Let's Talk Taurine
What is Taurine? Taurine is an amino acid produced in the liver and almost exclusively found in meat. It is abundant in the brain, the eye (especially the retina), muscle tissue, and many organs. It is an essential component of bile acids, which are produced in the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and used to break down fats from food. The existence of a link between taurine deficiency and DCM has been known since 1977. Not all pets affected by NDCM have shown taurine deficiencies.
Taurine is Needed For:
- Healthy Heart Function
- Component of Bile Acids
- Retinal Function
- Reproductive Health
What is bile acid? Taurine links to bile acids in the liver to form bile salts. These compounds are secreted into the small intestine during digestion where they function to aid in fat digestion. Animals conserve the taurine that is secreted into the intestine by reabsorbing the bile salts back into the body further down the intestinal tract through a process called “enterohepatic reutilization” and prevents a daily loss of taurine in the feces.
Dogs make their own taurine from sulfur-containing amino acids, primarily cysteine, but also methionine (both taurine precursors). Methionine is used to make cysteine and then taurine is made from cysteine.
Cats and weasels–including ferrets-must consume taurine in their diet. All cat diets are supplemented with taurine.
Possible Risk Factors for Taurine Deficiency:
- Breed: Golden Retriever, American Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland, St. Bernard are all consider 'high risk'.
- Size: Large breed dogs or dogs withs lower metabolic rates may have trouble synthesizing taurine.
Dietary risk factors for reduced taurine status:
- Low protein diet (limited taurine precursors) may reduce taurine production
- Heat damaged or poor quality protein sources
- High dietary fiber (ex. rice bran, beet pulp, cellulose) reduce bile acid reabsorption
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