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10 Best (Healthiest) Dog Foods to Prevent Taurine Deficiency

You don’t have to be a pet nutrition expert to understand the importance of a balanced diet for dogs. In your own life, you strive to achieve a healthy diet (for the most part), by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. You can make your own dietary choices, but your dog relies entirely on you to provide for his nutritional needs.

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Nutritional deficiencies are just as big a problem in dogs as they are in people – they are just harder to diagnose. Many deficiencies don’t present with obvious symptoms, as is the case with taurine deficiency. Taurine is an essential nutrient that supports heart health and function, so it is important to make sure that your dog gets enough of it in his daily diet.

In this article, we’ll explore the subject of taurine deficiency in dogs. We’ll talk about what taurine is and why your dog needs it while also digging deeper into the grain free dog food debate. You’ll also see our top picks for the best taurine rich foods for dogs.

The Importance of Taurine for Dogs

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As you may remember from high school science class, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are twenty different amino acids out there, about half of which your dog’s body is able to synthesize or create on its own. The remaining 10 amino acids are celled “essential” amino acids because they must come from your dog’s diet.

Here are the 10 essential amino acids your dog needs:

  • Arginine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

As you might notice, taurine is not on this list of essential amino acids. Your dog’s body is capable of synthesizing taurine, but production slows down as the dog ages. Add to this the fact that taurine is widely distributed throughout the body and used in high concentrations and you can see why taurine deficiency becomes a concern for so many dogs.

Not only is taurine not an essential amino acid, but it is not even a traditional amino acid in that its primary function is not to serve as a building block for protein. Rather, it is found abundantly in the dog’s organs and tissues. Here are some of the specific benefits linked to taurine:

  • It strengthens the heart muscles and supports vascular function
  • It promotes reproductive health
  • It fights obesity and helps control diabetes and related complications
  • It supports healthy vision and protects the retinas
  • It defends the liver against oxidation from free radicals

Any dog has the potential to develop a taurine deficiency, though it is most common in large and giant breeds. Some breeds that are predisposed to this issue include Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatians, and Newfoundlands. There is also some concern that dogs on grain-free diets have a higher risk for low taurine levels.

Are Grain-Free Diets Bad for Dogs?

Over the past year or two, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding grain-free diets for dogs. In July 2018, the FDA announced that they were investigating reports of cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs following a grain-free diet. The original report notes that the underlying cause of DCM is not truly known but that it is thought to have a genetic component. In many of the reported cases, dog foods listed high levels of potatoes and multiple legumes, standards in the average grain-free diet for dogs.

This begs the question, are grain-free diets bad for dogs?

Before answering this question, let’s take a quick look at the history of grain-free diets. They first began to appear on the pet food market about 10 years ago and were originally marketed for dogs who were allergic or intolerant to grains (dogs that were then and are now in the minority). For dogs who had been suffering from food allergies and digestive symptoms, grain-free diets presented an effective treatment that resolved their symptoms and, boy, were those dog owners happy!

Similar to what’s been happening with the gluten free movement for people, dog owners who found that grain-free dog food really helped their dogs shouted it from the rooftops. Eager to see the same improvements in their dogs, many dog owners switched their dog to a grain-free diet. The problem is that many of the dogs who went grain-free had no medical or nutritional need to do so. The fact remains that grain-inclusive diets (specifically whole grains) are very nutritious and generally very digestible for dogs. Unless your dog has a grain allergy or intolerance, there is NO NEED to go grain-free. Unfortunately, what usually happens with trends happened here and it became a common misconception that grain-free diets are inherently better for dogs.

With the FDA’s investigation, it has become clear that the unnecessary feeding of grain-free diets may actually be harming dogs. The link between grain free dog food and cardiomyopathy is still being explored, but it is common knowledge that dog foods that get most of their protein from plant sources (like legumes) contain less taurine than high-quality, meat-based dog foods.

Now that you have a better understanding of grain-free diets and the role they play in taurine deficiency, you’re ready to start shopping for a new dog food. Keep reading to learn what to look for in the best dog food with taurine.

