How much protein should you feed your dog?

The question of how much protein should be included in any given dog’s diet has long been debated.

One of the main reasons for this is the fact that some people believe diets that contain too much protein can cause health problems.

Health problems like weight gain (protein is often high in calories), chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney failure.

Others believe such a diet isn’t the root of these and other health problems, but rather that it exacerbates existing issues.

Another group of people inadvertently think a high-protein diet is best. They believe dogs are carnivores and so should primarily (if not only) eat meat, which is a rich source of protein.

We’ve covered this topic in-depth previously, but in short, dogs are omnivores not carnivores – for most of them, a mixed and varied diet is what’s best.

Either way, how much protein to feed your dog is a widely contested topic.

But what exactly is protein? Why does your dog need it? And how much do they need?

Why is protein important?

No matter which side of the debate you’re on, there’s no denying that including protein in your dog’s diet is essential if you want them to be healthy.

Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of life. Dogs can make some of the amino acids they need. But others, the so called ‘essential’ amino acids, must be consumed in the diet.

That’s where protein comes in. By including protein in your dog’s diet, you are providing them with the essential amino acids they need. To put it simply, protein helps your dog to grow and thrive.

It does this by, among other things, supporting healthy bones, healthy muscle tone and development and healthy nails, coat and teeth.

Because of the important role protein plays in your dog’s overall health and wellbeing, there is no disputing it’s important for your dog to eat.

But the debate surrounding protein hasn’t ever really been whether to include it or not – the debate has been how much of this type of food dogs should be fed.

Sources of protein

When looking at ways to include protein in your dog’s diet it is important to remember that not all protein is created equal.

Different sources vary in digestibility and content of valuable amino acids.

Animal source proteins generally provide superior amino acid balance when compared with the amino acid balance supplied by plant source proteins.

Egg, muscle meats, organ meats (kidney, liver, heart), milk products, fish, soy and rice all have high digestibility values.

Corn gluten, pea protein, wheat gluten etc. add to the protein content of the product but the quality is inferior as a protein source.

Owners who feed their dog(s) a home-prepared diet can be selective about the type of protein they give their dog. They can relatively easily buy and prepare good quality protein for their dog.

For those who feed their dog(s) a commercially prepared diet, it’s important to learn how to interpret food labels.

How much is enough?

By now it should be obvious that protein is an important part of your dog’s diet.

But what you may still be wondering is how much protein to give your dog.

It might sound obvious, but when considering the amount of protein your dog needs you need to consider what type of dog you have.

Dogs that are very active are more likely to need and benefit from a diet that is high in protein.

Similarly, puppies and senior dogs tend to do better on high-protein diets because they need it to develop, grow and maintain muscle mass.

Female dogs that are breast feeding may also need more protein in their diets.

Protein and chronic kidney disease

The main role of the kidneys is to filter blood and remove waste products from the body. These waste products include protein that has been broken down.

This fact led to the theory that diets that are high in protein cause kidney problems like chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.

By giving your dog lots of protein you are putting their kidneys under pressure to remove more and more waste products.

But more and more people are now starting to think that this isn’t the case. This is because there isn’t much evidence to show that high-protein diets cause chronic kidney disease in dogs (or people).

What there is evidence for however is that such a diet can make existing conditions worse. That for dogs who already have been diagnosed with CKD or other kidney problems, a diet that has high levels of protein could exacerbate their symptoms and make the disease worse.

Equally, it’s important to remember that restricting your dog’s protein intake can also have consequences including malnutrition and severe weight loss.

If your dog has been diagnosed with CKD or any other kidney problems, it’s important to speak to your vet about whether their diet needs to be modified. If it does, what would this look like for your dog?

Because in the same way different breeds of dog have different protein requirements, different breeds – and every individual dog – needs to have their disease treated and managed in the best way possible for them.

Protein – friend or foe?

Protein is an important component of your dog’s diet. How much of it to include is a fine balance and depends on a lot of different factors, including your dog’s age, breed and activity levels.

Too much and you can cause weight gain and all the health issues associated with that. Too little and you can cause malnutrition, muscle wasting and a host of other problems.

Feeding your dog a home prepared diet can give you more control over how much protein they’re getting and the type of protein they’re eating.

If you are unsure about whether or not your dog is getting the right amount of protein, speak to us. Together, we can work it out.

Learn more

Prepare your own dog’s diet at home

How to Choose the Best Commercial Dog Food

Is your dog a wolf?

Home-prepared dog diets

Diet for dog with kidney disease

Does it really matter what we feed our dog?

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