To survive and thrive in the outdoors, your canine friend needs several nutrients. One of these important nutrients is taurine for dogs. Taurine is one of the most essential nutrients which help keep several abnormalities and diseases at bay.
The benefits of taurine for dogs are countless and include:
- the regulation of the dog’s blood flow,
- the improvement of brain health by generating new cells,
- the promotion of cardiovascular health, and
- the strengthening of muscle functions.
Keeping all the positives in mind, it’s great to include taurine in your dog’s diet. However, its deficiency can lead to several complications. In case any symptom related to taurine deficiency shows up, you should pay the vet a visit. With that said, taurine deficiency in dogs is managed with dietary changes and supplementation.
Want to know more about taurine, the symptoms of its deficiency, and treatment? Let’s answer these very questions next!
What is Taurine for Dogs?
Taurine is an amino acid that is naturally found in the dog’s body. Amino acids act as the building block for body proteins. They also play a vital part in managing bodily functions.
For humans, there are more than 20 amino acids in the body that make up proteins. However, for all species, there are two categories of amino acids:
- Essential amino acids
- Non-essential amino acids
The body produces non-essential amino acids on its own; hence the name. However, essential amino acids are not produced naturally. Such amino acids are either taken through supplements or are added to the diet.
Taurine is a conditional essential amino acid for humans and a non-essential amino acid for dogs. In dogs, methionine and cysteine, are the two amino acids that produce taurine.
However, some dog breeds are incapable of producing taurine on their own. In such cases, taurine is either added through a specialized diet or supplementation. Most animal proteins are perfect ingredients to add to the diet. Not only are they rich in taurine, but they can also balance the nutritional intake.
As discussed, amino acids are quite essential for the body to operate smoothly. If these acids are not found in recommended doses, their deficiency causes diseases which can lead to a number of painful conditions.
The eyes, brain, heart, and bloodstream of dogs carry taurine in abundance. So, these bodily organs are the first to show symptoms in case of a deficiency.
Do Dogs Need Taurine?
Taurine is an important nutrient in the dog’s body. Although they can produce taurine on their own, it is important to keep check of your dogs taurine levels over time.
Taurine for dogs helps keep bodily functions in check and avoids getting dangerous conditions. It helps the heart, brain cell development, strengthens reproductive organs, and a number of other systems.
Here’s a list of the benefits of taurine for dogs.
Improves Heart Conditions
Taurine is a non-essential amino acid. Other than protein-building, it is also linked with improvement in heart conditions. Taurine regulates blood flow throughout the dog’s body and ensures stronger heart walls.
In most heart conditions, the walls of the arteries weaken. It can cause critical heart diseases to develop over time. Taurine boosts cardiac functions and reduces issues in the arteries.
Its deficiency in dogs could lead to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). It’s a condition where the heart pumps less blood. The condition usually causes a decrease in metabolism and blood flow.
Helps in Brain Development
Taurine also helps in the development of healthier brain cells. This amino acid helps in reproducing healthier neurons in the brain. It also saves the cells from damage because of aging.
This way, the cells don’t cause brain inflammation in older dogs. Apart from that, taurine supplementation also regulates electrolytes in cells. This allows the brain to send signals to the body without disruption.
Helps in Retinal Function
Taurine is also abundant in the retina of a dog’s eyes. It helps in improving the quality of vision, strengthens the cells of the retina, and keeps retinal functions working smoothly.
Taurine for dogs also reduces the pressure on your dog’s eye lens. Research also suggests that it delays the formation of cataracts. Both of these ultimately help your dog’s vision and improve the retinal function.
In some cases of deficiency, the cells in the retina fail to function. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a disease in dogs that causes the retina’s primary cells to fail. This often means blindness or blurred vision for a dog.
Improves Reproductive Health
Nutrition plays an important role in the reproductive health of dogs. Bodily cells in your dog store taurine and fatty acids like Omega-3. These acids are responsible for stronger cells. This, in turn, ensures healthy eggs and sperms in the dam and sire.
Taurine is quite beneficial for the female dog’s uterus. It helps keep the reproductive tract safe and sound. Other than helping with fertility, it also helps in the movement of the sperm cells. Taurine can also help protect them from damage.
