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Risks Associated With High Protein in a Dog's Diet

Risks Associated With High Protein in a Dog's Diet

High protein in dog's diet can aggravate preexisting kidney problems as well as make the dog overweight and obese when it is not active. So, should you feed your dog any protein at all? This DogAppy article will answer this question and also provide information on the safe sources of protein for your pet canine.
DogAppy Staff
Did You Know?
When buying or making dog food, make sure corn or soy is not the main source of protein as they are better at digesting meat meals.
As pet owners, we are often advised to feed a high protein diet to our pet as it plays a crucial role in growth, maintenance, and overall health. For optimum health, high protein foods should be an integral part of your dog's diet. However, there are certain health risks when the diet provides proteins in excess of the prescribed limit for dogs. The following are the health concerns that may arise from feeding too much protein to your pet:
Dangers of Too Much Protein in a Dog's Diet
Hyperactivity
Too much of protein may be a contributory factor in making dogs hyperactive and aggressive. It may worsen behavioral problems in dogs. Dogs need proteins to meet their energy needs. So too much protein causes an increase in energy stores. So, theoretically, in order to increase energy expenditure, the dog might be exhibiting hyperactive behavior.
It is also observed that serotonin―the feel good hormone―plays a crucial role in enhancing the mood. Tryptophan―an amino acid―is vital for the production of serotonin. Although protein foods contain a good deal of tryptophan, its bioavailability is very low. So increasing protein intake in dogs does not help in any way to increase dietary tryptophan.
In short, a high protein diet does not contribute in improving serotonin levels in the brain. This link between serotonin and high protein foods suggests that feeding excessive protein may increase aggression in dogs. Also, there have been instances wherein vets have advised pet owners to lower the protein intake in order to reduce their pet's aggression. Studies have also shown that tryptophan doses tend to decrease aggressive behavior in poultry, fish, pigs, dogs, and even in humans.
Obesity
When there is a mismatch between the amount of protein being fed and the activity levels of your pet, it is likely to make your pet overweight, which may lead to obesity. Your pet's level of activity plays a crucial role in determining its protein requirements. It is obvious that energy needs of a highly active dog and the one with average activity level is not the same. So when you feed high amount proteins to your dog who receives little exercise, the excess protein fed is stored as fat. Usually, a diet containing high amount of protein is given to working dogs who spend a major part of their day outdoors engaged in high level activities. Dogs consuming too much of protein are likely to become overweight, which can also put excessive strain on their joints, thereby increasing the risk of arthritis in the long run.
Worsen Kidney Problems
Pet owners need to exercise caution when feeding protein to dogs with preexisting kidney problems. Although proteins are not filtered by the kidneys, the metabolism of protein produces waste products that need to be eliminated. So high protein in the diet puts excessive strain on the kidneys. This can be especially difficult to handle when the kidneys are not functioning properly. The increased glomerular pressure and hyperfiltration associated with feeding high protein foods can further deteriorate kidney function, which may lead to protein toxicity. No wonder, dogs with an impaired kidney function are often put on a low-protein diet.
High Protein Diet for Healthy Dogs
Vets have long been cautioning pet owners about feeding a high protein diet to their pet, warning that excess protein can damage the kidneys of healthy dogs in the long run. However, recent studies have shown that a high protein diet does not negatively affect kidney function substantially.
In another study, adult dogs that were fed a high protein diet for a period of 4 years did not show any harmful impact, and moreover, their mortality rate was lower than those taking low protein foods. Researchers are of the opinion that high protein foods that have been formulated for pets, do not damage healthy kidney function.
Waste products, such as nitrogen, that are generated after protein metabolism are eliminated through urine. There is an assumption that high amount of nitrogen formed from due to following a high protein diet might put extra burden on the kidneys, and may lead to damage. However, researchers assert that this assumption is false, as the filtering units of the kidneys are strong enough to handle any overload. In fact, just one kidney is enough to maintain a healthy body.
Opinions, however, are mixed as far as feeding a high protein diet are concerned. Although few studies show contradictory results, quite a few vets still believe that giving too much protein can hurt the kidneys in the long term.
Focus on Feeding High Quality Protein
The fact is we tend to feed low quality protein and then blame the diet when the dog falls ill. As dogs are primarily carnivores, dogs find it difficult to break down proteins that are fed from plant-based sources such as soy and corn. High quality protein should primarily come from animal sources like beef, poultry, pork, and fish. For dogs, animal protein is faster and easier to digest than plant protein. This is because dogs have a short digestive tract, that allows them to better metabolize animal protein. In fact, proteins obtained from plant-based sources are incomplete, because they do not contain all the amino acids that are necessary to sustain a healthy life in dogs.
Moreover, experts opine that feeding good-quality protein has another advantage. Since animal protein is easier to digest, lesser amount of nitrogen as a by-product is released, thereby maintaining optimal nitrogen balance in the body.
The Verdict
Yes, you can feed high protein foods to your pet, but firstly, you need to assess the protein requirements of your furry friend. Puppies and young growing dogs need to be given more proteins than older or senior dogs. However, feeding more than what is recommended may not necessarily harm your dog but the extra protein fed will only add excess calories to your pet's diet. This will eventually lead to weight gain and make your pet lethargic and obese. So apart from proteins, make sure your pet gets other nutrients (vitamins and minerals) to make the diet complete and balanced.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian.