Newest Information on Diet-associated Heart Disease (DCM: Dilated Cardiomyopathy)

Jenkins HeartHey, everyone! Jenkins, here. Now that my surgery is over and I’m almost back to normal, my mom said it would be good for me to educate you on a disease that my 4-legged friends and I can sometimes get. It’s called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). It is a disease that affects the heart muscle, causing it to become weak, and therefore it can not contract effectively. 

This disease left untreated can lead to heart failure, so I wanted to make sure my furry friends and their parents know all about it. Most importantly, I’d like to tell you about a way to potentially prevent nutritional DCM. It starts by paying close attention to the food you are giving your pets. 

Since I bet you love your 4-legged friends a lot, I thought you’d be interested to know which brands and product lines are recommended by my mom and other doctors out there, and why. I’ll also tell you about some potential causes of DCM, symptoms linked specifically to nutritional DCM, and what our owners can do to help ensure we’re eating the most nutritious food out there.

Potential Causes of DCM

My mom and other doctors say there are several potential causes of DCM. For example, nutritional deficiencies of taurine or carnitine have been linked to DCM in certain breeds, like Dobermans and Boxers. Some genetic mutations have been found in breeds like Doberman Pinchers, Boxers, Standard Schnauzers, and Newfoundlands. Other potential causes include some infectious diseases, like parvovirus. 

This disease has been in the news lately and has gotten a lot of attention from veterinarians, including my mom. She continues to read articles about this disease and potential causes to keep up to date on the latest information. Apparently, dogs with normal taurine levels are now getting Diet-associated DCM.

Diet-associated DCM with Normal Taurine Levels

In early 2018, there was a rise in dogs being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. These dogs were not your typical dogs that are predisposed to this potential genetic disease. Cardiologists realized that these dogs were being fed exotic, boutique, or grain-free diets, and thought that supplementing with taurine would improve the dog’s condition. However, this wasn’t the case in all of the dogs. 

In fact, in some of these affected dogs, taurine blood levels were normal, but they still were being diagnosed with this disease. The concern is that these diets may be inhibiting taurine from being absorbed, and therefore supplementing with taurine doesn’t work in these cases. My mom recommends a diet change for any dog on a grain-free diet.

Research Findings

I like to hear what experts have to say about it, so I had my mom find me some statistics to back this up: 

According to a recent article published by Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, “There is suspicion that the disease is associated with eating boutique or grain-free diets, with some of the dogs improving when their diets are changed. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine and veterinary cardiologists are currently investigating this issue.”

A recent article from Clinician’s Brief stated, “In July of 2018, the US FDA released a notice regarding reports from veterinary cardiologists of suspected diet-associated DCM in dogs not typically predisposed to DCM. Since then, the FDA has released an additional update on their investigation, reporting over 300 dogs with suspected diet-associated DCM as of November 2018.”

Additional Research Links

Additional research supports this suspicion. You can check out the following articles to learn more:

Symptoms of DCM

The following symptoms are sometimes associated with nutritional DCM, referring to cases where the cause of the disease is directly related to the canine’s diet:

  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Excessive panting when not exercising
  • Inability to get comfortable, restless changes in position
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
  • Collapse

*As with any disease, a pet with DCM may show many symptoms, few symptoms, or none of the above.

Preventing Nutritional DCM

If I didn’t know better, I’d be really worried about this disease, and wonder if there is anything that can be done to prevent it. But, my mom said there are a few ways that pet owners can help ensure they’re buying the best food for their animals, and to prevent nutritional-related DCM.

Healthy Pet Food

1. Buy from Brands that Invest in Nutritional Research. 

My mom says that the best way to prevent nutritional DCM is “to buy your food from a company that has shown a commitment to doing regular nutritional research.” She said to avoid smaller, boutique brands that don’t have the resources to invest in nutritional research.

