Dogs need several essential nutrients in their diet to help them survive and thrive outdoors, and Taurine is one of them. Taurine is essential for dogs because it keeps several diseases and abnormalities at bay, and can help to regulate blood flow, improve brain health, promote heart health, and strengthen their muscle functions.
With all these benefits, it’s clear to see why including taurine in your dog’s diet is great for their long-term health. However, it’s also important to be aware of the complications that it can lead to if your dog is deficient in taurine. If your dog shows any symptoms of taurine deficiency, your first action should be to consult your vet.
Keep reading and we'll unpick everything you need to know about taurine for dogs.
What is Taurine for Dogs?
Taurine is an amino acid that is found naturally in your dog’s body. Amino acids are the building block for body proteins and play a key part in managing bodily functions. All species have both essential and non-essential amino acids – in fact, humans have over twenty amino acids making up proteins in their body.
And though non-essential amino acids are produced by the body on its own, there are essential amino acids which are not produced naturally, and are gained either from a healthy, balanced diet or supplements.
Is Taurine an Essential Amino Acid for Dogs?
Taurine is an essential amino acid for humans, and a non-essential amino acid for dogs. This means that dogs can produce taurine on their own. However, some dogs may be deficient and therefore need a boost to help maintain healthy levels of taurine.
Some breeds of dog actually have an inability to produce taurine on their own, or are more likely to have problems with taurine production. In these cases, taurine needs to be added to their diet through supplements. Because most animal proteins are rich in taurine, they're an ideal way to adding to your dog's diet.
Amino acids are necessary for the body and its functions to operate smoothly. If any amino acids are not present in their recommended doses, deficiencies can lead to diseases which can cause a range of painful health conditions. In dogs, the heart, eyes, brain, and bloodstream carry an abundance of taurine and are usually the first organs where symptoms of deficiency present themselves.
What Does Taurine Do for Dogs?
While dogs are able to produce taurine on their own, it’s crucial to monitor their dog’s taurine levels. Because it helps to keep their bodily functions working correctly and avoid dangerous health conditions, taurine deficiency can cause lasting issues for your dog. It strengthens the reproductive organs, contributes to heart health, aids with brain cell development. And if these essential functions are lacking nutrients, the effects can be both short- and long-term.
Taurine is necessary for the development of your dog's healthy brain cells. The amino acid helps reproduce healthier brain neurons, and saves cells from damage related to ageing. Taurine also prevents cells from causing brain inflammation in older dogs. By supplementing taurine in your dog's diet, it can help to regulate cell electrolytes that allow the brain to send signals throughout the body without disruption.
As well as building proteins, taurine is also linked to the improvement of heart health and heart conditions. Taurine regulates the blood flow throughout your dog’s body, which helps to strengthen the heart’s walls. Many heart conditions weaken the walls of the heart and arteries which can lead to various diseases. So supplementing taurine in your dog's diet can help to prevent and treat these issues.
A deficiency in taurine could also lead to dilated cardiomyopathy. This condition occurs when the heart pumps less blood, which can lead to a decline in blood flow and metabolism.
Nutrition is important for your dog's reproductive health. Since their cells store both taurine and fatty acids like Omega-3, both of which are responsible for strengthening the cells, preventing deficiencies can lead to healthier sperms and eggs.
In female dogs, taurine has a lot of benefits for the uterus. It helps to protect the reproductive tract, can help with fertility, and can help with the movement of sperm cells protecting the sperm from damage.
Eye Health and Function
An abundance of taurine is found in dogs' eyes, specifically in the retina. So when a dog is deficient in taurine, the retinal cells may fail to function. This can lead to a condition that causes the primary cells of the retina to fail, known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This can lead to blurred vision or even blindness, so taurine is essential for your dog's quality of vision, strengthening retina cells, and keeping the retinal functions working as they should.
Taurine also reduces the amount of pressure on the lens of your dog's eye. Some studies even suggest that it can delay cataract formation, ultimately improving retinal function and helping your dog’s vision stay healthy.
Which Dogs are At a Higher Risk of Taurine Deficiency?
Some dog breeds have genetic conditions that can lead to taurine deficiency. English Setters, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands are some of the breeds that tend to be more likely to suffer from taurine deficiency.
The size of your dog can also influence their natural production of taurine. Since larger dog breeds have slower metabolisms, this will naturally have an effect on taurine synthesis.
Owners of dogs more likely to be affected by taurine deficiency might consider adding taurine supplements to their diet, such as Front of the Pack's The One. Taurine is combined with seven other health-giving ingredients to improve your dog's overall health and wellbeing. In The One, taurine provides an antioxidant effect that protects against cellular damage, and has both neuro and cardio protective properties.
Taurine Deficiency – Symptoms to Look Out For
If your dog is not getting the recommended amount of taurine, deficiency could be a cause for concern. However, in the majority of cases, there will be no visible symptoms of taurine deficiency. Usually it is linked with diseases that are related to the brain, eyes, or heart with cardiomyopathy, which causes an enlarged heart, being the most common symptom of taurine deficiency in dogs.
Any dog who is suffering with this condition due to a taurine deficiency will also have an affected metabolism. With less blood travelling through the body, they will likely be weaker. Symptoms affecting the eyes can also be a sign of taurine deficiency because of how much taurine is stored there. Therefore, deficiency can lead to blindness in dogs in severe cases.
Some symptoms of taurine deficiency in dogs to look out for include:
This is usually one of the most common signs that a dog has a taurine deficiency. It may cause the dog to pant, faint, or be generally lazy. If your dog is acting uncharacteristically weak and lazy, it’s important to contact your vet. It may also be a concern if you have a normally playful dog who is not responding to physical activities that they would normally enjoy.
2. Dilated Cardiomyopathy
This is a heart condition that causes enlargement of the heart. It results in the heart walls getting thinner which can make your dog weak. When this occurs, the heart is no longer as able to pump blood throughout the body. When the blood is not moving, it stays back in the heart, which causes discomfort. The heart then expands irregularly, leading to congestion.
The symptoms of this condition can vary depending on the stage of the condition and the breed of dog. Some common symptoms include collapsing or fainting, coughing, weakness, and breathing issues.
3. Painful Urination
Deficiency in taurine can also lead to urination issues with dogs. Over time, diseases like cystinuria can develop if the right treatment is not administered. This is a painful condition where the body does not absorb amino acids. Instead, they are passed through to the urine where they form stones that are stored in the kidneys. Until these are either passed in the urine or surgically removed, they can be quite painful for your dog.
Taurine is essential to the healthy functioning of the retinas. When a dog has low levels of taurine, the retina will not function correctly, which can cause your dog to lose their vision over time if not treated.
What is a Good Source of Taurine for Dogs?
Most dog breeds can naturally produce taurine, and a deficiency is often nothing to worry about. However, if your dog is a breed that is naturally predisposed to a deficiency, or they are showing symptoms, there are several sources of taurine to consider.
You can add different foods to your dog’s diet to improve their taurine intake. Some of the best dog food with taurine will easily bring your dog’s taurine levels back up to normal. Animal-based proteins tend to be rich in protein, and eggs also contain a lot of this essential amino acid.
Supplements like The One can be essential if changing a dog’s diet doesn’t improve taurine levels. Most of the time, your dog will need to take supplements for the rest of their life to maintain healthy amounts of taurine. But, like with all new additions to their diet, you should always consult a vet before giving your dog a taurine supplement.
Most of the time, dogs naturally produce taurine. But being aware of the signs of deficiency and the problems it can cause in some dogs will arm you with the knowledge to keep your dog healthy into old age.