This series is brought to you by our partner, Nulo
Whether you’re training for the trail or the stadium, it’s a good guess you eat to fuel life and course domination. But do you feed your animal companion with the same health and fitness goals in mind? If you’re like most pet owners, the answer is no, according to Dr. Abby Huggins of Intown Animal Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Most pets are fed a kibble diet because it’s convenient. I’m not against all kibble diets, but not all kibble is created equal,” Huggins says. So, what kind of kibble is best? A bagful that probably has more animal-based protein than your dog’s current feed. Read on to understand why, and upgrade your favorite creature’s chow.
The Problem With Too Many Carbs
Before you can understand why your dog needs a higher-protein diet, you need to understand why too many carbs are detrimental for dogs.
Huggins explains: “When your pet is fed excess carbohydrates, his body stores it as adipose tissue,” connective tissue that stores fat. Carrying adipose tissue poses health problems for dogs, just as it does to humans--among them, an increased risk for issues such as joint disease, compromised respiratory and circulatory health, lower quality of life and shorter overall life.
Does this mean slashing Scout’s carbs completely? Not exactly. “You don’t want to put him on an elimination diet--there is still a physiological need for some carbohydrates,” says Huggins. Instead, reduce the amount of carbs your pet eats per day by prioritizing feeding more protein instead. As you trim carbs, your animal will reap the advantages that come with eating more protein.
The Power of Protein
Switching to a higher protein diet can help your pet put on more lean muscle mass, improve the quality of her coat and stools, boost her overall health status, and be more active overall. “You want your pet on a diet that promotes lean muscle mass and less fat because if they get sick, going into any disease or surgery with healthy body composition will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome,” Huggins says. Makes sense, no?
Just as protein benefits you, it can help your pet’s muscles repair and rebuild more quickly. When a canine metabolizes protein, it gets broken down into amino acids, which are used to promote muscle growth and recovery, explains Huggins. That means high-protein diets are especially beneficial to active pups.
But before grabbing any bag of food claiming to be high-protein, keep in mind: not all protein is created equal. “The protein should be animal-sourced--it’s superior,” Huggins says.
Why Animal-Sourced Protein Is Best
It happens often: A bag of pet food will claim to contain thirty or forty percent protein, but all that protein will be from pea or grain-based sources. The problem? “Non-animal sourced protein don’t have the nutrients or amino acid profiles that dogs need to thrive,” Huggins explains.
One amino acid is particularly important. Taurine is only found in animal-sourced protein. Some research suggests taurine-deficiency may play a role in heart disease in pets.
To verify a pet food product has animal-sourced protein, you’re gonna have to eye the ingredient list. The more animal-sourced protein listed at the beginning the higher the animal-sourced protein levels (3-4 ideally). Worth mentioning: ingredients like “deboned chicken” or “turkey meal” are considered animal-sourced protein.
No time to scrutinize labels? Opt for Nulo, suggests Dr. Huggins, a pet-care brand that specializes in nutrient-dense kibble, purees and treats for felines and canines all with high levels of animal-sourced protein. You can learn more about Nulo here.
The Bottom Line on Filling the Bowl
“A simple change in nutrition can make a world of difference in your pet’s health status,” according to Huggins. “All it takes is choosing food that’s higher in animal-based protein and lower in carbs,” says Huggins. It only requires a minute and it’s worth it.