Taurine is an amino acid known for heart health, but it also has a role in eye health. The body can manufacture taurine from other essential amino acids in the diet, so it’s been considered an unessential amino acid for this reason. In other words, as long as the diet provides sufficient amounts of all essential amino acids, we shouldn’t have to worry about taurine. But that turns out not be the case for all dogs, or even for people.
Some breeds show a taurine deficiency even when the diet is great, and some individual dogs, no matter the breed do, too. Another interesting consideration is that more taurine seems to be needed when there is emotional or physical stress. So, let’s consider dogs now. Both physical and emotional stress can be experienced at any kind of sporting event or the show ring and some of our lazily lounging dogs have stress too. I don’t see how that can be helped when you’re a dog living in a human world with strange sounds, a language you don’t understand and nobody around that really and truly understands your language either. Sure, we provide the best life we can for our dogs and we laugh about how good they have it, but I don’t think we should ignore the idea that being an animal in a human world can’t be stress-free.
The eyes need taurine. Eyes with cataracts have less taurine than healthy eyes do. Whether it’s an absorption issue or a dietary one isn’t fully understood, but taurine supplementation has been shown to help, and it’s a very safe supplement. For the sake of heart and eye health use 125 mg per day for toy dogs, 250 mg daily for small dogs, 500 mg daily for dogs weighing 50 -90 pounds, and 1 gram daily for giant breeds.
You may hear that feeding a diet containing beef heart or fish will provide all the taurine a dog needs and that may be true – or not. Remember that the amount a food contains can be vastly different from how much is absorbed by the body. The proof lies in the fact that some dogs are deficient even when the diet provides enough taurine, but deficiency is resolved when a supplement is fed. Taurine is such an inexpensive supplement that I don’t think it’s worth risking your dog’s heart and eye health by waiting to find out which category your dog might fall into. I’m a proactive kind of dog owner and I bet you are, too.