What is Taurine Deficiency?
Taurine is part of a family of nutrients called amino acids. Taurine is not usually termed ‘essential’ because dogs can make it within their bodies from other nutritional components. Most dogs on a normal, healthy diet make all the taurine they need, but occasionally giant breed dogs (Newfoundland) and American Cocker Spaniels have a genetic defect that prevents them from making taurine themselves. Alternatively, another genetic disease called cystinuria can interfere with the proper amino acid absorption, and cause kidney and bladder stones. Taurine deficiency also may manifest as an enlarged heart, which can cause serious health problems for your pet. Schedule a visit to the veterinarian immediately if your dog is exhibiting pain while urinating, passing bloody urine or seems abnormally week.Taurine deficiency is the lack of an amino acid critical to a dog’s health. Normally dogs are able to make this amino acid themselves, but if this ability is impaired, taurine must be derived from the animal’s diet.
Symptoms of Taurine Deficiency in Dogs
- Excessive panting when not exercising
- Collapsing or fainting
- Blood in the urine
- Pain during urination
- Generalized pelvic and abdominal pain
- Moderate to severe blindness
Causes of Taurine Deficiency in Dogs
- Genetic (breed) predisposition
- Cystinuria interfering with protein absorption
Diagnosis of Taurine Deficiency in Dogs
If you notice your dog is behaving oddly, collapsing, or fainting, see the veterinarian right away. Taurine deficiency has no real symptoms of its own; rather, it causes swelling of the heart and altered metabolism in dogs. These symptoms can arise from many conditions, so be sure to give a detailed history of your pet’s health and past visits to the veterinarian. Some symptoms, such as collapse, bloody urine or trouble seeing may not occur in the veterinarian’s office, so your observations are critical to an accurate diagnosis.
The veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical exam of your dog, and will note any pain present in the abdomen or pelvic regions. The veterinarian should listen to your dog’s heart, and if any abnormalities are discerned, conduct an EKG. This test displays your pet’s heart function with input from electrodes placed on your pet’s chest. To ensure an accurate reading, the areas where the electrodes are to be placed must be shaved. In addition, a chest X-ray may be conducted to visualize further the swelling and/or fluid in the sac around the heart. Other types of medical imaging, such as ultrasound, are also effective for determining the cause of bladder and heart problems. Ultrasound, in particular, is an easy, portable and non-invasive imaging system that can easily be used in your local veterinarian's office.
If your pet’s heart is healthy, blood and urine samples can be analyzed to see where the taurine is being lost, and whether there has been any damage to the kidneys.
Treatment of Taurine Deficiency in Dogs
Treatment will vary based on the root cause of the taurine deficiency. The corrective treatment for the deficiency itself will be supplemental taurine, but additional action will be needed to address the heart and/or kidney problems. Pleural effusion, the presence of excess fluid around the lungs, is also a concern and must be swiftly treated by puncturing the area around the lungs and draining the fluid. Kidney stones that are too big to pass on their own must be surgically removed or pulverized using lithotripsy, a sonic tool that shatters stones so they may be passed with reduced pain in the urine.
Supplemental taurine on its own may be enough to stop or reverse the cardiomyopathy, and prevent any further retinal degeneration if the deficiency has affected the eyes.
Recovery of Taurine Deficiency in Dogs
Taurine deficiency can be managed by adding supplemental taurine to your pet’s food at the direction of a veterinarian. Too much taurine can be dangerous as well, so following the proper dosage instructions is critical. This medication must be administered daily for the remainder of the pet’s life or until a veterinarian directs you to stop.
The veterinarian may also prescribe diuretics or other medication to help flush out any kidney stones. Pets on diuretics should be well-hydrated and allowed access to a place to urinate. Make sure there are several water bowls available at all times, and that they are kept full to avoid accidental dehydrations.
Taurine Deficiency Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I don't know if my dog has Taurine Deficiency, I put her in a grain free over a year ago and out of the Blue she has low blood platelets, and it been very concerning, so would it be the grain free dog food shes been on?
She has been having Excessive panting.its been very concerning.She is under doctors care because of her low blood platelets,
she is 11 years old and i care for her very much and i don't want to looe her just yet.
what do i do?
Actually FDA is still investigating this issue on DCM (enlarged heart), which is where the low taurine or grain free scare is coming from. There is no evidence that DCM is linked to low taurine levels or grain free or grain inclusive diets. What Sheila mentioned is incorrect information that she got from the media that just released one small fraction of a whole FDA report. There are plenty of great articles on the actual issues behind this whole issue and I would recommend reading the actual FDA report to get a better sense of the issue and ease your mind about the whole thing.
Shadow's Owner, it is okay to be concerned and if you are worried about low taurine levels the best thing to do is to get taurine from raw sources that are completely bio available for your dog such as unpasteurized goats milk or going to more of a raw diet because the goat's milk and organs such as liver and heart contain high amounts of taurine. But your grain free food is probably fine depending on the brand. You want to try and get decent protein sourcing and a brand that is trusted and transparent.
It's the grain free diet FDA just released a report on it.
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In the last year I decided to try an chicken & fish only diet formyself.and also put my dog on a grain free diet thought it would be healthier for her, right always I notice the weight loss next came the excessive panting,nowshe develop an ear infection,Itook her to the vet he said she tested positive for heartworm but I needed an second opinion so I took her to another clinic which than she tested negative for her worm,inow believe she may have cardiopathy from the grain free dog food she was eating it for about 9 months.what to you think?
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I have a 150 lb great dane who is 4.5 years old. In the past 5 weeks, he's just fallen over twice during high levels of exercise (running or what we call the zoomies). He's gotten up and seemed okay within a minute or two. I Have been to vet who recommended we go to cardiologist, but can't get in for 5 weeks. His tests at primary vet came out normal except .8 thyroid level. Heart sounded normal with just stethoscope. In reading, I think cardiomyopathy may be potential problem and that could be from taurine deficiency. I just want to know how much to give him so that it doesn't become dangerous. He does not cough, but does pant more than my other danes after exercise.
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