There are many myths regarding canine nutrition. One of them, which is heard very frequently, claims that high-protein diets are detrimental to the health of dogs because they cause kidney damage.
Some veterinarians and owners misinterpreted several scientific studies that advised reducing protein intake in dogs with chronic kidney disease (CRF) and, unfortunately, this belief has become an urban legend.
Keep in mind that protein in the diet is extremely important, as it is essential for numerous metabolic processes and the maintenance of skin, hair, and muscle mass in optimal condition.
In this sense, the School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania (USA) carried out and published the study Mythology of Protein Restriction for Dogs with Reduced Renal Functionled by Dr. Kenneth C. Bovée to determine if large amounts of dietary protein caused kidney damage in dogs. For this purpose, three groups of animals fed a nutritional regimen containing 19, 27, and 56% protein, respectively, were determined. The conclusion was that those dogs that had consumed the diets with a higher percentage were not negatively affected in their kidney function. The body digests and metabolizes protein. The metabolic by-products resulting from this digestion, mainly nitrogenous derivatives, are simply excreted by the kidney without any problem.
High-protein diets are healthy for dogs, as long as there is no underlying kidney damage. Dogs metabolize proteins very well and are able to eat, without any problem, even those with more than 50% in their composition. In case of an excess of protein, an animal that has a balanced energy balance will use the “excess” as an energy source. If the energy balance is positive (you consume more than you spend), the “leftovers” can be reconverted into fat for later storage in the body. In any case, all dogs can metabolize “excess” proteins, giving rise to the formation of urea and excreting it through the urine.
In fact, the really important factor is the digestibility of proteins and their biological value. Only in the event that a dog has chronic renal insufficiency is excess protein in the diet discouraged, this insufficiency is typical in senior dogs, of advanced ages. In this case, the feeding plan must be prescribed by a veterinarian, who will adapt it to the evolution and stage of the disease.
In any case, it is very important to bear in mind that CRF causes a significant loss of protein in the urine, due to concurrent renal failure. For this reason, it is very necessary that we provide “extra” protein in the diet of the geriatric dog that suffers from CRI since we must compensate for this loss, yes, at moderate levels and provided that the protein is of very high quality and high biological value, this way we can compensate for this continuous loss. Specific products for older dogs, commonly known as seniors, already take into account in their formula the moderate contribution of this type of protein.
As a consequence of all this, both in healthy dogs and in senior dogs, one factor is common and important: the quality, biological value, and bioavailability of proteins avoiding those of low quality and with reduced digestibility to preserve kidney health.
TIP: feed your dog a senior product from seven or eight years of age in large breeds and nine or ten in small ones. In this way, you will preserve your kidney health much longer.