Understanding the role of protein in dog food

A look at the role protein plays in your canine’s diet, and what you can do to ensure he’s getting enough of it!

We know how important protein is in our daily diet, but what about our dogs? What type of protein is best for canines, and how much do they need to thrive? Health, wellness, and good nutrition are at the forefront of our minds, so naturally, we want the same for our four-legged family members. With that said, protein plays an important role that we will explore further.

What is protein?

Protein comprises amino acids, which are considered the building blocks of protein. They are organic compounds that play an important role in the number of essential bodily processes. A dog’s diet needs to contain a total of 22 different amino acids; however, their bodies can produce 12 of these. The remaining 10 are essential amino acids that need to come from what he eats.

“This means a diet should contain sufficient high-quality protein to satisfy a dog’s metabolic needs providing the essential amino acids they need to stay healthy,” says veterinarian Dr. Bradley Quest.

The benefits of protein

Protein plays a vital role in dogs’ development, bodily functions, and overall quality of life. “Proteins can be an important part of muscle tissue, connective tissue, hair, and skin,” says Dr. Quest. “They can also be important for body functions such as growth and maintenance of body organs and tissues.” Other proteins can play a part in different enzymes in a dog’s body and bring additional health benefits such as helping with digestion, blood clotting, and muscle contractions.

If a dog doesn’t intake a sufficient amount of the essential amino acids, he may develop health problems including skin, coat and weight issues. Organ-related problems may also occur over time.

What type and how much does your dog need?

When it comes to selecting the best protein-rich food for your dog, the options can seem endless. First off, it’s good to know your dog’s preferences and health needs before switching his diet. Are there certain types of proteins he likes best? Does he have food allergies or other health concerns? Regardless of the answer to these questions, reading labels is very important when selecting the right food for your dog.

“Make sure that the guaranteed analysis (the label that is usually on the side or back that gives the percentages) is at least a minimum of 18% crude protein for an adult dog and 22.5% for a growing dog,” says Dr. Quest. “Read the ingredient list to see if animal-sourced proteins are listed high on the ingredient order. Ideally, they should be in the top one or two ingredients in the list. Most premium pet foods contain higher levels of protein that meet the minimum required amount by AAFCO.”

Selecting the best pet food with high protein

When shopping for the right food, make sure the first ingredient is an animal protein such as red meat, poultry, or fish. Essence Air & Gamefowl Recipe (see label at right) is an example of a food that contains a large number of strong proteins. The first four ingredients are guinea fowl, duck, turkey, and chicken, and it contains 85% animal protein ingredients – very high for a dry kibble. By utilizing more than one animal source, they offer even more health benefits for dogs.

“Since each dietary protein has different amino acids, it can be good to combine different proteins in a diet to make sure your dog is getting what it needs nutritionally,” says Dr. Quest. “A variety of animal proteins can be good for most dogs unless your dog has a food allergy or intolerance to a specific protein.”

It’s important to research all the nutritional details of your dog’s diet to ensure you’re feeding him all the protein he requires. If you choose wisely, your dog’s quality of life – and longevity – will improve in leaps and bounds!

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