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Key takeaways

Taurine deficiency is a lack of taurine, an important amino acid, in the blood and body.

  • Taurine is not an essential amino acid for dogs, meaning dogs manufacture taurine themselves as long as they eat enough of the necessary building blocks
  • The causes of taurine deficiency include genetic predisposition and liver disease
  • In dogs that are fed exclusively legumes (peas, lentils and chickpeas) or high-legume diets, taurine deficiency is possible, but has not been conclusively proven
  • Taurine deficiency has not been proven to cause adverse effects in dogs, however some studies suggest that it may result in dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition
  • Diagnosis of taurine deficiency is based on blood work
  • Treatment for taurine deficiency is to add taurine to the diet, either by eating a nutritionally-balanced dog food or through supplementation
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A closer look: Taurine Deficiency in Dogs

Taurine deficiency has not been conclusively shown to negatively affect dogs, although some dogs have taurine-responsive heart disease.

It is possible to create a taurine deficiency by feeding a diet with carbohydrates sourced primarily from legumes, such as peas, lentils, and chickpeas, but the significance of this deficiency is not known. This type of deficiency is more likely to occur when the diet does not include other types of foods, and in cases of low food intake related to metabolism.

Recent studies are looking into the link between taurine deficiency and diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease of the heart muscle. Current research shows there are some cases of DCM that respond to taurine supplementation, but many cases are not taurine-responsive. To date, there is no proof that taurine deficiency is the cause of DCM, nor that dogs with a taurine deficiency are more likely to develop diet-associated DCM.

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Risk factors

Dogs with pre-existing liver disease are susceptible to excessive taurine loss. Dogs with a genetic predisposition are more susceptible to taurine deficiency, possibly due to requiring more taurine than other breeds. Breeds with a higher risk include Golden Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels.

Possible causes

Taurine deficiency in dogs often has a genetic predisposition, or has been associated with a diet high in legumes or exclusively made of legumes.

Main symptoms

Taurine deficiency has not been proven to cause adverse effects in dogs. Cats with taurine deficiency develop dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) due to their inability to produce taurine, but dogs can manufacture this amino acid on their own. Some studies suggest a connection between taurine deficiency and DCM in dogs, however the link is not well established.

Testing and diagnosis

Since taurine deficiency is not associated with specific symptoms in dogs, it does not usually require diagnostic investigation. Like other nutrient deficiencies, it can be detected with blood tests if necessary.

Dogs presenting with symptoms of heart disease typically undergo measurement of taurine levels along with the other standard testing of a cardiac workup.

Steps to Recovery

Taurine deficiency is resolved quickly by the addition of taurine to the diet or through supplementation. Prognosis with treatment is excellent.


The best way to try to prevent taurine deficiency is to avoid feeding a diet that exclusively derives its carbohydrates from legumes like peas, lentils, and garbanzo beans.

Is Taurine Deficiency in Dogs common?

Taurine deficiency is very rare in dogs, but cases may go unreported as symptoms do not usually develop.

Typical Treatment

  • Supplementing taurine
  • Nutritionally-balanced diet


Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Nutrition) - Writing for Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Trina J Wood - Writing for UC Davis Veterinary Medicine

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