There are six main groups of essential nutrients your dog requires in its diet. Of these, protein is arguably the most important. Read on for more information on proteins in dog food.
Protein provides your dog with amino acids, the building blocks of life. They provide the structure for your dog’s hair, skin, nails, joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and muscles.
Protein strengthens the immune system, regulates muscle function and plays a key role in hormone production.
The amino acids in protein are categorized as essential and nonessential.
A dog can survive without the addition of the 12 nonessential amino acids in its diet because its body can make them as required. But as their name implies, essential amino acids (and there are 10 of them), have to be provided by your dog’s diet.
Animal proteins that contain all the amino acids are ‘complete’ proteins. A dog needs a wide variety of different animal proteins to ensure his or her diet is complete.
Plant proteins are considered incomplete proteins because they lack l-carnitine and taurine. That said, plant protein does offer some benefit in terms of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
The best sources of complete protein include red meat, poultry, organ meat, eggs and cultured dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese. (Eggs are considered the complete protein because they contain all the essential amino acids a dog needs).
Specific protein sources
Specific protein sources suitable for your dog include chicken, beef, lamb, rabbit, turkey, bison, pork, venison, duck and fish.
The less common of these, the likes of bison and duck for example, are likely to be ‘novel’ protein sources to most dogs. A novel protein is considered to be any protein a dog has never or rarely ever eaten.
The quality of a proteins in dog food is determined by the number of amino acids it contains. The more amino acids, the better the protein is for your dog. Don’t stick to just one or two protein sources. Vary the proteins in your dog’s diet as much as possible. The wider the array of protein sources, the wider the variety of nutrients in your dog’s diet. The wider the variety of nutrients, the healthier your dog is likely to be.
The optimum dog diet
The optimum canine diet, the gold standard if you like, is homemade dog food. If you really want to improve your dog’s health, nothing beats homemade food.
Especially for anyone new to home cooked dog food, I’ve created a step-by-step guide to making healthy homemade dog food. It includes a number of canine nutritionist- formulated homemade dog food recipes.