Dogs require a complete and well-balanced diet to stay healthy and active. Imagine how susceptible you would be to disease if you eliminated natural vitamins from your diet, or how weak you would be if you eliminated energy-boosting, high-protein foods.
Protein is a crucial part of your dog’s diet, just as it is in yours. “We literally can’t survive without it,” says Dr. Gary Richter, author of The Definitive Guide to Pet Health: Innovative Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats, and a veterinarian at Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California.
Reading: What protein is best for dogs
why is protein important for pets?
Protein, which is essentially a combination of amino acids, performs many functions in the body, including maintaining muscles, fur, skin, and nails; manufacture critical components of the immune system; and form enzymes that catalyze chemical reactions in cells. pets are designed to make some amino acids on their own, but others (called “essential amino acids”) can only come from their diet.
Protein can also be an important source of energy for pets. dogs will use protein for energy when it eats more than is required for its other functions. cats, on the other hand, are more reliant on protein for energy than dogs and will break it down even if their other protein needs are not met.
protein for dogs
When a dog eats protein, the digestive processes release its amino acids, which are then reassembled into the proteins the animal needs. Eating too little protein forces pets to break down muscle and other tissues to access the amino acids they need. this can lead to muscle atrophy, immune dysfunction, poor coat quality, and other health issues.
how much protein does a dog need?
The amount of protein a dog needs depends on many factors, including age, activity level, reproductive status, and health status. There are several ways to ensure a dog is getting enough protein.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets minimum standards for vital nutrients for pets. By only buying dog food that meets AAFCO standards, you can be sure that these minimum needs are being met. Current AAFCO protein standards for dogs (on a dry matter basis) are 22.5% for growth and reproduction and 18% for adult maintenance.
the european pet food industry (fediaf) has recently introduced nutritional guidelines that go slightly beyond the aafco standards. the fediaf breaks down the minimum nutritional needs of adult dogs based on the amount of energy they take in and offers specific recommendations for breeding/young puppies and for puppies over 14 weeks:
- adult dogs eating less due to low energy needs: 21 grams protein/100 grams dry matter
- adult dogs eating more due to high energy needs: 18 grams protein/100 grams dry matter matter
- early growth (<14 weeks) and reproduction: 25 grams of protein/100 grams of dry matter
- late growth (>14 weeks): 20 grams of protein/100 grams dry matter
Deciphering these types of recommendations is difficult. your veterinarian can help you determine the best range of dietary protein based on your dog’s particular needs.
the best sources of protein for dogs
Pet owners often think there are big differences between specific protein sources, but ultimately, the main difference is in the breakdown of amino acids, says Dr. richer “the truth is that most dogs will do well with almost any protein.” but this general rule comes with some caveats.
For dogs, the best sources of protein are often from meat. “While it’s technically possible to make a dog a vegetarian, it’s not optimal,” says Dr. Richer nutritionally complete and balanced vegetarian dog foods are available, but whether your dog needs to eat one for health reasons or you choose to feed one for moral, ethical, or environmental reasons, be sure to closely monitor its health and nutritional status.
See also: Can Dogs Eat Molasses? – Healthier Steps
However, even meat-based proteins are not all created equal. diets made with whole meat protein may be of higher quality than those containing many animal by-products (sometimes also called animal meal or animal digest) or meat meal. Animal by-products are what’s left when the more desirable components are removed, and it can be hard to know exactly what’s in them. Even within the same brand of dog food, the content of these animal byproducts can change, which means the spectrum and quality of the nutrients can change as well, says Dr. richer.
As long as your dog doesn’t have a specific food sensitivity (more on that below), dr. Richter recommends rotating it through different protein sources over time. this provides you with a broader spectrum of amino acids and other nutrients, which can help keep you healthy over time.
comparison of different protein sources for dogs
Common sources of protein for pets include chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, fish, rabbit, and eggs. some foods feature one protein source, while others may contain a variety of proteins in the same food.