2. Look for Evidence of AAFCO Feeding Trials.

Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) feeding trials ensure a food product has been analyzed in its final form, rather than simply assuming its nutritional effect based on the ingredients and recipe. If it isn’t noted on the food packaging, my mom said you can contact the manufacturer to confirm whether the brand meets AAFCO nutrient profiles.

3. Avoid Exotic Ingredients.

My mom also said to avoid pet foods which list the following as the main ingredient: peas, lentils, fava beans, tapioca, barley, chickpeas, and other legume seeds. She said it’s also a good idea to avoid pet foods which include exotic ingredients, such as kangaroo, duck, buffalo, bison, or venison.

4. Avoid Grain-Free Diets.

And last but not least, my mom and other vets said that grain-free foods should be avoided altogether due to their potential to cause nutritional DCM.

Helpful Links & Tools

I found this great tool that helps summarize how to choose the best food for your pet. Take a look. 

I also sniffed upon another great link with common FAQS, here. 

WSAVA Recommendations

Four U.S. pet food brands that WSAVA recommends based on the company’s responses to the questions above include:

  1. Royal Canin
  2. Science Diet
  3. Purina (most formulas)
  4. Eukanuba

I personally (canine-ly) like Royal Canin the best. It tastes good and gives me everything I need to be healthy. But, any brand recommended by WSAVA is okay, according to my mom.

What if My Dog is Eating a Boutique or Grain-free Diet?

I asked my mom what she recommends to dog parents currently feeding their dogs boutique or grain-free diets. She said: 

  1. Talk to your veterinarian about how to choose the right food for your pet.
  2. Test your dog’s blood and plasma for taurine levels at UC Davis Lab.
  3. Report it to the FDA. Did you know that the FDA may be able to help with testing costs for your dog? Plus, it could help to identify and solve the issue, and potentially take harmful products off the market. That would be great for me and my 4-legged friends!
  4. Change your dog’s diet to a well-known, reputable company that contains standard ingredients (chicken, beef, rice, corn, wheat). Your vet may also recommend supplementation. 
  5. See a Cardiologist. Remember; your dog’s taurine level may be normal and his/her heart may still be affected by this diet. 

Even after taking the steps above, it may take some time for any improvements in the disease to show. And, unfortunately, there are no guarantees that these efforts will completely solve the issue. Your dog may need regular monitoring and additional heart medications as well.

Want to keep up to date on the latest information? Monitor and follow Acupetvet on Facebook. As new information comes in, my mom and I will keep you updated on the latest news and best recommendations. Or, contact us directly for a nutrition consult, here.

“If I would have recommended it for my own pet, why would I not offer it to my patients? It’s a great tool to help control pain, and other ailments in pets.” ~ Dr. Tasha Wilson

acupuncturecatIn 2016, my mom (Dr. Wilson) became certified in Medical Acupuncture at Colorado State University. This evidence-based modality allows her to provide adjunctive therapies to pet patients like me. I know the needles look a little frightening, but there’s no need to worry. It doesn’t hurt. I can barely even feel it! The needles are actually as thin as hair.

Sometimes I even fall asleep while she is giving me treatment because I am so relaxed. Plus, those little needles are very helpful for pets who have injuries and/or diseases that cause them pain.

What is Acupuncture?

So, you might be wondering, what is this strange treatment, called acupuncture? The “official” definition of acupuncture is that it is a therapeutic treatment method that involves the insertion of sterile needles to prevent and treat injuries and disease. But, how does it work? And, why would a pet like me need to have it? 

Traditional Vs. Western Acupuncture

Let me start by explaining the two main ways of using acupuncture:

  • Traditional / Chinese / Eastern Acupuncture

Acupuncture originated in China long, long ago. Traditional / Chinese / eastern acupuncture focuses on restoring a patient’s energy flow, called qi, but it is pronounced, “chee”. Here’s a more scientific explanation, according to John Hopkins Medicine

“Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe the human body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points connected by pathways or meridians. These pathways create an energy flow (Qi, pronounced “chee”) through the body that is responsible for overall health. Disruption of the energy flow can cause disease. By applying acupuncture to certain points, it is thought to improve the flow of Qi, thereby improving health.” 

