Many dog owners think of extremely athletic greyhounds and sled dogs when they think of "proteins for dogs", which seem to defy the odds of nature with ease. At the latest, pictures of playing Rottweilers on social media lead dog owners to believe that proteins are only important for athletic, muscular and young dogs. However, this assumption is wrong! Because a protein deficiency leaves health traces in every dog. Whether you have a ball junkie or a couch potato at home, your dog needs protein! Why? This is what we explain to you in this article!
1. What are proteins and what are their benefits?
Protein is an essential nutrient for your dog, which he needs for various metabolic processes. The protein that your dog takes in through his food cannot be processed by the organism in its original form. The enzyme of the pancreas trypsin breaks it down into its individual amino acids. These are released into the bloodstream via the intestines and from there are transported to the liver. The liver coordinates and processes them further into the body’s own amino acids. They are then transported to their various destinations, where they perform build-up and conversion functions. The body’s own amino acids are the constructors of the dog’s body. Especially the muscles, organs and bones need proteins to grow and regenerate. But this important nutrient is also indispensable in the blood, on the skin and in the coat. Even your dog’s enzymes and hormones are based on protein structures that need to be constantly built and rebuilt.
a) Essential and non-essential amino acids
Both humans and dogs need a certain amount of amino acids to maintain important bodily functions. However, not all amino acids need to be ingested with food. The organism is able to produce its own – non-essential – amino acids.
Essential amino acids cannot be produced by your dog’s own body. These must be supplied through the diet. Here the quality rather than the quantity is of primary importance. The following essential amino acids should not be missing in any dog food:
2. Alternative protein sources
Contrary to the assumption that dogs should get their protein from the meat of beef or chicken, protein supply is also possible in alternative ways. Dogs are carnivores, omnivores with a preference for meat. As "carnivores and omnivores," they can pull nutrients from both plant and animal sources, with animal protein serving as the primary food source. However, your body is not only able to obtain protein from meat. Dogs can also digest proteins from plants or insects. But beware: not all protein is created equal. Not all amino acids can be drawn from all plant or animal sources. The choice of protein source should be made with caution – especially in terms of compatibility. Dog owners who are thinking about a vegetarian diet for their four-legged friends should be aware of the biological value of proteins.
a) The biological value of proteins
The biological value is a measure of how efficiently the body can convert foreign proteins into its own proteins. Thus, the biological value describes how easily your dog’s body can work with the ingested proteins. Biological value refers only to the digestion process in the intestine and measures how easily the proteins foreign to the body can be broken down and absorbed. Once the amino acids have been absorbed, they can easily be incorporated into new proteins – no matter what the source is.
Amino acids are always the same in structure. The structure of the protein makes the decisive difference. The more complex the amino acids in the protein structure, the more difficult it is for the organism to break them down. Amino acids, which are more easily accessible, can be utilized faster and easier. A simple protein structure stands here for a higher value.
Now, you might think that animal-based, conventional protein (beef, chicken, dairy, etc.) is a good source of amino acids.) be of higher quality, because it resembles the body’s own structures. However, this is a fallacy, as the biological value is not related to the quality of the meat. It only makes a statement about how easily the protein can be digested. To ensure that your dog lacks nothing, attention should be paid to the value, the amino acid profile as well as the quality of the meat.
b) It depends on the quality
Finally, it also depends on where the protein source comes from. If it comes from a farm animal, living conditions, husbandry and care determine the quality of the meat. If you want to refrain from conventional sources, you can also feed your dog a complete diet in an alternative way. Especially protein sources such as insects, algae or nuts have all the essential amino acids. The value of insects is in no way inferior to that of quality meat. A mixture of animal and plant sources is also suitable for carni-omnivores, as plants and vegetables provide your dog with additional healthy vital substances.
3. How much protein does my dog need?
In order for your dog to perform its physical metabolic processes without problems, it needs a minimum amount of high-quality protein. This minimum requirement for an adult dog is approx. 2 to 6 g of protein per kg of body weight (depending on size, breed and activity level) per day. In young dogs, which are in the middle of growth, and pregnant bitches, the requirement is many times higher. Especially when your dog’s body is forced to form new tissue, an increased amount of amino acids becomes necessary. For some conditions, however, it is advisable to choose a dog food with a low protein content – for example, kidney disease. The exact protein requirement depends on various factors and life circumstances, so if in doubt, consult your veterinarian.
a) How to recognize a protein deficiency?
If your dog is not getting enough high-quality protein in his diet, deficiency symptoms will set in. Too little protein affects the immune system and the metabolic processes in the body of your dog, so that immediately a food should be chosen that meets the needs of your four-legged friend. You can recognize a protein deficiency by the following symptoms:
- Dull, brittle coat
- Skin irritations and infections
- Parasite infestation
- Increased incidence of infectious diseases
- Decreasing physical performance
- In puppies: reduced growth
- In bitches that have recently given birth: reduced milk production
b) Is there also a "too much" of protein??
Oh yes, there are. Excess protein should not be taken lightly, as it can have health consequences such as z. B. can cause damage to your dog’s organs. Both the liver and kidney are actively involved in detoxification processes in the body. When proteins are digested, ammonia is produced – a highly toxic decomposition product that must be filtered and removed.
If kidneys and liver are overloaded or pre-damaged, the cleaning processes in the organism of the dog can not run properly, so that these toxic substances accumulate. Nausea, flatulence, seizures and foul-smelling feces are signs of "too much" protein. Oversupply can be triggered when your dog consumes too much protein in the diet or predominantly digests low-quality proteins. An imbalance or deficiency of individual amino acids can also limit your dog’s health. Therefore always pay attention to a balanced protein portion. The crude protein percentage on the package can serve as a guide (max. 25% for an adult dog).
4. The individual protein needs of your dog
How much protein a dog needs depends on several factors. Puppies require a very high protein diet at the beginning of their lives. However, the need decreases as the months go by. For young dogs, it is important to choose an appropriate puppy food based on the puppy’s growth stage, breed, and weight. It should also be noted that performance and working dogs, as well as pregnant and lactating bitches, consume more protein in their diet than dogs with average energy needs.
Although the percentages of protein in the diet are important to prevent deficiencies, the quality of the protein and the individual needs of your dog should not be ignored. If you are unsure whether your dog is being supplied with a sufficient amount of amino acids, it is advisable to ask your veterinarian for a ration calculation.