Dog food contains many ingredients.
Unfortunately, not all pet owners pay close attention to the specific formulation they feed their pets.
Every pet owner should have a vested interest in what their dog is eating. After all, every ingredient added affects your pet’s health.
What is taurine in dog food, and why is it added to some dog food’s but not in others?
Some pet owners have had this question as they begin to research more about what is most commonly found in dog food.
Others have heard that owners supplement their dogs’ food with taurine to improve their health, and they want to understand why.
Today, we’ll learn more about the amino acid taurine, why it is relevant to dogs, and whether or not you should expect to find it in dog food.
What Is Taurine in Dog Food?
What is taurine in dog food, and why should you be paying attention to it?
Taurine is an amino acid, and both dogs’ and cats’ bodies use this amino acid for their body’s upkeep.
In dogs, taurine can be synthesized when dogs eat two other amino acids—methionine and cysteine.
These two amino acids are found in meat, so most dogs can create their own taurine as long as they get enough meat in their diet.
If a dog isn’t able to create enough taurine to support their body’s systems, there is the potential for health problems.
Additionally, some dog diseases may have taurine deficiency as a contributing factor.
Should Dog Food Have Taurine in It?
If taurine is an amino acid that dogs can make themselves as long as they eat enough meat, is it really necessary to supplement foods with taurine?
Ultimately, it is because taurine creation is not a guarantee for dogs.
Larger breeds are thought to create taurine at slower rates than smaller breeds. Some dogs are genetically disposed to create very limited amounts.
Of course, you can't know this by merely looking at your dog.
For that reason, it’s better to ensure that your pet eats food with enough taurine or with the meat-based amino acids necessary for them to make their own taurine.
The best way to ensure that your pet’s food will support their health is to guarantee it is well-balanced in all amino acids.
Amino acids play a huge role in dog health, so this is a great way to choose your pet’s food.
How Taurine Helps Your Dog
Taurine does a lot for your dog’s body, including:
- Protects the brain
- Helps nerves function
- Protects eyes
- Assists digestion
- Immune function improvements
- Fetal development
More importantly, however, is how much taurine supports healthy heart function. In particular, taurine helps to ensure that the heart muscles stay strong.
Your pet’s heart muscles are very important because they keep the heart pumping strongly and regularly.
Without the right support, your dog’s heart will struggle to remain healthy, and that can lead to serious problems.
Taurine and other amino acids are a big part of all muscle support, and the heart is an essential part of your pet’s body.
Is Taurine Deficiency a Problem?
If your dog does not get enough base amino acids to make taurine, they may see the limited function in some of these systems.
How strong of an effect that would have on your dog’s body would depend on the rest of their diet and their overall health.
It is difficult to say precisely how much of an effect a lack of taurine will have. Still, it is clear that dogs do need to have taurine to be as healthy as possible.
The Taurine Dilemma
In the 1970s, many cats became very ill through cognitive heart failure, and people quickly began to study why.
As pet food shifted from wet food to dry food and dry food companies worked to increase their profit margins, most pet foods had less actual meat in it.
While dogs could still create taurine from the base amino acids found in the meat, cats cannot create taurine on their own.
Without enough taurine, their bodies were suffering and getting ill.
Once this was discovered, cat foods were rebalanced to contain more taurine, and many dog food companies adjusted their formulations, as well.
Since then, the risk of taurine deficiency has remained something that pet owners often worry about.
DCM and It’s Links to Taurine Deficiency
DCM, dilated cardiomyopathy, is a serious condition that can affect both dogs and cats. This disease works against the cardiac muscles and causes several serious problems:
- Reduced energy
- Frequent coughing
- Heavy breathing
- Weak heart muscles
- Heart cannot pump blood efficiently
- Heart chambers may become enlarged
- Heart valves may leak
- Cognitive heart failure can occur
DCM is thought to be a largely hereditary disease, and it is seen most commonly in certain breeds.
As the disease has appeared in a wider range of breeds over the years, however, some are questioning what other causes might be contributing.
It is possible that the diet is a factor that affects whether or not a dog develops DCM. There is some evidence that dogs with taurine deficiency are more apt to develop DCM.
On the flip side, there have also been studies that suggest that taurine supplementation can actually reverse some cases of DCM.
Of course, the science on this is not yet solidified. The relationship between DCM and taurine deficiency is still being studied.
While it is clear that not all cases of DCM can be treated through taurine supplementation, there is also no evidence that taurine will cause additional problems.
How Much Taurine Should Be in Dog Food?
You know that dog food should contain taurine or its base amino acids. How much taurine should be in dog food for it to be effective at helping your dog?
The exact composition that is best for your pet will depend on your dog’s breed, size, and a number of other factors.