What to Look for in a Good Dog Food for Taurine Deficiency

Your dog’s minimum nutritional requirements do not change, regardless of taurine deficiency. He still needs a diet right in premium animal protein with balanced levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Digestible carbohydrates and dietary fiber support healthy and regular digestion while fresh fruits and vegetables provide natural sources of key nutrients.

Here are some things to look for in the best dog foods high in taurine:

  • High-quality animal protein. Protein is the most important nutrient for any dog, but it is also one of the best foods high in taurine. Meat, eggs, and seafood provide the richest natural sources of taurine and are also complete proteins, containing all 10 essential amino acids.
  • Type of meat. Animal proteins contain higher levels of taurine, though it is important to choose the right one. Larger animals like cows have lower levels of taurine than smaller animals like fish, and dark meat has a higher concentration of taurine than white meat (as do organ meats).
  • Moderate healthy fat content. Fat provides your dog with a concentrated source of energy. Your dog also needs a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy brain function, strong immunity, and good coat condition.
  • Digestible carbohydrates. Your dog’s body is designed to digest animal products better than plants, but whole grains and fresh vegetables are still digestible and provide a rich source of nutrients for your dog. Unless your dog is allergic or intolerant to grains, a grain-free diet is NOT necessary.
  • Complete and balanced nutrition. Look for the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy on the label that confirms the product will meet your dog’s minimum nutritional requirements. Synthetic vitamins and chelated minerals help support balanced nutrition.

With this information in mind, you’re ready to start shopping around for the best dog food with taurine. If you’re not sure that the level of taurine in dog food is going to be enough to resolve your dog’s deficiency, talk to your vet about a taurine supplement for dogs.

The 10 Best (Top Rated) Dog Foods for Taurine Deficiency

If you want your dog to remain healthy and happy for as long as possible, you need to feed him the highest quality dog food you can consistently afford. Some pet nutrition experts recommend rotating your dog’s diet several times a year to reduce the risk for food allergies which may be a good idea if your dog is predisposed to taurine deficiency and you want to avoid having to switch to a grain-free diet. If you’re simply looking for the best dog food with taurine, read on to see our recommendations.

Here’s our top pick for the best dog food for taurine deficiency:

Ollie Fresh Food Delivery Service

Overall Best Dog Food for Taurine Deficiency: The quality of the ingredients in your dog’s food is directly related to its impact on his health. Low-quality ingredients are harder for your dog to digest which means that he won’t get as many nutrients from it. Ollie is a fresh food delivery service that uses only the highest quality natural ingredients in their formulas to ensure that your dog gets the premium nutrition he deserves. Choose from four protein-rich recipes featuring lamb, chicken, turkey, and beef with fresh fruits and vegetables and supplemental nutrients for balance. Each recipe is vet-crafted and prepared fresh then sent to your door with easy-to-follow feeding instructions to ensure that your dog gets the energy and the nutrition he needs. To maximize your dog’s taurine intake, choose the turkey recipe which features dark-meat turkey as well as taurine-rich organ meats like turkey heart and turkey liver. Make note that this is a grain-free recipe, but it is not legume-heavy – it only contains lentils and they are the 7th ingredient listed.

  • Pros: Customize your dog’s meals, fresh food delivered to your door, made with wholesome natural ingredients, vet-crafted for premium quality
  • Cons: Expensive compared to most commercial diets, limited number of recipes to choose from

Merrick Classic Real Chicken & Green Peas with Ancient Grains Dry Food

Most Popular Dog Food for Taurine Deficiency: If you’re at a complete loss for what to feed your dog, you can always go with a popular brand like Merrick. Merrick has a long history of producing high-quality, nutritionally balanced diets for dogs like this Classic Real Chicken & Green Peas with Ancient Grains Dry Food. This recipe features fresh chicken as the main ingredient with chicken meal, turkey meal, salmon meal, and chicken liver as supplemental sources of both protein and taurine. This recipe contains whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal with supplemental fiber and essential nutrients from green peas, quinoa, and barley. It also contains fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients with supplemental vitamins and chelated minerals for complete and balanced nutrition. You’ll also be glad to know that this formula contains probiotics to ensure healthy and regular digestion as well as optimal nutrient absorption. If your dog is allergic to grains, try one of Merrick’s grain-free recipes.

