should I be concerned about dcm & my dog?

Dog curious about pet food and DCM heart disease

What is DCM?

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (more commonly known as DCM) is a heart condition in dogs where the heart is enlarged and weakened. This causes poor blood flow leading to lethargy, loss of appetite and weakness.


What do we know about it?

There have been many studies researching the incidence of DCM in dogs (and specific breeds). Studies1 have estimated this specific heart condition impacts around 0.5% to around 1.1% of the dog population. Further, scientific literature has widely reported that DCM is a heritable (genetic) disease 2 3 . We know that DCM is more common in pure-bred dogs than in mixed breeds 5 6, male dogs are more prone than females 4, and that it tends to impact large breeds at a higher rate than small breeds 7 8. While all this research to date has clearly pointed to genetic predispositions as the cause for DCM, scientists still don’t know the exact genetic markers for every breed which would allow an individual dog to be tested for their risk of having this condition.


Is There A Link to Food?

Although many hypotheses have been proposed, it has been difficult to find a clear and direct link between specific food items and DCM. Some dogs have shown improvement in DCM with greater supplementation of an amino acid called taurine9 but this has not stopped or cured DCM in all breeds of dogs. Scientists have speculated that differences in metabolism, gut microbiome and genetics may all play a part in whether taurine will be part of an effective treatment. Clearly, there is much interest in expanding knowledge around this topic. We at Freely are passionate about learning as much about DCM as possible from the ongoing emerging research and discussions in the scientific community.


How Does Freely Formulate Foods?

Every Freely food, both canned and kibble, includes taurine supplementation. We believe this is the prudent thing to do. Extra amounts of the amino acid taurine won’t harm any pet. And if there is a chance it might help certain breeds that are genetically predisposed, we felt the extra cost was worth it. That’s why you will not only see it in our ingredient panel, but you’ll also notice that we have a guarantee for it on every food.


Still have questions?

Our pet nutrition team is here for you. Send us an email, give us a call or connect with us through LiveChat. We’d love to talk through your pet’s unique nutritional needs.



  1. Sisson DD, Thomas WP (1995). Myocardial diseases, the prevalence of dilated cardiomyopathy. In: Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC (eds). Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 4th edn. Saunders: Philadelphia. pp 995.
  2. Stabej P, Leegwater PA, Stokhof AA, Domanjko-Petric A, van Oost BA Evaluation of the phospholamban gene in purebred large-breed dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy. Am J Vet Res 2005b; 66:432–436
  3. Meurs KM. Insights into the hereditability of canine cardiomyopathy. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1998; 28: 1449– 1457
  4. Martin MW, Stafford Johnson MJ, Celona B. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy: A retrospective study of signalment, presentation and clinical findings in 369 cases. J Small Anim Pract 2009;50:23–29.
  5. Bellumori TP, Famula TR, Bannasch DL, Belanger JM, Oberbauer AM. Prevalence of inherited disorders among mixed-breed and purebred dogs: 27,254 cases (1995–2010). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2013;242(11):1549–55
  6. Martin MW, Stafford Johnson MJ, Celona B. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy: A retrospective study of signalment, presentation and clinical findings in 369 cases. J Small Anim Pract 2009;50:23–29.
  7. Tidholm A, Svensson H, Sylve ́n C. Survival and prognostic factors in 189 dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy. J Am Anim HospAssoc 1997;33:364–368.
  8. Doxey S, Boswood A. Differences between breeds of dog in a measure of heart rate variability. Vet Rec 2004;154(23):713–7
  9. Belanger MC, Ouellet M, Queney G, Moreau M (2005) Taurine deficient dilated cardiomyopathy in a family of golden retrievers. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 41:284–291
  10. Lisa M. Freeman DVM, PhD; Joshua A. Stern DVM, PhD; Ryan Fries DVM; Darcy B. Adin DVM; John E. Rush DVM, MS.  Diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs: what do we know? Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2018;253(11): 1390-1394