The Showcase Magazine - Articles

What’s for Dinner?

By Mary Lou Hanlon

If you are like most animal owners, you want the very best for your dog and that includes the food you are feeding him. Long gone are the days when “Ken-L Ration” was introduced in 1922, whose main ingredient was horsemeat which at that time was an acceptable ingredient source. Thankfully times have changed evidenced by the many brands and varieties of dog food lining the shelves of your local pet store. While the choices are abundant this has created a great amount of confusion amongst the general pet dog owning population.

Grain-free dog foods have increased in popularity. I suspect that this happened mainly for the following reasons. 1. Some of the grains used were just inexpensive fillers with no nutritional value. 2. Some dogs started to show allergic reactions that were linked to grains. 3. In 2007 there was a documented pet food contamination of wheat gluten with melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastic. This tragic situation caused thousands of pets to become ill and many died of kidney failure.

To add to the confusion, lately there has been a lot of speculation that grain-free dog foods can be making our dogs sick. A condition known as canine dilated cardiomyopathy, (DCM) which is a disease of the cardiac muscle and oftentimes fatal was being seen more. The underlying cause of DCM is taurine deficiency. There are some breeds that have a predisposition to the disease, but it started cropping up in other breeds. To figure out why there seemed to be some link to grain-free foods.

Dogs make their own taurine, but it is dependent on the dog getting the proper amino acids from animal protein to be able to make the taurine. What seems to be at issue here is not that the diet is grain-free but that the nutrient profile in the grain-free food has the types of nutrients to make taurine. So, if a certain grain-free food gets most of its protein from plants, i.e. legumes and potatoes, and not from animal protein it may not have enough of the precursor amino acids to make taurine and therefor the diet may be deficient.

Do your research. Just because the manufacture says it is a good food and is in a pretty package you should know what is in your dog’s food. As with all health issues regarding your pets consult with your veterinarian. If a taurine deficiency is suspected there is a blood test that can be performed to determine if your dog’s taurine levels are enough. Let’s all do our best to keep our best friends healthy!

Mary Lou Hanlon is a longtime resident of Warren and is the owner of PetMinders, Inc, The Kennel Alternative. PetMinders has been providing professional pet sitting and dog training lessons in the privacy of clients homes for over 18 years. Mary Lou is one of the nation's top agility competitors. She has competed both nationally and internationally and has received numerous awards in both dog obedience and agility. She can be reached at 908-755-PETS (7387), via email at or visit the website