The amino acid taurine is vital to your dog’s overall health, including his kidneys, blood, heart, eyes and brain. Taurine provides the flow of elements from and to your dog’s cellular structures. Lack of taurine can cause your dog’s health to suffer, specifically his heart. Taurine is distributed in high concentration throughout the body in specific tissues such as the retina of the eye and the heart wall muscles. Certain dog breeds such as the Newfoundland and the American cocker spaniel are predisposed to taurine deficiency. Taurine for dogs is something that a dog owner will want to provide in their dog’s diet if their dog is taurine deficient. Taurine can be an ingredient in your dog’s food. Or, you can provide it to your dog as a supplement.
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Causes of Taurine Deficiency
The causes of taurine deficiency are due to an inherited disease called cystinuria, which can lead to the formation of stones that are located in the bladder, ureter or kidneys. Another cause has been linked to diet history. Taurine deficiency may be linked to certain lamb and rice diets, very low-protein diets, high-fiber diets, or vegetarian diets. A poor, long-term diet can cause the lack of taurine and result in dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a common cardiovascular disease in dogs.
Symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy Caused by Taurine Deficiency
Since taurine deficiency does not have any noticeable symptoms, many dog owners will want to keep an eye out for symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy, since it is caused from taurine deficiency.
Symptoms include distention of the veins, abdominal enlargement, fluid accumulation of the chest, abdomen, underneath the skin, on the underside of the body, and the sac around the heart.
Sudden weight gain, coughing, shallow breathing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, weakness, intolerance to exercise, fainting, pale or blue tones, mucous membranes, and difficulty sleeping at night are all signs of dilated cardiomyopathy, which can be caused by taurine deficiency. If you observe these symptoms in your dog, it is best to seek medical care right away.
Diagnosis of Taurine Deficiency
If you suspect that your dog has taurine deficiency or dilated cardiomyopathy, contact the veterinarian immediately.
Upon arrival at the veterinarian office you will need to provide your dog’s health history which includes any unusual signs and symptoms. Then your veterinarian will give your dog a complete physical examination, including an examination of your dog’s heart. Laboratory tests that your veterinarian will conduct include urinalysis, complete blood count and biochemistry profile.
Depending on the results of the laboratory tests, additional tests such as an electrocardiogram and chest X-rays may be required.
Treatment of Taurine Deficiency
Once your veterinarian has confirmed taurine deficiency and the cause, treatment will be established. Generally taurine supplementation is the choice for treatment. There is a possibility that your dog will have to remain on taurine supplementation for his entire lifetime to prevent reoccurrence. This is determined by the severity of the deficiency and your dog’s ability to maintain levels of taurine when ingested. In less severe cases taurin supplements will only have to be used until the veterinarian confirms your dog is able to maintain good levels of taurine without the use of the supplement.
Management and Living
Dog owners will have full responsibility for providing at home treatment that is recommended by the veterinarian. Dog owners will want to follow all directions that they are provided with from the veterinarian. This includes giving your dog the right dosage at the right time every day to avoid aggravation of the symptoms. If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, additional care such as a stress free environment and proper rest have to be provided for your dog. Dog owners will want to adhere to the follow-up examination in order to monitor their dog’s response to the treatment. Most of the time taurin supplements provide dramatic improvement.
However, there are times that dogs will not respond well to supplemental treatment and will need further treatment prescribed by the veterinarian.
Taurine and Epilepsy
According to Shawn Messonnier, DVM, taurine for dogs affects the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. One of the effects of Taurine in the body is as a controller of nervous impulses, and supplementing your dog’s diet to give him higher levels of taurine can raise the threshold at which epileptic fits are triggered.
Taurine is an inhibitory amino acid that appears to be released from the hippocampus during seizure activity. According to Susan G. Wynn, DVM and Steve Marsden, DVM, “Taurine released during seizure activity may have a protective effect. Whether these elevated taurine levels represent a protective effect or are causally related to seizure activity“.
If your dog suffers from epileptic seizures, discuss the possibility of taurin supplements with your veterinarian to see if it will benefit your dog.
Taurin for dogs can go undetected due to lack of symptoms. Dog owners should keep an eye on their dog’s health and immediately report any changes or unusual symptoms to the veterinarian immediately, especially American Cocker Spaniels and Newfoundland dog owners. Since these breeds are prone to taurine deficiency, it is wise to always adhere to veterinarian visits and regular check-ups.