When it comes to keeping your exotic pet healthy, developing a diet that contains all the nutrients your animal needs is essential. One such nutrient required by many species of exotic pet is the amino acid called taurine
What is taurine?
Taurine is a type of amino acid. For those unfamiliar with what amino acids are, they essentially the building blocks of proteins. Unlike most amino acids, however, taurine isn’t used to build proteins. Instead, it plays various roles in several crucial physiological processes. This amino acid is found naturally in many animal tissues and is particularly abundant in the brain, eyes, heart, and muscles.
What is role does it play in animal health?
This amino acid has multiple functions in the body, but here are a few of the biggest examples:
- Cardiovascular function: Taurine is vital for heart muscle function and has a protective effect on the heart. It helps regulate blood pressure and maintain cell membranes’ integrity in heart tissues.
- Vision: Taurine is present in high concentrations in the retina and is essential for healthy vision.
- Digestion: Taurine is required for bile formation, which aids in fat digestion and the absorption of soluble vitamins.
Why do cats, dogs, and foxes need taurine in their diet?
Unlike many other mammals, cats (both domestic and wild) and some species of foxes have limited ability to synthesize taurine, making it an essential dietary nutrient for them.
Why do pet wild cats need taurine?
All cats, be it domestic or wild, require dietary taurine because they cannot synthesize it in sufficient amounts on their own. A deficiency in this nutrient can lead to a variety of health problems, including:
Cardiomyopathy–A heart disease where the heart muscle becomes weakened and enlarged.
Retinal degeneration that can lead to irreversible blindness.
Reproductive issues including fetal abnormalities in pregnant females.
Growth problems in kittens
In the wild, cats such as bobcats, servals, and caracals consume a diet rich in fresh meat. This provides them with the necessary nutrients. However, when kept as pets or in zoos, the responsibility falls on the caregiver to ensure their cat is getting enough in their diet.
Why do pet foxes need taurine?
While not as well-documented as in cats, taurine is also an essential requirement in the diet of foxes. Foxes are opportunistic feeders, and in the wild, they consume a varied diet that includes small mammals, birds, and insects, all of which naturally contain this necessary nutrient. When replicating such a diet in captivity, ensuring it is balanced and meets all their nutritional requirements is vital for their overall health and longevity.
How much taurine does a fox need a day?
My pet fox is a picky eater–how do I ensure it is getting enough taurine?
Red foxes are somewhat picky and won’t always like certain meats, but if you supplement with at least 500mg of pure taurine powder that will help offset their picky eater.
What are animal-safe foods that are high in taurine?
The best sources of taurine are animal tissues, especially:
- Heart and muscle meat
- Whole tuna and salmon
- Shellfish like scallops and muscles
- Poultry, especially the dark meat of turkey and chicken
Do raccoons need taurine?
Raccoons do not need any added to their diet. This is the main reason why feeding cat food to raccoons is dangerous–it has significant amounts of taurine that can cause organ failure.
What meats are low in taurine?
Rabbit and lamb.
Taurine is an essential nutrient for wild cats and foxes, playing numerous roles in maintaining their health. As caretakers of these beautiful creatures, understanding and ensuring their dietary needs can help them lead long, healthy lives. Whether you’re feeding them a commercial diet or preparing their meals, always ensure they’re receiving enough of this nutrient.
Jong, C. J., Sandal, P., & Schaffer, S. W. (2021). The Role of Taurine in Mitochondria Health: More Than Just an Antioxidant. Molecules, 26(16), 4913. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26164913
Larsen, J. A., & Fascetti, A. J. (2020). The Role of Taurine in Cardiac Health in Dogs and Cats. Advances in Small Animal Care, 1, 227–238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yasa.2020.07.015
Miyazaki, T., Sasaki, S.-I., Toyoda, A., Shirai, M., Ikegami, T., & Honda, A. (2022). Impaired Bile Acid Synthesis in a Taurine-Deficient Cat Model. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 1370, 195–203. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-93337-1_19
Ofri, R., Barishak, R. Y., Eshkar, G., & Aizenberg, I. (1996). Feline Central Retinal Degeneration in Captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 27(1), 101–108. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20095551