A common belief among dog owners, and believe it or not many veterinarians, is that older dogs should be on low protein diets to protect
their kidneys. The logic, or illogic, is that as dogs age they suffer from kidney disease and need lower protein diets to manage the condition. Dietary protein does not promote kidney disease and aging dogs actually need more protein. Here are 3 reasons your older dog should be on a higher protein diet.
1) Kidney disease is not common in dogs. Only 10% of geriatric dogs suffer from chronic kidney disease and failure. The cause of chronic kidney
disease is unknown and there is no evidence that a moderate or high protein diet causes kidney disease. Low protein is only necessary if a dog
has proven kidney failure.
2) Older dogs have decreased intestinal absorption of dietary protein. Studies show that dogs, like humans, have decreased ability to absorb
protein and amino acids from their intestines into their blood stream as they age. The studies also show that this aging process can be overcome
by significantly increasing protein in the diet.
3) Aging muscle loss. After the 30’s in humans and 6-8 years of age in dogs, the body begins to lose muscle. This natural aging process is called
sarcopenia, or literally “small muscles.” Decreased muscle mass and tone limits mobility, exercise and the quality of life. Research shows that
increased dietary protein and exercise slow, and even reverses, sarcopenia.
Protein is the most expensive ingredient in dog food, so commercial manufacturers use as little as AAFCO requirements will allow. That is why
the majority of commercial dog food brands, regardless of price, contain only the minimum 22-24% protein. Aging dogs should have protein levels greater than 30% and ideally, 35-38%. Unfortunately,
all protein in commercial dog food is meat scraps and is only 80-85% digestible. Increasing the quantity of protein, does not always increase the
quality of its digestibility and promote muscle health.
Better is homemade dog food that includes human cuts of meat in recipe quantities that provide 25% or more dietary protein. Human cuts of meat are
90-95% digestible so your dog is capturing a far greater amount of protein from its diet.