7 Best Dog Foods with Taurine & Carnitine 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

dog food on floor

We all want our dogs to stay healthy and happy. However, as they age, they may start to experience heart problems. Even younger dogs can develop heart disease in some situations. Usually, this is treated with medication, which may or may not be very effective.

However, you can also improve your dog’s heart function with taurine and carnitine. These two amino acids come from animal protein and are essential building blocks of your dog’s heart. If your dog is deficient in either of these amino acids, they may experience heart problems like dilated cardiomyopathy. Luckily, by switching their food to something high in taurine and carnitine, you can effectively treat some of these heart conditions. This is true even if your dog is necessarily deficient in taurine and carnitine.

Below, we’ll dive into some of the best dog foods on the market that are high in taurine and carnitine.


A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Merrick Grain-Free Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe Merrick Grain-Free Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe
  • High meat content
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids
  • High in protein
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
  • Diverse amount of meat included
  • High in protein and fat
  • Inexpensive
  • Best for Puppies
    Third place
    Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula
  • High in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Chelated minerals
  • Real buffalo as the first ingredient
  • Farmina N&D Codfish & Orange Ancestral Grain Dry Dog Food Farmina N&D Codfish & Orange Ancestral Grain Dry Dog Food
  • Omega-3 fatty acids included
  • Whole grains
  • 90% animal sources
  • Merrick Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food Merrick Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food
  • High in minerals
  • High in protein
  • The 7 Best Dog Foods with Taurine & Carnitine – Reviews 2020

    1. Merrick Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Dog Food – Best Overall1Merrick Grain-Free Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food

    We reviewed a lot of different dog foods for this article. Out of all of them, Merrick Grain-Free Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe is the best cardiac dog food we could find. It is not explicitly marketed as being for heart problems, and they do not heavily advertise their high taurine content. However, if your dog has heart problems, this is one of the best foods on the market.

    Their ingredient list is nearly perfect. Deboned beef is included as the first ingredient, with lamb meal and salmon meal following as the second and third ingredient. This broad range of meat keeps your pet’s diet diverse, which can help prevent nutritional deficiencies and food allergies. Furthermore, the inclusion of fish increases the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the food, which may also improve your dog’s heart health.

    We also liked how high this food was in protein (34%). Taurine and carnitine are both amino acids, which means they come from protein. The more protein your dog eats, the more amino acids they will consume as well.

    The only downside of this food is that it contains both potato and pea protein. These ingredients are not high in taurine, though they do boost the protein content of this food.

    Pros
    • High meat content
    • Contains omega-3 fatty acids
    • High in protein
    • Low carbohydrate content
    Cons
    • Contains pea and potato protein

    2. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Dry Dog Food – Best Value2Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

    For those who want something a little bit cheaper, Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food. If you want a high-quality dog food, you’re going to have to pay a bit of money. In the world of dog food, you get what you pay for. However, this food is excellent and cheaper than most others on the market. It is the best dog food with taurine and carnitine for the money.

    The first ingredient is buffalo, with lamb following as number two. Chicken meal is included as the third ingredient, which rules this food out for dogs who are allergic to chicken – a prevalent allergen. However, if your dog can consume chicken without developing a sensitivity, then this list of meats is perfect. The diversity prevents a food allergy from developing and ensures your dog’s diet is considerably diverse.

    The food is quite high in protein and fat (32/18%). Both of these macronutrients are important for our dogs. Protein is particularly vital in this situation since taurine is found in protein.

    The only negative feature of this dog food is that it includes peas. Peas may be associated with specific heart problems in dogs, which we will discuss in the buyer’s guide.

    Pros
    • Diverse amount of meat included
    • High in protein and fat
    • Inexpensive
    • Includes probiotics
    Cons
    • Contains peas

    3. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula – Best for Puppies3Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

    With 28% protein and 17% fat content, the Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula is designed specifically for puppies. It can safely be given to puppies of all breeds, including large breeds. This is not necessarily true for all puppy dog foods, as larger breeds often need specialized nutrition to develop properly.

    We particularly liked this food because the essential minerals included are chelated with amino acids. This improves the absorption rate and provides maximum nutrition to your pooch, making it perfect for those who need higher-than-average amounts of taurine. This food also includes decently high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health and puppy development.