Risks of Low Taurine in Dogs
Taurine is synthesized naturally in a dog’s body. However, genetic conditions in dogs can lead to taurine deficiency. In such cases, the body stops making this amino acid naturally.
Here’s a list of dog breeds with a predisposition for taurine deficiency:
- American Cocker Spaniel
- English Setter
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Saint Bernard
If your pup is mentioned in the list, your pup might have low taurine levels. In such cases, you’ll need to add taurine to your dog’s diet.
Moreover, a dog’s size also plays a role in taurine production. Larger breeds have slower metabolism rates. This slow rate also naturally affects a dog’s taurine synthesis. So, for such dogs, you’ll have to keep a close eye on their taurine levels.
If your dog’s taurine intake is always below the recommended level, deficiency can be a concern. In most cases, there are no visible symptoms of taurine deficiency in dogs.
However, almost all such cases are linked to diseases related to the eyes, brain, or heart. A condition called cardiomyopathy is the most common symptom. It causes the dog’s heart to enlarge.
It also affects the metabolism of your dog. An enlarged heart might cause less blood to travel through the body. Because of this, your dog can feel weaker.
A deficiency also affects a dog’s eyes. It is because taurine is stored in large amounts in the eye. In severe cases, it can also mean blindness for your dog.
Weakness is one of the common symptoms of a taurine deficiency. Panting, laziness and fainting are usually associated with weakness in dogs.
If your pup is acting lazy unusually, you should consult a vet. If your playful dog doesn’t respond to physical activities, that could be a concern too.
The earlier you diagnose, the better. This can truly help your pup battle the condition in the early stages. It’s the only way your pup can live a healthy, happy life.
Reduced taurine levels can cause loss of metabolism. Low metabolism means weakness for your dog. However, the opposite is true as well. If your dog has a slow metabolism, the taurine synthesis will be much slower. This can cause a deficiency to develop.
However, weakness is a vague symptom. It can be caused by different diseases. Most vets usually carry out a series of tests to diagnose the cause.
Mostly, weakness is caused by metabolism syndrome. In this condition, the body fails to produce the required amount of energy. It can also be due to a heart condition.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a heart condition in which the heart enlarges. Because of that, the heart walls get thinner and cause weakness to develop.
The heart loses its ability to pump blood throughout the body. Since the blood isn’t passed, it stays back in the heart. It causes more discomfort to the dog. As a result, the heart expands irregularly and causes congestion. Since the blood flow is compromised, the condition causes the metabolism to decrease.
The symptoms of DCM often depend on the breed of the dog as well as the stage of the condition. However, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Breathing issues
- Fainting or collapsing
Vets usually revert to taurine deficiency as the cause of DCM when the dog’s breed isn’t typical to contract the disease. In such cases, the vets usually run a few blood tests to determine the cause. Once confirmed, the disease might be treated with taurine supplementation.
In such cases, the vets usually run a few blood tests to determine the cause. Once confirmed, the disease might be treated with taurine supplementation.
Cocker Spaniels are the most susceptible to taurine responsive DCM. In severe cases, taurine dog seizures are also possible.
Although taurine deficiency is one cause for DCM; the definitive cause for the condition is still debatable. Factors like nutritional intake, infections, and genetic predispositions also play a vital role.
As we’ve already mentioned, the retina in your dog’s eyes needs taurine to function. In the case of low taurine levels, the retina doesn’t function. As a result, the most important cells of the eyes die.
Retinal degeneration causes the dog to lose vision over time. If the cause is, in fact, taurine deficiency, the vet might prescribe supplements to counter the condition. If the condition is not critical, it can take weeks before the signs begin to appear.
A taurine deficiency can also cause urination problems in dogs. Diseases like cystinuria can develop with time if proper treatment is not received.
Cystinuria is a painful condition where the body fails to absorb amino acids. In this condition, the body, without absorbing the nutrients, passes them to the urine. However, the acids don’t pass through. They form stones which are stored in the kidneys.
Until the kidney stones are removed surgically or are passed in the urine, they’re quite painful for the dog. However, we recommend that you consult a vet on this one. A proper diagnosis can help identify the root cause of the condition.
