Saturday, October 1, 2011

Puppy Protein Problems

Here is a common myth about protein: A dog food with a higher protein level is better than one with a lower protein level.

This is a very persistent myth in the dog food industry, in part because it is very tempting to believe that more is always better. There are a few problems with this belief, though. The first thing that you must consider is the source of the protein in your dog’s food. Protein that is coming from ingredients such as meat by-products, or meat fat is not of as high a quality as protein coming from meat meals. It is also important to know just where the meat comes from—does it come from something intended to be consumed, or is it the “leftover” portion after the high-quality, human-grade food has been skimmed off the top and sold? This always reminds me of the Discovery Channel show “Dirty Jobs.” There was an episode where the host Mike Rowe went to a commercial chicken farm, and a particularly gruesome job was picking up the dead chickens out of the chicken enclosures. Those dead chickens are not considered to be trash; they are just sold as meat of a lower quality to be used in things such as pet food.

Having more of 4D (diseased, disabled, dead, or dying) protein is definitely worse than having less of human-grade protein! It is the difference between feeding your pet fresh chicken and feeding him what is effectively trash. The problem with a lot of pet foods is that it is either incredibly difficult to find out the source for the proteins, or the information is just plain unavailable. In contrast to the practices of corporate pet food companies, Evy lists the source for and purpose of all Kumpi’s ingredients on her webpage. She also uses exclusively the highest grade of ingredients.

High-protein or protein-only diets aren’t necessary or helpful for a pet. An average adult dog needs a diet that is only about 21-22% protein and 9-15% fat. More active dogs (such as working dogs) may need as much as 30% to maintain their muscles. These needed protein levels have been documented and proven scientifically, as the nutritionist who formulated Kumpi says "These aren't anybody's opinion, these are facts." They have been measured and verified experimentally by scientists who study nutrition, and who have no reason to make the facts bend one way or another—they are simply interested in finding out how animal’s bodies work.

Once your dog has taken in the amount of protein that it needs, the extra he consumes has to go somewhere. Anything extra has to be processed by the dog’s digestive system. It takes a lot of caloric activity to break it down, and when it does that, it ends up with too much of other things. It forces your dog's system to overwork the kidneys and liver, something that is completely unnecessary. Indeed, all it does is put an extra strain on your pup's system.

Another basis of the protein misconceptions is considering dogs as wolves. While dogs did come from wolves, but they have been bred alongside humans for thousands of years. Not even wolves are obligate carnivores--that is, they don't have to eat only meat. Their digestive system can handle (and does handle) other things. Dogs have been steadily breeding away from that for as long as they have been our companions. And looking at a wild wolf as compared to a domesticated dog, it is obvious to the most cursory observer that the dog is healthier and happier. We feed our dogs better than wolves are able to feed themselves, so looking to wolves for a plan to feed dogs is kind of silly. A balanced food, with appropriate levels of amino acids, protein, and grains is called for to keep your pet at its healthiest.

If you want to know more about protein and a dog's requirements, check out KumpiTV, where a multi-species nutritionist (the man who formulated Kumpi) discusses various aspects of dog nutrition. He has been working in the field of multi-species nutrition for over forty years, with clients like the San Diego Zoo. The little "video blogs" are very informative and approachable, if you are interested in learning more about canine nutrition and getting the scientific facts about what is good for your pet.


P.S.: If you liked this blog, check out my first big nutrition blog here!

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