    This food also contains buffalo and lamb meal as the first two ingredients. These are novel proteins, so it is doubtful that your puppy will be allergic to them. The use of two different proteins also diversifies your puppy’s diet, which is vital for complete nutrition.

    Pros
    • High in omega-3 fatty acids
    • Chelated minerals
    • Real buffalo as the first ingredient
    • Probiotics included
    Cons
    • Contains peas

    4. Farmina N&D Codfish & Orange Dog Food4Farmina N&D Ocean Codfish & Orange Ancestral Grain Medium & Maxi Adult Dry Dog Food

    Farmina N&D Codfish & Orange Ancestral Grain Dry Dog Food is made of 90% animal sources, making it extremely high-quality. The first ingredient is cod, and the second ingredient is also cod. Herring oil is added to improve the omega-3 fatty acids content, and whole-grain oats are used as well.

    This food is not grain-free, but many dogs do not need a grain-free food. Grain is only harmful to dogs that are allergic to it, and these dogs are often far and few between. Of course, if your dog is allergic to grain, this food is not for them.

    The protein (30%) and fat content (18%) of this food are very high, which is always what you want to see in dog food. Taurine and carnitine are both added to this dog food, so you can rest assured that it is plenty high in these two amino acids.

    The big downside to this food is its price. It is quite expensive and probably out of most pet parent’s budgets. If you can afford it, then, by all means, spoil your pooch with it. However, it is not accessible for most dog owners.

    Pros
    • Omega-3 fatty acids included
    • Whole grains
    • 90% animal sources
    Cons
    • Expensive

    5. Merrick Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food5Merrick Grain-Free Senior Chicken + Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Technically, there is no such thing as a “senior” dog food. The AAFCO does not recognize any unique dietary needs for senior dogs and lumps them in with the other adults. However, the Merrick Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food is made specifically for seniors despite this. It meets all the requirements of an adult dog food, but they have added in a few nutrients that may be particularly useful for senior dogs.

    This food is high in a variety of minerals, including omega fatty acids, L-carnitine, and taurine. These nutrients were chosen to protect against common senior pet illnesses, like joint and heart problems.

    The protein (32%) and fat content (12%) of this food are quite high, which is always a plus. On the other hand, carbohydrates are pretty low, which can keep your dog fit and happy despite a decline in exercise. Overall, this food has lower calories as well to help with weight management.

    However, this food does contain peas as only the third ingredient. Peas may be associated with specific heart problems in dogs, according to the FDA. We will discuss this problem in-depth in our buyer’s guide below.

    Pros
    • High in minerals
    • High in protein
    Cons
    • Includes peas high on the ingredient list

    6. Gentle Giants Canine Salmon Dry Dog Food6Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Salmon Dry Dog Food

    Don’t let the dog food packaging throw you off – the Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Salmon Dry Dog Food is so-so at best. It is suitable for all life stages and dog breeds. The first ingredient is salmon meal. This is a high-quality option, especially since fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. However, this is the only meat included in the whole dog food. Potatoes and peas are both included as the second and third ingredients, and both of these ingredients are potentially linked to deadly heart problems in dogs.

    The protein content of this food isn’t bad (24%), but it’s low in fat (10%) as well. This tells us that most of this food is carbohydrates, which is the last thing many dogs need.

    Despite the positives of this dog food, we simply cannot recommend it for most people. If your dog needs a low-protein diet, then this food might work.

    Pros
    • All life stages
    • High in omega fatty acids
    Cons
    • Mediocre protein content
    • Low fat
    • Includes peas and potatoes high in the ingredient list

    7. Wellness CORE Turkey, Chicken Liver & Turkey Liver Canned Food7Wellness CORE Grain-Free Turkey, Chicken Liver & Turkey Liver Formula

    We loved the Wellness CORE Grain-Free Turkey, Chicken Liver & Turkey Liver Formula Canned Food because it contains a high concentration of animal products. The ingredient list is mostly just a list of different meats, including chicken, turkey, and chicken liver. A variety of nutrient-rich organ meats are included, like chicken broth. All of these ingredients are high-quality and rich in amino acids, including taurine and carnitine.

    This food is neither high in both protein (12%) or fat (8%). As we will discuss in-depth in the buyer’s guide section, protein and fat are both critical macronutrients for dogs.

    This food also contains a small amount of fish and flaxseed oil. These ingredients raise the omega fatty acid content, which can help with heart problems and improve your dog’s coat and skin. Overall, this is a substantial addition that can help keep your dog healthy and happy.

