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What protein level is right for your dog?

Does your dog need a low protein diet?

Low protein diets are most commonly indicated for kidney and liver disorders. Our recipe calls for approx. 30% meat which translates approximately to 25% protein (DM), depending on the meat you use. For mild to moderate cases, this is the perfect amount of protein to keep your dog interested in their food and otherwise healthy without over-taxing their organs. The alternative prescription diets are closer to 20% protein, little of which is good quality meat. Many dogs will refuse to eat it for this reason. However, because the rest of that food consists of primarily starchy carbs, which convert to sugars in the stomach (sugars that produce an abundance of stomach acid), many of them refuse to eat it because they subsequently suffer from frequent bouts of nausea and acid reflux. Most of the dogs that come to see us with kidney disease, have tried and given up on the prescription food, they haven't eaten well in several days, they are on daily antacids to manage acid reflux and are severely uncomfortable and underweight. Their prescription food can arguably be a strong contributor to these symptoms as we have successfully & repeatedly switched these dogs to a slightly higher protein, low phosphorus whole food diet, regained their appetites, gotten them off of the antacids and stabilized their creatinine and BUN values. Starving is not an acceptable option for any dog. Dogs suffering from mild to moderate liver disease will also benefit from the increased digestibility of the whole food ingredients in our diets. There are no toxins, chemicals, artificial or other inflammatory ingredients to interfere with their liver function. They are low in fat. The nutrients in real foods are easily recognized and absorbed to support overall health when it's most needed. Low protein diets can also be beneficial for fast growing, large breed puppies. "Large breed" refers to puppies that will exceed 75lbs at adult weight. The most significant growth takes place between 4-10 months of age. During this time, if weekly growth exceeds 4 lbs, your puppy may be at risk of developing irreversible structure damage to their bones and joints. A restricted protein, fat and calcium diet is recommended to avoid these issues. Our recipe calls for approx. 30% meat which translates approximately to 25% protein. You choose the meat and can control the amount of fat by buying lean meats (not to exceed 15% fat). When we hear about dogs with urinary stones, we most often times think about oxalate and uric acid stones. When we hear about crystals, it's more frequently associated with struvite crystals. Dogs with struvite crystals can benefit from one of our Healthy Dog Formulas just simply by having the correct proportion of protein in their diet. Diet will not cure kidney or liver disease but it very much can strengthen the immune system and prolong the progression of many of the symptoms.

Is one of our healthy dog, moderate protein diets right for your dog?

In nearly all cases, the answer to this question is YES! Healthy dogs have fairly high protein requirements. All three of the Healthy Dog kits are designed to include 40% meat. Even if your dog has allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients (including protein) it doesn't mean they aren't healthy or that they don't still need a good amount of protein in their diet. It just may mean that they need a different protein or fewer ingredients. This is all possible with our Healthy Dog, Healthy Dog Limited or Healthy Dog Ultra-Limited Formulas. The marketing folks at the corporate pet food companies went nuts when they heard early reports come back from the scientific community showing that the domestic dog "may" have descended from the grey wolf. Pretty soon, pictures of wolves showed up on the front of bags of dry foods everywhere and a whole new market of super high protein dog foods made their appearance (made with highly processed meat meal of course). They wanted to convince us all that our little chihuahua "Taco" had a wolf for a grandma! Oh boy! That's an interesting use of an old fairy tale, ha! Dogs are not carnivores like wolves*, (their dietary needs are actually more like us humans, just with a bit more protein). But very simply put, dogs are dogs and we understand quite well what they need from their diet and what resources they have for obtaining those nutrients. What I mean by that is that your dog is not likely to go around the neighborhood seeking out a 20 dog strong "pack" to go take down the neighborhood deer and even if he could, his little choppers aren't up for the task! Therefore, they are dependent on us to feed them a good diet. They eat what you give them (in most cases). Make sure it's good.Not all proteins are equal. As I mentioned earlier, the mega protein dry foods claim to be approx 40% protein. Sounds impressive huh? Well, that's really just a number. The more important point is the digestibility of that protein. The percentage of actual meat does not directly translate to the percentage of protein in a diet. For example, if those foods were instead made with 40% real fresh meat, they might actually have 11-14% protein "as fed" (AF) which is how real food is calculated rather than 40% "dry matter" (DM). They want us to believe that half of that food is meat and it most certainly isn't. We feel that a 11-14% protein (AF) diet is a good healthy amount of protein for the average healthy dog. Take away all of the water from the fresh meat (approx 70%) and cook it to such extremes that it's nothing but a pile of powdered "meat meal" and you have something entirely different than the diet you imagined having 40% fresh meat. If you bought into the whole notion that "your dog is a wolf" and tried and failed with these "mega protein diets", you're not alone. 40% meat, whole food diets are far more nutritious and much easier to digest. They are appropriate for the vast majority of dogs out there today. Don't buy into the marketing of these highly processed dog foods.

* Freeman AH, Gronau I, Schweizer RM, Ortega-Del Vecchyo D, Han E, et al.(2014) Genome Sequencing Highlights the Dynamic Early History of Dogs. PLoS Genet 10(1): e1004016. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004016

Is a high protein diet right for your dog?

Is your dog a high performance agility dog? Does he have a physically demanding job? Are they an Akita, Northern Breed, or other highly muscular adult breed? If so, then a high protein diet might be just the right thing for your dog. These are the athletes. They possess such tremendous strength and endurance that their protein needs exceed that of other normal healthy dog breeds. They carry very little body fat, which is actually a good thing because of the sheer stress on their joints on a daily basis. Dogs that are recovering from surgery or injury may also benefit from a temporary boost in protein during their recovery process. The high protein, low carb combo will help to maintain lean strong muscle mass while the lower carbs will keep away the extra weight while they are on temporary activity restriction. Is your dog obese? Provided they are otherwise healthy, a temporary high protein diet and regular low impact exercise can reduce their body fat dramatically in just a few months. Does your dog have diabetes? A carb restricted diet will be crucial, along with insulin treatments to manage this condition. Do you have a breed that is highly prone to cancer or is being treated for cancer? Burner's, Sheppard's, Golden's, Flat Coats... sadly the list goes on. While there is no scientific data to support that it will prevent cancer, once cancer is diagnosed and if it's caught early enough and if it's a treatable form of cancer (yes, I hate all of the "ifs" too), then these dogs are put on high protein diets because carbohydrates are thought to fuel cancer cell growth and promote inflammation. Provided these dogs are healthy in all other areas, a high protein diet is thought to slow growth and progression of cancer cells. This may give us more time to identify and treat the cancer early and therefore increase survival rates. While no one can claim to have a cure, I've wondered if over multiple generations, we implemented this dietary strategy for these highly impacted breeds, that we might positively alter these statistics. Breeders should really consider this and further their understanding of the COX-2 research being done on the role of inflammation on cancer formation. Hopefully a cure is near.