There has been a lot of articles, discussions and questions about taurine and dogs in the last year. Let’s take a look at taurine, what is it, what it does, what foods contain taurine, and is your dog getting enough its diet?
What is Taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid. Amino acids are the ‘building blocks’ of proteins. While taurine is a non-essential amino acid, it is more of a ‘conditionally’ essential amino acid that is ESSENTIAL to our health. While humans and dogs can make smaller amounts of taurine in their bodies, it is not enough, so we have to get the additional taurine we need from the food in our diet. This smaller amount is synthesized endogenously in the liver from methionine and cysteine, which are two other amino acids. Not all proteins are equal and taurine is found mainly in animal-based proteins. Some plant proteins contain methionine and cysteine and can produce smaller amounts of taurine. Science has shown as humans and dogs age, we have less ability to make taurine in our bodies. This is why senior dogs need MORE animal-based protein.
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What does Taurine do?
Taurine is thought to help with insulin regulation which is helpful for those with, or prone to, diabetes. It can reverse some cardiac issues, help with renal disease, reduce seizures in some cases, help with fatty liver disease, and appears to help with fat burning and weight loss. The more important of these for dogs, is that it helps with heart health and integrity, and can help prevent some renal disease and deterioration. It is also important for liver health as it helps reverse fatty liver.
It has also shown to help prevent retinal damage and helps with problems of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) for both dogs and people.
Symptoms of taurine deficiency in dogs include:
- Excessive panting when not exercising
- Collapsing or fainting
- Blood in the urine
- Pain during urination
- Generalized pelvic and abdominal pain
- Moderate to severe blindness
What Food Sources contain Taurine that are best for my Dog?
Scallops and Mussels contain the highest amount of Taurine, but neither of these food sources are sensible or economical to include in your dog’s diet. The next highest meats for Taurine are dark meat turkey and chicken, followed by Pork, Lamb and Beef. Milk and milk products (yogurt, cottage cheese) are relatively low in Taurine and eggs, while they are abundant in all other amino acids, they contain very little taurine.
For more information on taurine amounts, check out this link:
It is also important to know that cooking foods reduces the amount of taurine, but it also depends on the amount of water used when cooking. Fried and baked meat retained more taurine. If you are cooking your dog’s food, I would advise keeping any meat juices and liquid as most of the lost taurine will be in the juices. Because high temperature cooking destroys most of the amino acids, if you do feed a dry dog food, I suggest adding some fresh meat to their diet, either lightly cooked or raw.
Are There Foods That Can Block Taurine in the Body?
The honest answer is, yes and no. There are no specific foods that block the uptake of taurine – at least from what is known to date – but certain foods CAN stop taurine from being absorbed due to fiber content. Dogs have a short and simple digestive tract and it is not designed to ferment food. In dogs, food stays in the stomach a long time and then shoots through the intestines quickly. In people, it is the opposite. Food remains in the stomach for a short time and then lingers in our complex intestinal tract for a much longer period of time. Food in both species – humans and dogs – processes and break down food in the stomach, and then the results are sent to the small intestine to absorb the nutrients. Dogs labor with fiber and it can block important nutrients from being absorbed. Some foods, especially grains, legumes and spinach contain high amounts of phytates. Phytic acid can block iron, zinc and calcium from being absorbed. This may also affect taurine, but more research is needed. Since dry dog food needs about 40% of these carbohydrates to maintain shelf life, I would be particularly concerned if that many carbohydrates were in my dog’s diet. Again, I would substitute some of the commercial food with fresh dark meat turkey, chicken, pork, beef or lamb to reduce the amount of carbohydrates and to insure more Taurine is added to the diet. In the 60’s and early 70’s many dogs suffered zinc deficiencies due to high phytate containing foods in dog food. (See chapter History of Dog Food, “Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs”.
How Do I Know if My Dog’s Diet has Enough Taurine?
If you suspect your dog may be low in taurine (see symptoms above), your veterinarian can check for a deficiency with a blood test. I would advise this if you recognize any symptoms in your dog that were listed above. Otherwise, I would suggest that you feed your dog a diet that is rich in taurine. How can you do that?
If you are feeding a raw or home-cooked diet, make sure you rotate proteins – at least 4 different proteins a week – and be sure to use dark meat turkey or chicken, pork, beef and lamb. I mentioned earlier that dairy products and eggs contain very little taurine, but they are still good to add because they contain other good and important nutrients. If you cook your dog’s diet, keep the juices and try baking the meat rather than cooking with water (crock pot or boiling).
If you do feed a commercial dog food, whether it is canned or kibble, I would suggest substituting some of the commercial food with whole animal-based proteins such as dark meat turkey or chicken, beef, pork or lamb to insure enough taurine is getting into your dog’s diet. Avoid legumes, peas, spinach and high amounts of grains as these block the uptake of important minerals.
You can also add taurine to your dog’s diet, and also more importantly, to your cats diet. B-Naturals is about to add a Taurine supplement to their website, so stay posted! It is a powder form and mixes easily with any food type. You can’t really overdose with taurine. It is safe to add to any diet and helps the liver, eyes and heart, and helps with glucose maintenance for diabetes.
If your dog has heart issues, I recommend adding these supplements:
- Acetyl L-Carnitine
- COQ10 at 3 mgs per pound of body weight
- Fish oil capsules at one per 20 pounds of body weight
- Berte’s Immune Blend
We are coming into the heat of summer!
Please keep your dogs cool!
Watch their feet on hot pavement as they can blister easily!
And keep them indoors during Firework season!
Melatonin, Adaptil collars and Thunder Shirts can help with anxious or nervous dogs.
Happy 4th of July to my American Friends! Enjoy these lovely summer days with your dogs!