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Diet and Taurine in Dogs

By Rhonda Teel
with excerpts taken from Jean Hofve DVM

I wanted my customers to be aware of the amino acid Taurine in canine diets.

In 2018 the FDA issued a warning about Grain Free Food and DCM in dogs. The study at the time involved a small number of dogs that the study was done on about 151 dogs nation wide. It set in motion panic and guilt in people that felt they were to blame for their dogs dying from DCM. The FDA stated that the Dogs were deficient in Taurine.

Taurine is an amino acid found primarily in meat. Taurine has many special functions. Taurine is a component of bile, which breaks down dietary fat. It’s vital for proper function of muscles, heart, eyes, brain as well as the immune system. It has antioxidant and anti-in-flammatory properties.

Dogs make their own taurine from the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. Recent research suggests that diet is a factor in less than 20 to 30 percent of dogs with DCM. In fact in a survey of veterinarians 76 percent said they did not see any increase of  DCM in dogs fed a grain free diet.

Grain-free foods have been safely fed to thousands if not millions of dogs for many years. The relationship to DCM is far from clear. The FDA is not recommending a diet change for any dog as their investigation is ongoing.

If people are worried about Taurine deficiency in their pets they should get a blood test before supplementing the food, although most manufactures are adding to the food. It is a complex issue and as such all of the amino acids work together not just one is responsible.

DCM occurs in all kinds of dogs eating all kinds of foods, from those with simple ingredients to complex foods, homemade diets and commercial raw diets.

It is way to early to hit the panic button, but it is good to be aware of the issue.


Commentary from Delon Washo-Krupps, Ph. D.

Please stop panicking about grain-free dry dog food! I’ve read the FDA report and scientific papers.

There is no evidence linking these foods with DCM! First of all DCM is very, very rare. Secondly, correlation does not equal causation. Just because a large number of dogs with DCM are eating grain-free, it doesn’t mean that is the cause. People who have money to go to dog cardiologists, also tend to feed their dogs premium brands. Joe Blow who barely has enough money for beneful, probably isn’t having expensive tests run when his dog has problems. And most importantly, Chinese retaliation tariffs are killing the US grain market. In March 2018 the grain spokesperson said the tariffs would hurt American farmers.

In July 2018 the FDA opened an investigation into grain-free food, even though fewer than 5 cases of DCM had been reported in 2016 and 2017. They solicited the public and veterinarians and suddenly hundreds of cases over the last 10 years were reported. They make it seem like a giant spike in 2018 and 2019, but grain-free foods have been around for decades. Also, many of the reports are unconfirmed and reported by people whose dogs had issues years ago. Still that’s only hundreds of cases.

To put it in perspective, about 6 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year. Now ask yourself, since when does the FDA, already understaffed and underfunded, give a crap about DCM in a few hundred dogs over 10 years? When they want to steer people towards the food using grain!

I have a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, and did cancer research for 8 years. I’ve read the scientific literature. There is no way in hell this should be in the news! The evidence isn’t there! More studies are needed. We already have plenty of scientific evidence linking grains with mold contamination in dry dog food, and allergies. Don’t throw out the grain-free yet, for a fairly condition that may not have anything to do with grain-free food.

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