As a dog owner, you may have heard talk of grain-free dog food as a potential link to heart disease or dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM.) There are many schools of thought around dog food and nutrition. This includes grain-free diets, raw food, and exotic ingredients. With more and more dog food brands coming available, consumers have more choices than ever about what they feed their dogs.
At the heart of the grain-free discussion is taurine, a unique amino acid found only in animal tissue, that plays a vital role in maintaining cardiac functions in dogs.
As a pet parent, you might have some concerns about your own pup’s risk for developing DCM and want to do everything you can to keep your pup safe. We understand.
Here we will break down everything we know about taurine, and how you can protect your very best friend.
What is Taurine
Taurine is an amino acid, that is found in many foods. If you are thinking it sounds familiar, you might be right if you drink energy drinks like Red Bull. These drinks contain taurine to help boost our energy! This doesn’t mean you should be giving your pup Red Bull! They’ll get taurine from their diet or make it from other sulfuric amino acids.
What does Taurine have to do with my dog’s food?
Your dog’s food is an important source of Taurine. While, as we mentioned some dogs can make it, they may not be able to produce an adequate amount to meet their nutritional needs. That is why they need to be able to get it from their food.
Cat food must have taurine supplemented in quantities established by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Research Council (NRC).
There are currently no stated requirements for supplementing dog food with taurine. The extent to which dogs may require dietary taurine is still under investigation and may be breed dependent.
Taurine levels can be boosted simply by adding (or increasing) meat-based protein in your pet’s diet. Any type of meat will do as long as it’s fresh and good quality (anything you’d be willing to serve on your own dinner table). Organs such as the heart are also high in taurine as well as many other important nutrients. Your pup may find them delicious, and that is great news because they help to keep your pup healthy.
What types of dog foods contain taurine?
In order for dog food to contain enough taurine, it needs to contain meat. Foods made with fillers like corn, wheat, soy, or potatoes tend to have less meat and this means less Taurine.
At Ollie, we work hard to make sure all of our recipes contain adequate levels of taurine for your pup. We do supplement our lamb recipe with additional taurine as lamb is lower in taurine than the other proteins we feature in our recipes (chicken, beef, and turkey).
What health issues are caused by taurine deficiency?
- Heart disease
- Retinal damage
- Urinary issues
- Golden Retrievers
- Cocker Spaniels
- Saint Bernards
- English Setters
- Irish Wolfhounds
- Portuguese Water Dogs
If your pet is presenting with any of these, your vet should test for taurine deficiency. If they are positive, you may need to supplement taurine for your dog. Your vet can help you figure out how much and how often to give taurine depending on your pet's condition.
Can too much taurine be bad for my dog?
Yes, like all nutrients, too much of a good thing can also be dangerous. Talk with your vet about your pet’s diet and make sure they are getting the right amount of taurine, but not more!
Do all dogs need the same amount of Taurine?
This is something that we aren’t entirely sure of. Recently, studies have found a connection between DCM and specific breeds of dogs including:
While research is ongoing, there are theories that the onset of DCM is related to the diet, specifically, grain-free diets. However, the question remains whether the DCM occurs due to an overall lack of taurine in the dog food or other dietary factors that cause problems with taurine digestion, absorption, metabolism, or excretion.
If your pup is among the breeds listed, you will want to continue to communicate proactively with your vet and keep up to date with the research. You should follow the FDA for updates on their research.
While the percentage of dogs who do get DCM is still low, for pet parents who lose their pups to this disease it does not matter, it is devastating.
Ollie works directly with a veterinary nutritionist to evaluate each recipe to ensure they meet the requirements for a balanced diet for dogs of all ages, breeds, and activity levels. We want to assure you that our food is safe for your dog. If you have any additional questions about our fresh food diet, please contact our Canine Care team at any time.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.