Ultimately, most dog foods are not going to list the amount of taurine in them.
Partially, this is because most contain the base amino acids, and then your dog’s body will create the taurine themselves.
For that reason, here’s what you should look for:
- Foods with a good amount of meat content
- Foods that contain fatty meats or fish
- Foods that contain high amounts of omega fatty acids
- Foods that show they are well-balanced in amino acids
By choosing foods that fit these criteria, you will have a better chance of finding a dog food that supports a good amount of taurine creation.
How Much Taurine Does a Dog Need Per Day?
If you aren’t sure that your dog really needs a dog food with a heavy focus on taurine, you can actually work with your vet to determine this.
Through a blood panel, your dog’s taurine levels can be tested.
A vet can take the numbers that come back from bloodwork and let you know whether or not they believe supplementation or new food is necessary.
For dogs with very low taurine levels, supplementing with taurine is the best option.
For dogs with varying or medium levels, changing to a food with well-balanced amino acids should be enough for those levels to improve.
Ultimately, there is some info your vet can give you that you cannot know on your own. Working with a vet to determine your feeding plan can be a great option.
How Do Dogs Get Taurine in Their Diet?
As mentioned, dogs get taurine both directly from the food they eat and indirectly through taurine creation.
Taurine is made from two other amino acids found in most fatty meats, and the dog’s body uses those amino acids to create taurine.
Additionally, some foods contain supplemental taurine.
Some dog owners give their dogs additional taurine supplements that provide them taurine directly.
Since any excess taurine will simply be excreted from the body, there is no risk of overdoing it.
Best Dog Foods With Taurine
You might be wondering what the best dog foods with taurine are, and that can be hard to find out.
Since taurine is still not billed as an essential amino acid for dogs, it is not always included on the label.
If you choose a dog food from the best brands, it should be easier to ensure that your dog is getting the right amino acids.
There are a lot of great dog foods to choose from, too; here are a few of them:
- Blue Buffalo Basics Natural Dog Food: Rich in amino-acids; turkey, great meat source for taurine creation
- Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food for Small Breeds: Contains chicken, a good source of amino acids and fatty omegas
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein: High amount of protein, which leads to more amino acids
Ultimately, there isn’t a single food that’s going to be the best option. This is because taurine is not the only thing that you need to be looking at.
Your dog’s overall diet still needs to be well-balanced and support other things, so keep this in mind when shopping around.
Are Grain-Free Foods Okay?
There has been a lot of talk about the risk of grain-free foods in terms of maintaining a healthy amount of taurine in a dog’s diet.
Since grain-free foods are full of things like peas and potatoes low in amino acids and taurine, some are concerned they could be a problem.
However, such a link has not yet been proven.
As long as the diet has enough meat-based protein sources (not plant-protein, like peas), then your pet should be getting enough amino acids in their diet.
What Foods Are High in Taurine and Pet-Friendly?
In addition to dog food, you can also support your dog with additional sources of taurine.
While there are taurine supplements that can be given to dogs, you can also supplement your pet’s diet with other foods.
Pet-friendly foods high in taurine or other amino acids can be mixed with their dog food for that extra boost.
The best sources of taurine that might be good for your pet include:
- Shellfish: clams, shrimp, oysters, muscles
- Fish: whitefish, tuna, cod
- Meat: organs, dark turkey meat, beef
In most cases, you can feed these things to your pet directly, or you can get treats that are made from these things.
If you’re going to cook the meat before adding it to your pet’s dish, keep one thing in mind: Heat is a big weakness of taurines.
Part of why taurine isn’t already present in high quantities in some dog foods is that the meat is cooked too much.
Heat can destroy the bonds in taurine and render it useless, so you should only lightly cook the meat you feed your dog.
Otherwise, look for another option.
Freeze-dried fish and meat food and snacks are readily available for dogs.
Before using any of these, be sure that supplementing your dog with more protein and calories will be balanced out in the rest of their diet, as well.
It’s important to keep the balance of fats, proteins, and carbs in your pet’s diet in a safe and healthy range.
Should You Feed With Taurine?
Every dog needs to have an appropriate amount of taurine in its body.
Does that mean that every dog needs to be fed food with added taurine or be given taurine supplements?
When it comes to taurine, the key fact is that you, as a pet owner, should be aware of the need of your pet and the risk of a taurine deficiency.
If your pet is not getting enough taurine in its diet, they could develop health problems.
It’s true that the link between taurine deficiency and specific health conditions for dogs is still being studied.
However, there aren’t any known risks to eating a diet with an appropriate amount of taurine.
For that reason, you should keep taurine intake in mind when planning your pet’s diet.
If you need further assistance or clarification about how your dog handles their food and nutrients, talk with your vet about getting their taurine levels tested.