DCM and Taurine
By Mia Lund
You may have seen in the news or elsewhere on Facebook groups about supposed problems with grain free foods and a possible link to DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy)
First of all, grains do not contain taurine. Taurine is an amino acid which is found in animal protein. It can be synthesized in dogs from the precursor amino acids cysteine and methionine. It is not present in plant protein sources such as grains and/or legumes.
DCM has a huge genetic component and several breeds are predisposed to it. The impact of dietary considerations on dogs who would likely develop DCM with age and genetic predisposition is unknown. So when it comes to diet, the hypothesis is that legumes like peas and lentils or other veges like beet pulp and potatoes that are used in kibble as fillers instead of grains may inhibit the uptake of taurine and therefore in some cases cause DCM. So, making sure there is plenty of dietary taurine in the feeding plan and avoiding legumes and other plant proteins may be helpful.
In a varied PMR diet which includes heart, organs, plenty of red and dark muscle meat, dogs will get plenty of taurine. Fish and seafood also have lots of taurine. Mussels are a great food as they have a high amount of taurine plus manganese, zinc, iron, iodine and Omega 3.
Muscle meat contains fairly high amounts of taurine. The amount of taurine in meat depends on how much work the muscle does. Darker meat indicates hard working muscles thus higher levels of taurine. Organs like tongue, lungs, heart, liver, spleen and kidney have high levels.
Larger animals, such as cattle, have a lower concentration of taurine. Smaller animals have a lot higher concentration of taurine. Taurine is abundant in most fish, seafood, birds, and rodents.
The type of dietary protein fed, the amount and type of dietary fiber, and the degree of heat treatment that is used during food processing may affect taurine levels in dogs.
Some taurine loss occurs in freezing, so if you feed lots of meat from freezer clean outs etc, make sure you add fresher meats in the diet.
Also, grinding meat decreases the taurine content as it increases the surface area of the meat and exposes the amino acid to the air. This results in oxidation of taurine which decreases the overall available amount of taurine.
No clear conclusions have been drawn yet regarding the underlying dietary causes for taurine deficiency and associated DCM in dogs and how much genetic issues, play a part. Therefore at this stage, it seems advisable to feed foods that contains good levels of high quality, animal-source protein, to avoid plant-sourced proteins, and to stay away from anything cooked or processed. All of which we adhere to when feeding PMR...
**Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. If you are worried about your dog’s taurine status or heart health, don’t hesitate to see your vet for a thorough check up, and if needed they can measure plasma levels of taurine.**