Taurine is a type of amino acid. There are 22 amino acids that the body needs in order to work well. It helps keep the membranes of cells stable and helps move potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium into and out of cells. Taurine helps make and control nerve impulses and helps keep the body’s fluid balance in check. It is also used by the body in visual pathways and in the brain and nervous system as a neurotransmitter along with glycine and GABA.
Dogs don’t need to eat 12 amino acids because their bodies can make them on their own. The other 10 amino acids are “essential,” which means that they have to come from food. Taurine is not an essential amino acid for dogs, but it is for cats. This means that cats need 11 essential amino acids.
How Taurine Works in the Body
- It helps prevent retinal degeneration and other serious eye diseases by acting as an antioxidant.
- It works as an anti-inflammatory and may help lessen the swelling caused by allergies.
- It lowers the amount of cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Triglycerides are lowered by it.
- It helps the liver do its job of getting rid of toxins.
- It helps make the heart muscle stronger.
- It works right away to heal and protect the corneal cells in the eye from UV rays.
- Taurine may help the nervous system work better. It has been used to help people with anxiety and seizures. Taurine levels go up in the brain when it’s under stress, which could mean it protects neurons.
- Taurine has been studied for its ability to lower glucose levels and act like insulin. It lowers blood sugar by making cells more sensitive to insulin, reducing inflammation, encouraging insulin production, and lowering oxidative stress. This could be good for people with diabetes.
Animal studies have shown that taurine helps wounds in muscles and tendons to heal faster. It might change this by making antioxidants work better and by making collagen. This might help animals who have hurt their cruciate ligaments.
Which Pets Are Most Likely to Lack Taurine
Taurine is known to be an “essential” amino acid for cats, but new research shows that some dog breeds may also need it. Either these breeds have a problem with their metabolism that makes it hard for them to make and use taurine, or they have higher taurine needs by nature. Big dogs are more likely to get taurine deficiency because their bodies make taurine much more slowly than the bodies of small dogs. Even when fed the same food, large and giant breeds make less taurine than small and toy breeds.
What Are the Best Sources of Taurine
You can find taurine in fish, meat, and milk. Cereal grains don’t have any at all. Most taurine is in the heart muscle. Taurine is found in lower amounts in lamb, beef, deer, rabbit, and chicken breast meat than in dark meat from poultry. Fruits and vegetables did not have any taurine.
But dogs can make taurine from foods that have a lot of cysteine and methionine. (Cats cannot.) Eggs, soy, cheese, meat, poultry, oats, broccoli, and red pepper have the most cysteine. Eggs, fish, sesame seeds, soy, cheese, beef, and poultry are the best sources of methionine.
Even though companies that make pet food with grains say that dogs can get enough methionine and cysteine from grains to make taurine, it is clear that amino acids that are important for good health are mostly found in animal products, not grains. Most dry pet foods have little or no real meat in them. Instead, they use cheaper alternatives like grain proteins (corn gluten, wheat gluten, pea protein, and soy protein) and by-product meals. Many pet food companies now add taurine for pets to their products, but there are no rules about how much taurine should be added to dog food. Taurine is almost always added to cat food as a supplement.
Reach out to a veterinarian to learn more about taurine or other herbs and supplements your pet should be taking.