As a cat owner, I am sure you have heard about the importance of taurine for cats.
It is to minoácido essential that is found mainly in meat and muscle organs such as heart, kidney and liver of animals and seafood.
Small amounts are found in dairy products. Plant products contain low or undetectable amounts.
The cats are carnivores forced strict . They cannot synthesize the taurine they need, by means of other amino acids such as methionine and cysteine . Furthermore, cats can only conjugate bile acids with it. This low rate of synthesis combined with the loss of synthesis in the bile contributes to an increased dietary requirement for taurine for cats.
With insufficient amounts of this essential amino acid in their diet, cats can develop central retinal degeneration, reproductive problems, and impaired fetal development or cardiomyopathy.
Below I explain what taurine consists of and the consequences of its deficiency in felines.
- What is taurine?
- How much taurine does a cat need?
- Diagnosis of taurine deficiency in cats
- How to treat feline taurine deficiency
What is taurine?
When proteins are ingested by a human or animal, they are broken down into their individual amino acid components before being absorbed. Of the twenty common amino acids, some can be made within the body from other amino acids, while others are “essential”, meaning they must be part of the diet. Each species of animal requires different essential amino acids .
Taurine is a type of essential amino acid, found exclusively in proteins of animal origin.
Most mammals can obtain taurine from other amino acids to meet their needs. However, cats have a limited capacity to generate taurine; therefore, taurine is classified as an essential nutrient in the cat.
Fortunately for the cat, taurine is easily obtained from the diet, as long as it contains animal protein. Unfortunately, it does not accumulate in large amounts in the body and therefore must be consumed on a regular basis.
How much taurine does a cat need?
As a general guideline, an intake of 400 mg of taurine per kg of body weight is recommended for younger cats, while for adult cats, an intake of 500 mg of taurine per kg of body weight is recommended.
Other studies suggest that the cat should be given 75 to 100 mg of taurine per day. According to other studies, for every kilo of food consumed, it is recommended that cats consume 1000 mg of taurine.
It is difficult for you to overdose on taurine in your pet since the excess is not stored, but is excreted.
Consequences of taurine deficiency in your cat’s diet
A deficiency in taurine can cause many problems in cats:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy. The heart becomes enlarged and affects its ability to pump blood effectively. Cats affected by dilated cardiomyopathy can also develop congestive heart failure.
- Development concerns. Kittens of mothers with taurine deficiencies can have growth problems and frequent bone fractures.
- Caused by degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the retina. Unfortunately, once these cells are lost, they cannot be replaced.
- Tooth decay. When it is in short supply, cavities are more than likely to occur.
- Reproductive problems Cases of infertility and fetal anomalies.
- Taurine helps the body regulate blood sugar. Your pet can suffer from diabetes.
- Gastrointestinal problems:Without enough taurine, your pet can have digestion problems and diarrhea.
- Loss of hair. Poor quality and excessive fall.
- Immune system disorders. Without enough taurine, your cat may not be able to fight viruses and suffer from frequent illnesses.
- Cats with a deficiency may appear tired and lethargic.
In some cases, it may be possible to reverse the effects of a taurine deficiency if your cat is diagnosed early and begins receiving supplemental taurine. Unfortunately, heart and vision problems are not reversible.
Diagnosis of taurine deficiency in cats
Taurine deficiency will often be a difficult diagnosis to make on its own. Clinical signs develop slowly. It can take anywhere from five months to two years before symptoms become apparent, depending on the cat’s life stage.
A vet will need a complete medical history and a check on the progression of any symptoms. Of particular importance will be the study of your cat’s diet.
If you are feeding your pet commercial cat food, it will help to bring the bag or a photo of the ingredient list. If you give him a homemade diet, you should carefully list the ingredients and provide them to the vet.
The vet should then perform a complete blood test and urinalysis. Other diagnostic tests will depend on the symptoms your cat displays.
The vet can perform a detailed eye exam to detect retinal degeneration . The retina requires high amounts of taurine to function properly and low levels will cause irreversible degeneration.
If dilated cardiomyopathy is suspected , ultrasound or chest x-rays will help diagnose the condition or rule out a more serious genetic heart defect or damage. An electrocardiogram may need to be performed to monitor the normal rhythm of the electrical function of the cat’s heart.
How to treat feline taurine deficiency
Commercial pet food manufacturers include adequate levels of taurine in cat food, sometimes even adding more than is actually necessary for cats to stay healthy.
Always check the labels of any commercially produced cat food to make sure it has enough taurine included.
If possible, you should try to feed your cat good quality fresh raw meat from time to time, because meat is one of the best sources of taurine. However, when the meat is cooked, the level drops dramatically.
One thing to keep in mind is that cats cannot survive and thrive on a strictly vegetarian diet due to the fact that they need taurine which can only be obtained from meat.
Even so, if you think your cat may be deficient in taurine , it should be the vet who prescribes the correct supplementation that will be added to his diet.
If a deficiency is diagnosed , the vet may prescribe synthetic taurine supplements and dietary changes. However, and since signs of taurine deficiency take time to appear, the damage that has already been done to the heart and retinas cannot be reversed.
Depending on the degree of deficiency and your cat’s ability to maintain adequate taurine levels will determine how long she will need to take the supplements. Fortunately, most cat foods contain sufficient amounts of taurine to help your cat maintain adequate levels of this essential amino acid.
You must bear in mind that cats rarely suffer from an excess of taurine , since they are unable to store this particular amino acid, either in their body fat or other fatty tissues. If a cat is given too much of the supplement, other than gastrointestinal upset, his body will eliminate the excess.