Taurine has been in the news a lot in the last few years after a link between grain-free diets and heart diseases in dogs became suspected. The suspicion initially was that a lack of taurine, which is an amino acid, in the diets was causing taurine deficiencies in dogs, leading to dilated cardiomyopathy. As time has gone on, the theories surrounding the grain-free diet link to DCM have changed with new information, but it has brought taurine to the forefront of many people’s thoughts when it comes to choosing foods for their dogs. Here’s what you need to know about taurine for dogs and some foods that are great natural taurine sources. So, how Much Taurine Do Dogs Need?
What is Taurine?
There’s not a great straightforward answer to this question because the answer truly is “we don’t know”.
To understand why, you we have to understand what taurine is and does. Taurine is an amino acid, which are considered to be the “building blocks” of proteins. There are 22 amino acids that are needed for the body to perform all proper functions. Of those 22, 12 of them are nonessential amino acids. This doesn’t mean they aren’t necessary, but the body can synthesize these amino acids on its own when needed. The other 10 amino acids are essential amino acids, which means they must be supplemented by the diet for the body to have access to them. The 10 essential amino acids are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Taurine is a nonessential amino acid and can be synthesized by the dog’s body.
How Much Taurine Do Dogs Need?
Here’s where things get tricky, though. Not all dogs are capable of synthesizing the correct amount of taurine, but there isn’t an exact science behind this. Age, breed, and health status all play a part in your dog’s ability to synthesize taurine. Taurine supports cardiac, eye, skin, coat, reproductive, and liver health, as well as the immune system.
Only your dog’s veterinarian can tell you how much taurine your dog needs. They can perform tests to determine if your dog is taurine deficient and make recommendations based on your dog’s current needs. The good news is that you are going to be hard-pressed to overdose your dog on taurine from food sources, so here are some of the natural taurine sources to help ensure your dog’s taurine stores stay where they should.
Fish are one of the best taurine sources for dogs because they tend to be higher in taurine than other meats and they are lean meats that are packed with nutrients and omega fatty acids. Salmon, tuna, sardines, rainbow trout, sea bream, and other cold-water are the best fish picks for taurine sources. Tuna beats out most of the competition with around 332mg per 100g of meat.
Shellfish is a great taurine source for dogs because it is not just rich in taurine, but also tends to be a novel protein for many dogs. This means that it can be beneficial to dogs with allergies to common proteins. Good shellfish options for dogs include oysters, clams, scallops, and mussels.
Taurine content in eggs is controversial as different studies have found varying levels of taurine that seem to be related to the hen’s diet and supplementation, however, eggs are a lean protein that can be exceptionally affordable for many dog owners. Although, whole eggs should not be a primary or daily protein source because whole, raw eggs can lead to a biotin deficiency. Chicken, duck, quail, and goose eggs are all good egg options for dogs, but chicken eggs tend to be the easiest to find and most affordable
Poultry meats like chicken, turkey, and duck are all high in taurine. Dark meat is higher in taurine than white meat, so thighs and drumsticks are better sources of taurine than breasts and wings.
Red meat proteins are also good sources of taurine, including beef, lamb, and pork. These tend to be higher in calories and unhealthy fats than poultry and fish, though, so they should be properly portioned and fed in moderation. Raw lamb muscle meat is one of the highest taurine red meat sources, coming in at 310mg for every 100g of meat.
Organ meat is the nutrient-dense tissue that comprises various organs throughout the body. The best organ meat taurine sources are heart and liver, with chicken liver beating beef liver by around 40mg for every 100g of meat, with chicken liver weighing in around 110mg and beef liver weighing in around 68mg.
Goat’s milk is lower in taurine than the other protein sources discussed here, but it does contain some and tends to be easier for dogs to digest than cow’s milk. However, goat’s milk is high in calories and fat, so it should be fed in moderation. It is packed with probiotics and is often considered to be a food that helps support digestive health, although some dogs may experience stomach upset with goat’s milk.