  • Pros: Real chicken first ingredient, contains ancient whole grains, rich in protein with moderate fat, fresh fruits and vegetables, synthetic vitamins and chelated minerals, probiotics for digestion
  • Cons: Doesn’t specific light or dark meat chicken

American Journey Salmon & Brown Rice Protein First Recipe Dry Food

Most Affordable Dog Food for Taurine Deficiency: As a responsible dog owner, you want to do what’s best for your dog, but you have to operate within your own limitations. If you’re concerned about the cost of your dog’s food, choose a brand that is known as much for the quality of their products as for their affordability – American Journey. From Chewy’s in-house brand, this American Journey Salmon & Brown Rice Protein First Recipe Dry Food is a great choice if you’re looking for the best dog food with taurine. It features fresh salmon as the primary ingredient, a rich source of protein and taurine as well as omega fatty acids. This recipe also contains menhaden fish meal for supplemental protein and digestible whole-grain carbohydrates like brown rice. This formula contains fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources of essential vitamins with chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption. Overall, this formula provides 25% crude protein and 15% crude fat with a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

  • Pros: Fresh salmon rich in protein and taurine, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, affordable price tag, fresh fruits and vegetables, blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Cons: May be too high in fiber for some dogs, plant proteins are a main ingredient

Nature’s Variety Instinct LID Grain-Free Recipe with Real Duck

Best Dog Food for Taurine Deficiency and Sensitive Stomach: If your dog suffers from food allergies or a sensitive stomach, you may want to switch to a limited ingredient diet. LIDs reduce the risk of triggering food allergies because they contain a shorter list of ingredients and are usually made with novel sources of protein and carbohydrate. This Nature’s Variety Instinct LID Grain-Free Recipe with Real Duck contains a handful of main ingredients including duck meal and fresh duck, two animal-based sources of dark meat which are rich in taurine. This formula also includes a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for skin and coat health as well as freeze-dried duck for a boost of flavor and nutrition. This recipe is supplemented with essential vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition with 3.5% fiber for healthy digestion.

  • Pros: Real duck as main ingredient, limited number of main ingredients, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, supplemented with vitamins and chelated minerals, freeze-dried duck for flavor
  • Cons: Main source of fat is plant-based, peas may contribute to the protein content

6 More Top-Rated Dog Foods for Taurine Deficiency

If the dog foods high in taurine listed above don’t quite meet your requirements, don’t worry – there are plenty of other options to choose from. Here are some more of our top picks:

Nature’s Logic Canine Duck & Salmon Meal Feast

If you want to give your dog the best of the best, try this Nature’s Logic Canine Duck & Salmon Meal Feast. This formula features several concentrated sources of taurine-rich protein including duck meal, turkey meal, and salmon meal. It is a highly digestible formula featuring whole grains like millet as well as dried fruits and vegetables to provide a boost of natural nutrition. This recipe contains probiotics to boost your dog’s digestion, helping him absorb as much nutrition from the food as possible while minimizing digestive issues. This formula contains a whopping 38% protein and 15% fat with 5% fiber. It is packed with natural meat flavor and is minimally processed, completely free from low-quality fillers, additives, and by-products.

  • Pros: Concentrated sources of animal protein, 100% natural ingredients, digestible whole grains, dried fruits and vegetables, probiotics for digestion, 38% protein
  • Cons: Very expensive compared to average kibble

Holistic Select Adult Health Anchovy, Sardine & Salmon Meals Recipe

If you’re looking for a high-quality dog food packed with natural sources of taurine, try this Holistic Select Adult Health Anchovy, Sardine & Salmon Meals Recipe. Made with anchovy, sardine, and salmon meals, this formula is taurine-rich and packed with premium animal protein. It contains plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as sources of live, naturally occurring microorganisms to support healthy and regular digestion. This recipe features antioxidant-rich superfoods like blueberries and pomegranate as well as natural fiber for regularity. This recipe is fortified with natural sources for key vitamins and minerals including pumpkin and papaya but still contains supplemented and chelated minerals to ensure complete and balanced digestion. Overall, it is protein-rich with moderate fat content and it is highly digestible for most dogs.

