So Franklin is close to finishing his current bag of food and I'm going to be buying a new bag. I am not going to mention the food he is getting, as I don't want this to become a discussion about what brand/type/etc to feed, but my question is....how much protein is enough and how much is too much in a adult dog food? I had thought that around 30% give or take was the perfect amount, but I'm beginning to read a lot about dogs not needing very much protein and that the ideal percentage is more around 20-25%. The brand of food I feed Franklin has varieties of either 32% or 25%. I had previously been feeding the 32% variety because I thought that was in a better range for him, but now I'm wondering if I should actually be feeding the 25%. One of the things that got me started thinking about this topic is that I started supplementing Franklin's food with The Honest Kitchen. Many of their foods are around 25% (with some being as low as around 20%), I was thinking that was low and actually e-mailed the company out of curiosity as to why they formulate so many of their diets with the lower percentage of protein. I got a great response from a vet explaining that they had done a ton of research on the topic and found that the lower protein percentage was closer to ideal. What are your thoughts? Also, if anybody has any scientific research to base their answers on that would be great too. I'm just wanting to do what's best for my pup and I feel we have this new trend/fad going on with dog food with the whole grain-free, organic, high protein and as with many fads (think South Beach Diet, Atkins, and now the current HCG diet craze in humans) this current diet trend may not be in the pet's best interest. On his current food, Franklin is of great weight, has a beautiful shiny low shed coat, perfect pearly white teeth, and firm lean muscle, so I'm not wanting to change much with his food, just wondering about the actual protein content.
I have 2 that are getting the 32% protein because the last time I went to get their food they were out of lamb which I believe is about 25% protein. My others are getting salmon and that is about 24% protein ...I believe. I have fed my dogs around the 25% for years. What ingredients does the food with 20% protein have in it? I guess I never look at others anymore because I like what I'm feeding them.
It's late for me to look up some of the research I have, but my understanding always was that the high protein foods were meant for performance dogs (not "I go to agility once a week!" but "My dogs hunt and run 10 miles a day in all weather or herd on acreage most days of the week). I'm not sure how it became considered ideal for pets.
Anyway, my understanding is that healthy dogs excrete extra protein in their urine without any harm, BUT since the meat that adds the protein is generally the most expensive ingredient in the kibble, the fact is if you are paying for protein you don't need you are maybe wasting money. And of course from an environmental standpoint, meat products are hard on the environment so not using more than needed has an environmental impact as well.
I think mid-20's is considered ideal for pets.
There's this but they don't link to research:
Foods generally contain a bit more than the required amount because not all of it is useable by the dog.
mentions a study but has to do with performance dogs.
What I would like to see is one that looks at longevity. Most of what I have seen has to do with behavior, recovery from injury, recovery from exertion, etc. But we know from humans that the diet that might give us the best results in the short term might not be the healthiest diet in the long term. Have their been similar studies for dogs? I'd be curious to see if there have been.
I agree Beth! It would be great to see one on longevity. I do have to say many years ago my dogs got a store brand and thrived. The 2 I'm talking about lived to 14 and 16. One was a mix and the other a cocker spanial. Not sure if/how different breeds would fit into the study.
As for the price...I pay the same for 25% as I do 32%.
Here's some good info about amino acids and digestibility and required nutrients but does not mention protein percentages:
I have this same question. I have not found a single article in Virginia Tech's whole library about dry protein levels and how they affect the dog, so I usually try not to contribute to these sorts of discussions. I may try looking again though, because I've seen a protein % discussion like 4 times in the past month on this site alone. Most articles in my possession that compare a "high protein" to a "high carb" diet are actually comparing raw meat to kibble, and that's a whole different ball park. I've always wondered what happened to fat in all of these discussions... fat is an ideal energy source--much better than protein or carbohydrates for dogs AND people... but I suppose that's for another discussion.
I think you kind of hit on one of the main reasons I worry about these current diet fads, people are SO focused on protein content and grain vs no grain or kibble vs raw that they are totally leaving out other important components to a healthy diet, such as fat. I would LOVE to see a research paper addressing these issues and whether a high protein diet leads to kidney and/or liver damage in the long term, or leads to nutritional imbalances. We just talk so much about kidney disease in animals in my vet tech classes and I can't help but wonder if 4 or 5 years down the road when our pets have been fed these fad diets will we start seeing a huge increase in kidney disease or nutritional problems due to long term feeding of these diets. I know everyone is anit-Iams, Purina, and Hills these days BUT these are the big names that are doing the research in the dog food industry. I can't help but wonder, if a high protein/grain-free diet is a good idea why haven't any of these brands increased their protein content? There was a good link a while back about these brands of food pointing out that the big food companies want (and need) your pets to be healthy with good energy and nice coats because if the dog started to get sick or develop a poor coat the first thing the owner would do is change foods. These big companies benefit by keeping our pets healthy because a healthy dog means the owners will keep buying their food and recommend it to others. If you had a dog that lived to be 17 that was fed Iams/Hills/Purina you would be more likely to feed it to your next dog. Of course this discussion is a completely different topic than the original discussion.
The webspace for this article is hosted by Orijen, but it is a professional literature review originally presented at the 1998 Purina Nutrition Forum and was published in the Veterinary Forum journal in 1999. The article explores the 1998 knowledge of the effects of protein on animals with renal insufficiencies--typically induced via surgery. Studies show that when everything in the diet is the same except for protein content, there is no difference in kidney function between the two groups. They do say that some forms of renal disease may benefit from a low protein diet, though. I came across several of the cited studies last night when I was digging through the VT library and I'm pleased with how this article represents them.
