Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dog Food: What difference does it make? Part 2: Proteins, signs of deficiency and conclusion

In the earlier part 1 on this topic I talked about the fact that if your dog is being fed incorrectly, a variety of problems may occur. I addressed the foundation and building blocks of a healthy feeding and we shortly addressed the industry controls for pet food currently in place. Today let’s take a closer look at the main pet food ingredient, protein. What to pay attention to and what happens if you don’t provide it for your dog.
Most people have no idea what's in their dog's food. If their dogs pick at the food, people will change to another, trying to find the one just right for their dog. Feeding the correct food to a dog makes the difference between health and disease.Dogs are carnivores or meat eaters. Their teeth are formed to pull flesh apart. They have simple stomachs and a short digestive tract, ideal for digesting meat. Cereal and vegetable proteins are not as readily digested by the dog. While dogs have adapted somewhat to digesting these proteins, they have to eat such food in greater quantity to get the necessary nutrients. More food means more expense, as well as more voluminous stools. Dogs prefer a food high in animal protein. It makes them healthier and perform better.In order to choose a food that meets the nutritional needs of your dog, you need to understand something about protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and water. These basic ingredients are the recipe for any food you feed a dog.
At the very core of the dog's health and fitness are amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are necessary to life. If you are feeding an unsupplemented food high in cereal and vegetable proteins, chances are that your dog has an animal protein deficiency. Diseases that may result include: Skin and chronic ear infections, reproductive, heart, kidney, liver, bladder, thyroid and adrenal gland malfunctions, some forms of epilepsy, some kinds of cancer, rage syndrome, "spinning" or tail chasing, lethargy, timidity, lack of pigmentation, inability to think and act clearly, lack of appetite, excessive shedding, as well as gastrointestinal upsets.
Protein is composed of amino acids, of which 25 are presently known. Ten or 11, depending on the reference source you use, are essential and cannot be produced by the dog's body; the other 14 or 15 can be converted from the essential amino acids through a chemical chaining process taking place in the liver. These essential amino acids can be obtained only through what the dog eats, and they must be consumed at the same meal in order to sustain a healthy life.In a commercial dog food, protein is provided by combining animal sources, such as meat byproducts, chicken, cheese, milk, fish, turkey or lamb, together with grain sources, such as corn, wheat, rice, soy and so on. The sum total of these proteins appears on dog food packages as crude protein. How these ingredients are arranged in the recipe and the volume of those ingredients, whether the animal protein is listed first, third, or fifth, dictates the kind of protein available to the dog.Amino acids are altered by heat, which in turn affects their bio availability. Dry, semi moist or canned foods go through a heat process in manufacturing and the finished product can be deficient in amino acids. Such a food, if fed without supplementation, can cause disease. Many amino acids are available only from animal sources, and if grains are the main source, a dog may develop one of the animal protein deficiency diseases listed above. Since amino acids are dependent on one another, a diet that contains too little of one will have a chain reaction effect on the others and will reduce their utilization. To achieve the proper balance, it is necessary to combine foods with the correct amount of amino acids.While the chemical composition of protein is similar for some grains and meat products, the bio availability is different. Soy protein is used as a source of amino acids in food for animals that have complex stomachs, such as cattle and sheep, and as food for pigs, turkey and chickens. Some component parts of soy bind up their own nutrients and make them unavailable to the dog. Younger and older dogs cannot utilize the amino acids from soy, hence it should be avoided. Cottonseed meal falls in eh same category.The need for amino acids in the diet changes during different life stages, climate and season changes, trauma or stress. When these stresses are experienced, your dog's food should contain extra animal protein.The National Research Council's findings showed that certain breeds of dogs, i.e., Labradors and English Pointers, had a greater need for amino acids from animal sources, than did Beagles. In our work, we have found there are many breeds of European origin whose requirements are similar to the Labrador. The content of dog food is made to accommodate the Beagle, not the Labrador.
By observing your dog carefully, you can pick up signs of amino acid deficiencies. Many will be found on the feet and nails constantly biting or licking feet, crooked nails on one or more of the toes or toenails that are brittle can signal a protein deficiency. Pimples, skin discoloration and crooked whiskers are also deficiency signs.
One vet reports of a Landseer Newfoundland he treated for many years. The dog had a pimple on the left side of her face in the middle of her whiskers. It was itchy and she would rub her face along the carpet and paw at it, sometimes breaking it open. The whisker coming out of this point was crooked and turned backward. The pimple was situation on the amino acid lysine point. Supplementing the dog's diet with an amino acid complex containing lysine caused the pimple to disappear and the itching stopped.
Let’s summarize: Food proteins are considered complete only when they contain all the essential amino acids. Animal proteins are complete. Vegetable proteins are incomplete and unbalanced, but can be mixed with complete proteins to provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids.
Dietary protein requirements are influenced by various factors. These include digestibility, rate of protein synthesis, carbohydrate and fat levels in the diet and the timing of meals. Clinical factors can influence protein needs of the dog. These include disease, medications and surgery or any other trauma to body tissue.
You can test to see if your dog is deficient in amino acids. If you wish to supplement the dog's diet, test each of the following supplements to see what is best for your dog. Needs change with the seasons, so test several times during the year.
Animal protein: Raw meat, raw liver, cooked meat (lamb, pork or venison), cooked chicken, cooked fish, milk, whole eggs (cooked for 5 minutes, plus shell), yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, goats' milk, You can add a small amount of any of these proteins to your dog's diet. In total, supplementation should not exceed 10 percent of your dog's total diet.Amino acid complex tablets: Be aware that without good reason it is inadvisable to isolate any of the amino acids when feeding dogs. Their interdependency is such that unless you have a degree in chemistry and understand a fully how the isolated amino acid works, more harm can be done than good. Avoid supplementing with methionine alone if there is a history of liver disease. Too much methionine in relationship to other amino acids can cause coma and even death in dogs that have diseased livers.
When you supplement, make sure that the diet contains adequate vitamin C and B-complex, necessary for protein digestion.
Magnesium must be present in the diet for the essential amino acids to work.

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