What Causes Taurine Deficiency In Dogs? – Symptoms, Side Effects & Treatments

When I initially began this blog, while I had definitely bought my fair share of dog treats throughout the course of my life, I had never really paid attention to any type of trends that were occurring in the market of pet food. I’ve observed a significant trend toward grain-free pet meals and treats now that I’ve been much more familiar with the snacks and foods that we feed our dogs now that I’ve gotten much more involved in the subject. Have you taken note of it?

I had always thought that it was just a passing craze, much as how being gluten-free or carb-free is becoming more popular among people these days. Things that occur for people have a tendency to roll over into the business that serves pets because we feel that if something is good for humans, it must also be good for pets.

However, this is not always the case, which is unfortunate. The results of recent studies suggest that grain-free meals and other so-called “trendy” diets for dogs may not be such a good idea after all and could even be harmful to the health of your pet.

Back Story

In order to assist alleviate the symptoms of my eldest cats’ inflammatory bowel condition, I’ve been forced to experiment with a wide variety of foods. The last time I brought Wiley to the veterinarian was a week ago, and while we were there, the veterinarian and I were talking about the various meals I’ve tried to feed him. In the course of our chat, we ended up talking about grain-free diets for cats.

Since I had my dog with me, the topic of grain-free foods for canines came up naturally during our conversation. What she had to tell me was incredibly intriguing, and it is well worth your time to read on if you are planning to provide a diet devoid of grains to your dog in the near future. This information may also be useful to you if you give your dog a raw diet, a vegan or vegetarian diet, or a “boutique” dog food. All of these diets are examples of alternative feeding methods.

What’s the Problem?

As it turns out, research is revealing that grain-free dog diets, boutique foods, and foods created with what people believe to be “strange” ingredients may be lacking in an amino acid called taurine. This is a concern since taurine is necessary for proper muscle function. When dogs consume these foods over a period of time, they acquire a taurine deficit, which leads to an increase in the number of dogs getting a cardiac ailment known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), which may lead to congestive heart failure.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

DCM is a disorder of the heart muscle that causes the heart to have weak contractions and inadequate pumping power. This illness is caused by diabetes cardiomyopathy (DCM). The condition, over time, will cause the chambers of the heart to grow stretched out and larger. It is possible that one or more of the heart valves may start to leak, leading to the development of indications of congestive heart failure.

What Is Taurine?

There are some essential amino acids that are required in the diets of cats and dogs, just as there are essential amino acids required in the diets of humans. The amino acid taurine is one of those available.

In point of fact, taurine is an amino acid that contains sulfur, despite the fact that most of the time it is only referred to as an amino acid. Taurine is essential to maintaining healthy heart and eye function, in addition to its involvement in the metabolism of lipids, which is an important metabolic process. According to Pet M.D., taurine also plays a significant role in the reproductive and digestive systems.

Cats and Taurine

It wasn’t until the 1990s that researchers were able to figure out why so many cats were suddenly acquiring serious visual issues and why so many were also suddenly passing away from idiopathic DCM.


They discovered that a taurine shortage was the root cause of many disorders that were affecting cats. Due to the fact that cats are unable to create taurine in their bodies from other amino acids, those cats that lacked it were at risk of developing feline central retinal degeneration (CRD) and/or dilated cardiomyopathy.

In modern veterinary practice, taurine is considered an essential or required amino acid for cats (it is essential that it be added to their diet).

After the baking and processing parts of the food manufacturing process, modern “complete and balanced” cat meals have the amino acid taurine added to them as a supplement. Because of this, quality foods available today, including grain-free feeds, should contain enough levels of taurine for your cat to consume as part of their diet. However, I would still keep a close watch on the less expensive goods and read the labels!

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require that extruded (dry) cat food that is designated as “complete and balanced” have 0.10 percent taurine, while they recommend that canned cat food contain 0.20 percent taurine.

Dogs and Taurine

In contrast to cats, dogs are able to synthesize their own taurine from several other amino acids found in their bodies. Because of this, it is not considered an essential amino acid for dogs and is thus not needed to be included in the diets of dogs who eat commercially prepared dog food. This indicates that the regulations do not instruct makers of pet food how much taurine, if any at all, should be added to dog food. There is not a bare minimum standard that manufacturers are required to adhere to.

