Why Low Protein Nutrition It’s So Important for Your Pet?


Many inexperienced dog owners look for the optimal food for their pets, mainly paying attention to the protein it contains. They seem to think that the more protein, the better – but it is not always the best assumption. The optimal amount of protein in the feed depends on many factors, including the pet’s age and activity.

Each period of the organism’s life and many physiological states require adjusting the amount and quality of protein to meet the individual norm for amino acids. This is due to the direct involvement of individual amino acids in physiological processes. Until quite recently, it was only possible to cover the total protein demand. Now, it is possible to indicate the need for the increased or decreased presence of individual amino acids in the diet.

The scientific research results allow for the precise selection of such proteins, which will be the source of selected amino acids. Pet food producers are obliged to indicate the content of individual nutrients so that the animal owner can choose the right type of it.

In this article, we will show you when and why you should choose low protein dog food, so your pet is healthy and active.

Protein in Dog Food

When constructing a home diet or selecting the amount of ready-made commercial food, the amount of protein, which is a direct source of nitrogen in the diet, should be considered. Only then will you be sure to guarantee an appropriate nitrogen balance that allows you to keep the dog’s body in a condition fit for the growth phase.

The nitrogen balance determines the difference between protein nitrogen absorbed from the diet and nitrogen excreted from the body. A positive balance is associated with greater protein absorption than with its catabolism (disintegration). It occurs in young, developing organisms. Negative nitrogen balance is unfavorable for the body and applies to a situation where protein catabolism and nitrogen excretion outweigh its absorption.

Protein quality should be a fundamental element in determining the quality of both ready-made commercial pet food and home diet. Through the skillful selection of proteins, carbs, and fats, it becomes possible to direct the organism’s metabolic changes and act as a preventive measure in most disease entities.

Proteins can be divided according to the content of amino acids:

  • Wholesome proteins – proteins that ensure the proper growth and development of the body, contain all the essential amino acids (sources: egg white, milk protein, protein from mammalian and fish muscle tissue).
  • Semi-wholesome proteins – they are sufficient to support life, but do not ensure proper development and growth; contain essential amino acids, but at least one in low amounts (cereal protein – lysine deficiency, rice protein – lysine and threonine deficiency, maize protein – tryptophan and lysine deficiency).
  • Defective proteins – digestible proteins, but not sufficient to support life (gelatin – lack of tryptophan and cysteine and deficiency of methionine, isoleucine, valine, and tyrosine).
  • Worthless proteins – non-digestible (e.g. feather, nail, horn proteins).

For Dogs With Kidney Disease

Particular attention should be paid to the selection of protein quantity and quality when feeding dogs with renal insufficiency, where the amount of protein should be strictly controlled at a low level. This is due to the formation of toxic metabolites that are very hard for the organism to excrete. The administered protein should be characterized by a high digestibility index and biological quality, which promotes its absorption.

The digestibility factor is the percentage ratio of the amount of protein digested and absorbed to the amount consumed in the diet. Animal-derived proteins have the highest digestibility index – up to 98%, while plant-derived proteins have this index at up to 70%.

Limiting the amount of protein when feeding dogs with urinary tract problems supports the treatment and improves the animal’s well-being.

For Dogs With Territorial Aggression

There is a relationship between the increased or decreased amount of tryptophan in the diet and its influence on aggressive behavior.

Dogs suffering from territorial aggression, combined with fear, improve their behavior as a result of a low-protein diet, especially if it is additionally enriched with the tryptophan. This amino acid is present in cereal products, especially wheat.

Of course, a high-protein diet is not the only cause of aggressive behavior and should not be considered as such. However, a low-protein diet can help to calm your dog down.


After visiting the vet, you can find out that your dog has individual nutritional needs. The vet gives you guidelines to, for example, use a low-protein diet. You may be a little scared initially, but currently, tracking the protein content is not that difficult. Producers of food for animals such as dogs and cats, taking into account physiological standards, must comply with the finished product’s total protein content, both in the wet and dry food.

Even if you prepare food for your dog yourself, thanks to the knowledge about the quality of proteins, you should understand how to compose a diet that will contain all the essential amino acids. And you will do it without overloading the body with too much protein. As a well-informed dog owner, you will certainly be able to ensure your pet has a long and happy life.

Written by George K.

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