  • Western / Medical Acupuncture 

Western/medical acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese acupuncture, but it is a more contemporary, evidence-based version of the practice. It uses our current knowledge of anatomy and physiology and how it relates the disease to establish the points used in treatment. With western/medical acupuncture, a diagnosis is established first, and acupuncture is used as one method of treatment.

Which is Better?

My mom says that neither practice is necessarily better than the other. She said that many practitioners use a combination of both when treating a patient. She cited an article from Mosher Health, which stated, “We need both western and Chinese medicine. The sooner we integrate both into a universal approach to healing and treatment, the healthier and wiser we will all be.” I agree!

What are Acupuncture Points?

Scientists and researchers say that acupuncture points can stimulate the central nervous system. As a result, chemicals are released into the body’s muscles, spinal cord, and brain, which is believed to restore the body’s natural healing abilities, helping to restore physical and emotional health. which helps to increase physical and emotional health. This is true for both humans and pets, like my BFF, Hazel, and I.

Each acupuncture point corresponds to a particular area of the body. So, if a dog like me is feeling pain in his/her foot, there is a spot on the body where, if one or more of those tiny needles is placed, it can help me (or you!) feel better.

When choosing points for acupuncture, my mom says she looks at the disease process and thinks, 

“What nerves and blood vessels go to that area, such as the hips, or to a specific organ? I want to increase blood flow, and decrease inflammation. What can I do to decrease the muscle tension in that area? What area can I target to counteract the heightened nerve response that is occurring right now?” 

Then, she targets the specific acupuncture points that work with those particular nerve pathways and with those specific blood vessels. Pretty cool, right?

How Does Acupuncture Help?

Acupuncture does many great things for your body – whether you’re a human, like my mom, or a pet, like me. 

  • It decreases pain. 

One of the most common uses of acupuncture is pain management. If your pet is experiencing pain due to surgery, injury, or chronic disease, your veterinarian may recommend acupuncture to help with the pain. Why? Because acupuncture helps to stimulate the natural production of substances in the body that decrease pain. 

For example, cytokines are proteins secreted by the immune system. Certain cytokines promote an inflammatory response, and acupuncture reduces the cytokines that increase inflammation. It also increases those that inhibit inflammation, activating a natural way the body can decrease pain, and helping to get the nervous system back on track.

When an animal like me has chronic pain, the nerves start becoming dysfunctional and don’t work as they should. When the nerves aren’t working properly, they can become “ramped up”, and even when the painful stimulus is gone, the animal may still feel the same amount of pain. Acupuncture helps to “unwind” the nervous system and release muscle tension, so the animal’s pain level is better controlled and the nervous system becomes “more normal”. 

For best results, my mom says acupuncture is often used in combination with other types of treatments to decrease pain in pets. 

  • It can help improve cartilage health.

Acupuncture helps to release various growth factors, including but not limited to ones that help cartilage become healthy again. There is a lot of data showing that once cartilage is dead (which can happen in joint disease), it will never be healthy again. However, my mom said there are more and more studies (like this one) showing that acupuncture can actually help with that. 

  • It helps to release anti-inflammatory substances in the body.

According to the following research study, Acupuncture can promote the release of anti-inflammatory and analgesic substances (opioid peptides, adenosine, dopamine, and endogenous Cannabinoids [7–9]) and inhibit the release of proinflammatory factors (5-hydroxytryptamine, histamine, substance P, nerve growth factor, CGRP, and TRPV1 [10–12]) to produce an *analgesic effect.” The word “analgesic” means “acting to relieve pain”, which further supports #1, above.

Again, acupuncture helps facilitate a natural way the body can heal itself.

