September 21, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Taurine status in Labrador Retrievers fed a grain-free diet

Interpretive Summary: Taurine status in Labrador Retrievers fed a grain-free diet

By: Anne Kamiya, MS

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a serious heart condition in dogs. It is also linked to grain-free diets according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although the reason for this connection is unknown, grain-free commercial dog feed tends to replace grains with pulses and potatoes. These ingredients have lower levels of taurine (an amino acid) compared to grains, and taurine is not known to be essential for dogs. Because low blood taurine was noted in FDA reports of dogs suffering from DCM, researchers in this recent Translational Animal Science study hypothesized that there may be a link between DCM and taurine, and that feeding dogs a grain-free diet would lower their blood taurine levels.

Male and female Labrador Retrievers (8 animals total) were fed grain-free diets for a total of 26 weeks. Blood, urine and fecal samples were regularly collected. Blood levels of the amino acids histidine, methionine, tryptophan and taurine were increased from baseline at the end of the study. Taurine excretion did not increase in urine. However, excretion of fecal bile acids, which contain taurine, was increased, and of unknown significance.

The results of this small study found that a grain-free diet does not cause lower blood levels of taurine in Labrador Retrievers. However, due to the limitations of this study (only 8 animals of one breed), the results are not broadly applicable to other breeds of dogs. More comprehensive studies that include more dogs and different breeds of dogs is justified and will help to better elucidate the possible connection between DCM and grain-free diets in dogs. 

The original article, A commercial grain-free diet does not decrease plasma amino acids and taurine status but increases bile acid excretion when fed to Labrador Retrievers, is viewable in the July 2020 issue of Translational Animal Science.