Do Dogs Need Meat? The Importance of Animal Protein for Dogs
We’ve all heard it’s important to eat a balanced diet to stay healthy, right? We need to get the “right” amount of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water in our diet each day. While the amounts are different, the same is true for your dog.
When it comes to dogs, it's not uncommon for pet parents to wonder if their furry friends need meat in their diets. The short answer is both yes and no. Dogs are technically omnivores, which means that they can live off a plant-based diet, but it can be difficult to ensure dogs get the adequate essential nutrients they need to thrive on a plant-based diet.
A meat-free diet may significantly lack one of the most important nutrients your dog needs – protein and the variety of amino acids it provides. While protein can be derived from plants, the canine digestive system typically has an easier time digesting and utilizing animal-sourced protein. In addition, chicken, eggs, beef, turkey, and other high-quality animal proteins are some of the best sources for dogs to receive the adequate amount of protein that they need every day.
Why Do Dogs Need High-Quality Protein Food?
Quality protein plays a key part in a balanced doggy diet. Thousands of years ago, our furry friends' ancestors would hunt down their meals, making meat a crucial element for a balanced diet. This carnivorous lifestyle encouraged dogs to develop everything from their sharp teeth to their relatively short digestive systems. As such, they needed the nutrients from animal protein to not only survive, but also thrive.
These days, hunting isn’t as much of a necessity when you can head to you local pet store or shop for dog food online. However, that need for a high-quality animal protein diet still remains. As dogs eat, their bodies break down protein sources into amino acids. These amino acids are considered "the building blocks of life" and are critical to your dog's health.
There are 20 amino acids that benefit your furry fiend. 10 of these amino acids are called non-essential amino acids and your dog’s body can make them when needed. The other 10 are called essential amino acids because dogs cannot naturally produce them, they need to come from your dog’s food. Your dog’s body can’t store amino acids the same way it can store carbohydrates and fats, so it’s important your dog receives adequate amounts of essential amino acids from their food every day.
What exactly do amino acids do for your dog? Amino acids play central roles both as building blocks of proteins and as intermediates in metabolism. Some important functions include:
- Building and repairing body tissues.
- Transporting nutrients.
- Helping to keep skin and coat healthy.
- Carrying oxygen throughout the body.
- Playing a role in a properly functioning immune system.
- Participating in muscle activity.
Your dog’s need for amino acids will also change depending on age and condition. For example, older dogs tend to lose a little muscle each year. As such, senior pet food should provide high-quality protein to help aging dog maintain a healthy body mass and stay strong throughout the years.
How to Identify the Right High-Quality Protein Dog Food for Your Best Friend
It’s not easy to balance your diet on the fly and eat the right combination of food you need to be healthy every day! Fortunately, a good dog food can make this process a lot easier for your best friend. The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets certain standards for dry and wet dog foods. If your brand of choice meets these minimum nutrient requirements, your dog is on the right path. Dog foods that meet these requirements will have a statement on the label that says the food is complete and balanced for Growth (puppies and pregnant dogs), Maintenance (adults), or All Life Stages (all ages).
You should also pay attention to how different dog foods are made, especially for dry food. Not all animal protein sources are the same. Many dry dog foods use meals, like chicken meal, rather than fresh ingredients. Meals are “rendered,” cooked for a long period of time at a high temperature to dry them and remove the fat. In addition, most dry dog foods are “extruded,” which means they are quickly cooked at a high temperature and pressure, and then dried at a high temperature.
It is well-documented that high temperatures can damage amino acids. When an amino acid is damaged, your dog cannot fully use it for body functions. While dog foods must list protein content in the Guaranteed Analysis, there is no way to tell how much of the amino acids from that protein is in good condition for your dog to use or digest it at all. Even if a brand promises that they use a lot of meat or some other form of protein, the cooking process may render those benefits irrelevant.
That need to protect those key nutrients is why Bil-Jac created recipes that deliver a healthy balance of amino acids to support your dog's health and vitality. Bil-Jac uses an abundance of real chicken as the number one ingredient because it provides a well-balanced amount of essential amino acids your dog can utilize since it has not been previously cooked and denatured.
Just as important, our unique Nutri-Lock™ slow cooking method gently cooks and dries the food at controlled temperatures. We won’t use an extruder because of the way it can damage proteins. Together, the formulation and processing of Bil-Jac Dry Dog Food helps to protect essential amino acids and creates a delicious kibble that your dog will love.
Support Your Dog with the Right High Protein Dog Food
We know right protein is vital for dogs everyday health and wellbeing. That’s why we give pet parents a superior, chicken-based food that not only tastes great, but also ensures that dogs get carefully-processed nutrition through our unique cooking process.
Ready to give your dog the high quality protein he or she needs to succeed? Find a store that carries Bil-Jac near you or order Bil-Jac online today! You can also join our Best Friends Club today to receive our exclusive email newsletter full of informative articles, training tips, and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac dog food, treats, and other products.