Protein in Pet Food

In recent years, there has been a great deal of debate regarding the effects of protein on our pets. There is a misunderstanding that it accelerates bone development, and that pets, especially large breed dogs, can have negative long term impacts if they consume too much when they are young. As we will discuss later, there is also a fallacy that it adversely affects the kidneys. Unfortunately, these misconceptions have led to feeding practices that are harmful for our pets.

The truth is—genetics determines growth rate, not the amount of protein consumed. Carnivores require a large amount of protein to support many cellular structures in the body. Therefore, feeding high levels of it along with the appropriate ratio of calcium and phosphorus with other necessary minerals will not cause bone problems. Bone growth problems are usually a result of excess calories or an inappropriate calcium/phosphorous ratio. Dogs raised on commercial diets experience more musculoskeletal problems than those raised on a natural diet that includes raw meat.

Labels on commercial pet foods list crude values, which indicate overall protein in the package rather than the usable amount. The quality and the sources of the protein in your pet’s foods are of primary importance. It should come from real meat sources, not by-products or mystery meat meal. Much of the unusable protein in commercial foods comes from grains and other difficult-to-digest foods, and can actually cause deficiencies, along with other health issues including digestive problems and allergies.

What about the kidneys?

Protein is also sometimes misconstrued as having an adverse affect on the kidneys. According to researchers, high levels in food DO NOT cause kidney damage in the normal, healthy dog or cat! Thus, it is very important to feed your pet a high biological value protein. This means it is highly digestible, easily absorbed by the intestinal tract, and that its amino acid components (the building blocks of proteins) include all the essential types of amino acids in their optimal proportions, leaving little for the kidneys to filter. This is crucial for animals that have impaired kidney function as well because by-products of protein digestion are the main toxins that need to be excreted by the kidneys.

Starting your pet on a high quality, easily digestible, utilized protein, from the beginning, will give their bodies the appropriate fuel needed to function at the highest possible level.  Please check out our dog and cat foods for great options for your pet.

Source: Dr. Bruce DeBaun. “The Protein Controversy”,,