by Terri Krempin in Minnesota
This is Belle, my Golden Retriever. I have bred and shown Golden Retrievers for almost 30 years and was a vet tech for 25 of those years. I always fed Purina Pro Plan to my dogs on the recommendation of my veterinarians. When we moved to a smaller town, I struggled to find a training facility less than two hours away. I eventually met a woman who owned a boutique pet food store and also offered obedience classes. We became fast friends. She asked what I was feeding my dogs. When I told her, she started giving me reasons to switch to another brand, a small family business with no recalls. I fell for it and started my dogs on one of their grain-inclusive diets. Given my background, I should have known better.
I learned of taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) through the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study (GRLS), sponsored by the Morris Animal Foundation. They are following Goldens throughout life to better understand why dogs get cancer. I have always advocated for the betterment of my breed, so my girl Belle became GRLS Hero #2406. Dr. Stern at UC Davis also has a Golden in the study. When his observations and research on diet-associated DCM came to light, word quickly got around in the Golden community.
I started questioning what I was feeding my dogs, and this intensified when I joined the Taurine Deficiency in Golden Retrievers group on Facebook. But did I consult my vet on what I should be feeding my dogs? Nope! I kept researching and even called and spoke with Fromm, who assured me they were taking this issue seriously, and that they knew about Dr. Stern’s research. I felt better but became wary when Belle developed a cough. In October of 2018, I had an echocardiogram performed on Belle. She was diagnosed with early heart changes equivalent to DCM. I was so angry at myself! I immediately switched her and all dogs in my care back to Pro Plan.
In February of 2019, after four months on a healthy, balanced diet, Belle was cleared by echocardiogram and 100% heart healthy again! It is an understatement to say I am grateful for Dr. Stern’s efforts, and for these Facebook groups that educate dog owners about diet-associated DCM. I celebrate clear heart echoes and improvements reported by dog owners in the groups, and I am devastated by every diagnosis or passing of a beloved family dog.