  • Pros: Several sources of taurine-rich protein, digestible whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables for key nutrients, blend of omega fatty acids, chelated mineral supplements, probiotics
  • Cons: Main source of fat is plant-based (canola oil)

The Honest Kitchen Whole-Grain Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food

If fresh food is a little too expensive for you, dehydrated or freeze-dried food might be a good option. This Honest Kitchen Whole-Grain Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food features free-range chicken as a natural source of premium animal protein and taurine. It contains organic whole grains like barley and oats with fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. This recipe is limited in its list of ingredients as well, which helps with digestion and reduces the risk of food allergies and sensitivities. You’ll find that it is supplemented with essential vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure maximum nutrient absorption – it also contains supplemental taurine. This recipe is dehydrated rather than cooked, so it retains more of its original nutritional value, but it needs to be rehydrated before feeding. It may take your dog some time to get used to the texture.

  • Pros: Real chicken as the main ingredient, dehydrated to preserve nutritional integrity, fresh fruits and vegetables, supplemented with chelated minerals and taurine, no artificial additives
  • Cons: Some dogs dislike the texture of rehydrated food

Simply Nourish Lamb & Oatmeal Recipe Dry Food

If you’re in the market for an affordable brand of dog food that uses high-quality natural ingredients, try Simply Nourish Lamb & Oatmeal Recipe Dry Food. This recipe features a protein-rich blend of fresh lamb, turkey meal, and lamb meal to provide plenty of animal protein – it also contains supplemental taurine to help meet your dog’s needs. This recipe features whole-grain carbohydrates like brown rice and oatmeal which, in addition to providing carbohydrate energy, provide supplemental fiber for healthy and regular digestion. This recipe contains dried fruits and vegetables for nutritional support and is loaded with natural flavor your dog won’t be able to resist. Plus, it is completely free from artificial additives as well as low-quality grains and fillers.

  • Pros: Rich in real animal protein, contains supplemental taurine, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in omega fatty acids
  • Cons: Main sources of fat are plant-based (canola oil, sunflower oil)

Victor Ocean Fish Formula with Alaskan Salmon Dry Food

Fish is one of the richest natural sources of taurine in dog food and this Victor Ocean Fish Formula with Alaskan Salmon Dry Food has it in spades. This recipe features menhaden fish meal and fresh salmon as the primary sources of premium animal protein and natural sources of taurine. This dog food contains whole grains like sorghum, millet, and brown rice for carbohydrate energy, supplemented with fiber for healthy and regular digestion. It contains plenty of supplemental vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption and it is supplemented with probiotics for digestion as well. Overall, this recipe is designed to support your dog’s needs for animal protein with supplemental ingredients to promote healthy digestion and strong immunity.

  • Pros: Rich in natural sources of taurine, whole-grain carbohydrates, plenty of omega fatty acids, chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption
  • Cons: No added taurine, contains some plant protein

Canidae All Life Stages Multi-Protein Formula Dry Food

If you’re not sure what to feed your dog, you can’t go wrong with a popular formula like this Canidae All Life Stages Multi-Protein Formula Dry Food. This recipe features several premium sources of animal protein, so you can rest easy knowing that it is rich in protein. It contains chicken, turkey, lamb, and fish and is formulated for dogs of all breeds, sizes, and ages. This recipe includes HealthPLUS Solutions, a trio of probiotics, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids for optimal health and it is completely free from low-quality fillers, additives, and byproducts. It contains digestible whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and cracked pearled barley with supplemental fiber to ensure healthy and regular digestion.

