By Dr. Jean Hofve
Back in the 1970s, thousands of dogs and cats were
mysteriously dying due to a form of heart failure called
dilated cardiomyopathy. At the same time, there were reports
of cats going blind that were often associated with cats
being fed dog food. But within a few years, the same
problems were discovered in cats eating a “premium” cat food
sold by veterinarians. Finally, in the late 1980s, the
problem, in cats at least, was traced to the deficiency of a
basic amino acid called taurine.
There are 22 amino acids, the basic building blocks of
protein. Animals can manufacture many of them in their
liver, but some must be obtained in the diet—these are
called “essential.” In humans and dogs, taurine is not
essential, but it turned out that in cats, it is. Taurine is
found primarily in muscle meat, and is completely absent in
cereal grains. The lack of taurine in the diet caused
serious eye and heart diseases to develop.
But what happened to the cat food? Thousands of cats had
been eating the same “complete and balanced” cat food since
it came on the market in the 1960s, so why should they
suddenly start dying a decade later?
The answer lies in a part of the history of pet food that
the big manufacturers don’t want you to know.
Before WWII, more than 90% of commercial pet food came in
cans, and contained mostly meat. However, metal was needed
for the military, and by the time the war ended, 85% of pet
food was dry kibble. It still contained a good amount of
meat, and this is what prevented taurine deficiencies from
The primary machinery for producing what is familiar to
us today as dry food is called an extruder; it was
introduced in the 1950s. However, to get the right crunchy
texture, the recipe called for a higher proportion of
starch. This started the trend of ever-increasing quantities
of cereal grain, such as corn, in dry foods. At the same
time, meat processors were getting more proficient at
getting more meat from livestock carcasses. Less meat was
available (and what was available was getting more
expensive), so pet food makers substituted other animal
tissues leftover from slaughter, officially called
“by-products.” Over time, the result was a high-grain,
low-meat dry food, for which the profit margin
was—conveniently—much higher than for canned food.
Unfortunately, cats were about to pay for the pet food
companies’ profits with their lives. With virtually no
muscle meat in even the premium dry foods of that period,
cats eating that food were missing crucial taurine, and
suffered the consequences of corporate greed as sickness,
blindness, and death.
When studies fingering taurine deficiency as the cause of
these ailments were published, pet food manufacturers
hastened to supplement taurine in their diets. Curiously,
because bacteria in the cat’s digestive system evidently
prefer canned food to dry, they needed to put three times
more taurine in canned food than dry. The problem
disappeared, and everyone lived happily ever after…or did
Because dogs make their own taurine from other amino
acids, it’s been thought that they didn’t need such
supplements. But in the last few years, researchers have
discovered that a few dogs evidently can’t supply their own
taurine needs; at least not on a diet of cereal grains and
by-products. Certain lines of spaniels, retrievers, and
particularly Newfoundlands developed the same form of heart
disease that was killing cats. Now, this disease is actually
pretty common among dogs of all breeds, but what was
interesting about these particular dogs was that
supplementing taurine could reverse their heart
disease. As it turned out, many of these dogs were eating
lamb and rice dog foods. Lamb meat has a relatively low
level of taurine compared to chicken, the most common pet
food protein. (Beef, venison, and rabbit are also much lower
in taurine than poultry.) Consequently, a few pet food
makers have started to supplement taurine in some (but not
all) their dry dog foods.
However, the basic reason remains the same for dogs as
cats: there isn’t enough real meat in the food to sustain a
meat-eating predator like a dog or cat. The vast majority of
dry pet foods out there contain little or no real meat, but
instead use cheaper substitutes like grain proteins (corn
gluten, wheat gluten, soy protein), and by-products such as
meat and bone meal.
Here at Only Natural Pet Store, we stock only the best
natural pet foods. You won’t find any low-end foods full of
by-products here, so you can be confident that your pet is
getting the best nutrition available. Shop now for your
While all processed cat foods and some dog foods are
supplemented with taurine, in some cases more might actually
be better. Taurine is a helpful and valuable supplement for
pets with liver disease, seizure disorders, and Type I
diabetes (the most common form in dogs). Here are some
products that contain extra taurine:
Only Natural Super Daily Feline Vitamins
Missing Link Feline Formula
Return to the Holistic Healthcare Library search results
Start a new Holistic Healthcare Library search
Subscribe to our email newsletter and have great articles like this delivered to your
inbox every month...
The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for
informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product.
The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian.
Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff,
guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care
© 2013 Only Natural Pet Store LLC - All Rights Reserved
Subscribe now to our educational and money-saving emails and you'll save 10% on your first order!
We always offer you the lowest of the sale price, the price with a coupon code discount, or the Simplify Life automatic delivery price. You can tell which one applies because it will say "Sale Savings:" if the item is on sale and that is the lowest price, "Coupon Savings:" if you have applied a coupon code discount and that is the lowest price, or "SLP Savings:" if you have selected the Simplify Life automatic delivery program and that is the lowest price.
Click the checkbox next to any items you would like below and we will add them to your order with no increase in your shipping cost.
Only $9.00 more to get free shipping!