With all of the pet food choices and trends these days, navigating your pet’s nutritional needs can be a difficult task. One hot button word is protein, and for good reason. Protein is essential to your pet’s health in so many ways. Below are the need-to-know basics regarding protein intake and your pet’s health:
How does protein impact your pet’s health?
Your pet breaks down protein in the digestive system into amino acids, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. These amino acids are used to create new proteins that help your pet build muscle, repair tissue, create hormones, transport iron and oxygen in the blood, and support a healthy immune system. Adequate protein intake also boosts the health of your pet’s skin, hair, nails, ligaments, and tendons. If you’re not convinced about the importance of protein yet, it also provides your pet with the much-needed energy for all those walks and play sessions.
What are amino acids?
Amino acids are classified into two categories (those that can be adequately produced by the animal and those that can’t be produced in high enough quantities). Amino acids that an animal can’t produce enough of are considered “essential” and must be supplied via the animal’s diet.
Are all proteins created equal?
Commercial pet food generally includes both plant and animal sources of protein. Typical plant-based protein sources include corn and soy. Common animal proteins include chicken, beef, fish, and lamb. Generally speaking, animal protein sources provide a better balance of amino acids for cats and dogs than plant-based sources.
How much protein is healthy?
Your pet’s protein needs depend on species, age, and activity level. Puppies, kittens, and nursing or pregnant animals need more protein than adult animals do. Highly active dogs, involved in agility or hunting, might benefit from an increased protein intake. Discuss your pet’s individual needs with a veterinarian, who will be able to help you decode pet food labels and select the right nutritionally complete pet food.
What about food allergies?
Proteins are sometimes to blame for food allergies in pets. Symptoms of a food allergy include itching, ear infections, skin infections, hot spots, hair lass, and stomach upset. If your pet is experiencing these symptoms, your vet might recommend a diet containing a protein that your pet hasn’t been exposed to yet (like salmon or venison) to see if the problem is resolved.