From the same 1998 nutrition forum and, again, webspace hosted by Orijen, this article addresses the current understanding of protein in kidney disease in less quantitative terms and you can get a feel for how to evaluate a kidney study. The end of it talks about myths and lore and kind of useless stuff, and because the personal opinion of the author is touted, I don't like this one as much. I like my science with as little opinion as possible.
I was not able to find studies on how high/low amounts of dry protein affected the body systems of a healthy dog in the library or on a pet food website. I asked a veterinarian for this information and he could not provide it.
That's all for renal disease, though. For other effects of proteins on the body, particularly for growth, lower protein is often recommended because that means there is a lower amount of minerals (in the form of ash) entering the body. Many high protein dry diets approach the upper limit of calcium and phosphorous because they use an animal meal [chicken meal, turkey meal, etc] as the main constituent of their food, and the meal is high in ash/mineral content due to the amount of bone in the meal. I know Orijen prepares their meals by removing bones prior to converting the ingredients into a meal, reducing the ash content, and making the food more suitable for long-term consumption, as the ash content is reduced and the Ca and P levels are more moderate. Excess calcium has been implicated in severely reducing the digestibility and absorption of nutrients, too, so a high protein dry food without reduced ash content could prove more harmful than helpful.
I have my own personal theory, not really backed by science (although maybe it is--I have not looked), that the water consumption is what really impacts the urinary health of an animal. High protein dry diets require the animal to drink the most water. They don't know they need to drink more, though, so they drink the same, but are actually in need of water. This state of mild dehydration causes the body pH to become more extreme (either more basic or more acidic, with less water to dilute the chemicals in the body) and the other components of the diet (magnesium, calcium, etc) to make stones or crystals in these conditions. I don't actually know the mechanisms of crystal/stone formation, or the conditions of kidney disease, though. It's all just a guess. I came to this conclusion because cats eat the highest protein diet--and they NEED it, there's no question--and they drink the least, and they're the ones who come down with kidney and urinary afflictions the most. But, cats eating higher protein wet food don't tend to suffer from kidney disease as often or as early as cats eating a lower protein dry food (based on casual observation).
Rachael, in cats you are right that it's the dehydration that causes problems. Remember, though, that the ancestral cat was a desert species that received almost all its moisture from food and therefore has a very low thirst drive.
I think the reason my last cat lived to almost 17 despite being fed a really crappy food by a very uninformed me was that she loved to drink. She used to drop pieces of food into her water and play by chasing them around with her tongue. She drank a lot and peed a lot and I think it kept her healthy into old age, avoiding the kidney and sugar problems that frequently plague cats fed high-carb diets like the one I had her on.
Dogs are a bit different in that they do have a thirst drive. However, I do put water in their kibble as an added incentive to drink.
I found some interesting studies that went against what I knew---- meat for instance is absolutely not ok as a sole food source for dogs. Greyhounds fed large amounts of raw meat have higher instances of some weird diseases. By-product meal is very high in protein but not as digestible so the actual useable protein is lower than the listed protein content (which is probably why it got such a bad rap on some dog food sites that are run by people who don't know nearly as much as they claim to--- it's not that it's bad for dogs, more that the protein can be misleading BUT if dogs need 18% and the food has 27% and some of it is from by-products, it should still be sufficient).
You also hit on something with the chicken meal. Many people on the dog food sites gloss over the fact that chicken meal (and chicken) can include skin and bone. So one company's chicken meal might be mostly what's in another company's chicken by product meal.... here is why the reputation of the company is important unless you are actually visiting the plant. One company's might have a lot more meat and a lot less skin than another's and vice-versa, and still legally be called "chicken meal."
I have found there is a lot of misunderstanding out there.
Here is AAFCO definition of "chicken"; hardly the chunks of white meat most people probably envision, and clearly something that can vary wildly in quality:
"Chicken is the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken- exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, and entrails"
Beth I also had a cat that loved to drink water. We had one of the water dispensers where you turn a cola bottle upside down. The cat Garfield would sit and drink and drink and drink until the dispenser bubbled or he had to go to the litter box. He was one of the healthiest cats I know and lived to be 18 years old. Just passed away earlier this year.
I know cats don't really have a thirst drive and dogs do, but I took that into account in my "theory". For example, just because I have a thirst drive doesn't mean I drink enough. I live my life in a state of chronic, mild dehydration because I just don't drink enough! I figure kidney disease happens less in dogs because some drink enough and some don't to make up for how much water their food requires. I'm not saying it's the sole cause of kidney disease, but it is probably a contributing factor in dogs--maybe a large contributing factor in some cases.
And yes, meat alone is a terrible nutritional choice for a dog, cooked or raw. Lots of protein and fat but not so many micronutrients. The biggest thing with by-product meal is that the nutrients in it are so variable. You could buy one bag of dog food in May and the same brand in June made with by-product meal and the actual nutritional contents would be very different. I wonder why rendering makes things less digestible, as the stuff going into the by-product slurry is, or should be, rather digestible in a raw form, and rendering usually makes things more digestible, not less. That's interesting.
Might it be that they don't increase their amount of protein because corn is far cheaper than meat? Just a cynical thought.