Proteins for dogs

Proteins for dogs are the essential component of dog food. The word protein itself actually means 'of primary importance'.

What is protein?

Akita Kensho

Proteins are large organic molecules that consist of amino acids linked together. There exist 20 different amino acids. Half of them, your dog can create himself. The other 10, the essential amino acids, need to be present in his dog food (though it's best if the 10 non-essential ones are present as well).

Dog food should at least contain protein, which can digested to break down to it's building blocks – the amino acids. Proteins which are too complex to be broken down, such as feathers and hairs, aren't of any nutritional value.

Sources that are high in protein are mainly of animal origin (meat, fish, eggs, dairy products) but also certain vegetarian products contain a lot of protein such as peas, soy and yeast. Corn in dog food is also a source of proteins for dogs.

Why does a dog need protein?

Amino acids are used by the body as a source for the synthesis of (dog) protein. As building blocks of your dog, for transport of other molecules, to build hormones which transduce signals from one organ to the other, to build antibodies which fight diseases, to build enzymes that catalyze biochemical reactions and aid dog food digestion for instance, and more.

Dogs need large quantities of protein. The exact need for protein can vary though with certain physiological life stages such as growth, pregnancy, lactation or physical performances as more new cells need to be built or renewed. Also when your dog is recovering from illness he could very much use extra protein. On the opposite, when your dog is suffering from kidney disease you want to put as less stress on the kidneys as possible and therefore reduce the protein content of the dog food.

Too little or too much proteins for dogs?

Proteins are fundamental for your dog's health

As the essential amino acids can't be created by the body itself, these need to be present in the canine menu. When the supply is insufficient the body will try to utilize its own protein to create the missing ones. This can only last for so long. Young animals will stop growing. In all dogs the most basic functions will be disturbed which is life threatening. The first signs are weight loss, a dull coat, and susceptibility to illnesses. Proteins for dogs are fundamental.

Proteins provide calories too

On the other hand, when dog food contains too much protein this is not a big problem (unless your dog has kidney problems). The excess of protein is treated as energy source, is converted to fat and stored as fat reserves in the body. So an excess of protein that is not utilized can make your dog fat.

Nutritional value of dog food proteins for dogs

Protein in dog food is only of good nutritional value when:

  • It can be digested and broken down to its building blocks. Not the total quantity of protein in the dog food is important but the percentage of total protein present which can be utilized for the assembly of proteins by the body.
  • It contains all amino acids and a high percentage of the essential ones.
  • Your dog does not suffer from allergies or intolerances to the specific proteins in his menu.
Akita Kensho at Strijkviertel

Amino Acid Highlights

Let's shine the light on some of the many amino acids.

Arginine is essential for canines

Arginine is one of the 10 essential amino acids. It is a precursor for nitric oxide (NO, also known as nitrogen monooxide). This substance is required, amongst others, for relaxation of the smooth muscle wall of blood vessels (a process called vasodilatation).

When there is a shortage of this essential amino acid in your dog's menu, he could suffer heart- and kidney problems. And in case you like facts, here's one for you: NO was named "molecule of the year" in 1992 by the scientific journal 'Science'.

Glutamine is conditionally essential

Glutamine is an important amino acid for cells that have a high renewal rate, such as cells of the digestive tract and the immune system. It can be assembled by the body though can be indispensable at times. Therefore we classify this amino acid as conditionally essential.

This amino acid helps keeping the intestinal barrier intact and it plays a role in the detoxification processes that take place in the liver.

L-Carnitine promotes utilization of fats for fuel

L-Carnitine is an amino acid, which is also known as vitamin Bt. It's not an essential amino acid, since it can be created from two other amino acids: lysine and methionine. Meat, especially sheep and lamb, is rich in L-Carnitine (the D-carnitine variant is inactive).

use it for…

Obese dogs may loose weight more easily when their diet is enriched with L-carnitine.

Certain dog breeds have transportation issues with L-Carnitine. This seems to be related to heart failure in Boxers, Dobermans and Cockers.

L-Carnitine has a role in energy metabolism as it helps to utilize dietary fat for energy. What it does is aid the transport of fatty acids through the membrane of mitochondria (the energy organels within body cells). It also impacts normal carbohydrate and protein utilization. It helps to maintain muscle tone and weight loss. Also for working dogs that need lots of energy during long trainings, this amino acid helps.

L-Carnitine plays an important role in cardiovascular health, brain function and liver function.

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