Feeding dogs is easy. You simply pour out a bowl of kibble and let them chomp down. Or at least, that’s the common convention. The fact of the matter is that a dog’s physiology is every bit as complicated as humans, and their nutritional needs require a similar level of diversity.
It’s a decision that’s caused many pet parents to explore new options like raw diets, dehydrated food, and air-dried feed. But even if you’re happy with the food you’re currently giving your dog, understanding their nutritional needs is important.
And one of the most critical nutrients that your dog needs is protein. They serve an important role in their own right but are also critical to the effectiveness of other nutrients in your dog’s body.
What Protein Does
Every living organism needs some level of protein to survive. That’s because these nutrients function as both fuel for the body and as a means to maintain your overall health and stability on a cellular level. Proteins are important to the structure of all living things as a result.
The number of tasks that protein performs can actually be pretty astonishing. In addition to maintaining the cellular health of your body, it also determines the health of skin and hair and regulates the flow of different nutrients throughout the body.
Muscles and fat need protein to be repaired, and dogs can naturally produce roughly half the amino acids they need to produce that protein. In other words, the other half of that protein content needs to be acquired nutritionally. That’s where things can get a little complicated.
The Common Sources of Protein
Since all living organisms rely on protein for their continued survival, it makes sense that living organisms regularly have protein coursing through their bodies. That makes animal meat one of the most effective sources for consuming protein. But it’s not the only one, and the quality of proteins can vary significantly depending on the source.
In terms of meat-based proteins, the richest sources of these nutrients are muscle meat and internal organs. But proteins can also be acquired from other sources. Legumes are an especially rich source of protein, but protein also appears in a number of different grains and seeds. For that reason, oils derived from these ingredients are often included to bolster a dog food formula’s protein content.
Your general rule of thumb should be to consider what your dog would be eating out in nature. While some dog food formulas place an emphasis on plant-based protein, proteins derived from animal meat offer the highest effectiveness and absorption for dogs.
How Much Protein Dogs Need
How much protein your specific dog needs will depend on a number of different factors like activity level, age, size, and breed. The bigger a dog is, the more protein they’ll need. That demand will decrease as dogs grow older, but they’ll always continue to be essential nutrients for overall health.
What doesn’t change is that protein needs to be eaten every day. While some other nutrients can be stored in your body, excess protein exits the body through urine. That means that finding the right balance and sticking to it is important.
There’s one exciting development in protein-building that you should know about. While most dogs can absorb animal and plant proteins with little effort, others will sometimes have issues. These most commonly manifest as irritable bowel disease or food allergies.
Hydrolyzed protein dog food offers a solution if your dog struggles with gastrointestinal issues. Hydrolysis breaks down these proteins using water and makes them easier to digest for dogs with sensitive stomachs.