An important amino acid, taurine is vital to your cat or dog’s health. This article explains why, and offers recipes for tasty taurine toppers to add to your best friend’s meals.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Our dogs and cats need them for vision, digestion, heart health, and immune health. There are 22 amino acids — one of which is taurine. While taurine itself is not used for protein synthesis, it’s found in many of the body’s tissues — the nervous system, retinas, muscles, heart, and even the blood platelets — and is crucial to many metabolic processes. This means dogs and cats need sufficient taurine in their diets – cats especially must have it supplied in their food because their bodies can’t synthesize it on their own. While high quality pet foods usually contain adequate taurine, lower-end products may not. The healthy taurine toppers presented in this article will help ensure your cat or dog is getting enough of this important amino acid.
How taurine needs differ in dogs and cats
Cats: As mentioned above, a cat’s diet must be supplemented with taurine because their bodies have a limited ability to convert methionine and cysteine to taurine. They also lose taurine through the secretion of bile acids. Cats require daily dietary taurine to stay healthy, so it is essential that this amino acid is included in their diet. Research has found that if a cat does not get taurine for six weeks, he may develop an enlarged heart; after a long-term deficiency, retinal degeneration can occur and may even lead to permanent blindness.
Dogs: Unlike cats, dogs have the ability to synthesize taurine from methionine and cysteine. However, as we have learned over time, especially with all the news about dilated cardiomyopathy in some breeds, even though they have the ability to synthesize taurine, some dogs need more taurine in their diets, either through a supplement or through the addition of certain whole foods, including organ meats like heart and liver, muscle meat like turkey (dark meat), beef, lamb, and seafood (e.g. krill, sardines, salmon, whitefish). For something really simple, add canned sardines (packed in spring water) to your dog or cat’s diet. Goat’s milk provides a little boost of taurine as well.
Have fun with the taurine topper recipes that follow. They are simple to prepare and will add an extra blast of flavor, as well as taurine, to your dog or cat’s diet!
Choose organic ingredients whenever possible.
1 lb ground whitefish (e.g. pollock, cod or salmon)
1 teaspoon sea kelp
4 tablespoons oatmeal
1/4 cup first pressed olive oil
3/4 cup filtered water
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients, except the fish, in a food processor or blender. Turn out into a large mixing bowl, add fish, and combine thoroughly.
Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper. You can make large cakes for your dog by using an ice cream scoop; if you want smaller cakes for a cat or small dog, try using a fruit scoop, like those used for making melon balls. Place the cakes on the cookie sheet and flatten them with a fork.
Bake for approximately one hour. Remove fish cakes from the oven and cool completely before serving. These should be tored in the refrigerator or freezer.
*Eggs are another great way to add taurine to your animal’s diet.
Purrfect Poached Fish
1/4 lb fish (e.g. Ling cod, pollock, salmon
1/2 cup filtered water
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For cats, add 1 teaspoon fresh catnip or 1/2 teaspoon dried catnip
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, except the fish. Bring to a boil. As soon as bubbles appear on the surface, turn down to a low simmer. Add the fish to the broth and cook for 15 minutes. Cool before serving.
You’ve Gotta Have Heart
1 cup chopped raw heart (liver can also be used; e.g. use ½ cup heart and ½ cup liver.)
2 tablespoons filtered water or broth
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Gently sauté on medium heat. When all the “pink” is gone, the dish is done. Cool to room temperature before serving. This recipe takes less than five minutes to prepare. It can also be whirled in a food processor or blender and served as a sauce, or even served as a raw topper.
Cat Call Sauce
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb beef heart, sliced in small pieces
1/4 oz beef liver, sliced in small pieces
2 cups oatmeal
1/4 cup zucchini, chopped
6 cups filtered water
Combine all ingredients in a Crock-Pot or other slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours or on high for three to four hours. If you don’t have a slow cooker, simply combine all the ingredients in a big pot, bring to a gentle boil, then turn down to simmer for two to three hours, stirring from time to time so the ingredients don’t stick to the bottom.
Note: This recipe provides a week’s worth of food for a 9 lb cat. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, or other oil of your choice, on your cat’s food just before serving.
Barking Fresh Stew
1 lb ground turkey
1/4 oz beef liver
2/3 cup whole brown rice, whole barley flakes, oatmeal, quinoa, or teff
1/2 cup green vegetables, chopped (e.g. broccoli, green beans, zucchini)
1 small red apple with skin, chopped with core and seeds removed; or 1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
4 cups filtered water
Combine all ingredients in a Crock-Pot or other slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours or on high for three to four hours. If you don’t have a slow cooker, simply combine all the ingredients in a big pot, bring to a gentle boil, then turn down to simmer for two to three hours, stirring from time to time, so ingredients don’t stick to the bottom.
Note: This recipe can also be served raw. Simply leave out the grains or cook them up as a side dish or base for your raw ingredients.