Dogs need protein, but determining how much protein can be difficult. Wolves, our dogs' ancestors, thrive on high-protein diets. Learn more about the pros and cons of low protein diets, and find out how to choose a low protein diet if your dog needs it.
When a Low Protein Diet is Appropriate
Dogs are descended from wolves, who eat a diet high in protein, moderate in fat and low in carbohydrates. Most dogs need a similar diet to be as healthy as possible. However, some dogs with kidney disease may require a lower protein food to lessen the stress on their kidneys. Before placing your dog, including your senior dog, on a low protein diet, consult a veterinarian or pet nutritionist.
Choose a Quality Protein Source
Amino acids are the building blocks in a dog's body. While dogs can make some of the amino acids they need, there are 10 essential amino acids that dogs must get from the protein they eat. If you feed your dog a low protein diet, it is even more important that you choose a quality, easily digestible protein to increase the level of essential amino acids your dog can access. The best protein sources, in order of protein quality (known as biological value), are eggs, fish, milk and beef. Corn, a common protein source in lower quality food, has less than half of the biological value of eggs or fish.
Studies have shown that older dogs do not need lower levels of protein, despite the popularity of low protein senior foods. However, if your veterinarian determines that your dog needs a low protein food, check the protein analysis on your dog food label. To be considered low protein, a food should have less than 23 percent protein. Maintenance food for adult dogs can be as low as 18 percent and still meet the needs of the dog. Foods with less than 18 percent protein may cause unintended health problems, and should only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian.
Suggested Low Protein Foods
There are several pet food companies that make low protein dog foods. Dog Food Advisor, one of the premier dog food evaluation services, lists 37 recommended low protein foods. To be recommended, a food must have a protein percentage less than 23 percent, be rated at three stars or higher, and be recommended by their manufacturer for overweight or senior dogs. Included among the list are quality foods from Fromm, California Natural, Dave's, Innova and Natural Balance.
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