  • It can help to heal the body in many ways.

Pets with arthritis, hip dysplasia, disc disease, and/or other nerve injuries can benefit greatly from acupuncture. It is often used after an injury is repaired and a pet is going through rehabilitation and helps to improve the healing process.

Acupuncture can also help pets with skin problems like allergic dermatitis and hot spots by increasing circulation in the affected areas, which helps to improve the healing process, and by reducing pain, which minimizes a pet’s tendency to over-groom or itch an affected area.

It can even help with gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and nausea, as increased blood circulation helps to regulate the digestive system. Acupuncture is also known to help animals with respiratory problems like asthma or allergies, due to its anti-inflammatory effects and immune system benefits.

When the body has a disease, such as kidney or heart disease, inflammation occurs as a result. This can cause these diseases to worsen. Acupuncture helps decrease the inflammation secondary to the disease, helping the organs function better. My mom has even seen kidney values decrease with acupuncture! See this study here:

  • There are minimal – if any – side effects.

Dr. Tasha Wilson and DogAside from all of the wonderful things about acupuncture listed above, the thing that I love about acupuncture (and my mom does, too) is that the risk of side effects from properly administered acupuncture are extremely low. When done by a doctor like my mom, with the right training, certification, and experience, most pets won’t feel much at all. Sometimes I feel a tingling sensation, and other pets may feel a slight numbness in the area being treated, but that’s it!

There are many treatments out there for different symptoms, with potential side effects far worse than the initial cause for treatment. Acupuncture is really just about making four-legged creatures like us feel better.

Results & Treatment Length

Dr. Wilson (my mom) starts with a total of 6 sessions to start and then works with the pet parent to determine an ongoing treatment plan if that’s what you and your owner decide. If your pet has chronic problems, the initial frequency of sessions might be higher than others and may be needed for a longer period of time, while temporary or short-term pain or illnesses are likely to be resolved more quickly. It all depends on the pet and their particular symptoms and needs. 

According to Clinician’s Brief,

Patients that are likely to respond favorably to acupuncture usually do so within the first few treatments; however, at first the benefits may last only 1 to 2 days. The goal is to build a cumulative and longer-lasting effect by delivering frequent sessions at the outset. Once a satisfactory level of improvement occurs, the acupuncturist will usually increase the time interval between sessions to that which allows sustained improvement with the fewest treatments.”

Your First Appointment

At your first appointment, Dr. Wilson will discuss your pet’s history and the disease process with you. It’s important to provide her with as much information as possible about what supplements and medications you are taking, along with any past illnesses or injuries. She will also perform myofascial palpation, which helps her to assess trigger points and muscle tension, which she targets during treatment.

Acupuncture is science-based, and Dr. Wilson has read multiple case reports and scientific studies showing the benefits of acupuncture – from the microscopic changes to the changes owners see in their pets. She values integrative medicine. and focuses on the patient as a whole, treating not only the symptoms but the cause. Her end goal is always “making better tomorrows for your pet.”

Pets Dr. Wilson Has Helped

Jenkins A

Because acupuncture can do so many good things for pets like me, I get regular acupuncture treatments. My mom uses it as a preventative treatment for me. It also helps to decrease any muscle tension I get after I’ve been running around like crazy, doing acrobatics with my BFF, Hazel. Plus, it helps keep the cartilage healthy in my knees, which is especially important, since I had a TPLO operation, and my other knee is more prone to cruciate disease because of it.

But, I’m not the only one who has benefited from acupuncture. My mom helps tons of pets feel better. Here are a few of my four-legged friends she has helped:




A dog who was paralyzed and now can walk!

>>Watch the Video (Part 1)

>>Watch the Video (Part 2)




A cat with chronic arthritis that receives regular acupuncture for pain.

>>Read the Article on









A dog with bilateral cruciate disease who benefits from regular acupuncture and rehab.

