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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice June 2019 Issue

Dear Doctor: Lack of selenium in grain-free diets?

Q. I know that selenium deficiency can be a rare cause of cardiomyopathy in people. I’m wondering if too little selenium could also be contributing to the new cases of cardiomyopathy in dogs that have been linked to grain-free diets. I know there has been a lot of talk about a deficiency of the amino acid taurine, but maybe it’s too little of the mineral selenium that’s causing the problem. Do you think that could be the case?

Dale Meyer

Mercer Island, Washington

Dear Ms. Meyer,

A. Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the Food and Drug Administration believes that the potential association between diet and the outbreak of cardiomyopathy seen in dogs (called dilated cardiomyopathy) is a complex problem that may involve multiple factors. That is why “ all possible causes of diet-associated cardiomyopathy are being investigated,” says Lisa Freeman, DVM, a veterinary nutrition researcher at Tufts who has been at the forefront of the investigation. Indeed, the FDA, in collaboration with veterinary researchers, has been testing various dog foods not just for the mineral selenium but also other minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc.

They are hard at work on this. It is believed that cases of dilated cardiomyopathy associated with dog food have been underreported, and all concerned want to get to the bottom of the problem.

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