Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Taurine Deficency in Dogs

Taurine is an amino acid that is vitally important to a mammal's body function. It helps regulate heart beat, maintains stability of cell membranes, transports calcium in and out of cells, regulates the activity of brain cells, facilitates the absorption of fats/ fat-soluble vitamins and is an antioxidant. Most humans and canines can manufacture taurine through the body unless there is a medical or genetic condition. Cats cannot and some dogs, particularly large breeds, have trouble producing taurine making them susceptible to deficiency.

Before WWII, pet food was 90% canned and made of mostly meat. Once war hit, the metal used for canning was needed by the military. Dry kibble became the #1 pet food. Gradually, over time, the pet food industry started to cut corners and introduced more and more grain to their product. A diet rich in taurine comes from eggs, dairy, fish and red meat. Cereal grains contain no taurine. Deficiency of this amino acid is a slow progression and could take months or years to become noticeable, and by the 1970's veterinarians were finding that an increasing amount of cats were dying of heart failure from dilated cardiomyopathy. Many felines were also becoming blind. After ten years of research, they finally traced these deaths to a deficiency in taurine. Soon after, pet food manufacturers started adding this amino acid back into cat food. But, not necessarily dog food.

Since some dogs can produce taurine and some cannot, research on the importance of taurine for dogs is not as complete as it is for felines. Modern day research is agreeing that owners need to become aware of this deficiency and the repercussions of a diet low in Taurine. As stated above, deficiency is a slow progression and could take months or years to become noticeable. When buying your dog food, please check the proportion of meat vs. grain and opt for a high protein food. Cat food is supplemented with taurine, dog food is not as reliable. Always check the label to see if this supplement is added. If not, consult your veterinarian about supplementing it back into the food.

Lastly, as Fido's parent, you should become aware of symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy:

If your dog is displaying these symptoms, please take them to the vet! This blog entry is not intended to scare the pants off of you. It is merely to educate on the importance of what you feed your four-legged friend.

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