What is Taurine?
Taurine is an essential amino acid. Amino acids help the body’s cells create proteins needed for the proper functioning of every part of the feline body. The acids aid in the metabolic process and play an important role in the transportation and storage of nutrients.
Although many amino acids are produced by the body, some can only be obtained through food meaning that the body does not produce these. Amino acids that must be obtained through diet alone are known as “essential” amino acids.
Can dogs and cat make their own taurine?
Importantly, people and dogs can synthesize taurine from other amino acids however, cats have a limited ability to manufacture taurine; therefore, taurine is classified as an essential nutrient for cats.
If they don’t receive enough of this essential amino acid in their food, this can have adverse impacts on their health. Signs of taurine deficiency are slow to develop and can take several months before symptoms become apparent, depending on the cat's life stage.
Some effects of taurine deficiency include:
- Weakening of heart muscle cells resulting a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
- For pregnant mothers it could result in small litter sizes, low birth weights, or fetal abnormalities.
- In growing kittens, taurine deficiency can result in delayed growth.
How can I make sure my cat received adequate taurine in his/her diet?
Now that we know taurine is super important for cats, you’d want to look out for the meals you are feeding. If you are opting for commercially packaged food - do read the label to learn about the ingredients.
If you are cooking fresh meals, here are some ingredients which can be used as toppers or treats as they contain taurine - Shellfish, fish such as sardines, salmon & tuna, meat & poultry.
In any case, it’s a good idea to share the diet with your pet’s veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist. These professionals can help you tweak the meal plan to ensure that it meets all of your cat’s nutritional needs.
Remember, regular vet visits are key to your pet’s good health and if in doubt, ask your vet.