Taurine in our pet’s foods

Hello!  Today I wanted to address the concern of taurine in our pet’s foods.  There have been a couple of articles going around lately that are really alarming pet owners.  After reading the articles, I have learned quite a bit about taurine and some of the misconceptions around some of the claims.

First, taurine is an amino sulfonic acid that is a required building block of protein.  It is synthesized from the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Dogs should be able to synthesize enough taurine if they are fed adequate protein sources.  This is why taurine has not be generally recognized as a requirement in dog food, and not listed in the nutritional facts on labels.

In the articles recently making the rounds on social media, some of the information is deceptive and misleading.  The research facilities and groups are provided funding by large pet food manufacturers, and many of the declarations are vague or misleading.  Not to downplay the importance of some of the findings, but there is no need for hysteria. This is something to address and remedy if needed on an individual basis. But, it is not a widespread phenomenon that we need to panic over.

Here is some information that may help explain the problems with low taurine. Deficiency of taurine can cause eye disorders and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).  There are many causes of DCM. DCM is usually thought of as an inherited disease. Most dogs with DCM have normal taurine levels.  Other causes of DCM are toxicity with chemotherapy and deficiency of taurine or carnitine. Other diseases that can deplete the body of taurine are: diabetes, cancer, liver, kidney or heart failure, low levels of cysteine and methionine or excessive intake of MSG.  As you see, there are many causes, and even the researchers claim the causes of DCM are linked to a combination of heredity, nutrition and diseases.

Let’s first look at the history of taurine deficiency research:

  • 1987: Veterinarians in School of Veterinary Medicine at University of California, Davis, reported a deficiency of taurine was responsible for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in cats.  Commercial cat food manufacturers adjusted the taurine amounts and DCM in cats almost disappeared.
  • 1990’s:  Certain breeds seemed to have low taurine.  Doberman’s were a result of inherited traits.  Cocker Spaniels with low taurine improved heart function if given taurine supplements.
  • 2003:  Newfoundlands and Golden Retrievers also had low taurine levels, but also heart function improved with taurine supplements.

Recently, these articles have stated that more dogs are having diagnosis of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), and the veterinarian “suspects” it is because of grain free or boutique foods.  I find it interesting that these studies are not more recent, and being referenced at this time.

There is also talk about grain free, or pet foods made with legumes as being a possible cause for low taurine levels in pets with DCM.  Some thoughts may be that some of these foods have a low level of meat protein as well. Or maybe it’s the heat from processing that may be making the levels of taurine lower.  In that case, all kibble would be affected at some level. Some feel it may be the peas or potatoes interfering with the synthesizing of taurine. There is so much speculation, it seems there really is no  conclusive answer. I wonder if that is the purpose, to make people afraid to feed the grain free or foods with peas. They suggest feeding foods with traditional ingredients such as corn, wheat, and not exotic meats will help pets have less CDM.   They consider lamb and salmon to be exotic in the same article.

Interestingly, here are some foods that do not contain taurine:

Dairy products, fruits, vegetables, rice, corn, oatmeal, rye, wheat, barley or sesame seed

Foods high in taurine:

Shellfish (especially scallops, mussels and clams), beef, pork, lamb and poultry dark meat, organ meats (especially heart), sea algae

What can you do if you are worried about taurine levels in your pet?

  • Simply add more foods higher in taurine.
  • Don’t switch your dog food to a grain based diet; continue a grain-free diet.  
  • Add sardines, mussels, fresh meat and organ treats
  • If you cook your meat in water, include the water in the meal because the taurine is water soluble and most likely leached into the water out of the meat
  • Feed fresh meats. The fresher the meat, the more taurine.
  • Don’t worry about freezing your pet’s food, freezing does not affect taurine, but heat does.
  • If cooking, keep the temperature very low at 150-200 degrees if possible.
  • If your veterinarian suggests, you can add a taurine supplement
  • Now that this is in the spotlight, some pet food manufacturers such as Zignature are adding taurine to their products.

Overall, I feel that adding more fresh meat to your pet’s diet is the solution.  By feeding fresh meats, you are also helping decrease other diseases like cancer too. The healthier we feed our pets, the healthier and happier they will be.

Health and Happiness Begin with Food

Feed Healthy. Feed Fresh.  Feed Raw.


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