Dogs Need Protein
Protein has many functions in the body, but it is best known for supplying amino acids to build hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Protein also plays a main role in hormone and enzyme production.
The protein in dog foods can be supplied by animal sources, plant sources, or a combination of the two. Common animal-based protein sources used in pet food include chicken, lamb, fish meal, and beef. Common plant-based protein sources used in pet food include corn-gluten meal and soybean meal.
Why Should Dogs Be Fed a Diet with Animal-Based Proteins?
Even though they are often fed plant-based diets, dogs are not herbivores. They are omnivores: animals that eat both animal- and plant-based foods.
The body structure of domestic dogs-- ideal for eating animal flesh—is similar to that of their carnivorous ancestors and relatives the wolf, coyote, fox, and jackal.
- Domestic dogs possess enlarged carnassial teeth, which are efficient for holding prey and after which carnivores are named.
- The gastrointestinal tract is simple and does not have the capacity to digest large amounts of plant products.
In addition, high quality animal-source proteins contain all of the essential amino acids dogs need, whereas some plant-based proteins might be deficient in some essential amino acids. So although dogs may be classified as omnivores, they are best fed as carnivores.
Recent studies by The IAMS™ Company examined how the type of protein in a diet affected body composition of adult and senior dogs.1
Adult and senior dogs were fed diets with varying amounts of protein from chicken and corn-gluten meal, and their body composition (muscle versus fat tissue) was analyzed. In addition, levels of key blood and muscle proteins were measured.
Compared with dogs fed a diet with 100% chicken protein, dogs fed diets with decreasing levels of chicken and increasing levels of corn-gluten meal had the following:
- Decreased lean tissue
- Increased body fat
- Decreased levels of blood proteins routinely used as markers of superior nutritional status
This was independent of the overall dietary protein level (12% or 28%), which was also examined in each of the four test groups.
As dogs age, body composition and muscle-specific proteins decline. Therefore, another study looked at the differences between feeding senior dogs a 32%-protein chicken-based diet, a 32%-protein chicken and corn-gluten meal diet, or a 16%-protein chicken-based diet. Senior dogs fed the 32%-chicken protein, chicken-based diet had better body composition and a muscle-specific protein pattern identical to that in healthy young-adult dogs. However, those results were not seen in either of the other two diets.
A Little Extra Time Goes a Long Way
Committing the time to maintaining your dog's coat will help keep his shedding under control. Frequent brushing and vacuuming, and feeding your dog a balanced diet such as IAMS ProActive Health Adult MiniChunks will have you worrying less about an overabundance of hair and more time enjoying your furry friend.
1 Data on file. The IAMS Company, 2001.
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Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy and Active
It depends on the breed of dog, but your pet's senior years generally begin at age 7. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), tells you what you need to know to keep your older dog spry and happy.
Senior Dog Health: Preventive Health
At this stage, Murray recommends taking your dog to the vet twice a year. "So much can happen to an elderly dog," she says. Your veterinarian can take blood annually to test liver and kidney functions. "Discovering problems early is extremely important," she says. Your vet can be on the lookout for conditions that often affect older dogs, such as anemia and arthritis.
Senior Dog Health: Urination, Bowel Movements, and Appetite
Pay attention to what might be subtle changes in your dog's habits: Is she drinking more water or urinating larger amounts? These behaviors might indicate a liver or kidney problem. Have your dog's bowel movements shifted? This could indicate a digestive issue. Diabetes or digestive problems might cause your dog to eat more but still lose weight. Knowing the dog's patterns can help the veterinarian determine a course of treatment.
Senior Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines
Continue to use preventive medicines.
Senior Dog Health: Dental Health
Clean your dog's teeth daily. If she has tartar buildup, you might need to have her teeth professionally cleaned at your vet's office, which requires sedating your pet.
Senior Dog Health: Exercise
Your dog is probably less active, so steady, moderate exercise is best for her now. Don't turn her into a "weekend warrior" who, after lying around on weekdays, accompanies you on a 10-mile hike on Saturdays. This is especially hard on an older dog's joints.
Senior Dog Health: Diet
Your veterinarian might wish to put your dog on a senior diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Senior Plus. These formulations contain nutrients specifically geared toward older-dog health.
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