Taurine deficiency may be responsible for heart disease in dogs as well as cats. For years, it has been recognized that cats fed insufficient amounts of taurine can develop a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. In this disease, the heart enlarges and the muscle becomes very thin. Cats can not make the amino acid taurine, so it must be present at adequate levels in the diet. Cat foods are now supplemented with taurine.
Dogs can make taurine, so it has been assumed they are not as susceptible to dilated cardiomyopathy related to taurine deficiency. Researchers at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, however, found that dogs who are fed protein deficient diets develop low taurine levels, even if the amino acids necessary to make taurine (cystine and methionine) are at normal levels in the diet. The researchers also found that this low taurine level was associated with the development of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. They conclude that dogs fed protein deficient diets need to be supplemented with taurine, and taurine supplementation can result in a substantial improvement in heart function in those dogs that have dilated cardiomyopathy.
In related work, researchers at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine are comparing test results from blood, urine, and muscle tissue to determine which samples most accurately reflect the taurine level in dogs. In addition, they will attempt to determine the optimum dose of taurine that should be used to treat dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs.