Taurine and Dogs: A Response To Petfoodology

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One of our excellent customers emailed me an article today discussing a link between taurine deficiency and heart disease. The article was suggesting that “boutique” dog food could also be contributing heart disease and she wanted to know how this relates to Whoa Nelly. It’s a really great question so I thought I would share my answer for anyone else interested.

Here’s a link to the article.

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This article seems to be making two arguments:

1. Taurine deficiency is linked to heart disease in dogs.

2. You shouldn’t feed “Boutique” dog food - whatever that is!

Lets look at these one at a time.

Firstly, research shows that taurine deficiency is linked to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and can be significantly improved with taurine supplementation. While dogs can produce their own taurine (it’s not an essential amino acid), feeding a diet with sufficient taurine is important. Luckily for raw feeders, taurine is found in animal products like meat, organ and eggs. Whoa Nelly certainly meets these minimum requirements.

One can only assume that the grain-free “kangaroo & chickpea” food the article refers to was incorrectly formulated. I think the real issue is that dry food often contains large amounts of carbs (including the grain-free ones) and insufficient meat, which would certainly increase the chances of a taurine deficiency.

The second issue strikes me as odd. The thrust of the article is to not feed “boutique” dog food because of a potential taurine deficiency. I can only assume “boutique” refers to small raw food producers like us! So let me break down their argument a little.

Here’s a couple of quotes from the article:

“Marketing is a powerful tool for selling pet foods and has initiated and expanded fads, that are unsupported by nutritional science, including grain-free and exotic ingredient diets.”

“Making high quality, nutritious pet food is not easy! It’s more than using a bunch of tasty-sounding ingredients. The right nutrients in the right proportions have to be in the diet, the effects of processing (or not processing) the food need to be considered, and the effects of all the other ingredients in the food need to be addressed, in addition to ensuring rigorous quality control and extensive testing. Not every manufacturer can do this.”

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I completely agree with the sentiments here! Formulating properly balanced recipes is far more nuanced than most people think, especially if you are only using foods instead of using synthetic supplementation.

The article kind of goes off the rails for me though with it’s conclusion:

“And do yourself a favor (sic) – stop reading the ingredient list!”

This is extremely problematic! The author is advocating for feeding from a “reputable company” (presumably Mars or Nestle, I’m not sure how you determine that) and containing “standard ingredients (e.g., chicken, beef, rice, corn, wheat)”. I strongly disagree. Not only is this biologically inappropriate, large amounts of unnecessary ingredients like corn and wheat are only present for the manufacturing process.

Yes, proper formulation is critical, but so is using quality ingredients.

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I completely agree that feeding a properly formulated, nutritionally complete diet is essential. I disagree however, that all “boutique” or small producer dog food is inappropriate for dogs. While I suspect there are many pet food manufacturers in Australia who make foods which could fit into this “problem” category, and there is certainly a majority who have disproportionately large marketing budgets, this certainly does not apply to all small dog food producers. There are many who make complete & balanced food, of which we are one.

Our food is nutritionally formulated to meet both AACFO and NRC nutrition guidelines, and both Tory and I are qualified nutritionists. We take great care, not only in formulating high quality food but only using fantastic ingredients - the same ones we eat at home. And as you know we pride ourselves on the amazing quality of our food, because that’s what we want to feed Nelly.