How is Protein a Powerhouse for Dogs?

Humans have long known the importance of protein, evident through the aisles of protein powders in any supermarket. But, little do we know about the single-handed functionality of protein in a canine structure. From looks to well-being, protein covers it all. So, let us take you through the expedition of protein for the canine body, beginning from the very basic to advanced intricacies.

What are Proteins?

Proteins are essentially the backbone of the canine body structure. It encapsulates energy to perform daily chores and maintains the goodness of all the body parts. There are a total of 22 amino acids that are present in the body only to provide for the exclusive needs and maintenance of various body parts, such as hair, skin, tendons etc. These amino acids are nothing but protein itself. Ten of these amino acids cannot be produced by the body, so it has to be supplemented by outside food sources.

Essential Amino Acids for Dogs

You could visualise amino acids as a chain; any deficiency or disruption in one of them can disrupt the efficacy of protein as a nutrient in the body. So a proper protein profile fulfilment can only be achieved through checking off all the 22 amino acids.

For example, if the amino acid Histidine makes Histamine, it triggers the immune response of a canine body. Amino acid protects the body against any foreign pathogens, allergens or bacteria; it becomes the first line of defence and makes haemoglobin in the body.

And Lysine encourages the production of collagen, which is made up of tendons, ligaments and cartilage. As a result, it maintains healthy skin, hair, nails, burns off fatty deposits and builds muscle mass.

While Histidine works for the canine body internally, Lysine works on a more physical level. Similarly, all ten amino acids protect the canine body by healing minor skin abrasions to systems like digestive health, cognitive function and hormone release. Thus, an amalgamation of external and internal protection makes protein an unavoidable nutrient in the list of the ingredients.

To cite protein in a canines' diet plan is not difficult, as 85% of the canine body is proteins. Thus, there is not just one source of protein in the body but multiple derivatives of it.

For example,

If a wolf hunts a deer, which is a herbivorous animal, it is also intaking the veggies eaten by the deer.

So, the composition of the protein is contributing rather than singular. Having said that, as protein is required in such a huge quantity by the canine body, one could easily cite the primary sources among the first six ingredients of dog food. It is also a marker in dog food which is rich in protein.

EXCESS PROTEIN

A topic that has secured a lot of debate and shade; let us break it down for you. Following are certain myths on excess protein ingestion by dogs:

  1. A diet rich in proteins damages a dogs' kidneys
  2. A diet rich in protein causes hyperkalemia, which means high levels of potassium in the blood
  3. A diet rich in protein causes acidosis
  4. Protein intake increases toxins
  5. Reducing protein in the diet will decrease the energy in dogs

While many of the myths are related to protein-excess diet, none of them shares the cause-effect relationship.

PROTEIN METABOLISM

The canine body cannot store protein in its literal form. Protein can either be broken down to be used as a source of energy or is discarded through urea or poop. The latter process of releasing protein from the body is also called Protein Metabolism.

Many questions broil in a pet parent's head regarding this issue. How much protein is too much protein? Single or multiple sources of protein?

First and foremost, as a thumb rule, a dog is expected to intake 1 gram of protein per pound of its ideal body weight.

For example, if your dog weighs 40 pounds, it must intake 40 grams of protein every day. Similarly, you can play with the amount of protein according to your dog's body weight concerns. You can waiver this prescribed intake accordingly, keeping the ideal weight of the dog as the yardstick.

Anything above this prescribed limit is called protein surplus in the body. Since the body cannot store protein in its natural form, it creates pressure on other organs to work heavily. For example, if the body has ingested excess protein that needs to be gotten rid of, it thereby leads to extra work for the kidney.

A surplus protein state poses a state of disbalance in the calcium-phosphorus ratio that affects bone growth and damage of organs.

Protein is a calorie-dense nutrient it can easily trigger weight gain and growth of abnormal joints. Obesity and arthritis are the direct threats from such a situation.

Many dog parents tend to completely cut down or go at minimal levels of proteins for their pooches after knowing these facts. However, less protein is deadlier than excess protein. Protein surplus can still be combated with high water consumption, but lower protein is non-tolerable by the canine body. So, where to draw a line with protein? The answer lies in the same old fact of Bioavailability.

Nutrient bioavailability is the absorption capability of a nutrient source in the canine body. The percentage of the protein source has less importance as compared to its absorption. Even if a protein source is at a lower percentage but can be absorbed fully by the body, it can benefit better than any high quantity supplement. It also reduces the chances of any surplus protein situation but contributes to canine energy instead. So, as a pet parent, it would always be wise to include high biological value protein sources in the dog food.

"too many cooks spoil the broth."

Sources put to extreme heat tend to lose their nutrient quality. Cooking has an inverse relationship with bioavailability value. Thus, a dog would always prefer fresh meat over any meat meal. Look over to the ingredient list of dog food; if the meat sources have a prefix - dehydrated/ freeze-dried, then minimal heat is being used in its production. Similarly, rendered or processed food loses its bioavailability value to thin down to a small kibble size.

Some naturally high bioavailable protein sources are:

WHOLE EGGS

When it comes to protein absorption, eggs completely knock it out. The best, pocket-friendly sources of protein are widely available and loved.

CHICKEN/TURKEY

"Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!"

Appetising the taste buds and packed with quality protein, chicken is to the win for our pooches.

SALMON, OCEAN FISH, & OTHER NAMED FISHES

Seafood proves to be a game-changer and provides the canine body with many exclusive nutrients that no source can provide.

BEEF

Beef is another health packed source of protein. Dogs also love many other ruminating animals like Lamb, Sheep and Venison.

SOY

Soy is the best plant-based protein source that provides a good protein bioavailability value and is used in almost all the food processing industries that deal with vegetarian treats.

SINGLE SOURCE v/s MULTIPLE SOURCES

As mentioned above, along with primary sources, other protein sources contribute to its total composition. The singularity and plurality of the protein still enjoy a controversial status by many dog parents. Let us break it to you; it is empirically derived that dogs fed a single protein source are more likely to get an infection than those fed a combination of protein sources. A mix of fish and chicken or turkey and beef or egg and soy or a combination of all makes a great option to match the ideal nutritional qualification for your dog.

So do not be intimidated by the multiple types of meat mentioned in the ingredient list. Instead, consider it a boon for your pooch's health and let them decide the combination they like the best. There are multiple mouth-watering options at online pet store that will take care of the taste and fitness of your little munchkin.

GLOSSARY

  1. Collagen - Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. It is the substance that holds the body together. Collagen forms a scaffold to provide strength and structure. Endogenous collagen is natural collagen synthesised by the body.
  2. Tendons - A tendon is a fibrous connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Tendons may also attach muscles to structures such as the eyeball. A tendon serves to move the bone or structure.
  3. Hyperkalemia - High potassium (called "hyperkalemia") is a medical problem in which you have too much potassium in your blood. Your body needs potassium. It is an essential nutrient that is found in many of the foods you eat. Potassium helps your nerves and muscles, including your heart, work the right way.
  4. Acidosis - Acidosis is a condition in which there is too much acid in the body fluids. It is the opposite of alkalosis. (A condition in which there is too much base in the body fluids)