Unfortunately, there is no exact answer for how much taurine should be in dog food. But, it is best to avoid grain-free diets to prevent taurine deficiency.

Taurine is an amino acid that helps with heart, vision, and other organ functions. A lack of taurine can lead to serious health implications like Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Some dog breeds are prone to developing this disease compared to others. And certain dog food brands can add to this problem too.

This article will cover what you need to know about this amino acid, as well as what taurine deficiency is and the growing concern over some grain-free formulas and DCM.

What Is Taurine?

Taurine is an amino acid that is found in most meat, eggs, and fish. Amino acids are the basic foundation of protein. And protein is essential for a dog’s bodily functions.

There are two variations of amino acids; essential and non-essential. Unfortunately, a dog or cat’s body is not able to make essential amino acids.

Likewise, dogs require different amino acids compared to cats to support their body.

Essential amino acids primarily come from an animal’s diet. As a result, animals that need taurine in their diet as an essential amino acid cannot survive on a plant-based diet or vegan diet. They would simply develop serious, or life-threatening health issues.

Taurine has been heavily researched over several years. And it has been scientifically proven that dogs can create taurine in their body, while cats can’t.

Unfortunately, in recent years, there have been identified cases of dogs suffering from taurine deficiency.

Why Is Taurine Important?

Taurine plays a vital role that cannot be replicated by alternative amino acids. For example, taurine helps form bile, a fluid that helps process fats and oils in the gastrointestinal tract. Likewise, bile helps digest vitamins like vitamins A, D, and E.

This essential amino acid also acts like an antioxidant which helps prevent inflammation.

Taurine can also be found in the brain, where it helps various physiological activities, the eyes, and helps maintain and protect the retina too.

Lastly, it plays a vital role in maintaining cardiovascular health and helps promote healthy muscle function. [1]

How does my dog get taurine?

As we previously discussed, dogs can get taurine from both their diet and produce it themselves. Mainly, they make taurine out of other amino acids like cysteine and methionine.

However, ingredients like animal meats, dairy, or fish are rich sources of taurine and are completely absent in other foods.

Below is a table showing you the amount of taurine contained in various foods. Organ meats are considered to have larger amounts of taurine compared to muscle tissue. [2]

Ingredient

Taurine mg per kg 

(dry weight)

Taurine mg per kg

(wet weight)

Beef (Lean)

1,505

313

Clams

-

5,200

Cheese

63.5

61.3

Chicken (Breast)

606

159

Fish

6,168

1,137

Lamb (Leg)

-

473

Milk

64.6

8.3

Mussels

-

6,550

Pork (Loin)

-

610

Salmon (Fillet)

4,401

1,300

Shittake

-

0.567


Amino acids like cysteine and methionine help produce taurine in a dog’s body. Primarily, they go to the pancreas where they contribute to the digestion and metabolic process using two essential enzymes; cysteine dioxygenase and cysteine sulfinic acid decarboxylase.

These are then transported to the intestines where they are consumed with taurine. [3]

Taurine Deficiency

While dogs can produce taurine in their bodies, the same cannot be said for cats. And recently there have been a growing number of dogs experiencing taurine deficiency.

Several scientific studies have identified some of the common symptoms of taurine deficiency that are suffered by cats. These include:

  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
  • Feline taurine retinopathy
  • Intestinal disturbances.

However, the same symptoms can apply to dogs. Albeit there is limited research to verify this. DCM remains a very prevalent concern for many experts.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy occurs when there is an abnormality in the muscle wall of the heart. This muscle wall becomes thin and weak and eventually causes the heart to stretch and prevents it from pumping blood effectively.

Several studies have suggested that there is a direct link between taurine deficiency, DCM, and some dog foods. Currently, some dog breeds are being monitored on specific boutique diets. [4,5]

In addition, multiple carbohydrate ingredients are being linked to causing taurine deficiency in dogs, according to some studies. These studies also suggest a direct link to some carbohydrates and soluble fibers causing gastrointestinal upset and taurine deficiency.

Mainly, these types of ingredients add to the risk of taurine deficiency by:

  • Lowering protein levels and limiting the bioavailability of certain amino acids like taurine.
  • Increasing reproduction of microflora in the intestines because of high fermentability. In the intestines, bacteria can multiply and take up taurine. Whereas in high numbers, they can decrease how much taurine is taken by the gut.
  • Increasing bile production. This increases the body’s ability to use and lose taurine.

Some ingredients included in dog food have high levels of soluble fibers. For example, beet pulp is commonly found in many dog foods and has high traces of oligosaccharides. Too much can be detrimental to your dog. [3,6]

We previously mentioned that some grain-free formulas manufactured by smaller dog brands have been associated with rising cases of DCM in dogs.

Over the years, these types of diets have increased in popularity because they exclude common allergens like legumes, pulses, and grains while offering alternative carbohydrate, fiber, and protein sources.

However, these types of diets are considered to have higher levels of soluble fibers and carbohydrates. It is thought that this can lead to lower bile taurine consumption because of an imbalance in bacterial digestion and poop reduction. [7]

In stark contrast, whole grains are continued to be used in many high-quality dog foods because they are rich in cysteine.

This ingredient is frequently associated with causing the depletion of taurine consumption, but this is not the case. Many veterinarians and industry experts reiterate that whole grains are safe for dogs to consume. [8]


It is thought that Dilated Cardiomyopathy is associated with specific dog breeds including:

  • Boxers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Great Danes
  • Irish Wolfhounds

It is worth noting that these breeds can suffer from this disease without suffering from taurine deficiency. But, this deficiency dramatically increases the likeliness of it occurring.

Likewise, another breed that is suspected to be prone to developing DCM is Newfoundland. Extensive studies suggest that this breed is unable to produce enough taurine and absorb adequate levels of cysteine and methionine, despite them consuming the right amount in their diets.

As a result, this dog breed needs to be supplemented with these two amino acids. [9]

Large and giant breeds of dogs are susceptible to cardiovascular health issues too. So it is always best to pay attention to it and monitor the taurine levels in their blood. Simply, their hearts have to work harder to effectively pump blood around their bodies.

So How Much Taurine Should Be In Dog Food?

Simply, no one knows the exact amount of taurine that should be in dog food. Several factors vary that answer depending on every individual dog. Many of which we simply cannot understand.

While specific breeds have been identified to suffer from DCM easier than others, there is still more research needed before a definitive answer can be given. However, many experts suggest exercising caution until more evidence is established.

Dog nutrition is a very complex and sometimes controversial subject because it is something that our loveable furry friends have to deal with daily.

Whatever dog food you choose for your pup, the detrimental effects, if any, will likely take their course over a matter of years. They are simply slow to appear.

It is always better to stick to a diet from a dog food manufacturer that has conducted extensive research and has a good history with minimal dog food recalls. Consider a brand that is endorsed by veterinary experts and bodies.

Final Thoughts

Taurine plays an essential role in your dog’s body, from helping the brain to maintaining overall heart health.

And as a pet owner, it can be a daunting prospect to choose your pup’s diet. While there is no definitive answer for how much taurine should be in dog food, many experts and veterinary bodies advise against choosing a smaller dog food manufacturer.

If you have any concerns or you cannot avoid this, consult your veterinarian to make sure the diet you’re giving them is safe for them to consume and has enough cysteine, taurine, and methionine.

Bio: James, the founder of HonestWhiskers.com made a promise to provide only the best quality information for you and your pup. He has partnered with veterinarians and pet nutritionists who are experts in their fields so that you can trust the advice you receive from them.