Taurine is an amino acid that is produced in the bodies of all mammals except cats. Cats get their taurine from their food as long as the food is natural and raw. Dogs are no longer able to produce as much taurine as they need due to the processing and cooking of their everyday food. With insufficient taurine, health problems arise.
Taurine Deficiency Related Health Problems
We now know that there are several clinical situations associated with taurine deficiency in all species, including dogs, cats, humans, rabbits, rats ... in fact ... all mammals.
Central Nervous System (CNS)
Taurine has been shown to cross the protective blood brain barrier to enter the brain, where it performs numerous functions, including stabilizing membranes and inhibiting neurotransmission. Both these functions could reduce the generation of epileptic impulses and seizures.
Taurine is important in the treatment of seizures and epilepsy
Believing that epilepsy was a specific situation, dogs presenting with recurrent epileptic seizures have been successfully treated by increasing their taurine intake. Today there is only one product - it is called PET Plus for Dogs and Cats and it contains taurine. But in the past we used to give epileptic dogs PET Plus for Cats, which had always contained taurine because cats are unable to make their own.
Some people bought taurine from health food shops and gyms to give to their dogs. But we made the single product PET Plus For Dogs and Cats to address this increasing clinical situation. After all, prevention is better than cure.
CardioVascular Disease (CVD)
Here, the muscle of the heart wall weakens so the heart is unable to pump effectively. The weak heart wall gradually stretches, becoming thin and increasingly unable to pump the blood out of the heart and around the body or to the lungs.
Fluid accumulates in the lungs and body, leading eventually to all the symptoms of congestive heart failure, including increasing breathlessness, exercise intolerance, inability to climb stairs or walk up hills, coughing and increasing exhaustion.
Fluid accumulating in the lungs may also be more common in dogs with a taurine deficiency
This condition seems to be more common in the following large breeds of dog, indicating a potential genetic predisposition to Taurine deficiency.
- Golden Retrievers
- English Setters
- St Bernards
- Portuguese Water Dogs
- Cocker Spaniels
- Irish Wolfhounds
Thankfully, this is all reversible by the administration of taurine. So why not give it everyday, to prevent the risk?
Skeletal Muscle Weakness
Taurine deficient mice have been experimentally shown to suffer weakness of their skeletal muscles as well as their cardiac muscles.
I am not aware of any such reports in other mammals, but it may well be that pets suffering from Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) are actually also suffering skeletal muscle weakness, but the symptoms are attributed solely to the DCM.
Central Retinal Deterioration
The retina gradually deteriorates causing progressively worsening eyesight and eventual blindness. In cats this is irreversible, but once the condition is recognized and diagnosed, supplementing with taurine can prevent further progression.
It seems to be the same situation in dogs, although to date, it is less common as a cause of retinal problems in dogs than it is in cats.
Cystitis And Bladder Infections
As described above, inability to metabolize cysteine can result in taurine deficiency, because taurine is made in the body (except in cats) by specific enzymes from cysteine and homocysteine.
If the cysteine is not metabolized, it can be excreted by the kidneys and bladder, where it can accumulate and form crystals. These sharp cysteine 'stones' can irritate the bladder wall resulting in cystitis. Symptoms include frequent urination, increased thirst and possibly blood in the urine.
Prevention of this cause of cystitis involves using an enzyme supplement like PET Plus, feeding raw food and ensuring an adequate supply of fresh, chemical-free water at all times.
Avoid all dry foods when your pet suffers from bladder infections or cystitis
Absolute avoidance of dry foods will also help to maintain urine flow and prevent the stagnation that allows the crystals to form in the bladder. Again, there seems to be a breed disposition, including
- Austrian Shepherds
- Basset Hounds and
- Scottish Terriers
So, to summarise, it is simple to prevent taurine deficiency with diet and suitable supplementation. However, it is a challenge to recognize and diagnose taurine deficiency as the symptoms are shared by other causes.
A blood test can be performed to measure the blood levels of taurine, but that only shows what's in the blood at that exact moment which does not necessarily relate to the absorption and use of taurine in the actual body tissues, e.g. muscle, retina, brain and heart.
As always, enzymes are essential for the proper functioning of every single cell in every single body. So be sure to give your pets plenty. And make sure you have plenty of enzymes yourself too, so that you too can manufacture your own taurine.