Gourmet dishes with bison, sweet potato and chickpeas may seem like the perfect way for loving dog owners to treat their pets.
But a recent surge in popularity for grain-free pet food may in fact be behind a rise in heart disease in dogs, veterinarians fear.
British food manufacturers have revealed they are concerned that natural health foods may be linked to a potentially fatal canine heart disease after US regulators launched an investigation.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the investigation was prompted by a "highly unusual" number of cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs with diets high in lentils and protein.
Research published earlier this year showed that "natural" pet food now makes up more than a third of the UK’s £940m industry, while grain-free food accounted for 15 per cent, prompting fears British dogs may face similar ailments.
Health-conscious pet owners have taken to giving their dogs meals that resemble their own in the belief they were providing healthy dishes for their pets.
With a rise in paleo-style diets – food plans that mimic ancient diets – dog owners have opted to put their pets on similar diets.
Some manufacturers advertise "wild" foods "based on your pet’s natural diet", with ingredients such as wild boar, smoked trout and even venison.
The UK’s Pet Food Manufacturing Association yesterday confirmed to the Telegraph it is "closely monitoring" the US investigation.
American regulators began investigating a link after vets across the US began reporting a rising number of small dogs suffering from DCM.
America’s largest veterinary cardiology group, the Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates (CVCA), said it has seen a significant rise in recent years.
Dr Steven Rosenthal, a veterinary cardiologist with the CVCA, said a high percentage of the dogs he is treating for DCM are on grain-free diets.
"Along with other veterinary cardiologists around the US we were starting to see a trend of boutique diets," he said.
"There’s been an increase in the availability of different pet foods on the market and our highly dedicated pet owners are seeking out diets that are marketed to be more healthy, grain free, sometimes even vegan diets.
"There’s also a population of pet owners that are feeding their dogs raw food as well. What is the link between the diet is still a question but it’s a concern because we’re seeing this disease in pets that aren’t predisposed to these conditions."
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Dr Rosenthal said a "high percentage" of his patients with the disease were on grain-free diets – with some even being fed on exotic diets of kangaroo and alligator meat.
"I think it has been a trend within people that have diets that are high in grains, specifically corn, potentially are not healthy," he said.
"If they perceive it to be unhealthy for a person, then it’s perceived to be unhealthy for a pet as well, and the dietary needs of a dog and cat are different to the dietary needs of a person."
DCM causes a dog’s heart muscle to enlarge and can often lead to congestive heart failure.
While it is not uncommon in particular breeds of larger dogs such as Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers, it is not usually seen in smaller breeds.
However, the FDA said cases reported to the agency have included Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers.
A spokeswoman for the agency told the Telegraph: "The FDA’s investigation is ongoing. The FDA’s recommendation is for pet owners to consult with their licensed veterinarian about their pet’s diet."
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