Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant

Protein Levels In Commercial Dog Foods

I can't talk about protein levels in dog foods without first talking about dog food companies and their marketing strategies. In the past 10 years we have seen a number of small family run dog food companies pop up and start to infringe on the commercial dog food market. Many companies have 3-4 levels of foods to appeal to different markets across the country. These are the levels below, and they are based on quality and type of ingredient, and we only support or recommend level 1 and 2 in our list of better foods.

1 - Holistic Super Premium
2 - Super Premium

3 - Premium
4 - Grocery store or utilitarian

Within level 1 and 2 - we have numerous types of foods. The days of a puppy, adult and senior food is gone. We now see the market divided again into many types of puppy food; small, medium, large, giant and different types (ingredients or conditions) of adult; duck, fish, lamb, or perhaps adult sensitive digestive, joint support formulas etc. More and more they are dividing up these foods, into specialized foods. If you want to see the extreme of it, look at the Royal Canin line of dog foods to see just how far this division of products can be, for the sole purpose of trying to get more of the market that is now shared by many new pop-up companies. At one point Purina held 90% of the dog food business in this country, now it is only a small fraction - that gives you are real idea of how things have changed over the past 20 years in the dog food business. Add to it, the new "raw diet" market and it is divided even more.

The new focus in the level 1 and 2 dog food market is making new and unusual foods using extreme measures like making a diet that is very high in protein or with exotic ingredients (rabbit, buffalo, venison etc). With a couple of these known companies it is common practice for them to resort to negative advertising, misinformation, half-truths, and generating internet myths, just to skew the market - or so they think. If a level 1 or 2 food is NOT on my list of better foods listed at my website, it is due to the fact that I personally have problems with the companies ethics, quality of ingredients and truth in advertising.

In the wild a dog would normally get 50 - 55% protein in a diet of something fresh killed. This range of protein in a true raw diet is appropriate and the body processes it differently than a process cooked kibble. The normal range for health and wellness in a level 1 and 2 food should be within the 20% - 30% range - this is the range from puppy-adults and seniors. The commercial foods below 20% and above 30% have very specific applications and not for the every day pet. For example, Eagle makes an Eagle Ultra Power which is a 36% protein and 26% fat and it is NOT even available to the general public because it is too calorie dense. It is a food made specifically for real working dogs, the mushers (Iditirod, Yukon Gold races etc), and it is only used during heavy race schedules!!

It is my opinion, based on my feed trials, research from the 4th edition of Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, Hand, Thatcher, Remillard Roudenbush, and AAFCO, that a process kibble over 30% protein is a diet is NOT for the average pet and strictly for specific prescription uses, and should be used under the supervision of a veterinarian with nutritional background. A dog food with over 30% protein is overkill in my opinion and a company just trying to find an other niche in the commercial dog food market and doing so with little concern for the pet's health and well being. More info go to Large/Giant Adult Feed Program or Large/Giant Puppy Feed Program or Feed Program for Sm/Med and Mixed Breeds.

Linda Arndt
Blackwatch Nutritional Consulting LLC

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