The Link Between Instinct Dog Food and Heart Disease in Dogs: What Pet Owners Should Know


As responsible pet owners, we strive to provide the best nutrition for our furry friends. With countless brands and varieties of dog food available on the market today, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. However, recent concerns have emerged regarding a potential link between certain dog food products, such as Instinct Dog Food, and heart disease in dogs. In this article, we will delve into this issue and shed light on what pet owners should know.

Understanding Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a serious heart condition that affects dogs. It primarily occurs when the heart muscle weakens, leading to an enlarged heart that struggles to pump blood efficiently throughout the body. This ultimately results in poor oxygenation and circulation to various organs, potentially leading to life-threatening consequences.

Historically, DCM has been linked to specific dog breeds with genetic predispositions; however, recent reports suggest a possible association between certain types of dog food and this condition.

Instinct Dog Food: An Overview

Instinct Dog Food is produced by Nature’s Variety Inc., a company that emphasizes providing natural and raw food options for pets. Their philosophy revolves around mimicking an ancestral diet that consists mainly of high-quality protein sources like meat or fish along with fruits, vegetables, and other beneficial ingredients.

The Connection between Instinct Dog Food and DCM

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) first raised concerns about potential links between grain-free dog foods containing legumes or potatoes as main ingredients and DCM in July 2018. Since then, numerous cases of DCM have been reported by veterinarians across the country involving dogs that were regularly fed with these types of products.

Although there is ongoing research investigating this matter further, initial findings indicate a correlation between grain-free dog foods, including Instinct Dog Food, and instances of DCM. According to the FDA’s update in June 2019, many reported cases involved diets that contained peas, lentils, chickpeas, or potatoes as primary ingredients.

However, it is important to note that a direct causative relationship between these ingredients and DCM has not yet been definitively established. Many factors could contribute to the development of heart disease in dogs, including genetics, underlying health conditions, and even individual variations in metabolism.

The Role of Taurine

One potential factor contributing to the association between certain dog food products and DCM is a deficiency in taurine—a vital amino acid for dogs’ cardiovascular health. While taurine is naturally synthesized by most mammals, including humans and dogs, some breeds have a higher need for dietary sources of this amino acid.

Certain legumes and potatoes used as main ingredients in grain-free dog foods may interfere with taurine absorption or availability. This interference could potentially increase the risk of taurine deficiency in dogs consuming these diets regularly. However, more research is needed to establish a clear link between specific ingredients and taurine deficiency-related DCM.

Guidance for Pet Owners

If you are currently feeding your dog Instinct Dog Food or any other grain-free diet containing similar ingredients mentioned above, there are several steps you can take:

  1. Consult Your Veterinarian: Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your concerns about the potential link between diet and DCM. They can assess your dog’s overall health status and recommend appropriate dietary adjustments if necessary.

  2. Consider Changing Your Dog’s Diet: If you decide to transition your pet away from grain-free formulas like Instinct Dog Food due to personal concerns or veterinarian recommendations, slowly introduce a new diet over several weeks to avoid digestive upset.

  3. Opt for Balanced Diets: Ensure that any alternative diet you choose provides complete and balanced nutrition for your dog’s specific life stage. Look for products that have undergone Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) feeding trials or meet their nutrient profiles.

  4. Monitor Your Dog’s Health: Regularly monitor your dog’s overall well-being, including weight, energy levels, coat condition, and any signs of cardiac issues, such as coughing, shortness of breath, or exercise intolerance. Report any concerning symptoms to your veterinarian promptly.


While the link between Instinct Dog Food and heart disease in dogs is still being investigated, it is crucial for pet owners to stay informed and proactive about their furry companions’ health. By consulting with a veterinarian and making informed dietary choices, you can provide the best possible care and reduce the potential risk associated with certain dog food ingredients. Remember that individual dogs may respond differently to various diets, so it is important to tailor nutritional decisions based on your pet’s unique needs.