The Truth about High Protein Dog Diet
Proteins are major nutrients essential for dogs. The dog foods of today include both plant and animal matter because dogs are generally considered as omnivores like humans. But dogs are only omnivores because of their association with humans. They were mostly carnivores originally, just as their counterparts still living in the wild, and wolves, their ancestors, still are.
However, disregarding this truth, several websites spread the notion that high protein food is not good for dogs, and that it causes liver disease and kidney disease in dogs. This makes some pet owners avoid protein-rich foods, and choose food products that contain fillers in place of proteins. This deprives dogs of their rightful nutrition.
The Importance of Protein
Dog owners need to learn about proteins and their role in the dog’s nutrition to be able to take informed decisions about the dog’s diet.
Protein is the main body building material
All the tissues and organs of the body, including the dog’s coat is mainly made up of proteins. As a matter of fact, 50% of the dog’s body mass is nothing but protein. That’s why their protein needs are the highest during their growth stage. Even in adult dogs, tissues are continuously getting renewed, so they still need dietary protein.
Proteins are necessary for metabolic functions
The various enzymes and hormones involved in the body processes are protein compounds. This essential nutrient is made up of smaller units called amino acids. Some of these amino acids can be manufactured by the body using several substances already present in the body. But there are some called essential amino acids that the body cannot make, but should come from food. That’s another reason why even adult dogs need a continuous supply of protein through their diet.
The Importance of Water
An important fact that is overlooked by many dog owners is the place of water in the dog’s diet. Water is essential for the efficient processing of proteins by the body. The metabolic byproducts generated while digesting proteins should be eliminated through the kidneys. Sufficient amount of water must be available to the kidneys for this process; otherwise these metabolites can load up in the liver and kidneys, damaging them.
It is often falsely assumed that dogs will drink as much water as they require without any prompting. When dogs are fed the commercially available dry dog food, they need plenty of water to remain hydrated. The dog owners should take special care not only in providing clean drinking water, but also in ensuring that the dog is drinking enough. When dogs develop liver and kidney diseases, more often than not, the blame is cast on the protein content in their diets, when the actual reason could have been severe dehydration.
Quality of Protein versus Quantity
Those who consider high protein diet as stressful and injurious to the liver and kidneys of dogs are not clear about the difference between quality and quantity. All dietary proteins are metabolized in the liver, and the byproducts of this process are eliminated in urine after being sorted out by the kidneys. Good quality proteins get digested easily and get processed by both the liver and the kidneys without any strain.
However, low quality proteins are hard to digest, and the liver may find it difficult to process them. The metabolite byproducts from partially processed proteins clog up the kidneys and damage them. So, liver and kidney damage should be blamed on the poor quality of protein rather than its quantity.
Fillers in Dog Food
Many ingredients in commercially available dog foods have no nutritional value. Their main function is to increase the bulk of the food so that dogs will get a feeling of fullness after eating the highly concentrated kibble. While healthy fillers have their role in regulating bowel movements, many pet food manufacturers use fillers that are not healthy for the dog.
Some of these fillers are low quality proteins such industrial byproducts of soy and corn and blood meal. These are not good for dogs which would be living on fresh meat if they were still living in the wild. Wolves and wild dogs do not develop liver and kidney diseases from eating the meat of the prey they kill. But, feeding the dogs protein that are unnatural to them can cause indigestion and other health problems, besides being injurious to their liver and kidneys.
Another advantage of raw food is that they contain 70% moisture along with the protein, unlike the dry kibble that has less than 10% water content. It is not the amount of protein in the dog food, but the highly processed nature of some dog foods that should be blamed for many of the ill effects caused to the dog.
Many people who advocate the reduction of protein content in dog foods do so based on certain studies and research done in the 1990s. The results of these studies claimed that high protein foods can cause kidney and liver disease in dogs.
But on closer scrutiny it was found that the dog foods that were employed in the study actually contained low quality proteins. Since, more than anything, it is the protein quality that decides whether a particular dog food is healthy or not, it is no surprise that the studies brought out negative results. This only proves that only high quality proteins should be used in dog foods.
Good Protein Sources and Cheaper Alternatives
There are animal proteins and plant proteins; among these plant proteins are relatively cheaper. Even though animal protein sources such as meat and eggs provide the best proteins for a dog, many dog food manufacturers turn to plant sources to reduce costs.
Corn gluten meal is one common ingredient in many dog foods. It is obtained as a byproduct after extracting corn syrup from cornmeal. While gluten is a plant protein, it is very hard to digest. The dog food may list it as crude protein but its digestibility is not listed on the label.
There are some less than ideal animal protein sources too. For example, we cannot imagine feeding the feathers of chicken, hooves of cattle, and pieces of leather to our dogs. But these are also protein sources, even though their digestibility is questionable. Nevertheless, they are often processed into dog foods. Now we can see why some cheaper dog foods containing these proteins of low quality are not ideal for your pet.
Even though dog foods have undergone some improvements in the last few decades, the quality control measures are not yet sufficient to prevent dog food manufacturers from using low quality ingredients.
Dog Owners’ Decision
Ultimately it is up to the dog owners to decide what food is ideal for their pets. Since most dog owners care deeply about their canine friends and want to provide the best nutrition, it pays to know the difference between cheap dog foods containing low quality proteins and those with high quality proteins. The latter may be slightly more expensive, but in most cases, the extra cost is offset by the reduction in medical bills, as dogs on high quality diets are healthier, and less prone to diseases.