>>Watch the Video



Schedule an acupuncture consultation with Dr. Wilson today, and get your pet’s tail wagging again!


Your Friends,

Jenkins & Hazel

>>Schedule a Consultation Today


Hi, friends! Today I’m going to tell you about this disease that my mom says I have, called “Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease.” Don’t worry – it sounds worse than it is! But, it does hurt sometimes, which is why I had to have surgery to fix it. I’ll tell you more about how it went, my physical therapy exercises, and more in my next blog!

Why Am I Limping?

My mom first noticed that I was limping in January of 2018. After just one week of acupuncture, my limping decreased and appeared to be stable. On the outside, it looked like a muscle injury, but, since my mom is a vet, she knows that partial cruciate tears (I’ll explain this more, later) can be difficult to identify without sedating and evaluating further. She wasn’t convinced that I was better, and she was right!

7 months later, I started limping on the same leg, and it did not get better as quickly. My mom brought me to Port City Veterinary for a referral with Dr. Bliss, who said that it was likely that I had this disease – Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease. This disease has a long name, so I’ve decided that we’ll call it CrCLD from now on.

About the Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CrCL)

The 2-legged human equivalent of this ligament is called the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (Another long name! Let’s call it the ACL). You’ve probably heard of humans tearing their ACL, and that it doesn’t feel good! That’s because this ligament is a really important one! For 4-legged animals like me, this is one of the most important “stabilizers” inside our back leg knee joints, but my mom says for dogs, this joint is called the “stifle” joint.

I’m told that the CrCL has an important job, which is to prevent forward movement to the tibia (shin), relative to the femur (thigh). When the CrCL is ruptured, the stability of the joint is lost, which means that the tibia can now move forward relative to the femur. I don’t know what all of this means, but I do know that this is not good! This is why my legs hurt sometimes.

Here is a picture of what my knee (stifle) looks like underneath all my fur. The left image is what my knee should look like, but the image on the right is what it actually looks like.


Diagram Key:

  • Blue = cranial cruciate ligament
  • Red = meniscus
  • Green = caudal cruciate

My mom says that a ruptured CrCL is one of the most common reasons for hind limb lameness, pain, and knee arthritis. She gave me a long list of things that can cause this to happen. One of these, a few of these, or all of them combined can lead to the disease:

  1. Aging of the ligament (degeneration)
  2. Obesity
  3. Poor physical condition
  4. Genetics
  5. Conformation (skeletal shape and configuration)
  6. Breed
  7. Trauma (although uncommon)

My mom says it isn’t likely that I woke up one day with the disease. It probably happened over a few months, or maybe even over a few years.

Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (T.P.L.O) Surgery

T.P.L.O. (I like to shorten names if you haven’t figured this out by now!) is a procedure that helps to prevent forward movement to the tibia. It does this by changing the angle of the top of the tibia, which is called the “tibial plateau.” (I know I’m using a lot of big words today! If you have any questions, give my mom a shout!)

The surgery goes something like this:

  1. A saw is used to cut the tibia.
  2. The top of the tibia is rotated to reduce the normal slope so that it is nearly perpendicular to the rest of the tibia.
  3. A plate and screws are used to hold the tibial plateau in its new position.

I’m told there are other ways to treat CrCLD, but that this was the best option for me. I’m very active – I love hiking, running, walking, and swimming, and I weigh around 45 pounds. If I were overweight or not active, then a smaller, different type of surgery might have been a better option. If you have questions about different types of surgeries to treat this disease, just ask my mom!

Rescheduling the Surgery

I was supposed to have surgery in December of 2018, so my mom started rehab therapy with me to help keep my muscle strength in that leg, and also to help with the pain. She says that muscle mass can decrease quickly – sometimes an inch or more in less than a month after an injury!

After a month of rehab therapy, my family saw how well I was doing with rehab and that my pain level was controlled, so they postponed the surgery until the ice and snow were gone. They were worried about me slipping out on the ice and hurting myself after surgery, so they rescheduled the surgery for April.

