Regardless of which name brand of food claims to be best for your pets, there is little argument that protein needs to be the main ingredient. In addition, variety in their diets is essential for good health in cats and dogs, the same as humans. Eating the same thing, meal after meal, can cause allergic reactions and digestive issues.
Why is protein so important?
After protein is eaten, it is broken into amino acids. It’s actually these amino acids that are so imperative to health. The amino acids then form new proteins that can build muscle, create hormones, repair tissues, transport oxygen and iron in the blood, support the immune system, and other functions. Proteins provide energy, and are also in hair, skin, nails, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.
Some amino acids can be produced adequately by dogs and cats (and humans, for that matter), but not all. The ones that cannot be produced are called “essential amino acids.” The body needs them for proper functioning, and they must be supplied to your four-legged friends through diet or supplements.
There are 10 essential amino acids that both dogs and cats require, but cats also require an additional amino acid dogs don’t.
Are some proteins better than others?
Both animals and plants can be sources of protein, and many pet food manufacturers use both in their foods, although some dogs and cats have trouble digesting some plant-based proteins.
The protein source needs to be both a good source of the essential amino acids and also digestible. For proper nutrition, the protein source should be a good balance of those two factors. Additionally, improper cooking can damage the amino acids.
The amount of protein needed depends not only on the species of pet (cats need significantly more protein than dogs do), but also on the age and activity of the pet. Puppies and kittens need more protein, as do animals that are pregnant or nursing. A hunting dog needs more protein than a couch potato dog. At one point, it was thought older pets needed less protein, but it’s now generally believed older pets needs as much protein as middle-aged pets, unless the pet has kidney or liver disease.
“Hot” and “Cold” proteins.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) describes proteins in terms of “hot” and “cold.” “Hot” animal proteins include lamb, venison, and chicken plus oats, squash, and sweet potatoes. “Cold” proteins include duck, rabbit, and sometimes turkey (it can also be considered “neutral,”) in the animal realm, as well as spinach, apples and bananas. Other “neutral” proteins include beef, salmon, and tuna, as well as carrots, green beans, peas and cheese.
In TCM, a pet with too much “cold” energy may have weakness, shortness of breath, fatigue or sluggishness, a low exercise tolerance, incontinence, and joint pain. By contrast, a “hot” pet may be irritable, dehydrated, suffer from upset stomach, and skin irritation. The theory is that if you feed a “hot” pet “cool” proteins (or vice-versa), you can balance their systems and alleviate any discomfort.
People tend to do the same thing. When it’s a sweltering day, the sun is blasting down in all its glory, and there isn’t even a slight breeze, people head for watermelon, cucumbers, and popsicles to help cool down. On the other hand,, there’s nothing as inviting as a hot, rich bowl of beef stew or chili on a freezing cold, snowy winter’s day.
By feeding your pet a variety of proteins, you are more likely to give him a rich mix of amino acids, plus keep him interested in dinner by providing a variety of flavors and textures with his meals. But remember, every pet is an individual: come in and talk to one of our helpful pack members to find the foods that will best fulfill your specific pet’s nutritional