    The only real downside to this food is that it’s expensive, and the carbohydrate content is a little higher than we would like. Despite these downsides, we recommend this food for most pet parents.

    Pros
    • Diverse amount of meat
    • Fish and flaxseed oil included
    • No peas
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Low protein/fat content
    • High carb count

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    Buyer’s Guide

    Choosing the best dog food for your pooch is surprisingly complicated. There are a lot of factors that you need to consider when making your decision. Below, we’ll discuss some of the most critical factors involved, as well as provide some necessary information on dog nutrition.

    Macronutrients

    Macronutrients are the three main building blocks of every food. These include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Every animal evolved to eat a particular ratio of these macronutrients. When in the wild, animals usually stick to their perfect ratio. However, when animals like dogs are relying on humans to feed them, they don’t always get what they need.

    Studies have shown us that dogs need a ratio of 30% protein, 63% fat, and 7% carbohydrates. This is the ratio they need to thrive. Sadly, it is quite challenging to find a dog food that matches this ratio exactly. Most are way too high in carbohydrates.

    Because of this, we recommend merely choosing a food that is as high in fat and protein as you can manage. We want to keep carbohydrates to a minimum as much as possible.

    Quality Ingredients

    You also want to ensure that the dog food you choose is made with quality ingredients. There is a lot of misinformation floating out there on what constitutes an excellent ingredient and what doesn’t.

    One simple thing to look for is how many animal products are in the food. You want your dog to eat as much meat as possible. To accomplish this, you want as many animal products as high on the ingredient list, as you can find. A diverse number of animal sources is also good, as this lowers the chance that your dog will experience any nutritional deficiencies.

    Whole meat is preferable. However, meat meal is not necessarily bad as long as the source is listed. “Chicken meal” is fine, but “meat meal” is not – only because it could be anything, including roadkill and diseased animals. Meal just means that the company has cooked the meal down to remove a lot of the moisture, which makes the meat more nutritious per ounce.

    When it comes to vegetables, quality is less of a concern. You just want to ensure that the veggies included are safe for your pooch to eat. Many vegetables that are completely safe for us can be potentially damaging to our dogs. You’d like to think that dog food manufacturers would remove these potentially dangerous ingredients from their recipes, but this isn’t always the case.

    Grain-Free vs. Grain-Inclusive

    In the past few years, many dog food companies have pushed the idea that grain-free is healthier for all dogs. However, there is no evidence that this is true. Dogs have evolved to eat grain and digest it just fine. Whole grains include many nutrients and vitamins that are dogs need, making them an excellent choice in most cases.

    The only problem with grain is that dogs tend to become allergic to it. Dogs don’t develop allergies like humans. Instead, they develop them over time by eating the same types of protein over and over again. If dogs eat grain-inclusive dog food their whole life, they may become allergic to the gluten found in grain. However, this could be said for any ingredient that includes protein, including things like chicken and beef.

    This is one of the reasons we recommend diversifying your pet’s diet and changing their food often. It prevents allergies from forming.

    If your dog isn’t sensitive to grain, then they are completely capable of eating it and may even benefit from it. In fact, in many cases, it is better to feed your dog a grain-inclusive food than a grain-free one if they don’t have allergies.

    Corgi Dog Food
    Image Credit:: Daria Bogomolova, shutterstock

    Peas and the FDA Investigation

    In July 2018, the FDA started investigating a link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and certain dog foods. Over time, they discovered that many affected dogs were eating foods labeled as “grain-free.” These foods also had high levels of peas, lentils, and other legumes.

    While some dog breeds do have a genetic predisposition to this condition, many of the dogs being affected did not belong to these breeds.

    Taurine is a significant component of a dog’s heart health. It is used to repair the heart muscles. Without it, your dog’s heart could become weak. DCM is intimately linked to taurine deficiency. However, many dogs who have recently developed DCM do not have a taurine deficiency.

    Some people suggest that the peas and other ingredients associated with this outbreak may interfere with your dog’s ability to absorb or use taurine, which could affect their heart.

    We don’t know precisely what the connection is yet. However, many pet owners are choosing to avoid peas until we do. It is much better to be safe rather than sorry. We have pointed out which dog foods include peas as a main ingredient throughout our reviews.

