Amount of Protein in Dog Food\

trinigeminiAugust 10, 2009

I know we have had food discussions before, but I do not remember anyone commenting on how much protein is appropriate.

We have been feeding Tootsie Orijen 6 Fish for almost a year now, with absolutely no complaints. She still goes wild for the food and every poop have been firm.

With that being said, I had the thought that we may want to change this up for her. Being that we are very ridged about her food and snacks, her diet has pretty much been limited to the 6 Fish, carrots and homemade beef snacks and the occasional dehydrated duck breast.

So I have been looking into alternative 6 star dry foods. And was also trying to get more information about canine nutritional requirements. It's here where I am beginning to wonder.

At their chart states that an Adult dog's food should be at about 18% protein. Orijen's 6 Fish has 40%. According to that even surpasses the recommended percent for a performance dog or even that of a racing sled dog. Now I realize that that site is part of the Fosters and Smith site, and may be biased. But there is also a report by the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources which has a more complex formula on page 5 (Determining Grams of Essential Nutrients from Petfood Labels) which states RECOMMENDED ALLOWANCES FOR

PROTEIN in grams for adult dogs weighing 33 lbs is 25 g. Using their formula, Origen comes in at 181.6 g. So, Origen seems a bit much on either scale.

So, I was wondering, does anyone here have any input? Regarding Tootsie, she is now 1 year 9 months old. She is an English bulldog and weights about 46 pounds. We got her at just under a year and immediately put her on the Orijen. In that time she has only put on about 2 lbs - she weighs 46 lbs as of last month's vet visit. She is in great health and what I would consider strong and lean. Orijen does have a new product out called regional red but it is not for sale in the US as yet, and even that has alot of protein.

I'd really like Meghane's input on this, but any one else's advice or opinion is also welcome.

Any information or input would be greatly appreciated.



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here is what I know about protein in canine diets.
Protein is essential for their growth and good health and muscle and organ proteins provide essential amino acids.
That most requirements are around 18 to 22 percent of QUALITY protein.
The higher the quality of protein the better. That most mammals have a limited capacity to store proteins (same as with vitamin C) and the excess is filtered by the kidneys and excreted.
My concern with your choice of food is first what type of fish is being used because there is alot of junk fish out there used for fillers, my other concern would be the higher level of contaminants like mercury in a diet rich in fish. The other concern I would have is the task of the kidneys and other organs whose job it is to eliminate the excessive proteins, it seems with a diet so high in proteins and with possible contaminents the elimination organs would have a hard time with all the waste being produced and if there are contaminants like mercury - what is happening to the ability of the organs to eliminate it as well.
So I would pose a question to the pet food company as to 1.why they would choose to produce such high amounts of protein in their food 2. is all of the protein they list coming from fish or is something else in there bumping up the protein amounts 3.what kind of fish is being used and 4. where is the fish coming from....

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 4:24PM
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here is what their website says. I like the company because the food is made in Canada as opposed to China. I trust nothing coming from that country. They seem to use good quality fish that is farmed up in Canada. Tootsies fur is also very shiny and soft...people are always commenting on how soft she is. And her poop disintegrates in a couple of days if the dung beetles dont get to it first. But the protein content is a bit much so we were thinking of maybe changing to another one of their products.

By nature, all dogs are faculative carnivores--they thrive on a varied diet, rich in meats with smaller amounts of fruits, vegetables and grasses.

Surrounded by Atlantic, Pacific & Arctic oceans and home to vast clean, cold freshwater lakes, Canadas maritime harvest is perfectly suited to the ORIJEN philosophy of Biologically Appropriate pet foods from Fresh Regional Ingredients.

Loaded with wild-caught fish (70%), ORIJEN 6 FISH features 6 unique fish species that are delivered to our door FRESH (never-frozen) each day, including Chinook & Coho salmon, pacific flounder & herring from North Vancouver Island, plus northern walleye, lake whitefish & lake trout from our cold freshwater rivers and lakes.

Bursting with nourishing fish proteins for peak physical conditioning, ORIJEN 6 FISH is loaded with biologically appropriate Omega-3s (EPA & DHA) to support a vibrant skin and hair coat,Âyour dogÂs outer symbol of health and vitality.

Grain-free and low in carbohydrates, ORIJEN is packed with regional fruits and vegetables including russet potatoes, sun-cured alfalfa & black currants from local prairie farms, and red delicious apples & cranberries from the interior orchards.

Hand-harvested from Vancouver IslandÂs nutrient rich tidal range, ORIJENÂs organic sea vegetables supply a rich source of essential B vitamins and trace mineralsÂincluding zinc, manganese and selenium.

Bridging the gap between good nutrition and peak health, veterinarian selected botanicals include dandelion root, sweet fennel and peppermint leafÂall of which mirror the natural instinct to forage for grasses and weeds while serving to nourish and tone the digestive tract.

Made exclusively in our award-winning, family-owned factory, Biologically Appropriate ORIJEN 6 FISH is a natural and delicious way to assure the peak health, vitality and happiness of your dogÂno matter what his breed or size.

