IS YOUR CAT GETTING ENOUGH TAURINE?
WHAT IS TAURINE?
Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins, taurine is an amino acid found exclusively in animal proteins. Many amino acids can be produced within the body of humans and animals, while some can only be obtained through food, these are known as “essential” amino acids. While dogs and people can synthesize taurine from other amino acids, cats cannot. Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats, if they don’t receive enough in their diet, their health will eventually begin to decline.
Cats are obligate carnivores, and taurine is naturally found in uncooked meat which makes up a considerable portion of diets in wild cats. Cooking can degrade or destroy taurine, which is why commercial cat foods typically supplement their recipes with taurine. Since taurine is not stored in large quantities in the body and cats metabolize it quickly, taurine must be included in their diet every day.
WHY YOUR CAT NEEDS TAURINE
Symptoms of taurine deficiency in cats are slow to develop and may not be apparent for many months. Symptoms are mainly degenerative, becoming progressively worse over time.
Signs of taurine deficiency include:
- Feline central retinal degeneration (FCRD): Taurine helps maintain the health of the retina. With a taurine deficiency, the cells within the retina start to degrade, which can lead to blindness.
- A taurine deficiency can cause degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the retina. Unfortunately, once these cells are lost, they can’t be replaced.
Weakening of the muscles of the heart
- Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) occurs when the heart muscles become enlarged, making the heart unable to pump blood adequately and may lead to Congestive Heart Failure and death if not addressed.
- Taurine is found in bile salts, which are produced in the liver and help with a cat’s digestion. A taurine deficiency leads to digestive problems.
- Taurine is necessary for a healthy pregnancy, kittens born to mothers with a taurine deficiency have delayed growth and development, low birth weights and small litters.
Immune System Disorders
- Without enough taurine, your cat’s immune system may not be able to fight off viruses as easily as healthy cats and may suffer from frequent illnesses.
If caught early, it may be possible to reverse the effects of a taurine deficiency with dietary supplementation in addition to eating an appropriate diet. Taurine is a vitally important nutrient that all cats need in their daily diet. If you are concerned about your cat not getting enough taurine, speak with your vet.
by Cher Thorsen, CNP