What is Taurine and Why do Cats Need It?

cat and dog

Taurine: The Amino Acid Essential to Your Cat's Health

If you've ever taken a close look at the small print on a bag or can of cat food, you've probably noticed that taurine is among the list of ingredients. Taurine is an amino acid that helps keep your pet healthy and prevents a variety of serious health problems.

What Do Amino Acids Do?

Amino acids help the body's cells create proteins needed for the proper functioning of every part of the human and 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. Amino acids that must be obtained through diet alone are known as "essential" amino acids. Although people and dogs can synthesize taurine from other amino acids, cats cannot. If they don't receive enough of this essential amino acid in their food, their health will eventually begin to decline.

How Are Cats Affected If They Don't Receive Enough Taurine?

A taurine deficiency can cause many problems in cats, including:

  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy. The condition causes the heart to enlarge, affecting its ability to pump blood effectively. Cats affected by dilated cardiomyopathy may also develop congestive heart failure as a result of pumping issues.
  • Blindness. A taurine deficiency can cause degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the retina. Unfortunately, once these cells are lost, they can't be replaced.
  • Tooth Decay. Taurine helps your cat's teeth stay strong and healthy. When it's in short supply, cavities are more likely to occur.
  • Reproductive Issues. Cats that don't receive enough taurine may be unable to have kittens.
  • Developmental Concerns. Kittens born to mothers with taurine deficiencies may face growth problems and might be more likely to experience bone fractures.
  • Gastrointestinal Problems: Taurine helps the body produce bile salts needed for fat digestion. Without enough taurine, your pet may develop diarrhea and digestion issues.
  • Hair Loss. Lack of taurine may also affect your furry friend's coat and lead to hair loss.
  • Immune System Disorders. Without enough taurine, your cat's immune system may not function optimally. As a result, your pet might not be able to fight off viruses as easily as healthy cats and may suffer from frequent illnesses.
  • Diabetes. Taurine helps the body regulate blood sugar. Your pet may develop diabetes without sufficient amounts of taurine.
  • Lethargy. Cats affected by the deficiency may appear tired and listless.

In some cases, it may be possible to reverse the effects of a taurine deficiency if your cat is diagnosed in time and begins to receive supplemental taurine. Unfortunately, heart and vision changes aren't reversible.

How Do Taurine Deficiencies Occur?

Eating a diet that doesn't contain taurine is the leading cause of the deficiency. Cats that eat homemade foods or eat a vegetarian or vegan diet are most at risk of developing serious health problems related to a lack of taurine. Although caring pet owners often create special diets in an attempt to help their pets, the diets may actually harm their furry friends.

Taurine supplements will increase your pet's supply of the amino acid, but the supplements may not provide enough taurine to prevent health problems. If you feed your pet a homemade, vegetarian or vegan diet, 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.

Your cat may also be a risk of a taurine deficiency if he or she enjoys sampling your dog's food. Dog food doesn't contain taurine, as dogs can create their own supply of the amino acid. Although your cat may like the taste, a steady diet of dog food is a bad idea. If your cat can't resist chowing down on dog food, feed your dog in a separate room when it's mealtime.

Regular veterinary visits are the key to your pet's good health and help ensure that your cat doesn't suffer the devastating effects of a taurine deficiency. If it's been a while since we've seen your pet, call us to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

PetMD: Taurine Deficiency in Cats

https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/cardiovascular/c_ct_taurine_deficiency?page=show

Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine: Feeding the Homemade Diet, 10/17

http://news.vet.tufts.edu/2017/10/feeding-the-homemade-diet/

Texas A&M University: Cat Food for Thought, 12/01/08

http://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk/cat-food-for-thought

Contact Us Today!

Contact us using the form or call us at 804-741-3200.

Monday:

7:30am

6:00pm

Tuesday:

7:30am

7:00pm

Wednesday:

7:30am

7:00pm

Thursday:

7:30am

7:00pm

Friday:

7:30am

6:00pm

Saturday:

7:30am

2:00pm

Sunday:

Closed

Closed

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Dr. Evans was so patient and kind with our kitty "Cookie". Very caring and so helpful and answered many questions for me concerning her health. The office staff are kind, caring, and professional. The office is immaculate. I have never been to a vet where my pets and myself were treated so well. Love it and so glad to have found them. Best vet appointment ever!"
    Dorothy M.
  • "We have used the Q for over 15 years for our cats and our dogs. Dr. Mortimer is a genius at diagnosing and treating a wide array of issues, and we have relied on his skills to help our animals live to amazing ages. The staff is incredibly caring. They do everything possible to help when we call or come in with a sick animal. They truly care for our pets, and many of the staff will come out from the back to pet our dogs
    when they come in. They are so patient with shy animals like our ferally cat Stasha who needed laser treatments, and our Bagle Topsy who is afraid of her own shadow.Yes, they are not the cheapest vet in town, but they work with us on making a treatment plan we can afford, and we feel that the value and the care are well worth it. Thank you to everyone at the Q for their dedication and loving care."
    Sally M. / December 21, 2017
  • "Met with Dr. Hiser today for the first time. Everyone at the
    clinic--from the desk staff to the vet techs to the veterinarian were warm and welcoming. My dog Iris--who is often nervous around new people--was comfortable there and (I think) made a few new friends. Looking forward to a continued relationship with the clinic as my sweet girl grows up. Thanks, thanks thanks."
    Stephanie C. / June 27, 2018
  • "My three chihuahuas have been Dr. Mortimer's patients for over nine years. The expertise, love, and care demonstrated for each pet is extraordinary. The doctors and staff go the extra mile to help their patients and the parents. They are truly an amazing group that love and care for each pet. If there was a review rated outstanding, that would have been my choice!"
    Donna C. / June 10, 2018
  • "I would highly recommended QVH. All of the staff are so kind and compassionate. They are so willing to help and never mind answering any questions you may have, even if it's 100 questions they are so patient. They genuinely care and treat your pets as if they were their own. And I cannot say enough about Dr. Hiser. She is amazing. Even on her days off she would still call and check in on my dog. I am so appreciative of this place and the staff. It's a great feeling to be completely comfortable with putting your pets care in someone's else hands and trusting them to provide the best service."
    Taylor H. / August 25, 2018
  • "I have been seeing Dr. Evans for at least 20 years. Her manner, knowledge, staff and facility are exceptional. I am a health care provider myself and hold the care of my pets to the highest standards....and I have never had a second thought about the care or recommendations of Dr. Evans. I moved out of town 6 years ago....and drive 3 hours each way to see her."
    Kimberley W. / April 2, 2018
  • "Wouldn't trust my four-legged Kids to anyone else - they have guided us with all our dogs through the years. The entire staff is kind and patient with the animals (and their parents)."
    Karen K. / November 7, 2017

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles