Taurine is an amino acid found only in animal-based proteins. While it is an essential amino acid for cats that must be provided in their food as pure taurine, dogs are able to generate this amino acid from other amino acids. Therefore, it is found in much smaller levels in commercial dog food. Unless Fido is genetically predisposed to taurine deficiency, the taurine that comes in commercial dog food should be sufficient.
A Little on Taurine
Taurine is an amino acid responsible for retinal and heart health. In cats, a deficiency can lead to retinal degeneration and dilated cardiomyopathy or weakening heart muscles. Often disregarded as a cause of the same in dogs, a study conducted at the University of Califonia's School of Veterinary Medicine found a taurine-deficient diet may in fact cause the same problems.
The Right Amount of Taurine
Because taurine is not an essential amino acid for dogs and is not generally associated with canine health concerns, a recommended dietary value is not suggested for healthy pups. On average, taurine makes up about 0.13 percent of dry food matter; the amount is double that in cat foods.
Breed Susceptibility to Taurine Deficiency
Cardiomyopathy has been noted in certain breeds, and taurine supplementation suggested as a treatment option. Dr. Cheryl Yuill notes in a report on the VCA Animal Hospitals website that American cocker spaniels, golden retrievers and Newfoundland dogs are among the breeds predisposed to taurine deficiency. In these cases, the body cannot efficiently produce taurine from the other amino acids. A veterinarian can determine an appropriate supplement and dosage that will cause few to no side effects, such as possible upset stomach, and will help repair damage and prevent further disease progression.
As a water-soluble amino acid, taurine cannot cause overdose in either cats or dogs, as any excess will be excreted by the body. That being said, as Dr. Miller noted in her report, taurine deficiency is relatively rare among canines. Therefore, supplementation of the taurine found in commercial dog foods should not be necessary in otherwise healthy animals unless directed by a veterinarian.
Working with both small animals and exotics, Pamela Meadors has devoted more than 15 years to the veterinary field. She possesses a bachelor's degree in biological sciences and is the proud mom of a blind hedgehog.