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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 25% protein (DM). 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 18% protein, little of which is good quality meat. Many dogs will refuse to eat it. Because the food consists of primarily starchy carbs, which convert to sugars in the stomach, these dogs regularly struggle with nausea and acid reflux. These cheap carbs are also responsible for inflammatory conditions such as dermatitis, allergies, ear infections and joint discomfort. 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. We've had great success switching these dogs to a slightly higher protein, low phosphorus whole food diet. In many cases, they've regained their appetites, discontinued the antacids and we've stabilized their creatinine and BUN values. The key is always to catch it early. Starving a dog that is refusing to eat is simply not an acceptable option, ever. If your dog is refusing one of these prescription foods, there's good reason. Try a whole food diet instead.

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. Our recipe calls for 25% protein. You choose the meat and can control the amount of fat by buying lean meats (not to exceed 15% fat).

Dogs that form certain types of bladder stones can also benefit from a restricted protein diet. Oxalate and uric acid stones are two examples.

Is a moderate protein diet 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 40-50%% 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 means that they need a different protein or fewer ingredients overall. This is all possible with our Healthy Dog 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.