As with most aspects of diet, experts emphasize that the quality and quantity of protein are important to your dog’s health. But what makes it so critical?
“Along with healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, proteins are one of the most important components of a complete and balanced diet for your dog,” says Dr. Ernie Ward, a Certified Veterinary Therapist based in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. “Proteins are necessary to maintain a dog’s immunity through the synthesis of hormones, enzymes and antibodies, to keep the skin and coat healthy, and to build strong bones and muscles. Proteins also serve as a valuable source of energy to keep your dog running all day. “
How Much Protein?
Dr. Ward says, “The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines require that adult dog foods contain at least 18% crude protein. The majority of dry dog foods sold in the United States. contain about 21 to 27% crude protein. Dog foods containing more than 28% protein have been labeled “high protein”, although this term has no actual regulatory or medical meaning. “
But what is the right amount for your dog? How many things does that depend on it.
The protein requirement of every dog is “individually different”, emphasizes Dr. Valerie Parker, Associate Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine and Small Animal Nutrition at Ohio State University in Columbus. “The minimum amount of protein required by AAFCO for adult maintenance in dogs is 4.5 grams of protein per 100 calories (kcal). Puppies need more; (5.6 g / 100 kcal). ”
“The amount of protein a dog needs can vary based on a number of factors including age, activity level, stage of growth and stress,” added Johnna Devereaux, CPN, director of nutrition and wellness at Bow Wow Labs in Novato. California. “For example, as dogs get older, their need for protein increases to strengthen muscles and maintain muscle mass. Dogs that also need extra protein include puppies, pregnant or nursing mothers, and dogs that are being healed from injuries. “
“Healthy, active dogs can easily manage and benefit from diets that contain 28 to 32% protein,” says Dr. Ward. “This amount of protein, when combined with higher levels of fiber, can also help prevent obesity.”
But there can be too much good when your dog has certain ailments. “With some health problems, excess protein can worsen the disease process or make the pet feel worse,” writes Dr. Cailin R. Heinze, a board certified veterinary nutritionist in petfoodology, a nutrition blog for the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts. “Two common diseases in which this occurs are kidney disease and some types of liver disease.”
Another consideration: Johnna says, “The holistic belief in dealing with dogs with kidney problems is looking at the quality of the protein, which is often overlooked. High quality, minimally processed protein from animal meat allows phosphorus to bind to other minerals and be excreted through the digestive tract, minimizing stress on the kidneys. “
Does Source Matter When It Comes To Protein For Dogs?
Speaking of animal meat, it’s often the first thing people think of when it comes to dog food ingredients. “Typically, animal proteins have a higher overall protein quality than vegetable proteins, but even within animal protein sources commonly used in pet foods, there are large differences in protein quality,” says Dr. Heinze. “To maximize protein quality, proteins derived from both plants and animals can be combined to overcome limitations that proteins may have independently.”
Johnna adds, “In general, animal protein always provides the amino acids required and is the best source of protein in the dog diet. However, by turning the source of animal protein on, you can ensure your dog is getting balanced amounts of the right amino acids. Each source of animal protein varies in the amount of amino acids it supplies. “(More on amino acids can be found below.)
What is meat meal?
A common ingredient listed on many dog food labels is not just meat, but meat meal as well. “Meat meals can be a good source of protein,” says Dr. Parker. “It just means that the water has been removed. It does not affect the quality of the ingredients or the amount of protein. “
Johnna raises a few considerations: “These meals may contain tissues from animals that have been deemed unfit for human consumption and, while providing protein, are highly processed. Call the manufacturer before dieting with meals and find out where the meat is from. There are some high quality food companies that use human grade dehydrated meat. “
Non-meat proteins for dogs
Some vegetarians and vegans have difficulty feeding their dog pet products. This is understandable, but it is often viewed as a mistake. Think of your dog’s relationship with meat as similar to your relationship with toilet paper – one is a must for each of you, but not necessarily for both of you.
“It is generally accepted that vegetable protein sources are less digestible than animal protein sources. However, studies in dogs have shown that soy-based protein is equally digestible when the soy product is fully processed, ”said an article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) evaluating the vegetarian diet.
“Pets fed without animal protein (i.e. a vegan diet) or pets fed on homemade diets that have not been carefully developed are at higher risk of protein or amino acid deficiencies,” warns Dr. Heinze.
That doesn’t mean only animal proteins are beneficial for your dog. And vegetable proteins can also help the planet. “Protein, especially animal protein, is a resource-intensive industry,” emphasizes Dr. Heinze. “A lot of land, water and food are required for production. Avoiding excessively high animal protein diets and feeding them a supplemental blend of plant and animal proteins can help reduce environmental impact while maintaining dog health. “
And there’s a veggie protein for dogs that really packs a punch. “Eggs have the highest biological value of any protein and are also easy to digest,” says Johnna. “Eggs are a great source of protein for all dogs, especially those who are sick, as eggs are the easiest protein for the body to process.”
Acid trips and BVDs (Biological Value Descriptions)
Two important things to look for in the quality of protein in your dog’s food are amino acids and BV.
“Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When an animal eats protein, its body breaks the protein down into these amino acids, which can then be used to build new proteins or to burn energy, ”explains Dr. Heinze. “Not all proteins are created equal in terms of amino acid types and amounts. The best quality proteins contain the highest amounts of essential amino acids and are the easiest for pets to digest. “
Johnna says, “Of the 22 amino acids, 10 are considered essential for the dog’s body. When an amino acid is essential, it means that the body cannot synthesize it on its own and that it must come from its diet. All dogs, regardless of breed, age, etc., require the same 10 essential amino acids. “
AAFCO sets minimum requirements for each amino acid. (See table of AAFCO Guidelines for Minimum Dog Food Proteins and Amino Acids.) The 10 essential amino acids for dogs are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
And now that BVD: “The biological value is based on the unique combination of amino acids in a protein and measures the potential quality of that protein,” explains Johnna. “If a protein contains the right amino acids in the right amounts, it should have high biological value. Animal protein has a much higher biological value than most vegetable proteins and it is also easier for the dog to digest; Therefore, you should always try to feed your dog a protein with a high biological value (preferably above 74) and a protein that is highly digestible. “
Every meal has one Biological value. Here are some common dog food ingredients:
- Egg = 100
- Fish meal = 92
- Fish = 88
- Beef = 78
- Chicken = 78
- Soy = 74
Sometimes there seem to be almost as many different sources of protein as dogs. “Before making any significant changes to a dog’s diet, always consult a veterinarian,” advises Dr. Ward. Set up this “meat” soon so you know your dog is getting the best possible nutrition – and that doesn’t have to be expensive.
AAFCO’s Minimum Protein and Amino Acid Guidelines for Dog Food
|nutrient||Units per 1000 kcalME *||Growth & reproduction minimum||Minimum maintenance for adults **|
* The calorie content of dog food is expressed as kilocalories / kilogram of metabolizable energy. ** Recommended concentrations for maintaining body weight with an average calorie intake for dogs of a certain optimal weight.