Of note, of the 77 million dogs in the U.S., 0.5% to 1% have DCM, and of those dogs with DCM, approximately 0.1% are speculated to have DCM related to diet, although that is not scientifically proven. There is no causative scientific data drawing conclusions or providing any evidence that links our foods, any grain-free foods, to DCM.
We are pet lovers ourselves, and as such, if any scientific evidence of dietary causative link to DCM was discovered, we would immediately move to modify our formulas and nutritional philosophy to continue to ensure we make the World’s Best Petfood.
Q. Why should I trust Champion?
While we and the industry work to learn more about DCM, you can trust that Champion foods (ACANA and ORIJEN) are safe for your pets. From our company’s founding in 1975, we have worked to source the highest quality ingredients and to source them whenever possible from local suppliers. We have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build the most sanitary, most state-of-the-art pet food facilities in the world; in fact, our operations surpass most human food production facilities. We make all our foods ourselves, we don’t use contract producers, so you can trust that ACANA and ORIJEN are made in strict accordance to our own recipes from high quality ingredients. And we employ food scientists and nutritionists who hold numerous PhD’s, MSc’s and who, along with our in-house veterinarian, test and research our foods every day. So, if you want to know if you can trust Champion, we ask that you judge us by our actions, not by unproven theories or by what others may say about us. Champion’s goal has always been to make the World’s Best Petfood, and to earn the trust of Pet Lovers everywhere.