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How Much Crude Protein Should There Be in Dog Food

Lorre Luther

By Lorre Luther

Grain Free Dog Food

If you’ve recently decided to try a paleo diet and had some success when it comes to building lean muscle and increasing your level of energy, you might be wondering if you should get your dog in on the magic by increasing their protein consumption. If so, your interest in eating right might have led you to wonder about protein, pet food, and precisely how much crude protein there should be in your dog’s food.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the organization that sets the requirements for commercial dog food, has determined that food for adult dogs should consist of at least 18% crude protein on a dry matter basis. Pregnant and nursing dogs, as well as puppies, have slightly higher needs and should be fed food with at least 22% crude protein on a dry matter basis.

Divider 7What Do You Mean by “On a Dry Matter Basis”?

Dog food labels provide a guaranteed analysis of the product’s ingredients, including crude protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. AAFCO recommendations refer to dry matter analysis: not the crude protein or fat numbers you actually see on the label.

As a general rule, there’s not much difference between the crude protein content you see on the label and crude protein content on a dry matter basis for most dry foods. But to get a good idea of how much protein your dog is getting from wet food, you’ll need to do a bit of math. Fortunately, there are several online calculators that’ll do the work for you!

Grain Dog Food
Image Credit: pedphoto36pm, Shutterstock

Should I Feed My Dog an All-Meat Diet?

Probably not because dogs aren’t carnivores. Cats, for example, are obligate carnivores and require animal protein to survive. On the other hand, dogs are omnivores and can digest food from animal and plant sources.

Dogs that are fed nothing but meat won’t get the full range of nutrients they need to remain healthy, like amino acids and other nutrients.

Is More Protein Better?

Not necessarily. “Super high protein dog food” is most often a marketing trick designed to please humans rather than a product designed to benefit your pet’s health. Just because a dog food is high in protein doesn’t mean that your dog’s body is going to absorb the extra protein. Sometimes the added protein is not readily bioavailable, making it essentially an expensive filler that your dog won’t be able to digest.

Dog food must include a variety of nutrients from plant and animal sources to provide optimal bioavailability. Just throwing in more protein doesn’t increase the amount of protein available for your dog’s body to digest and absorb.

Dog food in a bowl
Image By: 279photoStudio, Shutterstock

What About Food Allergies?

Canine allergies are quite rare, and most are related to specific proteins found in chicken, dairy products, beef, and eggs. Most food allergy symptoms such as itchy skin and gastrointestinal issues can be explained by factors other than true food allergies. Itchy skin is most often caused by fleas or sensitivities to allergens like dust mites or grass. Vomiting and diarrhea, if food-related, can be caused by food that has too much fat or not enough fiber.

Divider 7Is It Harmful To Feed My Dog Too Much Protein?

It’s harmful to feed your dog a diet consisting of nothing but protein; it’ll prevent your canine friend from getting the full range of nutrients they need. Also, entirely meat-based diets can be hard on your dog’s kidneys. If you’re giving your four-legged friend commercial dog food, you don’t have to worry about too much protein in their diet. Make sure to look for food with an animal-based protein such as whole chicken, duck, or beef listed first on the ingredient list to ensure your dog gets their protein from high-quality bioavailable sources.

Featured Image Credit: nadisja, Shutterstock

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