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01st May 2020

How Much Protein Does My Dog Really Need?

by Helen Anslow BSc (Hons)

I’m going to set the record straight on what a dog needs to survive and where best protein sources lie.

‘How much protein does a dog need’ is a question our team gets asked frequently at Burns Pet Nutrition. In fact, it may be one of the most divisive topics in the industry.

Dog food protein varieties are a minefield. There is such an overwhelming choice of pet food in the shops today and determining which one is best for your pooch can be a difficult decision.

What is protein for?

Protein is a vital component of your dog’s food. It’s made up of amino acids and these amino acids are essential for tissue growth and repair. Protein can come from both animal and plant based sources, but high-quality animal sources often provide a better amino acid balance for dogs.

Making an informed decision when selecting your pet food can be intimidating with such variety on the market. From diets that are nearly 100% meat, to vegan diets, purely plant-based.

Let’s explore the options when it comes to what a dog truly needs to survive and be healthy.

Quantity vs. quality

Dog protein requirements vary according to a dog’s life stage, health and age. Puppys need higher levels of protein than adult dogs, to support growing needs, for example.

Healthy adult dogs need 15-23% of dry matter protein in their daily diet. A good diet will meet those needs by using high-quality, easily digested ingredients.

Ideally, their diet should contain high-quality ingredients in the amounts a dog actually needs in order to access nutrients easily, without putting the body under undue stress.

High or low protein food?

Processing excess nutrients beyond a dog’s daily requirements puts extra pressure on the organs – forcing them to work that little bit harder. This in turn contributes to more metabolic waste products being produced in the body (poo in higher volumes).

High protein levels have been shown to be detrimental to dogs’ organs and can contribute to further impairment of the kidneys if a dog is suffering from kidney disease already.

One more important factor than quantity of protein is digestibility of the protein source. By increasing the quality of protein in a dog’s diet, less quantity is needed by the dog to meet its needs.

A low quantity of  high-quality protein will promote efficient body function and aid healthy digestion.

Best protein sources for dogs?

Cooked eggs are highly digestible and packed with vital amino acids. They provide a good source of iron, vitamin A and several B vitamins, as well as high levels of essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, great for the skin.

Animal protein sources like chicken, lamb and pork all have similar levels of digestibility. Some plant-based sources provide a high-quality protein source.  Soybean is the highest. Followed by rice, wheat and corn.

Note on intolerances

Some dogs like humans can have intolerances to certain ingredients. It’s important to find what suits your dog.  If you find your dog having issues digesting food, the first thing to check is feeding amounts. If feeding amounts seem suitable, then a change in diet may be needed.

Signs a diet may not be suited to your dog include digestive upset, skin complaints, full anal glands, waxy ears and excessive moulting.

Although it can be any ingredient in a diet causing issues for your dog, protein source is often a likely contributor and for that reason, it’s always best to choose a food containing a single protein source, especially if your dog is sensitive.

To summarise.

All dogs are unique. Quantity of food depends on the individual dog. The main priority when choosing a diet to suit your dog is to provide high-quality, highly-digestible ingredients.

For more answers to your nutrition questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our team here on Livechat or via our freephone or email Helpline.

by Helen Anslow BSc (Hons)