It has been discovered that a lack of taurine is present in many dogs as a result of certain baking, cooking, and/or processing techniques, as well as the consumption of raw, vegetarian, or specialized dog meals that are inadequate. This is more prone to occur in some breeds, including Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, and American Cocker Spaniels.

Studies are demonstrating that there are probable dietary variables related with the taurine shortage in dogs. Some of these dietary factors include dogs who consume rice, lamb, high-fiber, and/or very low meat protein diets. Other dietary factors include extremely low meat protein diets. This may be due to the methods of preparation and/or processing that were utilized, or it may be due to the fact that many dog foods contain meat by-products, rice, legumes, and soy, all of which are not sources of good meat proteins or any meat protein at all, which means that they are not good sources of taurine.

Lamb Meal and Rice Diets

According to recent studies, Newfoundlands, Golden retrievers, and other giant breed dogs are more likely to suffer from taurine deficiency, and this is especially true if they are fed a commercially available diet that is predominately made up of lamb meal, rice, or both of these foods as primary ingredients (Sanderson, S., 2017).

The explanation as to why the researchers believe that diets high in lamb meal and rice are connected with an elevated risk of taurine deficit and DCM is quite lengthy and specific.

Taurine Naturally in Foods

Taurine is found in greater quantities in muscle meats; the more the amount of work that the muscles perform, the higher the taurine content. Taurine is found in relatively high concentrations in the dark flesh of chicken and turkey. Due to the fact that the heart is the muscle in the body that does the most effort, it naturally carries a lot of taurine.

Taurine may also be found in extremely high concentrations in shellfish, white fish, and fish that live in cold water, such as salmon or sardines.

There is no taurine to be found in fresh produce, including fruits and vegetables, rice, maize, oats, rye, wheat, or barley.

Why is Taurine Missing?

Taurine, along with other amino acids that are included in the components that are used to manufacture pet food, is often broken down during the cooking and processing steps, and as a result, it is either not accessible for metabolism or is not detectable by it. The exposure of amino acids to heat when they are being stored or transported might potentially hasten their decomposition.

In addition, rice and proteins derived from plants are not very useful sources of taurine because of their low levels. If your dog’s food contains a significant amount of these sorts of ingredients, it is quite probable that your dog is not receiving the adequate amount of taurine it needs to maintain a healthy body.

Manufacturers are replacing grains with other ingredients such as chickpeas, lentils, and soy protein because grain-free products are becoming more popular. These meals do not contain the nutrient taurine, which is necessary for maintaining healthy health.

Symptoms of DCM

DVM, Ernest Ward notes that DCM “may have a rapid start of clinical indications,” despite the fact that the heart disease has been gradually and covertly progressing. Only a few hours may be all that it takes for some dogs to develop severe congestive heart failure (CHF).

According to PetMD, the following are some of the key signs of dilated cardiomyopathy:

  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • rapid and excessive breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing
  • abdominal distention
  • transient loss of consciousness

What to Do?

Considering that Simba is a Golden Retriever and that she has been following a diet that excludes grains for some time, all of this information has given me some cause for concern.

Make an appointment with the veterinarian who treats your dog if you are concerned that he or she may be suffering from a taurine shortage. When you walk in for your appointment, you should make sure to express your worries and also bring a bag of your dog’s food (if it is simple enough to carry) or seek for a very nice photo of the back of the bag and bring it with you on your phone for the veterinarian to view.

If your veterinarian has reason to think that your dog has DCM or a taurine shortage, testing may be performed to investigate. After the tests have been completed, the results will direct you in the most effective method to proceed with making your dog healthy again.

Once a taurine shortage has been identified, the good news is that the adverse consequences may often be reversed by supplementing with taurine.

However, the first thing you should do is look at the food that you are giving your dog, figure out whether there is a chance that your dog is lacking taurine, and take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

One thing is certain, and that is the fact that a taurine shortage may have a great deal of negative effects: research hasn’t been able to properly nail down 100 percent of the reason why dogs can have a shortfall in taurine. Be conscious of what you give your dog to eat, and if the bag does not inform you how much taurine is in the food, you should ASK about it.

I hope that today brings everyone joy, good health, and enough of taurine.

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