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The Benefits of a High-Protein Diet for Dogs
A dog’s nutritional needs vary depending on a lot of factors, from age to size or even the amount of energy.
Choosing the right amount of protein is integral to ensure proper physical and mental health. Protein is not just the building block of muscles, but also helps to build strong bones, aids in nerve function, and plays a part in healing wounds.
Serving up the right amount of protein in each meal is key to your pup’s overall health.
Good vs Bad Protein
Protein is more than just a number on an ingredient list. There’s more than one type of protein, and the source can make a huge impact on your dog’s health. Meat is the primary source of protein for both humans and dogs, but healthy proteins can also be found in plant sources like beans. Protein is also found in popular by-products like wheat and soy, but should never be the main source of the nutrient.
Dog food labels should have a meat or plant source listed as the primary ingredient when choosing the proper high-protein dietfor your pup.
How much protein is too much?
Every dog is different, meaning his or her protein needs will vary. Many dogs will benefit from a high protein dietwhile others could actually benefit from less, and a veterinarian should determine which is best for your furry friend. Healthy puppies typically need higher rates of protein than adult dogs to help them grow, as do pregnant and nursing mothers. High-energy dogs, especially those that compete in agility sports, also require higher than normal levels of protein.
But be careful when choosing foods, because too much protein can lead to problems. A dog’s body can only process so much, and any excess will invariably cause an imbalance that might lead to poor bone growth or kidney failure. Dogs who are already suffering from liver or kidney diseases could see a rapid decline in health on a high-protein diet.
Since the quality protein is typically found in meals with excellent sources of meat, it can also come with extra calories. In that case, look for food that is specifically low-calorie but still offers healthy sources of protein. If overfed, a dog on a high-protein diet can easily become overweight. It’s important to monitor the amount of food your pup is taking in each day.
As always, the larger the dog breed the more nutrients it will likely require. A Saint Bernard will require far more protein than a Yorkie, for instance.
The Benefits of High-Protein Diets
A high-protein diet can lead to many health benefits for your dog when properly administered and recommended by a vet. Some of these benefits include a healthier and shinier coat, improved skin health, lean muscle growth, and a stronger immune system.
Many senior dogs can also benefit from high-protein foods. Amino acids in protein help to promote muscle recovery, which is vital in dogs as they age. If your dog's food is getting him everything he needs and he likes it, but it could use a bit more protein, a topper might do the trick nicely. However, be sure to check in with your veterinarian before making drastic changes—depending on their overall health, a higher protein count could lead to increased risk of organ failure.
When switching up your pet’s diet, it’s always important to consult with a professional to ensure there are no underlying health risks. Protein is a great way to increase your dog’s strength and overall health when fed in proper amounts, so consider asking your veterinarian about it during your next visit.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.