Dog Nutrition Series Part 1 - Protein 101

Puppy Feeding/Nutrition, last updated 10th, Oct 2020, DogSpot

We love all things dog. In our endeavour to bring education to pet parents, we collaborated with Rashee Kuchroo, leading pet nutritionist and the Founder of Doggie Dabbas. In conversation with Yamika Damani, founder of Clever Canine, she spoke about the importance of protein in canine diet and the ways to ensure its presence in your dog's diet. 

Right from our pet’s crucial puppy stage, through the growth period, to the older stage, several myths take control and nutrition often takes a back seat. We often tend to impose our beliefs and prejudices on our pet’s diet. It is our responsibility to take complete care of our pet’s nutrition right from the day we bring them home. Rashee addresses these and some other important topics in our Instagram live. 

Dogs as we know them today are descended from wolves and therefore most of their nutritional requirements are similar in nature. this In this series on dog nutrition we look at understanding the importance of protein in their diet and the best ways to meet these requirements.

1. What are a dog’s overall nutrition requirement and diet? 

In a basic dog’s diet, there are 3 main components, namely, protein, fat, and carbohydrate. In a wet matter pet food, the protein level should be at 80%. You can add 10% carbohydrates and 5% fat. The main nutrition requirement is protein. In a dry kibble, the protein content will be 60% and carbs will be 20% of the overall nutrition. 

2. Does the nutrition requirement change for different breeds?

In giant breeds, we suggest a slightly lower protein content. Their growth rate is extremely fast and while running, they spend a large amount of energy. It is important to note that no dog requires a drastic difference in protein unless there are health issues. Suppose a Labrador is on a 60% protein diet, a giant breed can do well with a 50% protein diet.

3. What are the health issues in which a dog’s protein intake must be revised?

The health issue in which a dog’s diet would change is any kind of renal problem like renal failure. Some other issues like gastrointestinal diseases would also require you to moderately regulate the protein intake for better digestion.

If you give your dog a good quality protein-based diet over the years, and you stick to the right kind of protein, it is less likely for your dog to develop a kidney problem. The decisions of protein content in your pet’s food must be taken early on. This affects their long term well being. If we are careful from the beginning, we can help prevent many health issues. 

4. What are the kinds of proteins available for a pet’s diet?

Broadly there are 2 types of proteins – vegetarian and non-vegetarian protein. There are various options for non-vegetarian such as, chicken, fish, mutton, duck, turkey, etc. We have many choices available for such non-vegetarian protein. 

When it comes to vegetarian protein, we have lentils, paneer, soy, peas, corn, etc. As Indians, most of us are vegetarian and we tend to think that the same vegetarian protein suitable for us is also suitable for our pets. Even a human vegetarian will face a deficiency of vitamin B12 and taurine if they stick to vegetarian proteins only. The same is for dogs’ nutrition. Except, they genuinely require this essential nutrient.

Try to stick to non-vegetarian proteins if you can. For some reason, if you are uncomfortable feeding wet non-vegetarian food, then we suggest going with a paneer based diet. You can then ensure the topping for such food is nonveg such as jerky, liver, or some form of organ meat so that your dog is getting enough vitamin B12 and taurine.  

5. Is a vegan diet suitable for dogs?

Dogs were never naturally vegan. We cannot change the diets of animals based on our beliefs, for instance, a cow’s grass food cannot be replaced with chicken. Similarly, we cannot rely on wheat (roti) for dogs’ food because it is not what dog species need for nutrition.

There are many nutrients in different food items that different animals require. Vegan food items will be deficient in vitamin B12 and taurine. If you are giving your dog a vegan diet, you will have to add artificial supplements. It is extremely difficult for your dog’s kidney to digest such vegan food items. It takes years of proper diet and nutrition to avoid problems in the future.

Regularly feeding your dog a vegan diet will cause kidney problems later which might be irreversible. Having said that, if we feed our dog one meal of lentils, it will not be toxic or harm the dog in a poisonous way. The exception though are giant breeds. Giant breeds are more susceptible to issues like excessive gas formation which can cause the stomach to turn. 

