Study: More than a blood test needed to diagnose dog heart issues

A study from BSM Partners and the University of Missouri Vet Health Center found just measuring taurine and carnitine blood levels are not reliable predictors of what's going on in the heart of pet patients.

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Results of a seven-month study found no correlation between plasma, whole blood, skeletal and cardiac muscle taurine concentrations in dogs.
Results of a seven-month study found no correlation between plasma, whole blood, skeletal and cardiac muscle taurine concentrations in dogs.
Andrea Gantz

Adapted from a press release.

Animal nutritionists and veterinarians from BSM Partners and the chief of cardiology at the University of Missouri's Veterinary Health Center published the results of a seven-month study that found no correlation between plasma, whole blood, skeletal and cardiac muscle taurine concentrations in dogs. This development indicates diagnoses of cardiac disease in dogs must not rely solely on blood tests. The research appeared in a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition.

"This particular research found that blood tests are not a reliable indicator for nutrient levels in the heart," said Dr. Sydney McCauley PhD, PAS, Dpl. ACAS, of BSM Partners, an article coauthor and board-certified companion animal nutritionist. "We can no longer assume that taurine whole blood and plasma testing, which are commonly used to diagnose canine heart diseases, can accurately tell us what's going on inside the heart.

"This finding should have a significant impact on how dogs are diagnosed with heart issues related to nutrient deficiencies, beginning another chapter in our fields' collective efforts to continually improve the lives of animals," added Dr. McCauley.

The study

For the study, researchers formulated four canine diets with varying amounts of animal protein and with and without grains, which were fed to 33 mixed-breed hounds and 32 beagles.

Blood samples were collected every 30 days throughout the seven-month study and cardiac endomyocardial and skeletal muscle biopsies were performed at the beginning and end of the study. This study led to the creation of the largest data set in healthy dogs to date, allowing for it to be used in the future as a reference for clinical and research comparisons.

"Going forward in the future, I think this research indicates that measuring taurine and carnitine blood levels are not reliable predictors of what's going on in the heart in clinical patients," noted Dr. Stacey Leach DVM, DACVIM, an article coauthor, and chief of Cardiology and associate teaching professor of cardiology at the University of Missouri's Veterinary Health Center.

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