Grain-free diets became popular when pet parents realized that kibble made with “corn” wasn’t ideal.
And so kibble companies started to take out all grains, and then replaced it with other fillers like peas or other plant-based ingredients that also had protein.
This was a cheaper way to formulate than just replacing corn with protein.
Less protein in the diet also meant less taurine.
This all of a sudden came to a head several years ago when dogs all of a sudden started coming down with DCM.
Unfortunately, instead of a full clinical study, grain-free diets were blamed. Since then the FDA has stated grain isn’t the culprit and it warrants further investigation.
So what exactly is Taurine?
Excerpt from Small Animal Clinical Nutrition
Taurine is a sulfur-containing B-amino acid. The amino group resides on the second (b) carbon rather than the first (a) carbon as with other amino acids. Taurine also has a sulfonic acid (SOOH) rather than a carboxylic acid group. Taurine is not incorporated into proteins synthesized by the body because of its structure. Rather, taurine is found as a free amino acid in many tissues, including brain, retina, myocardium, skeletal muscle, liver, platelets, leukocytes, and in fluids such as milk and in complexes with bile salts.
Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats because cats have minimal ability to synthesize it.
However, in dogs there is no evidence that taurine is an essential acid for dogs; however research indicates that it may be conditionally essential.
Lack of taurine (or grain-free diets) has been associated with DCM. However recent studies have found both these claims inconclusive.
That said, it’s still important to include taurine in your dog’s diet.
Whole Food Sources For Taurine
Turkey Dark Meat, Raw: 284.86
Chicken, Raw. 85/15 dark meat: 172.96
Chicken, slow cooker 85/15 dark meat: 172.96
Chicken thigh dark meat, meat only, raw: 169
Chicken dark meat raw: 169
Duck gizzard: 120
Chicken heart: 112.5
Turkey Gizzard, Raw: 106.88
Chicken Gizzard, Raw: 100.4
Beef Heart, Raw: 40
Ground Beef 90/10: 28
Chicken 85/15 lean, light meat: 12.8
Chicken breast 12.36
Kibble, cooked and raw meals that are formulated to AAFCO’s standards technically do not need additional taurine supplemented and so companies don’t always add them.
Some companies will state whether or not they added taurine. For the most part it’s through a vitamin pack.
Fresh food (cooked or raw) might have taurine included through the ingredients they add to the food.
That said, adding a tablespoon of turkey or chicken dark meat, or poultry gizzards won’t hurt several times a week.
Food that is labeled “for supplemental feeding” may or may not have sufficient levels of taurine. Look at the label to verify levels or contact the manufacturer for the information.
No matter what diet you feed if it’s not clear that there is taurine in the food or ingredients that contain taurine, you will want to supplement or feed food sources that contain taurine.
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Small Animal Clinical Nutrition
Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats – National Research Council
Canine and Feline Nutrition, Linda Case
Animal Diet Formulator