Effect of non-traditional vs traditional diets on Irish wolfhounds' heart health


Findings reveal Irish wolfhounds eating nontraditional diets had significantly more VPCs compared to dogs eating traditional diets

Mikkel Bigandt / stock.adobe.com

Mikkel Bigandt / stock.adobe.com

Recent research has revealed healthy dogs eating nontraditional diets (NTDs) have lower indices of systolic function, larger left ventricular volumes,1 and more ventricular premature complexes (VPCs)2 compared to dogs eating traditional diets (TDs). At the 2023 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine forum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lily Coppinger, DVM, fourth year veterinary students at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, presented a poster that addressed if these findings rang true specifically for Irish wolfhounds.3

In the study,3 researchers compared electrocardiographic and echocardiographic findings between Irish wolfhounds eating NTDs and TDs. They looked at 148 Irish wolfhounds that had an echocardiography performed at dog shows between 2018 to 2020. The dogs’ demographic information, echocardiographic measurements, cardiac rhythm (from a rhythm strip), and main diet (ie, that offering each dog’s main source of calories) were collected. NTDs were those including any pulses in the top 10 ingredients and TDs were those with no pulses in the top 10 ingredients.3

There was a total of 96 eligible dogs as some were excluded due to pre-existing heart disease (n=12), raw or homemade diet (n=28), and unknown diet (n=9). Thirty-five of the Irish wolfhounds were eating NTDs (median pulse score=42 [range, 16-104]) and 61 were eating TDs (median pulse score=0 [range, 0-11]; P< 0.001). No notable difference in age, sex, or body condition score was reported. There were no significant differences in echocardiographic measurements between the 2 diet groups. Researchers did find, though, that 6/35 dogs eating NTDs (17%) had VPCs compared to 1/61 dogs eating TDs (2%; P=0.009).3

Like an earlier study2 that focused on 4 dog breeds, including Doberman pinschers, golden retrievers, miniature schnauzers, and whippets, Irish wolfhounds eating NTDs had considerably more VPCs compared to dogs eating TDs. This indicates a NTD can present an issue for a broader range of dogs and may help guide veterinarians and nutritionists when advising pet owners on proper diets. Further research is needed in why NTDs are associated with more VPCs.


  1. Owens EJ, LeBlanc NL, Freeman LM, Scollan KF. Comparison of echocardiographic measurements and cardiac biomarkers in healthy dogs eating nontraditional or traditional diets. J Vet Intern Med. 2023;37(1):37-46. doi: 10.1111/jvim.16606
  2. Adin D, Freeman L, Stepien R, et al. Effect of type of diet on blood and plasma taurine concentrations, cardiac biomarkers, and echocardiograms in 4 dog breeds. J Vet Intern Med. 2021;35(2):771-779. doi: 10.1111/jvim.16075
  3. Comparison of electrocardiographic and echocardiographic findings in Irish wolfhounds eating non-traditional or traditional diets. Presented at: American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) forum; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. June 14-16, 2023.
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