Protein is a vital part of your pup's diet; containing amino acids, it's the building block of Buster's tissues. His protein requirements will change as he ages, and you may find you need to switch up his protein sources according to his specific needs.
How Much Is Enough?
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, adult dogs require a minimum of 18 percent protein as dry matter in their diet, while growing puppies need at least 22 percent protein. However, if Buster is like most dogs, he can tolerate more protein in his diet. In fact, the Merck Veterinary Manual notes that depending on the protein source, higher levels of protein may be necessary. The biologic value of a protein is linked to the amount and types of amino acids it has. Plant-based proteins are less digestible and have lower biologic values than animal-based proteins. A dog eating a diet of primarily plant-based proteins will have higher protein requirements to ensure he's getting the proper amount of amino acids in his diet. Your vet can confirm whether Buster's diet is providing him the right amount of protein for his specific needs.
If Buster's developed a rash on his belly, he could be showing the effects of a food allergy. Many common sources of protein can cause allergies including beef, chicken, lamb, corn, soy, dairy products and fish. That knocks a lot of protein sources out of the running, but luckily, many alternative choices do exist. If your pup has allergies to more common ingredients, look for dog food with a base of duck, buffalo, pheasant, rabbit or venison.
The Vegetarian Option
Though feeding dogs an entirely vegetarian or vegan diet is highly controversial among animal owners, it's not an easy issue to resolve, given the complex ethical considerations. If you're a vegetarian and feeding your pup a diet with animal protein absolutely conflicts with your personal convictions, it is possible to implement a vegetarian diet relatively safely. Dogs are ostensibly omnivores, so they can live without animal-based protein. If you don't find it imperative to serve Buster a vegan diet, pastured and organic eggs and dairy products including cottage cheese and yogurt are excellent healthy protein options. Beans including peas and legumes such as pinto beans and chickpeas, provide fiber and protein and can help meet protein requirements in a vegan diet. Soy products including tempeh and tofu are also possible choices for protein; however, not all dogs tolerate soy products well. Consult your vet before feeding soy products to your dog.
To reiterate what was stated earlier: dogs fed only plant-based proteins will typically have higher protein requirements, so always make sure to confirm with your vet or veterinary nutritionist that you're providing the right amount and kind of protein for him. Always keep in mind that, as a dog owner, it's your responsibility to put your dogs' specific health needs above all. Understand that your pup simply wants to live a long and healthy life with you and doesn't share your ethical concerns!
Protein Sources Ranked
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, when it comes to supplying amino acids, egg has the highest biologic value, followed by organ meat and skeletal meat, with plant-based proteins at the bottom. If you're looking for protein alternatives, try different types of meat if Buster isn't limited to a vegetarian diet. If you're going to rely on other products, such as soy or even grains, such as corn, run your choice by your vet or an animal nutritionist. Dogs who eat a carbohydrate-heavy diet risk gaining weight; vegetarian diets can carry the danger of insufficient vitamins and minerals, as well as present the risk of imbalance of amino acids.
By Betty Lewis
The Merck Veterinary Manual for Veterinary Professionals: Nutritional Requirements and Related Diseases of Small Animals
Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: Nutrition for the Adult Dog
ADM Animal Health and Nutrition: Alternative Proteins in Companion Animal Nutrition
PetMD: Focusing on Protein in the Diet
Organic Pet Digest: Dog With Dog Food Allergy: Diagnosis and Treatment
Dog Food Advisor: Suggested Hypoallergenic Dog Foods
2ndChance.info: Home Cooked Pet Diets, Home Made Recipes and Pet Nutrition
Organic Pet Digest: Vegan or Vegetarian Diet for Dogs
About the Author
Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master's degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.