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Did you catch Rodney Habib's Facebook Live today? It started out talking about grain-free kibble so I was listening, but I was listening while working.
And then I heard raw mentioned and my ears perked up. He stated that if we're storing our raw for more than three months, we're going to see a decline in taurine which has the potential of leading to heart issues in our beloved pets. Before we start freaking out and tossing everything from the freezer, I think it's important to take a step back and think about what this means for our dogs.
Does DIY Raw have a Taurine Deficiency?
I buy raw in bulk and I store my raw for up to a year. Many raw feeders, in an effort to save money, are sourcing much of their raw from people who plan to do a freezer dump (tossing old meat from their freezer).
But…my dog's raw diet is balanced!
Or is it?
To be honest, I don't think any diet is 100% balanced. There is no way to do this unless you are working with a licensed animal nutritionist who is experienced not only in feeding fresh food but is experienced in your dog as well.
Benefits of Taurine for Dogs
I always thought that dogs created their own taurine so we don't have to worry. It was only cats that were at risk. Recently, we've learned that this isn't the case; some dogs with heart conditions and some breeds of dogs may be predisposed to a taurine deficiency. Taurine does a lot of great things for our dogs…
- Helps to build and strengthen the heart muscle
- Prevents muscle degeneration
- Prevents arrhythmias (improper beating of the heart)
- Supports eye/vision health
Signs of a Taurine Deficiency in Dogs
If you're like me, then you may not even know what to look for to know that your dog may be deficient in taurine. While I do know that taurine is primarily for heart health, that's the end of my knowledge; so I read a few articles and found the following signs of a taurine deficiency in dogs.
- Weakness and fatigue
- Fainting or collapsing
- Excessive panting without exercise or extreme heat
- Pain in the abdominal area
- Pain when urinating; blood in the urine
The point on the list that causes concern for me is the excessing panting, something that I experience with Rodrigo. I've seen many raw feeders attribute this to being a “hot dog,” which is a term derived from Chinese Medicine and food energetics. Rodrigo goes in annually for a checkup and senior panel and he's healthy, including his heart, however, this is a reminder that we can't depend on Google to diagnose our dogs. What if he had a heart condition and I was attributing the symptoms to food intolerances?
Foods Rich in Taurine
You may be wondering what supplements you can add to your dog's raw diet to make sure that your dog is getting enough taurine into your dog's raw diet. Before you start shopping for a Taurine supplement on Amazon, I recommend supplementing your dog's diet with the following whole foods. These are foods that you can buy in smaller quantities and add to your dog's diet daily or weekly to up the taurine amounts.
- Raw sardines (or canned sardines, BPA free, no salt added)
- Raw or boiled eggs (the nutritional content doesn't change much when boiled)
You can also find taurine in seaweed, sunflower seeds, and spirulina – the amounts are minimal when compared to animal protein sources. However, after discussions with a fellow raw feeder (thanks, Destiny) and my veterinarian friend (thanks, Laurie), I learned that these food sources may not be enough and I ordered a Taurine supplement for my dogs. Yep, I jumped the gun too; I should have done more homework. My friend, Ronny LeJeune of Perfectly Rawsome, created a taurine chart over on her website and many of the proteins we feed as raw feeders contain ample amount of taurine for our dogs
How Much Taurine Powder for Dogs
The taurine supplement that I ordered IS sourced from China, however, NOW, the brand that I ordered, quality tests each batch in their United States laboratory before using it in their formulations. The product has no other ingredients than taurine. The supplement doesn't contain sugar, salt, starch, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, egg or preservatives, and it's a vegetarian formula.
I read online that the proper dosage of taurine for dogs is 250mg for a small sized dog, 500mg for a medium-sized dog and 750mg for a medium-sized, twice daily.
A 1/4 level teaspoon of NOW powdered taurine is 1,000 mg, therefore, the dosage is as follows:
- 1/16 tsp for small dogs (1/2 of a 1/8 teaspoon)
- 1/8 tsp for medium dogs
- 1/6 tsp for large dogs (a heaping, not double, amount on in 1/8 teaspoon)
I know that this isn't ideal when using traditional measuring spoons, but this is a good start. However, before buying the supplement and adding it to your dog's diet, please talk to several professionals. I continued to speak with people and came to the conclusion that my dogs are fine. I'm thankful for this information, I'll continue to have an open dialogue with my veterinarian about taurine deficiency and heart health, but I won't be adding a taurine supplement to my dogs' meals.