Where Can My Dog Get Taurine?
As discussed before, most dog breeds synthesize taurine naturally. However, these breeds are generally predisposed to a taurine deficiency:
- American Cocker Spaniel
- English Setter
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Saint Bernard
So, if your pup belongs to one of these breeds: you should add the amino acid to your dog’s diet. These breeds often produce a very low amount of taurine. This makes them prone to deficiencies.
In response to the question, “what is a good source of taurine for dogs”, here are two common sources:
You can balance the intake of taurine by changing your dog’s diet. Dogs with a genetic predisposition might need a specialized diet to avoid deficiency.
Look for some of the best dog food with taurine. This would allow you to easily add taurine in your furry friend’s diet. However, the answer to the question, “how much taurine should be in dog food”, depends on your dog’s current taurine levels.
Generally, animal-based proteins are the richest in the said amino acid. Also, taurine in eggs is an amazing treat for your pup. However, low-protein (includes lamb) and high-fiber diets are not healthy options for taurine deficient dogs.
In case dietary changes don’t yield a significant improvement in your dog, you can shift to supplements. In most taurine deficiency cases, the supplements are continued lifelong unless advised otherwise.
However, you should always consult with a vet before going with taurine supplements for dogs. The vet can specify foods or recommend best dog supplements for heart diseases and taurine intake as well.
Taurine for Dogs – FAQ
Most people ask about foods high in taurine or how much taurine to include in their dog’s diet. Well, the next part of our discussion covers the answers to these questions and more.
Here’s a list of some of the most commonly asked questions related to taurine for dogs:
Are Older Dogs More Prone to Taurine Deficiency?
Yes, older dogs are more prone to taurine deficiency as compared to young pups. Taurine synthesizes in dogs naturally. Hence, most young dogs don’t require supplements. However, the same is not true for older dogs.
Aging can affect the natural production of taurine. As discussed above, low metabolism in older dogs can decrease taurine production. If the dog doesn’t take supplements, then taurine deficiency symptoms can appear.
To keep your dog safe, you should get regular checkups. Blood tests and radiographs can help eliminate a possible deficiency as well. Vets usually suggest supplement intake for senior dogs or when the taurine levels are not satisfactory.
Is Too Much Taurine Bad for My Dog?
Taurine, just like any other nutrient, should be balanced in the diet. However, there are no harmful taurine side effects in dogs.
The major problem with taurine in dogs is its deficiency. Most people don’t feed the recommended intake of taurine which causes a deficiency. Keeping that in mind, a higher intake will not hurt your dog’s health.
However, you should always consult your vet about your dog’s taurine intake to be on the safe side. Vets usually perform blood tests in order to determine if your pup is deficient or not.
Can Physical Activities Help My Dog Produce Taurine Naturally?
Most breeds are capable of synthesizing taurine naturally without any special dietary or physical requirements. Keeping that in mind, physical activities don’t play an important role in a dog’s taurine production. However, physical activity can help keep other diseases away.
Exercise is a great way to keep your dog healthy and safe. Cardio-intensive exercises help avoid heart diseases like cardiomyopathy. If your dog isn’t that active, you can still get toys to keep your dog occupied.
Is Taurine Essential In My Dog's Diet?
Taurine is a non-essential amino acid that regulates bodily functions and is distributed throughout the body. However, it is not necessary for you to add the nutrient in your dog’s diet. Because, in most dog breeds, taurine synthesizes naturally.
However, if your dog is showing symptoms like excessive breathing, panting, or coughing, it could be due to a deficiency. If your dog is older or sick, then you might want to add taurine in its diet.
What Are The Symptoms of Taurine Deficiency?
Taurine deficiency doesn’t have visible symptoms. However, it can cause heart diseases like cardiomyopathy, eyesight issues, and more. Here’s a list of some of the most common symptoms of taurine deficiency:
- Excessive breathing
- Painful urination
- Blurred vision or blindness
- Abdominal pain
- Lethargy or laziness
You should consult with your vet if you observe any of these symptoms. In case of a deficiency, your vet will suggest a specialized diet that will improve your dog’s condition.