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The other day I was doing a Facebook Live with my friend, Dr. Laurie Coger, when someone watching mentioned that raw goat's milk is a great source for taurine. How did I forget this? After that moment, I started thinking about other sources of taurine because I mostly focus on dark meat and nothing more. So here are 10 sources of taurine for dogs.
What is Taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in humans, in fact, most mammals produce taurine naturally, with the exception of cats which need taurine in their diet (obligate carnivores).
So, if dogs create their own taurine, why are we having such a debate over taurine, DCM, and grain-free diets?
Because, as I understand it, many processed diets include ingredients (e.g. legumes) that act as anti-nutrients and block the absorption of taurine, which is said to be a contributing factor in heart disease in some dogs.
Why Dogs Need Taurine in Their Diet
Taurine assists several systems in the body, including eyes, heart, and the immune system. When a dog's system is low in taurine, then the heart becomes weaker and isn't able to pump blood through the system effectively.
Other benefits of taurine include:
- Neurological development, including supporting the central nervous system and eyes.
- Regulates level of water and minerals in the blood
- Antioxidant properties
- Forming bile salts (important part of digestion)
- Prevent muscle degeneration
- Prevent arrhythmias
Are Raw Fed Dogs at Risk for DCM?
Absolutely! It's comforting to think that once we transition our dogs to a raw food diet, then we've done the work and now our dogs will live until the ripe old age of 35, but switching our dogs' diet is just the beginning.
1 – Our dogs need to be fed a NUTRITIOUS raw food diet. A diet that is lacking in essential nutrients isn't going to cut it, especially as those deficiencies accumulate over time.
Dogs fed a plant-based diet are prone to taurine deficiencies without supplementation because this is not an amino acid found in plants. And dogs fed a cooked diet may need supplementation as cooking reduces (not eliminates) the amount of taurine and other nutrients.
What about freezing raw meat over time?
I've been told that after about three months, nutrients in raw meat begin to break down but not by enough to cause concern. If a dog is a breed that struggles with taurine production (or a pet parent is simply being cautious), I was told to mix new meat with older (frozen) meat when doing meal prep.
2 – Our dogs need regular, daily exercise. Maggie, the longest living dog that died in 2016 at 30 years, ran more than 12 miles daily on her farm. She kept her human company as he worked their property. Source: PetSnacks.com – How One Farmer Added 15 Years to His Dog's Life
3 – We have to take into account genetics when considering the health and longevity of our dogs. Some breeds require taurine supplementation and large breed dogs produce taurine at a slower rate than small dogs.
10 Sources of Taurine for Dogs
There are many natural sources of taurine, the following foods contain the highest amounts according to the National Institutes of Health that I feed to my dogs.
- Raw Goat's Milk / Kefir
- Turkey (dark meat – things, drumsticks)
- Pork Loin and Picnic Ham
- Organ Meat (chicken liver, beef liver, beef heart)
- Lamb (dark meat)
- White Fish
Another food that is high in taurine, but didn't make my list is chicken (dark meat); I don't feed chicken to my dogs due to sensitivities. Another food that I expected to be at the top of my list is eggs. I was surprised to learn that this may be a misconception. According to the Whole Dog Journal, “eggs are high in methionine and cysteine (taurine’s precursors) but have little taurine.”
Sources for This Blog Post…
Because taurine, grain-free, and DCM are hot topics, I want to include the resources that helped me write this blog post:
- The Great Grain-Free Taurine Debate, HowlToTheChief.com
- What Is Taurine? Benefits, Side Effects and More, Healthline.com
- The potential protective effects of taurine on coronary heart disease, National Institutes of Health
- July 2018 Statement made by Answers Pet Food on Facebook
- Diet, Dogs, and DCM, Whole Dog Journal
- Review of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in the wake of diet-associated concerns, Oxford Academic Journal of Animal Science
- Research compiling 150+ studies finds no conclusive link between grain-free diets, DCM in dogs, PetFoodProcessing.net