    Consider the Brand

    When it comes to dog food, the brand matters. Some brands are associated with man different recalls, some of which have cost pets their lives. If a particular brand has had many recalls in the past, there is a high probability that they will again in the future.

    You do not want your pooch to get caught in the middle of a recall. This can be dangerous for their health and wellbeing. Some dogs even die after consuming food that is later recalled. Because of this, we do not recommend feeding your dog food from a brand that often has dangerous recalls.

    If you want to do some research, you should also look at where the brand creates their dog food. Some areas of the world are associated with a higher level of recalls than others. If your dog’s food is made in China, for instance, it may be more likely to get recalled. Many other countries do not have the same safety standards in the factories as we do.

    Type of Dog Food

    Many people put way too much into the wet food vs. dry food debate. In the end, it doesn’t matter. There have been some suggestions that dry food keeps your dog’s teeth cleaner. However, there is no clear evidence to support this. For every study that finds dry food prevent dental problems, there is another study that says wet food prevents dental problems. (Plus, eating bread and nuts doesn’t keep your teeth clean, so why would hard food keep your pet’s teeth clean?)

    It is often easier to find a higher quality wet dog food, however. This is because they don’t have to use as much starch to hold the food together. Dry food has to remain dry and in kibble form; wet food doesn’t.

    Still, this doesn’t mean you can’t find a good dry dog food for your canine. There are plenty out there; you may have to dig a bit more to find them. We included many different dry dog foods in our review section, so feel free to head up there for some of the best dry dog foods on the market.

    Dog Eating Kibble
    Image credit: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

    Frequently Asked Questions

    We’ll round out this article with a few commonly asked questions about taurine and dog food. If you have any last-minute questions, you may find the answer below.

    What is taurine?

    Taurine is an amino acid that is found in protein. It is not considered “essential” for dogs because they can make it by themselves, so they don’t necessarily need to receive it from their diet. However, there is some controversy over whether dogs can make all the taurine they need or whether they must receive at least some from their diet. At this moment, we just don’t know.

    This amino acid is mainly concentrated in the animal’s brain, eyes, heart, and muscles.

    The primary sources of taurine are animal products, such as meat and fish. Dairy and eggs also have some taurine in them. In dog food, your pooch will probably get most of their taurine from meat and added supplements. Not all dog food manufacturers add taurine to their food, but many do – especially after the FDA investigation into DCM started in 2018.

    What is carnitine?

    Carnitine is a generic term that can refer to a variety of chemicals, including L-carnitine. It plays an essential role in energy production and may improve brain function. It is often taken by humans as a dietary supplement, though dogs need this amino acid as well.

    The primary role of carnitine is to transport fatty acids into your dog’s mitochondria, which produce all of your canine’s energy. This is a necessary process for life. Not having enough carnitine can be very harmful.

    Most dogs get plenty of carnitine from the meat in their dog food. However, most meats only contain a small amount so that supplementation may be necessary for some animals.

    Do eggs contain taurine for dogs?

    Yes. Eggs are a natural source that is high in taurine. We love it when dog foods include eggs since they are high in a variety of nutrients and minerals your pooch needs. It is a good sign when you read eggs on a dog food ingredient list.

    Should taurine be in dog food?

    Taurine is not considered an essential amino acid because your dogs can produce it themselves from other amino acids. However, many experts are pushing to make it essential, and many dog food companies have now started including it in their pet food.

    Truthfully, we know very little about how taurine works in our dog’s bodies. Some dogs do fine without added taurine in their food, while others develop DCM – a severe heart problem.

    Divider 2Conclusion

    There are many dogs out there that may need added taurine and carnitine in their food: older dogs, breeds that are prone to heart issues, and dogs with existing heart problems. Luckily, there are many great dog foods on the market that include these critical amino acids.

    Out of all those we reviewed, we preferred the Merrick Grain-Free Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe above all. This is an affordable dog food that includes high-quality ingredients and plenty of protein. We loved that it is made with a diverse number of animal sources, which helps your pooch receive all the nutrients they need.

    If you need a cheaper option, we also liked the Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food. This food includes probiotics, which is great for your pooch’s stomach and high-quality animal ingredients.

    We hope this article gave you all the information you needed to choose the perfect food for your pooch.


    Featured Image Credit: mattycoulton, Pixabay