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.