BrainTrainingforDog: Why a Higher Protein Diet Helps Keep Your Dog Lean and Fit

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Why a Higher Protein Diet Helps Keep Your Dog Lean and Fit

 Proteins are essential nutrients provided by the diet of the dog. What are they? What is the protein requirement of the dog? And where do you find them? Are they all the same?

What is a protein?

They are vital molecules and are used for almost everything! They are not only a source of energy, but they are also the building blocks of the body. They consist of chains of different lengths of amino acids and help to preserve and renew bones, muscles, hair, claws, skin, but also "inner messengers" such as hormones, enzymes, defenses against infections via antibodies of the immune system.

In order for it to fulfill its role perfectly, the protein must have and be of good biological value:

complete: its amino acid profile contains all the essential acids necessary for the body, as well as a maximum of non-essential amino acids

easily assimilable and used by the body: digestibility determines the number of proteins that can be broken down in the digestive tract, absorbed into the bloodstream and used by the body. It is influenced by many factors, in particular by the quality of the raw materials used, but also by the way in which industrial feed is processed. Therefore, it is important to carefully check the quality of the ingredients in their composition! If the protein comes from meat rich in tendons or elastin and collagen, from the lungs or from the udders, it is difficult to assimilate and often incomplete.


In the diet, we regularly ask ourselves whether an excess of protein in dog food can be harmful to the health of our dogs and cats, and it is argued that excess would have negative effects on their kidneys. Paradoxically, while many studies have been conducted to measure the minimum amount of protein that can be given to a dog without health risk, there are no studies that have determined a maximum. The FEDIAF (European Federation of Food Industry for Pets) therefore recommends a subsistence minimum of between 18-21% protein for an adult dog and 25% for a very young, growing puppy. What is really bad are the proteins of "poor quality" that are not evaluated, let's see why!


There are about twenty different amino acids that can form an almost infinite number of possible proteins.

These include 10 "essential amino acids" in dogs and 11 in cats: leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, histidine, and arginine. In cats, we are going to add a famous and essential amino acid derivative taurine.

Since essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body, they must be provided through food.

Where are they found?

Protein intake must be daily. It is estimated that a cat should receive 5 to 8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day and a dog between 2 and 6 grams. By comparison, we humans only need 0, 8 grams per pound per day!

Proteins are contained in all foods of animal and plant origin. But since our dogs and cats are carnivores, they preferably need meat, offal, eggs, and all food of animal origin.

Quality dry food should contain at least 35% Protein for a cat, and 25% for a dog. But we can give much more protein foods, as long as they are well formulated. As a reminder: so far no maximum risk has been established, the prey of our domestic carnivores contains on average between 40 and more than 65% dry protein. According to all the quality criteria defined by us, it is essential that the croquettes have as complete and easily recoverable an amino acid profile as possible, are rich in meat and high-quality animal products, and that their production process is reasonable and capable of maximizing the nutritional value of the proteins (i.e. without overcooking).

What about vegetable protein?

Although they are excellent, they are not ideal for our dogs and cats as they are less complete than animal proteins and lack one or more essential amino acids. Different sources of vegetable proteins have no shortage of the same amino acids. So there is a lack of lysine in the wheat. In legumes it is more likely methionine. In general, amino acids are missing: arginine, taurine, methionine, tryptophan, and L-carnitine. However, they are vital for our animals! Finally, your body has difficulty assimilating them, and it needs more to meet the same needs as with animal proteins.

One can think about avoiding deficiency by combining different types of vegetable proteins. A good idea especially on paper: this often happens in industrial foods, but again it is necessary to carefully check their composition and especially their quality and digestibility. Finally, we must not forget that despite the addition of several plant proteins, they still lack L-carnitine and taurine, since none of them are present.

Some misconceptions about proteins

There are many beliefs and misconceptions about proteins that we want to hunt!

Too much could cause dog hyperactivity. WRONG!

Certainly, the recommendations for sports dogs to increase the protein content, in particular, to help their tissues to renew themselves well. It is not the proteins that provide the essential energy for the dog, but the lipids (fats) that are also increased for dogs with high physical activity. Proteins provide as much energy as carbohydrates (about 4kcal). And supplying too much energy does not cause hyperactivity, on the contrary: the excess is stored as fat ... and more is clogged!

Protein should be limited in older or urine-sensitive animals. WRONG!

In the past, restriction of dietary proteins in older dogs and cats has been widely recommended to protect kidney function. However, research has shown that protein restriction in our older animals is useless, even counterproductive (not to say counter-natural), even in early kidney disease. In addition, it has even been shown in dogs that the protein requirement increases with age. There is no data to confirm that the same is true in cats, but since the cat is a strict carnivore, its need for food protein is much higher regardless of age. The quality of the proteins must also be taken into account. Poor digestibility of proteins promotes the development of proteolytic colic flora (harmful bacteria such as Clostridium perfringens, etc.), softening of stool, and stool odor. (Source IVIS 2014)

It is necessary to limit the protein content of overweight dogs in order to limit the risk of urinary stones, or even weight gain. VERY BAD!

It is even potentially dangerous. Protein requirements of dogs that diet are much higher. Why? Because the dog has a daily need for protein to live well, which is fixed. If we limit the amount of food given, or if we give her so much of a low-calorie and often very (too) high-fiber food, this food must contain more protein so that your dog will always get the same amount of protein that is necessary for his health through eating or upgrading less. In this context, it is based on the provided calorie ratio (CPR) to measure the energy value of the ration provided by proteins.

Some breeds, such as Dalmatians have a "limited" protein. WRONG!

Certainly, they are known to be very susceptible to urinary problems, especially the formation of urinary stones, especially in men. Their degradation metabolism and assimilation of purine bases, so that they can then be easily excreted through the kidneys, is reduced by half. The cause of this" deficiency " is not yet fully understood, but it is mainly genetic. The nutritional risk factors that promote urate urolithiasis are a diet rich in purines (e.g. rich in organ meat or legumes) and insufficient water intake. Uric acid promotes the formation of uric acid stones. Fish, offal, and legumes should simply be avoided in the affected dogs in order to obtain fewer protein sources at purine precursors (especially chicken, turkey), and the ration should be as high quality and water-rich as possible. In addition, a low-purine diet is not really necessary for Dalmatians who have never reported urate stones.

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