Try these pet food options that include healthy protein sources for your pet:
- chicken is a healthy and widely available source of protein for pets. for owners who want to include a raw source of chicken in their dog’s food, instinctively by nature’s variety raw grain free recipe with real chicken dry dog food is a grain free dog food made without potatoes, corn, soy , animal by-products , meat meal, artificial colors or preservatives. Be sure to practice excellent food hygiene and monitor your dog for potential foodborne illnesses whenever you feed raw food.
- Naturally rich in protein, rabbit is a new source of protein to mix into your pet’s diet. Stella & chevy’s absolutely rabbit burgers are made with raw, farm-raised rabbit and are free of grains, gluten, fillers, artificial colors, and preservatives.
- beefis a common source of protein for dogs, but not all beef-based dog foods are high-quality. If you’re looking for a human-grade food that’s made with wholesome ingredients, consider Tylee’s Beef Human-Grade Dog Food. the food is made with minimally processed ingredients and no grains or fillers.
- turkey, another common protein source, can be a healthy way to mix up your dog’s diet . Honest Kitchen’s Whole Grain Turkey Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food includes cage-free turkey along with organic whole grain oats, carrots, cabbage, apples, and other healthy ingredients, with no animal by-products. is dehydrated, which means just add a little warm water and stir before serving to your dog.
- Lamb can be your dog’s main source of protein or used as a supplement. canine lamb caviar canned dog food supplement is made with 97% lamb and free of grains, fillers, added sugar, added salt, artificial colors and preservatives. pet owners can use this meat supplement as a topping on their dog’s regular meal or serve it as a treat.
- If your dog does not have a specific protein sensitivity, consider foods containing a combination of protein sources such as chicken, eggs and fish. fish, in particular, is not only a good source of protein for pets, but also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids. try honest kitchen zeal grain free dry dog food.
Ultimately, there is no one best protein for dogs, says Dr. richer he suggests feeding a fresh, whole-food diet. the choice of it will depend on your individual dog and your own personal preferences.
protein and food sensitivity in dogs
according to dr. Richter, 70 percent of a dog’s immune system lives in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. “If there’s inflammation in the GI tract, then you can expect there to be some global problems.” These issues include gastrointestinal issues such as an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea, but they can also manifest as chronic skin infections or irritations, ear infections, general itchiness, or any other type of inflammation within your dog’s body, says Dr. richer.
Unfortunately, a dog can develop an allergy or sensitivity to a specific protein source over time.
But owners should keep in mind that animal protein isn’t the only thing that could cause problems for your dog. Dogs can also develop a sensitivity to some of the protein components of other ingredients, for example, the protein components of wheat, rice, or corn, says Dr. richer.
adds that there could also be issues related to the way food is prepared or processed. “We can see a dog that has all kinds of problems with a dry dog food with chicken as a source of protein. but if you put her on a fresh or raw food diet with chicken, she might do just fine.”
What should you do if you suspect your dog has a protein allergy or sensitivity? the first step is to try a different protein, says dr. richer this is one of the main benefits of foods that have a single source of protein instead of multiple sources of meat. Although most dogs do well on protein from multiple sources, if your dog has dietary sensitivities, foods with a single source of protein, called limited ingredient diets, will help you rule out a few other variables when determining which food to eat. better for him, says dr. richer.
Of course, if you try several over-the-counter diets and your dog’s problems don’t resolve, you should talk to your vet. Your doctor can confirm that a food allergy or sensitivity is the cause of your dog’s symptoms and prescribe an appropriate therapeutic diet.
protein for cats
Cats need to eat more protein than dogs. in fact, the National Research Council’s recommended amount of protein for cats (50 grams/kilocalorie) is double that for dogs (25 grams/kilocalorie).
how much protein does a cat need?
