Tip From The Guroo: Your dog shares 99.8% of their genetic make-up with its closest ancestor, the wolf. Like wolves, dogs thrive on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet.
We believe your dog’s diet should closely resemble that of its closest ancestor, the wolf. In other words, a meat-based diet comprised of specified-source meats & meal and whole fruits & vegetables is the best form of nutrition for your dog. Remember that pet food ingredients are listed by weight in descending order. Look for specified meat sources at the top, followed by fruits and vegetables. Avoid artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. Please do not hesitate to ask our Pack to help you make sense of an ingredient panel or choose food that will meet your dog’s nutritional needs.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are responsible for the development and maintenance of not only muscles, but also other critical body systems including the immune system. Your dog’s body can manufacture 12 of the 22 necessary amino acids. The other 10 "essential” amino acids must be ingested to form proteins. Proteins are necessary for all aspects of growth and development. They carry out the work of the cell by serving as enzymes, receptors, transporters, hormones, antibodies, or communicators that build, maintain, and repair body tissue.
Origins of Protein in Pet Food
Until the early 20th Century, most domesticated dogs primarily ate table scraps, usually consisting of things like meat, connective tissues, bones, organs, and possibly a few left over veggies. During the Great Depression, however, dog owners were forced to search for cheaper ways to feed their pets. Less raw meat was fed and dogs began eating more grains and cereal products.
This migration from meat to grains spawned a fundamental change in philosophy regarding the way we feed our pets that still exists today. Many mass-marketed, grocery store pet food brands still use ingredients like corn and corn gluten meal as their primary source of protein. While ingredients like corn are still relatively inexpensive, they afford virtually no nutritional value for your dog, can be hard to digest, and are considered some of the leading causes of food allergies.
In the 1990s, a movement began among smaller, independent food manufacturers to replace ingredients like corn, by-products, and artificial preservatives, colors and flavors with more natural alternatives. Today there are dozens of pet food brands available that derive protein solely from whole, recognizable meat and meal sources. These ingredients should appear at the top of the ingredient panel, and are the foundation of a truly nutritious pet food.
Not sure how much protein your dog needs? Here are a few basic guidelines:
- High Protein (34% & Up): Active, working, or competition adult dogs, or small dogs with a high metabolism. Pregnant or lactating dogs also benefit from high protein.
- Moderate Protein (23 – 33%): All healthy dogs benefit from at least moderate protein levels, including seniors. We recommend the high end of the moderate range for all puppies.
- Low Protein (22% & Under): Dogs experiencing kidney disease, renal failure, or specific food allergies.
- Meat or meat meal with no specific origin or with by-products (Ex., poultry meal, chicken by-product meal, meat meal, bone meal, etc.)
- Low biological value grains listed as the first few ingredients, including corn, corn gluten, wheat, etc.
- Sample Ingredient Panel: Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols…
- Recognizable meat or meat meal as the first ingredient(s) (Ex., chicken, chicken meal, lamb, lamb meal, etc.)
- Sample Ingredient Panel: Fresh boneless chicken, chicken meal, fresh boneless salmon, turkey meal, herring meal, russet potato, peas, sweet potato…
Not all protein sources are created equal. Some contain a more complete array of amino acids and are more readily usable in building and repairing your dog’s body than others. Here a few scales that help us determine which proteins are most beneficial:
Biological Value (BV): a measure of the proportion of protein from a food which becomes incorporated into the proteins of an organism’s body (i.e., how much of the protein eaten is used by the body).
Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS): evaluates protein quality based on amino acid requirements and digestibility.
The approach of these methods varies slightly, but their results share a similar conclusion as illustrated in the adjacent table. Animal protein can be expected to demonstrate a significantly higher biological “value” than vegetable protein. In other words, animal proteins are simply more nutritionally usable.
While animal proteins offer more nutritional value for your dog, each protein source contains a specific amino acid make-up. Rotating among primary, quality protein sources every 3 months or so helps to ensure a balanced nutrient intake. Learn more about our recommendations for rotating proteins.
Meat Vs. Meat Meal
Simply put, meat meal is the dehydrated form of meat. Although fresh meats are beneficial, they are composed of about 70% moisture. Two-thirds of that moisture is removed during the cooking process, possibly resulting in a predominantly grain-based food. As it contains only about 5 – 10% moisture, meal contributes a more concentrated amount of animal protein making the food more species appropriate. Therefore, the most nutrient-balanced foods typically make use of both meat and meat meal. It’s important to note, however, that not all meal is of the same quality. The best ingredients include a specified meat source such as chicken meal or lamb meal instead of generic sources like meat meal or poultry meal.
Meat/Meal Vs. By-Products
Not all by-products are harmful to your dog, as they can include organs and bone. All by-products, however, are nutritionally inferior to specified-source meat and meal and, therefore, are not included in the most nutritious foods.