We made sure my 2 legged brothers and sisters understood the different things they had to do when it came to walking me or letting me out to go to the bathroom. They called it “setting up boundaries.”

One day, I overheard my dad telling my mom how worried he was that I wouldn’t be the same after surgery. I overheard, and it scared me a little, especially since I knew my surgery was happening in a few months. But my mom said she has seen dogs go through this surgery before. She said that many dogs walk better than they did before surgery just a couple of weeks after surgery.

She also said that with rehab it will happen even faster for me and that I’ll have an easier recovery. That made me feel a lot better.

Life After Surgery

I think my family learned a lot about me during this boring waiting time, so now they are better prepared to take care of me after my surgery. I am now out of surgery and undergoing rehab therapy. Stay tuned for photos, videos, and more updates about my rehab and life after the surgery!

Your 4-legged human,



P.S. Although my mom knows a lot about this surgery and has recommended it to many, it was different for her to go through it personally. She now has more tips for owners who are going through and wants to share them with anyone who might need them. Fill out the form below to get access to Dr. Wilson’s tips!

Hi there! Let me introduce myself; my name is Jenkins. I live in my forever home – Acupetvet’s home – after being in a shelter for over a year. But that’s a long story…for another blog! I’ve had a history of being a “nervous Nellie” as some of my 2-legged friends call me. I have not met this Nellie person yet, but she must be really loved, ‘cause I sure am.

My Family

My family feeds me, plays with me, and has even given me a companion named Hazel, who has taught me how to do things I’m not supposed to and get away with it! She’s my soul mate!

Here we are, just being cute.

And here we are cuddling on a sunny afternoon.

Hazel and Jenkins

And here is Hazel, giving me a hug hello!

I am very thankful I have something I can do now on these blustery cold days! I get so bored being cooped up in the house when it is below zero outside. Acupetvet has told me that if her ears are cold, my nose must be, too, and that I could get bitten by a bug called “Frost?” I heard they are worse than fleas. So, I come right in when my mom calls me.

My New Job

Speaking of my mom; she knows I’m bored sometimes, so she thought I should keep busy and start to write a blog. I honestly think this is her way of making me work. After several episodes of vomiting and diagnostics to rule out foreign bodies these past few months, I think my mom is making me earn my keep. I can’t help it that I like to eat things that most of you won’t even point your nose towards. I’m just so curious.

So anyway, I am now the newest employee of Acupetvet and the only 4-legged one at that. Meet Jenkins, (bowing with a top hat) at your service!

Being a Vet’s Pet

I will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about pet care, nutrition, and what it’s like to be a veterinarian’s pet – let’s just say every petting session is a full physical exam! And when I accidentally forget my mom is there, and I “scoot”- oh boy! Let us put that on hold for another story to come. Keep an eye out for “Tails of the anal glands!”

But, seriously, since I am a veterinarian’s dog, I do have a lot of perks, like learning all there is to know about what not to eat – apparently, curtains should not be on the daily menu, though I’m still not sure why not. I also get to test which type of flea preventions taste good, and which ones definitely don’t, which is not as much fun for me. But, I also get to try out different toys and meet all kinds of 2-legged and 4-legged friends.

Acupuncture and Laser Treatments

My favorite part of being a veterinarian’s pet is getting free acupuncture and laser treatments, and I can tell you all about it. I will also take you on my 4-legged adventures and show you what it is like being a 4-legged human…

Your 4-legged human,


P.S. Stay tuned for more blogs. I’ve been tasked with keeping my mom’s readers entertained and educated, so I’ll be doing just that. You can also check out the Acupetvet Facebook page, and send us messages about anything you want to learn more about. My mom has me responding to messages on there as well, and I love it!


Do you have a pet that would benefit from my mom’s services? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Wilson!