Huck, grain free

Huck, the author’s Airedale terrier mutt, used to be on a grain-free diet, but following a recommendation from his veterinarian, he has switched to a lamb and rice diet. Airedales are one of the breeds that have been associated with higher incidences of dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that is anecdotally connected with grain-free diets.

Imagine this: Your young, otherwise healthy dog slows down while on a hike. He might be short of breath; he might cough or even faint.

Being the concerned pet parent you are, you take the pup to the vet, who listens to the dog’s heart and runs a blood test. The diagnosis? Possible dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that can be genetic in several large dog breeds and often affects older animals.

To find the root cause, the vet asks you a question: What kind of diet is the dog on?

If you answer grain-free food, you may have just found your problem. In the past few years, vets have noticed an anecdotal association between newfangled fad diets and dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs.

“Instead of low-end cheap foods being a health issue, it has become the loving, doting, well-meaning pet parent that is targeted and falls victim to pet food marketing and feeds their pet something too expensive and too rich and unbalanced for optimal health,” said vet Maura Connolly, who owns Victor Veterinary Hospital in Teton Valley, Idaho.

To read more about how fad diets might be bad for dogs, read our Peak Pets section.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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