Photo by: Yastremska / Bigstock
For optimal wellness, dogs need a well-balanced diet that includes high-quality proteins. This is why protein is so important to your dog’s health.
All animals require a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates in their diet but the proportions differ from one species to another. While the average human diet is largely carbohydrate-based, protein is an essential nutrient for dogs. Keep reading to learn more about the role protein plays in your dog’s diet and to find out which protein sources are best for your dog.
Why do dogs need protein?
Dogs are carnivores by nature, though not strictly. Cats are called obligate carnivores because their bodies are adapted to digest and use foods that are more animal-based than plant-based. To a lesser extent, the same applies to dogs, although they are better able to digest certain plant products than cats are.
Related: 5 benefits of feeding your dog a raw diet
However, for a dog to stay healthy, most of the ingredients in his food must come from animal sources and protein is the most important nutrient in his diet. If you come across a dog food product that doesn’t list some type of meat as a first ingredient (Or a vegetarian or vegan formula is not allowed), manage the other way!
Protein is made up of amino acids – organic compounds that play an important role in a number of essential bodily processes. Dogs need a total of 22 different amino acids in their diet, even though their bodies are able to synthesize (produce) 12 of them. The remaining 10 are called essential amino acids because they must come from your dog’s diet.
While some plant proteins (such as those you find in beans and legumes) contain one or more of these essential amino acids, animal proteins (such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs) contain all 12—which is why animal proteins are so important. They are sometimes called “complete” proteins. In a dog’s body, these proteins help build healthy cells, tissues, and organs—and also aid in the production of hormones, enzymes, antibodies, and more.
Related: Unique Protein Diets That Benefit Your Dog
The best sources of protein for dogs
Your dog’s need for protein will change slightly over its life, but the best sources of protein will not. As a puppy, your dog’s diet should consist of at least 22% protein, but, as an adult, he only needs a minimum of 18%. Keep in mind that both are minimums – the more protein in a dog’s diet, the better, as long as it doesn’t become excessive in terms of caloric content.
The best sources of protein for dogs are animal proteins like meat, poultry, fish, and eggs — this includes things like chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, salmon, tuna, and more. In terms of biological value of the different proteins for dogs, the ranking is as follows: egg whites, muscle meats, game meats, and fish. Muscle meats include fresh meats from sources such as chicken, lamb and beef, while organ meats include things like kidneys, heart and liver – a dog needs both in a well-balanced diet.
Your dog will not thrive on a meat diet alone, but protein is the most important nutrient in a healthy, balanced canine diet. When shopping for dog food, make sure that the product is largely meat-based with plenty of animal protein, but is also balanced in terms of fats, carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients.