Very often my customers ask me about protein requirements for their animals. Today I am going to start here a small series of comments addressing this issue and looked at from various view points.
Darcy Lockman, a Brooklyn freelance writer for the Studio One Networks in The Dogs Daily just recently had an interesting write up on canine protein related issues.
She reported of a NYC vet who had seen the consequences of canine protein deprivation a few weeks after hurricane Katrina. She was working in New Orleans as a volunteer providing animal care during the cleanup after the disaster. Her observation was that “The dogs were like a skeleton with skin on it. Without the normal amount of protein, the body just began to break down. The poor animals could barely walk.” As she set out to put meat back on the dogs’ bones, it was protein that played a major part in returning these pooches to their fighting weight. The following explains how she sees the importance of protein and what kinds of protein your dog needs to stay healthy.
Why do dogs need protein anyway? Dogs evolved from wolves in the wild, which are surviving primarily on a diet of other animals. The dogs’ digestive systems adopted to utilizing meat, fat and bones. This diet provided them with amino acids, the building blocks of protein they needed and could only get from animal food sources. They came to rely on these amino acids to build, maintain and repair their bodies, from skin to muscle tissue. However, not just any protein will do. “Like humans, dogs need a variety of amino acids, and not all proteins contain them,” said the vet.
Now, let’s look at protein deriving from animals versus plants. Dogs are omnivorous. They are able to make use of the nutrients in both plant and animal sources. However, plant protein alone does not supply the amino acid balances they need to thrive. “For dogs vegetable protein is definitely inferior to animal protein.” While protein in commercial dog foods comes from both meat and plant sources, the most nutritious dog food will have a high quality animal protein listed as one of its first, if not the first ingredient. “Higher quality animal protein is more easily utilized by the body” explains the vet.
She classifies a high quality protein as follows: Meats and meat byproducts provide high quality protein for dogs. By-products, including blood, internal organs and bones, while they may not appetizing to humans, were a necessity for canines in the wild. Before becoming companion animals to humans who fed them promptly and nutritiously every morning, these dogs could not afford to leave any part of their prey uneaten. Their bodies came to rely on the whole animal as a nutrition source.
But how do you identify a high quality protein food? Basically, very quickly with a glance at the ingredient listing on the bag. The first ingredient listed should be a specifically identified high quality protein source. “The label should specify, which animal the protein comes from, for example, chicken or beef,” says the vet. Any variation on, like in this example, chicken or beef is acceptable, to include meal and by-product meal.
Let’s summarize: Feed your normal weight dog a commercial food that contains high quality protein like for example chicken, chicken meal or chicken by-product meal. Consult your vet about the special dietary needs of your pet at all life stages. Unless he tells you so, don’t give your dog protein supplements. The NYC vet additionally in her summary had included not to feed table scraps to your dog. I do not agree with her on this part as I think there is nothing wrong with feeding your dog healthy table scraps (see my comment on feeding dogs human food the other day). Maybe she meant not to feed the dog the regular dog food and then top it off with even more protein from table scraps.
With a diet rich in high quality protein, your dog will maintain muscle mass as it ages and be more likely to experience long term health and well being. While the above sums it all up in a nutshell I want to shed more light onto the subject and provide a little more specific information to all what was said here today. So, stay tuned…