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Taurine for Dogs


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Taurine is one of the 22 amino acids that mammals need to function. Its name derives from taurus, which is Latin for ox or bull, as it was first extracted from ox bile in the 19th century. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, both for humans and canines. It occurs naturally in mammals, with high concentrations in the brain, retina, heart, and muscles. 

Taurine is considered a non-essential amino acid in dogs because our furry friends can make it on their own. Specifically, dogs can synthesize taurine from two other amino acids, cysteine and methionine.

What exactly does taurine do in the body? And how can you tell if your pup might need a supplement? Let’s dive in to find out!

Bulldog eating a pill from human hand - Taurine for Dogs


Taurine is vital to your dog’s health. It plays many important roles in the body and is involved in a number of physiological processes. Taurine supports the development and function of skeletal muscle, the retina and vision, and the central nervous system. It also strengthens the heart, facilitates blood flow, promotes reproductive health, and acts as an antioxidant, preventing certain diseases and supporting healthy aging. In tissues, taurine stabilizes cell membranes and helps transport sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in and out of cells.

How much taurine is safe for dogs? According to the European Food Safety Authority, up to 0.2% taurine in pet food is safe for all species.

Since taurine is considered non-essential for canines, however, there is no minimum daily recommended intake of taurine. Unlike cat food that must be supplemented with taurine, AAFCO nutrient profiles do not specify a required level of taurine in dog food.

Various meats, fish and eggs that have taurine in them

Food sources

What foods have taurine for dogs? Taurine is naturally found in animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Plant-based foods generally do not have taurine, although red seaweed has been found to contain high concentrations of it. 

Foods high in taurine for dogs include: 

  • Beef 
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Fish 
  • Eggs
  • Organs (liver, kidney)
  • Mussels
  • Shrimp
  • Red seaweed

Note that while cooking does not destroy taurine, it dissolves easily in water, so you’ll want to save the broth and give it to your pup too if you’re making your own dog food.  

And as mentioned above, dogs have the ability to make taurine from cysteine and methionine. 

Foods that contain cysteine include:

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Soy
  • Oats
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Red pepper 
Methionine is present in:
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soy

Golden Retreiver eating a supplement pill

Signs of taurine deficiency in dogs

Although taurine deficiency is more common in cats, dogs can also suffer from it. Some breeds are more at risk for taurine deficiency, either due to having higher taurine requirements or a decreased ability to synthesize and utilize taurine. Larger and older dogs produce taurine more slowly than their smaller and younger counterparts as well. 

Breeds that are more prone to taurine deficiency include:

Aside from genetics and aging, other risk factors for taurine deficiency include:

Symptoms of taurine deficiency in dogs include:

Taurine deficiency in dogs can lead to certain diseases, including dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM is a condition where the heart becomes enlarged, and the thinning of the ventricle wall and larger valve openings make it difficult to pump blood efficiently. 

Signs of DCM in dogs, which may be sudden or progressive, can include rapid breathing while resting, shortness of breath, coughing, weakness, weight loss, or fainting.

Treatment of taurine deficiency

The recommended treatment for taurine deficiency is taurine supplementation. Taurine has been proven effective for treating diseases caused by taurine deficiency such as DCM. 

DCM can be partially or completely reversed by taurine supplementation. However, not all dogs with DCM respond to taurine supplementation, as there are other factors that contribute to the disease. Not all cases of DCM are linked to taurine deficiency, and a dog with DCM can have normal blood taurine levels.

When it comes to prevention, feeding a complete and balanced commercial diet can prevent taurine deficiency in healthy dogs.

For more information, check out our guide to taurine deficiency in dogs.

Signs of taurine overdose in dogs

Taurine is non-toxic to dogs and has a very high safe upper limit. There are no known side effects of too much taurine in dogs, and any excess amount will be broken down and used by their bodies for some other purpose. 

brown Labrador Retriever getting a pill from a veterinarian

Taurine supplements for dogs

Taurine supplements come in tablet, liquid, capsule, and powder forms. They are administered orally and may be given with or without food. Taurine is effective in treating low levels of taurine and taurine deficiency related diseases such as DCM. It is also used as an adjunctive therapy for general heart disease. 

Do dogs really need taurine supplements? Unless your dog is prone to a deficiency or has an underlying condition, they likely won’t need supplements as long as they’re eating a complete and balanced diet. But if you think your pup might benefit from a supplement, it’s always best to talk to your veterinarian. 

Taurine is a type of amino acid that is vital to your dog’s health. Although dogs can make taurine in their own bodies, taurine deficiency can still occur due to genetics, aging, and poor diets. Your veterinarian can assess if your dog would benefit from additional taurine supplementation or a diet change that includes this important amino acid. 

The symptoms of a taurine deficiency can be expensive to treat. Avoid high vet care expenses by securing pet health insurance today!

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© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.