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Our priority at Kiwi Kitchens is to supply high quality nutritious food for your pets.

We recognise the recent concerns about canine DCM and grain free pet foods and we’d like to help you better understand the situation.

In July 2018, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an alert regarding reports of a serious but rare heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM is a disease that affects the heart muscle resulting in an enlarged heart that causes a decreased ability to pump blood. This can cause heart valves to leak creating a build-up of fluid in the chest known as congestive heart failure.

You may have heard the word taurine mentioned in relation to DCM. Taurine is an amino acid with many functions and is necessary for the development and function of the heart and muscle cells. While cats require a source of taurine in their food, dogs can obtain adequate taurine to meet their needs by synthesising it in their body from two other amino acids, methionine and cysteine. Taurine, methionine and cysteine are all present at reasonably high levels in animal protein.

DCM is more prevalent in certain breeds, especially many larger dogs. However, the reported cases also occurred in breeds that are not considered to be genetically predisposed to this disorder. Taurine deficiency is well-documented as a potential cause of DCM, but it is not the only cause. It is unclear what causes DCM in most cases, but it would seem multiple factors are playing a role.

Moving to grain free food, many pet food manufacturers have replaced the grain based ingredients with plant matter. Plant proteins like peas or beans in moderation are ok for dogs, with pulses/legumes having been used in pet food safely for over 20 years.

However, many grain free foods now contain a significantly high level of plant protein versus animal protein. Plant protein is fine as a complimentary protein, but dogs require a specific level of animal protein in order to produce all the vital amino acids they need. High levels of taurine are found naturally in animal-based proteins but it is typically low in plant-based protein sources. While plant protein does provide small amounts of methionine, it’s not at the levels necessary to be useful as a precursor for taurine.

In addition, a high level of plant protein in pet food raises the level of dietary fibre. While this has benefits in certain situations, it could also be affecting how dogs metabolise the various nutrients in their food. High levels of fibre have been shown to block the synthesis of methionine and cystine into taurine.

After this review we believe that AAFCO will (or should) introduce a minimum level of taurine for a dog food to be complete and balanced. At Kiwi Kitchens we have tested - our diets for taurine and all exceed the minimum required for cats, so we are sure they meet the dogs’ requirements as well.

In summary, it does appear there is a link between diet and DCM. It is almost certainly a combination of factors at play, namely low levels of animal protein, high levels of dietary fibre and a genetic disposition to DCM. To be safe, always look for a high meat based diet – at least 85% meat. Minimal processing is also important as it means the nutrients are likely to be more bio-available.

Kiwi Kitchens’ products are all made from quality 100% New Zealand sourced ingredients that are high in animal proteins (a minimum of 90%), so you can be assured your pets are receiving all the nutrients they need. In addition, we test all our recipes to ensure we meet amino acid requirements, so we know with certainty what our food provides. At Kiwi Kitchens we don’t guess when it comes to our recipes and your pets’ health – because it’s our job to know.

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