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Topic of the Day:
Your Pet's Diet: Protein

Proteins are made of amino acids which are often referred to as the building blocks of the body. There are approximately 20 different amino acids. Dogs can make thirteen of these amino acids from other nutrients in their diet. Cats can only make twelve. The rest of the amino acids are essential amino acids... that is, they must be present in the diet as they cannot be manufactured by the body from other nutrients. Highly digestible meat and some types of vegetable can provide these essential amino acids. Hence protein in the diet from plants or animal sources are very important. The type of protein and its digestibility will have an important impact on our pet's health.

What do proteins do?

Once a protein is taken into the body from the diet (ingested) it is broken down into its constituent amino acids via the digestive process. These amino aids are absorbed from the digestive tract and used by the body to make its own proteins. Hence amino acids are known as the building blocks of the body. Amino acids are necessary for healthy growth and repair and maintenance of tissues. They are used to make enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Proteins are essential for many functions of the body but their effect is most readily seen externally in a healthy muscular body and a healthy, glossy coat.

Meat is an ideal source of protein for our dogs and cats. Animal proteins are the most complete and cats particularly should obtain most of their protein from this type of food. (Cats are obligate carnivores). It is important to balance the protein sources (meat, plants and if necessary pure amino acids) to ensure that a complete and balanced diet is achieved.

Protein is essential in the diet, but it should not be fed in excess. High protein diets do not necessarily lead to better health and some studies have indicated that excessive protein fed long term may provide a heavy burden to the kidneys. If healthy animals consume too much protein some of it will be converted into fat while another part may be used as calories. A proportion of the excess protein may be excreted in the urine and this is why the kidneys may be stressed.

Taurine is an amino acid which is only found in meat sources. Cats cannot make their own taurine from other nutrients in their diet. So for cats taurine is an essential amino acid. Cats need taurine in their diet and it helps healthy heart function as well as keeping eyes, ears and the immune function healthy. Cats therefore must eat meat, they cannot live a healthy life on a vegetarian diet. Cats are what we call obligate carnivores, they have to eat meat to stay healthy.

Ideally, food for our pet dogs and cats should have a good quality meat component. Some non-essential amino acids are available from plant sources but meat should provide the foundation of a good diet for cats and dogs.

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Message from Samantha Coe:

I have always been interested in holistic medicine and when I started my own practice I finally had the opportunity to spend time looking at the health of our pets in a different way. This holistic approach led me to look at the diets our pets are fed and the relationship of nutrition to their health. Read more >>

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All Rights Reserved | Content is provided for information only. All content on is protected by copyright and therefore may not be copied without specific written permission from the author. Disclaimer: The content of this website is based upon the opinions of Samantha Coe, unless otherwise stated. Individual articles, extracts, and any links to external sites are based upon the opinions of the respective author(s), who may retain copyright. The information on this website is not intended to replace a consultation with a qualified veterinary professional and is not intended as medical advice. The purpose of this site is the sharing of knowledge and information - Samantha Coe encourages you to make informed healthcare decisions for animals in your care based upon your research and in consultation with your vet.