  • Pros: Several sources of animal protein, natural sources of taurine, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, rich in omega fatty acids, probiotics for healthy digestion
  • Cons: May be too high in calories for some dogs

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What foods contain taurine for dogs? – Taurine is one of twenty amino acids your dog’s body needs for healthy function. Though it may not be an essential amino acid (one your dog’s body can’t synthesize), production slows with age and the body uses so much of it that many dogs become deficient. Taurine is not found in plant foods. Meat, eggs, and seafood provide the richest natural sources of taurine for dogs.
  2. What causes taurine deficiency? – Taurine deficiency doesn’t cause any outward symptoms in dogs, but it can contribute to other health problems that do produce symptoms. The primary health problem associated with low taurine levels is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM is a form of heart disease in dogs that primarily affects large and giant breeds because they produce less taurine than smaller dogs on a similar diet. It is estimated that diet is a factor for 20% to 30% of cases of DCM, so choosing a high-taurine diet may help treat or prevent this disease. Breed predisposition is one potential cause for taurine deficiency – it can also be related to an inherited disease called cystinuria which increases the formation of stones in the dog’s kidneys, ureter, and bladder.
  3. Should I supplement my dog with taurine? – When it comes to nutritional supplements, you need to be careful. If your dog doesn’t have a diagnosed deficiency, supplementation could result in an overdose – especially if you’re giving your dog a multivitamin without a vet’s approval. When it comes to taurine, however, things are a little different. Taurine deficiency is particularly common in large and giant breeds and, in some cases, can lead to DCM. Supplementing your dog’s diet with taurine may be beneficial for heart health. You’ll also be glad to know that not only are taurine supplements fairly inexpensive, but any excess taurine in your dog’s diet will be broken down and excreted harmlessly as waste (as long as his kidneys function properly).
  4. What is the best taurine supplement for dogs? – Before giving your dog a taurine supplement, it is a good idea to get your veterinarian’s approval. If your dog has dilated cardiomyopathy or has been diagnosed with low taurine levels, a supplement might be a good idea. One of the top taurine supplements on the market is VetriScience Vetri-Cardio Canine Bite-Sized Chews. These supplements are designed to support the heart muscle, reduce oxidative stress, and boost overall cardiovascular function. They also contain essential amino acids like arginine with added coQ10 and magnesium for cardiac support.
  5. How much taurine should be in dog food? – If you’re looking for the best dog food with taurine, look for a recipe that features animal proteins like meat rather than plant proteins. Generally speaking, the average level of taurine in dog food is about 0.13% dry food matter. If your dog’s diet isn’t enough to meet his needs for taurine, you can supplement with up to 1,000mg per day for every 40 pounds of your dog’s body weight.

Understanding your dog’s nutritional needs is part of your basic responsibilities as a dog owner. The more you understand about your dog’s needs, the better you can provide for them. If your dog is getting a little bit older, or if he comes from a large or giant breed, taurine deficiency should be a concern on your mind. Talk to your veterinarian and consider switching your dog to one of the best dog foods with taurine we’ve reviewed above.

4 thoughts on “10 Best (Healthiest) Dog Foods to Prevent Taurine Deficiency”

  1. “The fact remains that grain-inclusive diets (specifically whole grains) are very nutritious and generally very digestible for dogs. Unless your dog has a grain allergy or intolerance, there is NO NEED to go grain-free. Unfortunately, what usually happens with trends happened here and it became a common misconception that grain-free diets are inherently better for dogs.” This is the biggest lie yet. Explain how someone with a BA in English became so knowledgeable about canine nutrition? Explain how canine ancestry survived all those years without eating grains except via the rumen of their kills? Since you’re a writer you may want to read any book by Wendy Volhard, Ihor Basko, DVM Volhard, or any one of a litany of actual canine experts who disagree with your assertion. Sadly, this is just another myth being perpetuated on the Internet!

  2. Hi I saw that egg has taurine. Not sure if my dog will eat a raw egg. That would be easiest. Or does the egg need to be cooked ????

  3. What about Farmina? It made in Italy where GMO’s do not exist. Has a higher protein content from meat and organs therefore natural taurine and has taurine added! Check it out!

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