Answers Pet Food Weighs In
A few weeks after I published this blog post, Answers Pet Food addressed the growing concern that raw feeders have that the raw diet we're prepping may be taurine deficient. After the feedback I received from trusted professionals in the pet space, I ordered a supplement and I added it to my dogs' meals twice. I couldn't continue because it didn't make sense for me to add taurine – it's been 5 years and my dogs have two Thumbs Up after their wellness checks. After speaking with my dogs' veterinarians, I was assured that my dogs are fine and I don't need to add this supplement to their meals.
Here is what Answers Pet Food has to say about taurine for dogs…
Dear Answers family –
Taurine isn't more important than any other nutrient. Let us repeat that, taurine isn't more important than any other nutrient. All nutrients, whether your dog or cat needs a lot or little of them, work in correlation with each other.
Lately taurine has been the talk of the pet food world. A report by the FDA outlined a possible connection between grain free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy. This makes perfect sense scientifically as the plants commonly used in grain free processed diets contain a lot of anti-nutrients. These are substances that not only stop your dog's body from absorbing the nutrients in said plant, but can also take nutrients and stop the production of nutrients. From an evolutionary standpoint it's the seeds adaption to still get into the soil and be viable if it's eaten. Taurine is one of the nutrients effected by anti-nutrients.
The good news is taurine deficiency is a very easy problem to avoid! Just feed a diet that is high in meat and animal products with a small amount of the right kind of low carbohydrate plants. Especially fermented plants as fermentation reduces the amount of anti-nutrients. Listed in ALL CAPS below are the ingredients in our food formulas that are good sources of taurine:
Detailed Formula for Dogs:
ORGANIC CHICKEN, ORGANIC CHICKEN HEART, ORGANIC CHICKEN LIVER, ground organic chicken bone, ORGANIC CHICKEN EGGS, fermented organic carrots, fermented organic green beans, FERMENTED COD LIVER, fermented organic yellow squash, BUTTER, montmorillonite, RAW GOAT'S MILK WHEY, organic parsley, sea salt, vitamin E supplement.
Detailed Formula for CATS:
BEEF, BEEF HEART, BEEF LIVER, BEEF KIDNEY, ground beef bone, ORGANIC CHICKEN EGGS, FERMENTED COD LIVER, RAW GOAT'S MILK WHEY, RAW GOAT'S MILK, montmorillonite, carrot fiber, sea salt, vitamin E supplement.
ORGANIC TURKEY, ORGANIC TURKEY HEART, ORGANIC TURKEY LIVER, RAW GOAT'S MILK WHEY, sea salt.
In addition to that, the following products are also good sources of taurine:
•Fermented raw goat's milk
•Fermented Raw Cow's Milk Kefir
•Rewards Goat Cheese Treats (any flavor)
•Fermented Fish Stock
In short, if you feed Answers products as the main part of your dog or cat's diet it's virtually impossible to have a taurine deficiency.
Thanks for letting us be a part of your pet's life!
– The Answers Team (Source: Facebook)
More Sources for Canine Nutrition
If you want to delve deeper into your dog's diet and make sure that s/he is getting all of the nutrients necessary to live a healthy life, I highly recommend investing in the following materials:
- 5 Things You Need to Know About Taurine (FREE), Herbsmith, Inc.
- The potential protective effects of taurine on coronary heart disease (FREE) – includes a chart showing taurine levels in foods
- Perfectly Rawsome – Essential Nutrients: Amino Acids (FREE)
- Perfectly Rawsome – Taurine, An Essential Amino Acid, THE IMPORTANCE OF TAURINE IN CAT DIETS (FREE)
- Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats (Nutrient Requirements of Animals)
- Dr. Becker's Real Food For Healthy Dogs and Cats: Simple Homemade Food
- Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet: Healthier Dog Food the ABC Way, Steve Brown
- K9 Kitchen Your Dogs' Diet: The Truth Behind the Hype
And you can use these to help build and updated a spreadsheet (I have one) that tracks nutrients.
If you think your dog may have a taurine deficiency or a heart problem, please seek the advice of your veterinarian. There is surgery available for those that don’t respond to nutrition and suffering from Mitral Valve Disease and need surgery. Check out MightyHeartsProject.org for more information.