Take a few minutes to browse our whitepaper to learn more about the concept of Biologically Appropriate food.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 4:35PM
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Orijen is an excellent food. The protein % is decent level because there is actually meat/fish in the food instead of the heavy concentration of corn and other fillers found in lower quality brands. (That said, bad foods can have high protein too, but it isn't usable protein.) For excellent guidance on understanding your dogs dietary needs and finding good food go to the website. You can also check the recommended foods list which Whole Dog Journal publishes every year. They now require the manufacturers to disclose where their production facilities are located. Although WDJ doesn't publish their recommended foods list on the web, there's a doby group that publishes it on their site. (url below)

Protein does NOT cause kidney damage. The amount of protein really depends on the breed, the individual dog, and the amount of energy he/she needs. My dogs get good amounts of exercise and eat raw diets high in protein. When I feed them commercial foods, I look for at leat 25% protein and prefer something in the 30% range or higher - from MEAT. Dogs don't need fillers. There have been some studies that show dogs with aggression issues will do better on a lower protein diet (simplistic: protein inteferes with conversion of tryptophan to seratonin), but results are mixed so this is not definitive and just interesting bit of data.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 7:07PM
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There are many issues to be brought up by simply looking at the % of protein in food.

1) As mentioned, the quality of protein in the diet makes a huge difference as to whether or not the protein is useful. For an extreme example, the way protein is measured in dog food is by combusting the food and measuring the nitrogen content. The makers of the pet food that was tainted with melanine knew that melanine combusted to nitrogen. So they added melanine to the diet to artificially raise the protein levels in the food. Not only is melanine not digestible, it is a potent kidney toxin. Different protein sources are ranked as highly digestible to not digestible. Hair and hooves are protein, but they are not digestible, and if they were in pet food (which is illegal) they would artificially raise the total protein of the food without providing the pet with any metabolizable protein. Including plant proteins in cat food is another way food manufacturers get away with a high protein count that is totally useless to the animal (dogs can digest plant proteins, though not as well as animal proteins).

The protein to ash ratio is an excellent indicator of an ingredient's digestibility. The higher the ingredient's ash content, the lower it's digestibility. This is a table of common pet food ingredients:

Poultry by-product meal 6:1
Meat and bone meal 2:1
Chicken meal 4:1
Lamb meal 2.5:1
Fish meal 3:1
Soybean meal 10:1
Corn gluten meal 25:1
Rice gluten meal 20:1
Dried egg product 8:1

The highest quality ingredient on the list? Meat and bone meal!

2) You can't compare % protein in 2 or more diets without accounting for the moisture content in those diets. The link below has a very good basic interpretation of pet food labels with directions on how to really compare dog food protein levels on a dry matter basis.

3) So if you *really* wanted to compare % protein in a food, you'd have to calculate the protein on a dry matter basis, then calculate the digestibility of each food based on the protein to ash ratio. So a food with 50% protein where the single protein source is meat and bone meal and the moisture content is 8% has a digestible protein of (50%/92% x .5)= 27.8% digestible protein on a dry matter basis. Compare that to a lamb-based canned diet of 10% protein and 88% moisture and you get (10%/12% x .4)= 33% digestible protein on a dry matter basis. Then of course you have to know how much of each protein source (in a multiple protein-source diet) is in each food to be able to compare in any meaningful way, which you will never know because the manufacturers won't tell you. It's easy in single protein source diets. But once you start adding corn gluten meal and all that other stuff, you can't do the math.

3) Even when you do all the math, when possible, all we know is the minimum protein necessary to prevent any known nutritional diseases. We don't have any inkling on what is an optimal diet. With only pet food manufacturers doing any evidence-based research on the subject, and even that is limited by comparison to human nutrition, I don't know that we'll ever figure out the OPTIMAL diet for a dog. And breed differences probably matter too. With all the research money going into human nutrition, we haven't even figured out how much Vitamin D a person should get, and the canine and feline nutrition budget is MUCH lower than human.

Not only that, but a landmark Purina study showed that you can overfeed a dog and kill it faster and give it more diseases than by feeding the SAME DIET appropriately. So not only do you have to watch WHAT you feed, you have to watch HOW MUCH. Obesity in dogs is just as rampant as in people, and people are just as much in denial about their fat dogs as they are about their fat selves. You can just as easily kill your dog with too much of a high quality food as you can by feeding it a crap food.

Just more to think about.

Mazer, what do you mean by "junk fish?"

