A commercial grain-free diet does not decrease plasma amino acids and taurine status but increases bile acid excretion when fed to Labrador Retrievers

Renan A. Donadelli, Julia G. Pezzali, Patricia M. Oba, Kelly S. Swanson, Craig Coon, Jessica Varney, Christine Pendlebury, Anna K. Shoveller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Grain-free diets tend to have greater inclusions of pulses in contrast to grain-based diets. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement that grain-free diets may be related to the development of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). However, all dog foods met regulatory minimums for nutrient inclusion recommended by the Association of American Feed Controls Official. In some FDA case reports, but not all, dogs diagnosed with DCM also had low concentrations of plasma or whole blood taurine; thus, we hypothesized that feeding these diets will result in reduced taurine status from baseline measures. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of feeding a grain-free diet to large-breed dogs on taurine status and overall health. Eight Labrador Retrievers (four males and four females; Four Rivers Kennel, MO) were individually housed and fed a commercial complete and balanced grain-free diet (Acana Pork and Squash formula; APS) for 26 wk. Fasted blood samples were collected prior to the start of the trial (baseline; week 0) and at weeks 13 and 26 for analyses of blood chemistry, hematology, plasma amino acids, and whole blood taurine. Urine was collected by free catch at weeks 0 and 26 for taurine and creatinine analyses. Fresh fecal samples were collected at weeks 0 and 26 for bile acid analyses. Data were analyzed using the GLIMMIX procedure with repeated measures in SAS (v. 9.4). Plasma His, Met, Trp, and taurine and whole blood taurine concentrations increased over the course of the study (P < 0.05). Urinary taurine to creatinine ratio was not affected by diet (P > 0.05). Fecal bile acid excretion increased after 26 wk of feeding APS to dogs. Despite the higher fecal excretion of bile acids, plasma and whole blood taurine increased over the 26-wk feeding study. These data suggest that feeding APS, a grain-free diet, over a 26-wk period improved taurine status in Labrador Retrievers and is not the basis for the incidence of DCM for dogs fed APS. Other factors that may contribute to the etiology of DCM should be explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Grain-free dog food
  • Large-breed dogs
  • Pulses
  • Sulfur amino acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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