Case Study – Tyson’s Nutritional DCM

By: Sara Beth Bordelon, DVM, MS, Diplomate, ACVIM (Cardiology)

We first met sweet Tyson, a 7-year-old male Pitbull, in the Fall of 2018. At that time, he was coughing, breathing fast and was getting worse. He was eating less and less. His vet took X Rays and was worried Tyson might have heart disease and maybe even fluid in the lungs (congestive heart failure). His family was very sad to think their special little man was sick with heart disease. 

Tyson saw Dr. Bordelon at our Northwest Austin location inside of Austin Veterinary Emergency and Specialty. She did an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram) and found a weak and enlarged heart that was failing. Tyson’s disease is called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and he had fluid backing up in his lungs. The fluid build up is called congestive heart failure. 

DCM has many causes including problems in the diet, tick-borne diseases, low thyroid hormone, and it can run in family lines of certain breeds. When we saw Tyson, he was eating a grain-free, boutique diet and that worried us. The FDA started looking into a link between grain-free and boutique diets and DCM in 2018. We still don’t know why but there is a link between grain-free and boutique diets and DCM in some dogs.  There is still a lot of research happening to look at this problem.

The good news is that Dr Bordelon was able to prescribe medicine to help Tyson breath better and want to eat again. We tested him for other causes and those tests were negative. It turns out the diet was probably the culprit for Tyson. We changed his diet to a food that was AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officers) feeding trial approved and is low in legumes and potatoes. We also added the amino acid Taurine, in case that was part of the problem. Tyson did very well on his heart medicines and the new food. At his 6-month recheck, his heart was both smaller and stronger. In a year, his heart was back to normal. Now, almost 2 years after his first visit, he is only on one heart medicine each day. We are super happy that Tyson has done so well. He is the silliest, most wonderful boy!