Taurine is one of 20 amino acids present in the body that is necessary for the body to function properly. Taurine is used for many functions, and is present in greatest concentrations in the heart wall muscles, brain and retina. Dogs, unlike cats, can manufacture taurine on their own, however, some dogs still develop taurine deficiencies. Even dogs who are not deficient in taurine may benefit from supplementation.
Reasons for Deficiencies
Some breeds are more prone to taurine deficiency than others. American cocker spaniels, Saint Bernards and some other giant breeds, as well as Labrador and golden retrievers all have a higher risk of developing taurine deficiencies than other breeds. Certain health conditions, such as dilated cardiomyopathy and cystinuria are related to taurine deficiencies and benefit from supplementation. There are also some diets, which may make a dog more prone to taurine deficiency, particularly if he is one of the breeds predisposed to deficiency. Diets that are low in protein and high in fiber, as well as lamb and rice diets, may not provide sufficient taurine for some dogs.
Problems With Dilated Cardiomyopathy
A dog suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart, may benefit from taurine supplementation even if he is not deficient in the amino acid. Symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy include loss of appetite, lethargy, shortness of breath, rapid or excessive breathing, distended abdomen, coughing and sporadic loss of consciousness. Because the heart is pumping inefficiently, fluid accumulates in the lungs, and the dog can develop congestive heart failure. In addition to taurine supplements, your veterinarian also may prescribe a variety of medications to ease the symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy.
Cystinuria is a genetic disease of the urinary tract. Dogs with cystinuria develop kidney, ureter and bladder stones. A taurine deficiency does not cause this illness, however, dogs with cystinuria excrete an elevated amount of cystine, which is a precursor amino acid, necessary for taurine synthesis. For this reason, dogs with cystinuria often suffer from taurine deficiencies and can benefit from supplementation.
Effective Supplementation of Taurine
Providing taurine supplements can benefit your dog, particularly if he suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy. Talk with your veterinarian to develop a plan for supplementation. He may recommend supplementing taurine for a short period of time, or as a lifelong addition to your dog's diet. The supplement industry is not well-regulated, so it is important to buy taurine supplements from a company with high quality control standards. Look for brands with the US Dietary Supplement Verification Program stamp on the packaging.
- Pet MD: Taurine Deficiency in Dogs
- Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine: Important Nutrients For Pets With Heart Disease
- Pet MD: Enlarged Heart (Digital Cardiomyopathy) in Dogs
- National Institutes of Health: Evaluation of Urinary Carnitine and Taurine Excretion in 5 Cystinuric Dogs With Carnitine and Taurine Deficiency