With all the questions and concerns about grain-based dog food today, one nutrient at the forefront of pet owners minds is taurine. This amino acid naturally found in meat products are manufactured in the body but are also added to dog foods in order to maximize health benefits. The older idea that a pet would produce enough taurine for optimum well-being is no longer supported by science. What does this mean for you as a pet owner?
What Is Taurine and What Does It Do?
Amino acids including taurine are the building blocks of protein, which is an essential nutrient frequently found in meat, eggs, fish, and some plant-based foods. There are 20 amino acids essential for protein synthesis. Many of them are made in the body, while others only come from diet or supplementation. When it comes to taurine, it straddles the line between being naturally produced and supplemental.
Despite its questionable status, it is an important component of dog health and optimized metabolism. It helps with the digestion of fats, heart and lung function, muscle growth and repair, and several other systemic or cellular processes.
How Can You Make Sure Your Dog Gets Enough Taurine?
When it comes to feeding your dog a healthy diet, sufficient taurine is necessary especially for breeds that are not as capable of making their own as others. The Food and Drug Administration found decades ago that dogs who did not receive sufficient taurine often developed dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), which is a potentially serious heart problem. This coincided with the rise in high-grain kibble diets.
The easiest way to make sure your dog gets enough taurine is to feed them meat-based canned food along with dry food that has a greater percentage of animal products instead of grain, legumes, or vegetables. Any type of meat will suffice, including chicken, lamb, bison, fish, venison, or beef. Organ meats are especially rich in taurine and many other healthy nutrients. It is also possible to find dog food with supplemental taurine added.
It may not be enough to choose a low-grain or grain-free kibble. In many cases, low-nutrition alternatives like tapioca or potatoes now stand in for the grains. These do not have taurine either.
If you currently feed your dog a diet mostly comprised of dry kibble, check the ingredients closely to see what percentage of the recipe is meat or from other animal products. Also look at the ingredient list to determine if taurine is added in any way. While it is true that some dogs develop sufficient taurine for themselves, the sulfuric amino acids frequently added to dry dog food may not be enough for yours.
To optimize health throughout your canine friend's life, ensure optimum levels of taurine by including a lot of meat and organs in their regular diet. While dogs get plenty of nutrients from plants, and are true omnivores, plant-based proteins do not deliver suitable levels of taurine.