Pet owners warn of dog food linked to heart disease

WICHITA, Kan. (CNN/KWCH) - The Food and Drug Administration wants pet owners to be aware of what's in their dog's food and how it could impact their pet's health.

This week, the FDA released its third report in the investigation, which includes 16 pet food brands linked to more than 500 cases of canine heart disease.

Those brands include Blue Buffalo, Natural Balance, Nutro and Rachel Ray Nutrish.

Maymee Zahn says she gives her five-year-old German Shepard Bear more than thirty pills total - all for good reason.

Bear is one of the hundreds of dogs across the country dealing with Dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that can lead to congestive heart failure in dogs.

Only this illness came from an unexpected place.

"The vet we go to did an x-ray on his lungs and his heart and said "okay, what kind of food is your dog on and she wanted to know if it was grain free and it is, " Zahn said.

Zahn says they had switched Bear's food to a grain free recipe to help with allergies. She says she thought it was the best move for her dog and a healthier option.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 16 brands of grain free dog food have been linked to causing DCM in dogs. Zahn says she has seen research saying more than sixty dogs have died after eating the same food as Bear.

Since they discovered the problem in May, life has been different for Bear. He was trained as a search and rescue dog, something he can no longer do.

"No running-- so obviously no search and rescue because it is a fast paced activity. he can't fetch, so his limitations are long walks and playing catch," Zahn said.

Bear goes to a cardiologist in Overland Park, one of only two in the state who can help him, costs that add up

"Since we caught it in May, about a month and a half ago has cost us almost $4,000."

Zahn says every penny is worth it.

"DCM can reverse itself and that is what they are hoping for," Zahn said. "She encourages other owners to keep a close eye on their pets and to make the switch."

"You are the only voice for your dog, you have to speak up for them," Zahn said.

The FDA is asking pet owners and veterinarians to report any cases of canine heart disease.