Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Taurine deficiency

Contributor(s): Tad Coles, Rachel Blake


  • Taurine is a sulfur-containing ß-amino acid, with a role in retinal, platelet, immune, neurologic, reproductive and myocardial function.
  • Taurine deficiency is now uncommon as commercial cat foods are supplemented with taurine.
  • Cause: taurine deficient diet, eg vegetarian diets, cereal or grain-based diets (not completely carnivorous).
  • Signs: feline central retinal degeneration (FCRD) Retina: degeneration (FPRD/FCRD comparison) Retina: taurine-deficient retinopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy Heart: dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) (DCM), reproductive failure, platelet dysfunction and hearing loss.
  • Diagnosis: serology or whole blood levels.
  • Treatment: oral supplementation and treatment for specific clinical condition.
Print off the owner factsheet Taurine deficiency in your cat to give to your client.



  • Taurine deficient diet, eg vegetarian diets, cereal or grain based diets, dog food diet.
  • Bioavailability of taurine can vary with heat-treatment, potassium depletion and acidifcation of food.
  • Certain proteins and fiber (rice bran) may bind to taurocholic acid and make it less available for enterohepatic recirculation.


  • Cats have naturally low activity of cysteine dioxygenase and cysteine sulfinic acid decarboxylase   →   low endogenous taurine synthesis from cysteine and methionine.
  • Also, conjugation of bile acids with taurine is obligatory and cats cannot convert to conjugation with glycine. Taurine is excreted into the intestine with bile acids, then deconjugated. From there, taurine can be reabsorbed but a substantial amount is lost in the feces or degraded by intestinal microbes. Therefore, when exogenous supplies of taurine are low   →   depletion of tissue taurine.
  • Exact role of taurine in tissue metabolism unclear.
    • Regulates flux of potassium and calcium ions across photoreceptor and myocardial cell membranes.
    • Directly affects contractile proteins in the heart.
    • Acts as a natural antagonist of angiotension II.
    • Inactivates free radicals.
    • Osmoregulation.
  • Deficiency  →  disruption of cell membranes  →  cell degeneration and death  →  


  • Clinical signs develop after 5 months to 2 years of eating a taurine depleted diet.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Hambrook L E & Bennett P F (2012) Effect of pimobendan on the clinical outcome and survival of cats with non-taurine responsive dilated cardiomyopathy. J Feline Med Surg 14 (4), 233-239 PubMed.
  • Wright K N, Gompf R E, DeNovo R C Jr. et al (1999) Peritoneal effusion in cats - 65 cases (1981-1997). JAVMA 214 (3), 375-381 PubMed.
  • Novotny M J, Hogan P M (1996) Inotropic interventions in the assessment of myocardial failure associated with taurine deficiency in domestic cats. Adv Exp Med Biol 403, 305-314 PubMed.
  • Novotny M J, Hogan P M, Flannigan G (1994) Echocardiographic evidence for myocardial failure induced by taurine deficiency in domestic cats. Can J Vet Res 58 (1), 6-12 PubMed.
  • Smith C A (1993) Changes and challenges in feline nutrition. JAVMA 203 (10), 1395-1400 PubMed.
  • Pion P D, Kittleson M D, Thomas W P et al (1992) Response of cats with dilated cardiomyopathy to taurine supplementation. JAVMA 201 (2), 275-284 PubMed.
  • Pasantes-Morales H, Domínguez L, Campomanes M A et al (1986) Retinal degeneration induced by taurine deficiency in light-deprived cats. Exp Eye Res 43 (1), 55-60 PubMed.
  • Schmidt S Y, Berson E L, Hayes K C (1976) Retinal degeneration in the taurine-deficient cat. Trans Am Acad Ophthal Otolaryngol 81 (4 Pt 1), OP687-693 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Case et al (2011) In: Canine and Feline Nutrition. 3rd edn. pp 97-100.
  • Cote E et al (2011) In: Feline Cardiology. pp 183-187.
  • Hand et al (2000) In: Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. 4th edn. pp 301.