By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is taurine?

Taurine (brand names: Formula V®, Dyna-Taurine®) is an amino acid nutritional supplement that is used to treat taurine-deficiency diseases such as dilated cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease.

It is also effective in preventing retinal degeneration, a disease of the eye.

Although taurine-deficiency occurs primarily in cats, it may also occur in Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Dalmatians, Portuguese Water Dogs, and English Bulldogs. Taurine may also be effective for general heart disease.

Dietary supplements are substances that can be used to supplement the diet, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics. While many supplements are sold over the counter, they still contain ingredients that have biological effects that should be managed by your veterinarian. Follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

There are differences in how countries regulate supplements. In the United States, these substances are not as vigorously regulated by the FDA as other medications, which means they can be sold without the manufacturer proving their effectiveness, safety, and without a guarantee of consistent or accurately reported ingredients. In Canada, products that have been evaluated for quality, safety, and effectiveness by Health Canada and authorized for sale will have a license number on the label.

How effective is taurine?

Taurine has been proven effective for treating taurine-deficiency diseases and retinal degeneration. Limited studies have been performed regarding the use of taurine to treat general heart disease, but preliminary studies show taurine’s usefulness as an adjunctive therapy in these cases.

This medication should take effect after 1-2 doses; however, it can take up to a few weeks before full effects are noted. Effects may not be visibly noticeable and therefore laboratory tests may need to be done to evaluate if the medication is working.

How is taurine given?

Taurine is given by mouth in the form of a tablet, liquid, capsule, or powder. It may be given with or without food, but mixing with food may make it easier to administer. If vomiting occurs when dosed on an empty stomach, give future doses with food. Measure liquid forms carefully.

What if I miss giving my pet the supplement?

If you miss a dose, give it when you remember, but if it is close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

Taurine appears to be well tolerated. Minor vomiting could potentially occur after dosing by mouth. This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this supplement?

Taurine is considered safe and there are no known risk factors.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

There are no known drug interactions with taurine; however, vitamins, herbal therapies, and supplements have the potential to interact with each other, as well as with prescription and over the counter medications.

It is important to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including all vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this supplement?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working. If possible, your veterinarian may want to monitor whole blood levels of taurine.

How do I store taurine?

Follow storage instructions on the label. If there are no storage recommendations, store tablets, capsules, and powder at room temperature, protected from light and moisture. Liquid forms should not be refrigerated and should be stored at temperatures above 45°F (7°C).

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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