Last Updated: March 3, 2022 by Lisa Melillo
Choosing a dog food that has all the necessary nutrients to make your pup happy and healthy is quite a challenge. At times, you might wonder if your dog is getting everything he needs from his daily kibble, or whether you should introduce a supplement with additional vitamins and nutrients.
Taurine is one such nutrient that many pet owners hear about often as being essential to overall canine health. But what exactly is taurine, and does your dog need more of it in their diet?
What is taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid that is found in the muscles, heart, brain, and eyes of both humans and dogs. One of 20 total amino acids found in dogs, it’s an essential building block of proteins and therefore indispensable to normal function. Taurine is naturally produced by the body, but is also found in certain foods and is available as a supplement.
Why do dogs need taurine?
Taurine is essential to many important bodily functions, including nervous system function, digestion, and regulation of antioxidants, electrolytes, and calcium. While most healthy dogs are able to produce all the taurine they need, some may benefit from a taurine supplement.
This is especially true if they have certain medical conditions, eat specific types of diets, or belong to a breed that is known for being susceptible to taurine deficiency and/or canine dilated cardiomyopathy. These breeds include Cocker Spaniels and giant breeds like Great Danes.
Symptoms of low taurine in dogs
While taurine deficiency on its own doesn’t instantly cause issues, the medical conditions that can result from low taurine levels over time certainly do. Here are a few of the major symptoms to look out for that could point to taurine deficiency:
- Pain or difficulty urinating
- Discolored urine
- Excessive panting, collapsing, or fainting
- Tenderness in the pelvic or abdominal region
- Change in sight, blindness
Taurine deficiency is also linked to canine dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM. This heart disease affects the heart’s ability to pump blood and may lead to increased heart rate, arrhythmia, weakness, and fainting. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from DCM, schedule an urgent appointment with your veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.
What is the proper amount of taurine in a dog’s diet?
Unlike cats, most dogs naturally produce the amount of taurine they need for regular healthy function and don’t need a supplement. As a result, it’s not usually added to dog foods.
However, if taurine deficiency is suspected to be the cause of one or more medical conditions, supplemental taurine may be appropriate. A qualified veterinarian can determine if and how much taurine should be given, either by feeding taurine-supplemented food or by purchasing a separate taurine capsule.
Are certain dog foods at risk of being low in taurine?
While studies into this topic are still ongoing, it’s generally thought that certain types of dog food are low in taurine or can increase some dogs’ chances of developing a health condition related to taurine deficiency.
According to Tufts, the dog foods that are most often linked to low taurine are those that are advertised as grain-free or that contain exotic ingredients like kangaroo or lentils.
Another particular study found lower blood taurine concentrations in dogs that had been fed diets with a main protein source of lamb.
Note that you’ll find taurine listed as an added ingredient in some dog food recipes. However, it’s not a required ingredient per the strict standards set by the Food and Drug Administration. Still, some pet food manufacturers include it, especially if they produce a type of food that has been linked to potential taurine deficiency.
Should pet owners give a taurine supplement?
If your dog is normal and healthy, he probably doesn’t need a taurine supplement. But there are certain health conditions and predispositions that have been shown to benefit from a taurine supplement. Dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy, for example, demonstrated improved cardiac function and blood taurine concentration after being given a taurine supplement in one study.
We also know that certain breeds are susceptible to low taurine levels. A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine came to the conclusion that Cocker Spaniels with dilated cardiomyopathy who were given taurine and carnitine supplements could expect to live months or even years longer with the condition than those who took a placebo.
Best Taurine Supplements for your Dog
If your dog is suspected of being taurine deficient, supplements are the most reliable way to introduce additional taurine to the diet in a controlled manner. Our pet experts have carefully reviewed many of the taurine supplements available for purchase and found three top recommendations for your pet.
Vet Recommended Beef Heart Jerky
We love Vet Recommended Beef Heart Jerky because it doubles as both a taurine supplement and a tasty treat for your pup. These non-GMO beef jerky bites are high in protein but contain no grains, gluten, or preservatives. In fact, there’s only one ingredient: beef heart, which is known for its high taurine content.
VetriScience Laboratories Cardio Strength
For a supplement with more complete cardiovascular support, try VetriScience Laboratories Cardio Strength. In addition to 250 mg of taurine in each capsule, this supplement contains a full spectrum of additional ingredients like L-carnitine, folic acid, and magnesium. The brand recommend this supplement for senior dogs and any dog with impaired cardiovascular function or susceptibility to heart disease. It’s taken in a bite-sized chew form.
- Cardio Strength is designed to support heart muscles, reduce oxidative stress, and support cardiovascular...
- Cardio Strength combines the synergistic effects of 11 ingredients that are vital for elderly dogs and...
- VetriScience Cardio Strength is formulated under the supervision of our veterinary review board to ensure...
Nutrition Strength Cardio Support Plus Antioxidants
If taurine isn’t your only concern related to your dog’s health, why not try a more complete supplement? Essentially a multivitamin for dogs, Nutrition Strength Cardio Support Plus Antioxidants has it all. It contains taurine, L-carnitine, coenzyme Q-10, vitamin E, and many other minerals and antioxidants. They’re all included in one chicken-flavored chew that your dog will gladly take without a struggle.
- Premium cardio support for dogs supplement: 365 day guarantee; if you are not happy with our cardio...
- Effective cardiovascular support supplement for dogs, which provides L carnitine, L taurine, coenzyme Q10...
- Promote cardiovascular health for dogs: Nutrition Strength's cardio support for dogs plus antioxidant is...