Healthy Protein Substitute Options

by Betty Lewis
    Poultry is a favorite protein option of dogs everywhere.

    Poultry is a favorite protein option of dogs everywhere.

    Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Protein is a vital part of your pup's diet; containing amino acids, it's the building block of Buster's tissues. His protein requirements will change as he ages, and you may find you need to switch up his protein sources. Which healthy protein substitute is right for your dog depends on why you're making the change.

    How Much Is Enough?

    According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, adult dogs require a minimum of 18 percent protein as dry matter in their diet, while growing puppies need at least 22 percent protein. Those amounts are minimum amounts. If Buster is like most dogs, he can tolerate more protein in his diet. In fact, the Merck Veterinary Manual notes that depending on the protein source, higher levels of protein may be necessary. The biologic value of a protein is linked to the amount and types of amino acids it has. Plant-based proteins are less digestible and have lower biologic values than animal-based proteins. A dog eating a diet of primarily plant-based proteins will have higher protein requirements to ensure he's getting the proper amount of amino acids in his diet. Your vet can confirm whether Buster's diet is providing him the right amount of protein for his specific needs.

    Itch Itch, Scratch Scratch

    If Buster's developed a rash on his belly, he could be showing the effects of a food allergy. Common sources of protein that cause allergies include beef, chicken, lamb, corn, soy, dairy products and fish. That knocks a lot of protein sources out of the running, but other choices exist. If your pup has allergies to those ingredients, look for dog food with a base of duck, buffalo, pheasant, rabbit or venison.

    The Vegetarian Option

    The thought of feeding your pup a diet with animal-based proteins may go against your dietary sensibilities. After all, dogs are ostensibly omnivores, they can exist without animal-based protein. If you're not looking to serve Buster a vegan diet, eggs and dairy products including cottage cheese and yogurt are excellent healthy protein substitutes. Beans, including peas and legumes such as pinto beans and chickpeas, provide fiber and protein and can help meet protein requirements in a vegan diet. Soy products including tempeh and tofu are solid choices for protein options; however, not all dogs tolerate soy products. Consult your vet before feeding soy products to your dog.

    Work Your Way Down

    According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, when it comes to supplying amino acids, egg has the highest biologic value, followed by organ meat and skeletal meat, with plant-based proteins at the bottom. If you're looking for protein alternatives, try different types of meat if Buster isn't limited to a vegetarian diet. If you're going to rely on other products, such as soy or even grains, such as corn, run your choice by your vet or an animal nutritionist. Dogs who eat a carbohydrate-heavy diet risk gaining weight; vegetarian diets can carry the danger of insufficient vitamins and minerals, as well as present the risk of imbalance of amino acids.

    Photo Credits

    • Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master’s degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.

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