Cardiomyopathy is a very serious disease that causes the heart muscle to become inflamed, causing the heart to not work the way it should. The term itself means “sick heart muscle.”
Studies have shown that low levels of Taurine may be associated with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. High levels of the essential amino acid, Taurine, can be found in fish as well as animal meat, including insects and birds. The high level of Taurine in deboned beef, beef liver, lamb and chicken liver is well established, according to a UC Davis study reported in the “Journal of Animal Physiology” in 2003. Taurine regulates the heartbeat, moves calcium in & out of cells, regulates brain activity, and maintains cell membrane stability, in addition to being a strong antioxidant. Taurine plays a role in treating congestive heart failure, diabetes, damage to the retinas. Adding Taurine to your pets’ diet can provide wonderful health benefits especially when they get more than their body can normally produce.
Taurine deficiency is a slow progressing condition and it may take months to several years to develop. Larger dogs and certain specific breeds of dogs like the Newfoundland, Boxers and Cocker Spaniel are more prone to Taurine deficiency. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy causes the walls of the heart chamber to thicken. Causing a decrease in the efficiency of the way the heart pumps. Fortunately this form of cardiac failure is very rare in dogs. The more common form in dogs is Dilated Cardiomyopathy which causes the heart muscles to increase in size so the walls of the heart become thinner from stretching. Dilated Cardiomyopathy is one of the causes of Congestive Heart Failure.
Pet parents should be aware of the signs of Dilated Cardiomyopathy. If any of the following symptoms are apparent understanding the symptoms will help you recognize that a trip to your Veterinarian is warranted:
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing / unwarranted or excessive panting
- Laziness or being reluctant to exercise, along with an unwillingness to lay down or Inability to rest comfortably
- Swelling of the Abdomen
- Exhaustion and Lethargy
So when a pet food says it is complete, is it really complete?
Back in the 70’s, some dogs and cats mysteriously died from Cardiomyopathy. Studies were conducted and sometime in the 80’s it was discovered that the problem was traced to Taurine deficiency. Since dogs are able to make their own Taurine, manufacturers believed that only cat food needed to have the essential amino acid added to the food. Once Taurine was added to cat foods, the problem disappeared in cats and the research was considered a success. More recently however, it was discovered that some dog breeds were not getting enough Taurine which his found mainly in meat proteins. The reason for the deficiency seems to be linked to the high level of cereals added to the pet foods along with the fact that the majority of dog food on shelves today contains very little meat protein and consists of cheaper fillers and foods like grain or soy protein and wheat gluten.
Pet food manufacturers are aware of the benefits of feeding dogs foods with higher meat content, but this would increase the cost of the food, so they stick to the traditionally lower cost by using soy or grain proteins. Pet parents really need to start reading the labels on the foods they purchase to see if Taurine is added or at the very least to see what percent of the food is made from animal meat proteins. Holistic Dogs foods like Canine Caviar, add Taurine to their food in addition to the food having one of the highest percent of animal meat proteins on the market today. Because the foods is more easily digested and absorbed by your dog they will eat less of any raw meat quality food, so even if the food is higher priced, in the long run you will be paying the same because the food will last longer and your pet will be healthier, reducing the cost of visiting the Veterinarian because your pet gets sick more often.
Unfortunately there is no cure for Cardiomyopathy, so it is important to try and prevent the onset of the disease while your dog is healthy. Once your dog has been diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy the only thing the treatment will do is make your dog more comfortable and delay heart failure. This article is not meant to scare anyone; however the intent is to make pet parents aware that the food they feed their pets really does make a difference. The old saying “You are what you eat” rings true, and our pets can benefit from feeding them a healthier holistic diet that has Taurine added. After Cardiomyopathy is discovered, your Vet may prescribe a water pill to remove the excess fluids, or they may prescribe the same medicines that humans take when they have heart problems like; an ACE Inhibitor, channel or beta blockers, Digoxin, in addition the supplements like Taurine, COQ10 or L-Carnitine, however the effects of supplements after being diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy have not been proven.
More research is being conducted on the benefits of adding Taurine to a dogs’ diet. It is well established that if cat’s do not get enough Taurine they WILL develop Cardiomyopathy, however since most dogs can produce Taurine in their bodies, the jury is still out on whether manufacturers feel that adding Taurine or increasing the amount of animal meat proteins in a dogs food is beneficial in preventing Cardiomyopathy. My personal opinion based off the research I uncovered on the topic of adding Taurine to a dogs food is; I see no harm in adding Taurine since there does not seem to be a “too high” level of Taurine in the body and it seems that more Taurine a dog receives may actually be beneficial.
Please note: Before adding any supplements or changing your pets’ food, always consult your Veterinarian to make sure your dog is healthy and will be able to tolerate the change. Also it is always recommended to move your pet to a new regime slowly over a few weeks.