We take a closer look at the macronutrient protein, and what getting enough in the diet means for dog’s or cat’s health
Did you know that proteins are important building blocks of your pet’s organs, muscles, bones, skin, and blood? When proteins are digested, amino acids remain. Protein digestion starts in the stomach with various enzymes and moves to the small intestine. Here enzymes from the pancreas further digest proteins into amino acids
Protein is a source of energy and essential for wellbeing and growth in all living organisms. It builds, maintains, and repairs body tissue and boosts the immune system. It is also important for the production of hormones and enzymes for optimal functioning of the body. “Protein requirements vary for different species” explains veterinarian Dr. Donald Leask. “For example, cats require a higher percentage of protein and fat in their diet than dogs. A lack of sufficient protein in a diet will result in poor immunity, frequent infections, slow healing, loss of muscle mass, weakness, and poor coat and nails, to name just a few.
Understanding amino acids
Amino acids are organic compounds containing nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Amino acids of which there are 20 different types, can be described as beads on a string, called polypeptides. The beads are arranged in specific sequences and the sequence and the strings fold together in a conformation to form protein. When protein is digested, the strings unfold and the amino acid ‘beads’ remain. The body uses amino acids to make other proteins and enzymes that are required.
Amino acids are found in three categories those that can be produced by the body in sufficient amounts (non – essential), those that must be supplied through diet (essential), and conditional amino acids, which are needed at certain times, like during illness or stress. If one essential amino acid is deficient, the steps to make protein can’t be completed effectively, as the process runs step-by-step.
Humans can produce or synthesize 11 of the 20 amino acids, leaving the remaining nine as essential amino acids. Cats and dogs need 10 essential amino acids. There are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Arginine can be synthesized by human but not
Check the ingredients list on pet food bags or tin labels to find out where the protein for that food comes from
Meat Named proteins like beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, kangaroo, and venison. Mainly muscle tissue.
Poultry Sources include chicken, duck, ostrich, and turkey and may contain skin. Mayor may not contain bone, but some companies will declare the source as “deboned”.
Fish Sources include salmon, tuna, hake, and cod. Mayor may not contain bones.
Whole prey The meat source is named, and the formulation contains meat, bones, and organs.
Meat, poultry, or fish meal Animal tissue and typically bones (not including blood, hooves, horn, hide, stomach contents, etc.), cooked and dried to remove moisture, in a process called “rendering” leaving a fine, highly concentrated protein powder. The powder is added to the food formulation
Meat, poultry or fish by-products or derivatives Includes organs (both those used in human consumption and those not), blood and bone (not horns, hair, feathers, hide or hooves). The meat source may be named, for example, “bovine by-product”, or listed as “animal by-product” – from any animal source
Meat, poultry or fish by-products meal Refers to rendered meat, poultry, and fish by-product
Plant-based protein Includes soybean meal or flour, pea protein, pulses (lentils, chickpeas, dried beans), etc.
Egg May Include whole egg, albumen, yolk, or powdered egg.
Amino acid fortification Supplemented amino acids.