Dietary Protein Requirements

Protein Diets for Mutts Pups Nobles and Masters

Protein for Cats and Dogs

We are often “told” by pet parents that the .. (vet, uncle Google, cousin Bing, the breeder ..) … indicated that “too muchprotein is bad for fur kids – it cause problems with the kidneys, and older pets must get less, and so on and so forth – right? And due to this “notion” or “revelation” they must switch their fur kids back to McKibble or McCan. Bollocks. Even BigPetFoodCorp agrees, demonstrated through a research review paper published by Nestle Purina PetCare Research back in 2008 ​1​, that this notion is unfounded! The thing is that real protein is required to provide huumans and fur kids with real essential amino acids, and stock-up the protein reserves in the body. Remember, it’s the amino acids that keep the system running, protein is the suite case that brings them to you. When you do not eat enough biologically species appropriate proteins, protein turn-over in your body slows down, and your lean body mass gradually deplete. Like a weight loss program, a dangerous one, which result in weight loss in muscle mass, but not the fat. The net result of too little real protein in the diet is morbidity and mortality. Our dogs have the ability (and we believe we can chalk this up to them being evolutionary scavengers) to maintain their nitrogen balance in their bodies yet be in a protein-depleted state! Says something about periodic fasting does it not.

Did you know? The myth regarding “too much protein” actually began with rodent research from the 1940s. It ignored the fact that dogs evolved to eat more meat and protein than rats, and subsequent studies have debunked the idea that protein is bad for old dogs and confirmed that protein does not adversely affect the kidneys.

So what the review found was that the preservation of protein turn-over and lean body mass requires about three times more protein than nitrogen balance in the body. To validate their findings, they looked to see if the ability of excess dietary protein (like, too much), will induce renal failure (one of the items most often cited as the reason to add more carbs and less protein to the diet) ​2​, in dogs with and without chronic kidney failure and older dogs.

And the answer? Various studies conducted in the past, from which the review drew from, confirmed that protein does not adversely affect the kidneys. However, in some cases, phosphorus- and protein-restricted diets can be beneficial in dogs with existing chronic kidney failure. And for healthy dogs? The literature available indicate that protein restriction for healthy older dogs is not only unnecessary, but it can be detrimental to their health. In fact, the literature points to protein requirements increasing by 50% in older dogs, while energy requirements might be decreasing. If we consider our dogs energy systems, then it makes sense. Less fat in the meal, potentially more real protein, and no carbs, as fat is the 1st energy system.

More importantly, when insufficient real protein is provided in the diet for older dogs, it can aggravate age-associated loss of lean body mass and might even contribute to earlier mortality.

Thought for the day? There are no studies available in cats or dogs with naturally occurring renal disease that evaluate the effects of only dietary protein on progression of disease, and no studies showing that dogs and cats with CKD have different minimum protein requirements from healthy animals.

References and Research

  1. 1.
    Sheri R. Evidence-Based Medicine: Protein Requirements in Dogs and Cats with Chronic Kidney Disease. University of California Veterinary Medical Center – San Diago; 2017:1-4. https://vetfolio.s3.amazonaws.com/33/3d/3e457606499c9ac46bb7dd7159a4/evidence-based-medicine-protein-requirements-in-dogs-and-cats-with-chronic-kidney-disease-proceeding.pdf.
  2. 2.
    Tomé D, Bos C. Dietary Protein and Nitrogen Utilization. The Journal of Nutrition. July 2000:1868S-1873S. doi:10.1093/jn/130.7.1868s

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