Sources of Protein in Dog Food
Most normally healthy dogs require a diet that is high in protein. Thus, the amount of protein in a dog food, as calculated on a dry matter basis, is important when evaluating a dog food. But it is only part of the protein story. The source of protein in dog food, the specific ingredients that are used to provide the dog with their protein, is also an important factor when choosing a dog food for your pet.
Overview of Proteins in Dog Food
There are many different ingredients that can provide the protein that is in a dog food. But not all proteins are created equal, at least as far as your dog is concerned. There are 3 main sources of proteins in dog food, 1) animal flesh, 2) grains, and 3) legumes and vegetables.
Animal Protein. This is the meat and flesh from sources such as livestock (e.g., beef, pork), poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey), fish (e.g. salmon, herring), and fowl (e.g. duck). This is the preferred protein for dogs as it is the protein that their bodies were meant to eat and process efficiently for maximum nutrition. Feeding your dog foods that contain a majority of their protein from specifically named animal sources (e.g. beef, salmon) is the best way to ensure that your dog is getting and using the protein that it needs.
Some dog foods use unnamed animal proteins as ingredients and these are cheaper and lower quality sources of protein. Unnamed proteins include meat, poultry, and animal. The primary problems with these types of ingredients is that 1) you have no idea what is really included in them, and 2) they are generally the lowest quality scrap.
Grains. Grains, like rice, oats, and wheat, can contain a fair amount of protein and are usually cheaper than named animal proteins. The problem with grain protein is that a dog’s body is not meant to properly digest grains, and thus, the protein in grains is not able to be fully utilized by the body. As a result, the protein that you think you are providing your pet might actually be fertilizing the lawn instead.
Legumes and Vegetables. Legumes, like chick peas and peas, and some vegetables, like potatoes and sweet potatoes, also contain protein and can be used in dog foods to increase the total protein in the food. Like with grains, legumes and vegetables are harder for a dog’s body to digest so these foods are not optimal as protein sources. Foods that include legumes and vegetables should do so as a natural source of vitamins and minerals and not as a primary protein source.
I am curious to know how common is the use of the various protein sources in commercially available dog food. Using the SlimDoggy dog food database, I am embarking on an analysis of the protein sources in dog food that can help shed some light on the most popularly used proteins. In the second part of this topic, I will examine the use of the lower quality, unnamed animal proteins to determine just how often they are used in our dog’s foods. I don’t think the news will be good.
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