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 9:07PM
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Thanks everyone for your input. I've forwarded all your post to my DH who will figure out all the calculations and everything else :-) I hate math. Tootsie only gets 2 cups of food a day. She has been a steady 46 pounds since we got her. we feed her twice a day, 1 cup each time and have had no problems with her eating. DH just got a little concerned because Orijen has so much more protein than any other food.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 9:48PM
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My concerns are this. Contaminants in the fish and the quality of useable proteins, just because there are alot of proteins does not mean it is high quality as mention and as last years issues with the Chinese produced dog food killing pets in a vain attempt to increase the levels of protein.
I dont think high proteins will cause kidney damage but I would be concerned again with long term use of high proteins and the organs ability to have to deal with the excessive waste during the pets lifetime.
I have always concentrated on protein as my dogs number one source of food I use human grade foods including freshly cooked meats added to high quality canned dog food. My dog also gets Natural Balance meat sticks qulity grains and dog biscuits so he has a well rounded diet.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 4:21PM
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Mazer, I understand the contaminants thing, but not what that has to do with "junk fish" and what those fish are. Is it whitefish, salmon, anything harvested in China? What on the label makes you think "junk fish?" I'm just curious, you usually have good information. I don't remember seeing melanine on the pet food labels when all those dogs got sick and died.

I have not found evidence that high protein causes health problems, but high protein can certainly aggravate problems such as protein-losing nephropathy, protein-losing enteropathy, any type of renal disease, etc. OTOH, high protein diets are best for dogs with cancer, since cancer feeds off carbs and fats before protein. I don't believe high protein will harm a healthy animal, but all excess protein is literally peed away. Since protein is usually the most expensive part of dog food, and most people are very price conscious, it behooves people to purchase a food with the *exact* amount of protein their dog needs, no more, no less. Of course, since nobody knows *exactly* what any dog needs, it's all guesswork, hopefully based on some degree of scientific knowledge but honestly not usually.

Human grade food isn't necessarily better, safer, more digestible, or more evolutionarily appropriate, but it is always more expensive. Human grade meat doesn't include healthy bits like liver, spleen, heart, lungs, etc- things that an animal eating whole prey would certainly consume- and things that provide essential nutrients.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 10:54PM
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I travelled up the Oregon Coast not long ago. Being a sailor I was poking around some of the yacht harbors and such and found a grated area near where the fishing boats were docked. I poked around looking for things to photograph, and found a HUGE pile of fish remains with flies buzzing around and slime coming from the bottom. I asked the fisherman what the pile was being used for, since I am also a gardener I figured the remains would be used for that. He said they sell to pet food companies. I will never forget that.
So - that is what I mean by junk fish.
As far as human grade food - I dont mean a nice piece of filet mignon, although I am certain your dog would love that. I mean food that is not just extras body parts thrown in a heated bin and made into a soup and processed into dog food. As far as human grade food Im talking about meat which is regularly tested for pesticides, herbicides, and other contaminants.
As far as high protein goes, I know from working at a vet that you add dog biscuits or something crunchy - not for the teeth of the dogs but to help them process all that meat, I know high protein diets can slow the digestive process and I also know that dogs and other wild animals supplement their diet naturally ie:BARF type diets. Even zoo's give their charges food they would not normally get in the wild, cantelope and watermelon to bears and tigers etc....Those are my concerns, that any pet get a good quality food and not junk food, and that food is tested for contaminants. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 11:41PM
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Orijen came out with a red meat that we will switch her to when it becomes available...supposedly next month. I really want to stay out of any food that comes from China and anything with grains and chicken in it as I heard dogs can be allergic to those and my little baby does have allergies. Her coat has been so good on orijen. I didn't even really know it until I went to her breeder this weekend. I was just looking to see if I could get her a sister. (whole other story) Anyway even the puppies fur was not as soft and shiny as my girl. She looked like a rockstar, next to the dogs that were being fed Iams (which is a 1 star food). Her breeder could not believe how great she looked.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 3:42PM
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Meghane, what do you feed your dogs?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 4:22PM
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I am glad you are so concerned with your dogs diet. I wish more pet owners were as concerned. If I could figure out how to get a pic of my dog uploaded, I would show you how good he looks - he is 14 and nobody, including myself can believe it. Im sure you will something as good as what you are giving your dog now only better. All I know is that common sense dictates too much of a good thing can end up being a bad thing in the long run. Good luck

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 7:05PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

That was very interesting about the fish pile, Mazer.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 8:16PM
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Mazer...I agree with you...I was worried about feeding her so much fish. Too much of anything is always bad.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 11:23PM
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Ew, rotten fish. Bleh.

I rotate my dogs between Eagle Pack Holistic Select, Natural Balance, Taste of the Wild, and Solid Gold. I use all the flavors except those containing beef and lamb because I have a dog allergic to both. They also get fresh raw meat (chicken, pork, turkey, other stuff on sale) and bones 2-3 times a week as a snack. I'd rather feed them all raw all the time, but I can't afford it (3 huskies, 1 rottie, 1 lab) and I don't have time to do it properly.

I agree with Mazer feeding something contaminant-free, preferably organic, and minimally processed is best. By the time a protein source is heated, extruded, and processed into dry kibble, little nutrition is left. It would be like a human eating white bread sprinkled with a crushed Centrum every day. Probably won't kill ya, but certainly not optimal.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 11:31PM
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