It is important we understand that dogs need different nutrition than humans. Please don’t stick to only a vegetarian diet. Dogs will need nutrition value from non-vegetarian food. Also, ensure proper rotation of food and meat to prevent many health issues. Dogs may also get over their protein allergies. Please check the digestible value and bioavailability your dog is getting from the food. 

6. Is there a danger in feeding too much protein?

Excessive protein may lead to kidney issues. This will be indicated by a urine test – some form of protein coming out of your dog’s urine. Hence, maximum we should go only to add 80% protein in the diet.

7. Can we use eggs to provide protein?

An egg is a completely balanced protein. It has all 22 amino acids. However, exclusive reliability on only eggs will cause various health issues. Your dog should not get her protein from egg only sources. When you cook the egg, the egg white contains enzyme inhibitors, which can later create protein deficiencies and may lead to protein absorption issues. Make sure you limit it. Use it as a way to bump up your dog’s protein as a snack for a few days a week. 

8. Pros and cons of dry kibble vs home-cooked meals?

Kibble was created at the end of World War II. There was an excess of cereal and people did not know what to do with so much grain. Hence, pet food was created. A lobby was created to convince people to shift from homemade to kibble food. It was derived by the necessity to use human waste. 

Kibble is high on carbohydrates. The packaging never mentions the carbohydrate value but it amounts to around 60% - 70%. Such popular kibble brands only have around 20% protein value. Some kibble companies are exceptions to this and have a lower carb value.

In some dogs, there is a typical dog scent, despite the use of the best fragrance shampoos. This is because the dog is on an incorrect diet. The dog is having excessive carbohydrates. Dogs on fresh food smell better, look better, lively, and active. 

Kibble is very dry and concentrated and causes dehydration. When it goes into your dog’s stomach it sucks up all the moisture from your dog’s system. Fresh food has 75% moisture and this problem does not occur. They will drink far less water on fresh food and their organs aren’t deprived of water. 

A vet will suggest a dry kibble to new puppy owners for the first 6 months. This is because you might take some time to find the right nutritional balance with homemade food. Vets have a very real concern about whether you will be able to provide the right nutrients during the growth stage. You can experiment after the first few months. If you have someone to guide you with homemade food please fo fresh all the way.

9. How can we address excess hair fall in dogs?

Look at how much protein your dog is getting. The moment you add a fresh protein, preservative-free good quality diet you will start to see a difference in the coat. You will start seeing a reduction of hair fall. You may then start adding any coconut oil, hemp oil, or sardine oil. This will help with the health of the coat a little bit more. 

10. The talk about dog poop and what it says about your dog's diet

Larger poop means undigested food. This usually occurs with kibble food which is high in carbs. Smaller poop doesn’t mean constipation. When your dog is straining to poop, that is constipation. Small hard poop is a reflection of good and well-digested food. This comes with fresh and properly cooked food. 

We want the right diet, where the dog can extract the right kind of nutrients from the food and excrete only the extra nutrient which they don’t require. 
Poop is the best indicator of a dog’s health. Pay attention to your dog’s poop for important insights.

11. How can we address the issue of dogs chewing grass?

Dogs typically chew grass when they require more fiber or when their stomach is upset. Something in the digestion process could not be right and the dog needs a change of diet. Make sure you speak to your vet about how frequently you should deworm your dog. 

As your dog gets old, try to ensure the food consistency is easy to digest. I would suggest some proteins like fish and other easily consumable items. held a live discussion with Rashee Kuchroo, about Protein 101. Rashee is a leading pet nutritionist and the Founder of Doggie Dabbas. With her experience of over 8 years, she has been doing a wonderful job providing nutritious custom made pet food and interesting treats to all her clients.

Hosted by Yamika Damani, founder of Clever Canine, several myths were busted about the right approach to a dog’s nutrition. Rashee joined us to talk about the impact of food on a dog’s activeness and long term health, the importance of meat as a nutrient, among many other nutrition tips. 

Transcribed by: Prekshita Patwa

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