You know that getting enough protein is part of eating a well-balanced diet for humans. But did you know the same applies to your dog?
When you feed your dog the proper amount and type of protein, he can make and maintain all the protein-containing tissues and molecules in his body, which include muscle, skin, hair, antibodies and hormones, explains Jennifer Coates, DVM, a veterinary consultant in Fort Collins, Colorado.
So, how much protein does your dog need to reap these benefits? Would a high-protein dog food be the answer?
Every dogs’ dietary needs are unique. Because of this, Dr. Coates stresses that your veterinarian is your go-to authority when determining which dog food is best for your specific dog. That said, in general, Dr. Coates says three types of dogs usually need a high-protein dog food: highly-active dogs, puppies and seniors.
Highly Active Dogs
If you have a highly active dog—a working dog, a canine athlete or an everyday trailblazer—a high-protein dog food, like Orijen's Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food, can help “build the necessary muscles and repair them after an intense workout,” says Dr. Coates, author of “Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian.”
Higher protein levels also can be a source of energy for active dogs.
“Once all of a dog’s protein needs are met, excess protein gets converted into energy,” Dr. Coates adds.
If your dog isn’t exercising regularly, however, Dr. Coates warns that those extra calories from protein can get converted into fat.
Normal growth and development in puppies depend on many complex factors, adequate protein levels being one of them, Dr. Coates says. One of the reasons is simple: Muscles need protein to grow, and puppy muscles have a lot of growing to do.
Another reason why higher levels of protein might contribute to normal puppy growth is that, as Dr. Coates already pointed out, protein is essential to more than just muscle growth. Protein is a vital component in maintaining normal immune system function as well as a healthy skin and coat.
Aside from puppies, Dr. Coates says that a high-protein dog food is also necessary for pregnant or lactating pooches as well.
If a higher protein diet is healthy for growing pups, can it be healthy for older dogs, too? The answer is, yes, according to Dr. Coates.
High-protein dog food can benefit senior dogs as well because they can experience muscle wasting, which means they lose muscle mass with aging, she explains. Less muscle makes it harder for older dogs to stay active and healthy since muscles power activity and play.
While protein is essential for muscle growth, it also is needed to maintain muscle, Dr. Coates says. For these reasons, she encourages senior dog parents to consider high-protein dog food to keep pets at their best during their golden years.
There are some exceptions, though. Dr. Coates says dogs who have been diagnosed with kidney or liver disorders should avoid high-protein dog food because higher protein levels might aggravate these conditions. It’s best to check with your veterinarian to see if your senior dog is a good candidate for a high-protein diet.