Current AAFCO protein standards for cats (on a dry matter basis) are 30% for growth and reproduction and 26% for adult maintenance. By only buying cat foods that meet aafco standards, you can be sure that your cat’s minimum protein needs are met, at a minimum.
Fediaf Nutritional Guidelines provide two levels of protein for adult cats based on the amount of energy they need to ingest and individual recommendations for growth and reproduction:
- adult cats eating less due to low energy needs: 33.3 grams protein/100 grams dry matter
- adult cats eating more due to high energy needs: 25 grams protein/ 100 grams of dry matter
- growth: 28 grams of protein/100 grams of dry matter
- reproduction: 30 grams of protein/100 grams of dry matter
but, many cats prefer and would probably be healthier if they ate more protein than these minimums. a study published in 2017 found that when given the option to eat a variety of foods, cats selected “an overall diet composition that provided 53% of metabolizable energy as protein, 11% as carbohydrates, and 36% as carbohydrates.” like fat. the protein intake corresponded to approximately 6 grams of protein/kilograms of body weight/day.”
Speak with your veterinarian to determine if your cat’s food provides the ideal levels of protein based on his unique set of needs.
the best sources of protein for cats
Cats are obligate carnivores. this means that they have special nutritional requirements, including an additional essential amino acid (taurine), the essential fatty acid arachidonic acid, and some important vitamins, which can only be met by eating animal tissue. cats deficient in these nutrients are at significant risk for eye disease, skin and coat problems, blood clotting disorders, immune system dysfunction, poor growth, weight loss, swollen gums, diarrhea and neurological disorders .
Diets high in animal protein, moderate in fat and low in carbohydrates are best for cats. high-quality wet foods fit this nutrient distribution better than most dry foods, but some kibble is better than others.
Another benefit of wet food is that kitties are naturally inclined to get their water from their food rather than drinking from a bowl. You can help make sure your cat is well hydrated by feeding it wet food. You can also offer a combination of wet cat food and protein-rich kibble.
comparison of different protein sources for cats
The best sources of protein for cats come from animals, including meats and fish.
- Chicken is a wonderful source of protein for cats and is often included in high-protein dry cat foods. Nature’s Best Instinct Grain Free Cage-Free Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food contains 52% protein on a dry matter basis (47% including moisture) and is free of grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, soy or by-product flours, or artificial colors or preservatives.
- Salmon can provide cats with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, as well as being a nutritious source of protein. wild-caught salmon, like that found at tiki cat hanalei luau wild salmon in salmon broth grain-free canned cat food, is healthier than farm-raised salmon.
- freeze-dried treats are a good option for owners looking to add a little raw food to their cat’s diet. Purebites Duck Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Treats are made from 100 percent duck, but be aware that feeding raw foods increases the risk of foodborne illness in both pets and people.
- Various sources of animal protein can be found. combined in a single food for cats that do not have protein sensitivities. null freestyle beef & Grain Free Canned Cat Lamb Recipe & kitten food is made from beef, beef liver, turkey, white fish, and lamb.
- some cats prefer their diets to have a variety of flavors. combo packs like the healthy blue buffalo gourmet variety pack with tuna flakes, fish & shrimp & canned cat food with chicken is an easy way to meet a cat’s nutritional needs while indulging her taste buds.
protein and food sensitivity in cats
dr. Richter stated that most of a dog’s immune system lives in the gastrointestinal tract. The same goes for cats, and when that part of the immune system isn’t working properly, food allergies can result.
Food intolerances do not involve the immune system, but include other types of adverse reactions to specific ingredients in a cat’s diet. Food intolerances typically cause gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea, while food allergies tend to lead to chronic itching and skin infections with or without digestive upset.
Protein sensitivity often resolves when cats are fed a new protein cat food. look for a product that contains a single major source of protein that your cat has never been exposed to before. venison or duck may be good first choices, but talk to your vet if your cat’s symptoms don’t improve. therapeutic diets that require veterinary approval are sometimes needed to diagnose and treat severe food sensitivities.