Protein Content in Dog Food and Dog Treats--What the Guaranteed Analysis Doesn't Tell Us
Many pet owners consider themselves reasonably educated about the diet of their dog or cat. We read labels and take into account not only the list of ingredients but also the “Guaranteed Analysis”. The guaranteed analysis is the portion of the label that breaks down the percentage of fat, carbohydrate, and protein in the dog food or dog treats. Protein is often times of primary importance to the dog owner and the individual needs of your pet can vary due to age, breed, weight or other medical factors unique to your animal. That being said, not all protein is created equal. The guaranteed analysis lists only the percentage of crude protein in the dog food or dog treat. It gives no regard to the protein source, protein digestibility, or moisture content of the protein.
Protein can be derived from animal or plant based sources. Assuming that food is reasonably available in the wild, a wolf or other canid will eat animal based proteins almost exclusively. Generally speaking, proteins derived from plants are less digestible than proteins from animal based sources. There is also a wide range for digestibility of animal proteins depending upon the specific protein source. Lesser dog food and dog treats boost their protein content by using less digestible protein sources (which in turn typically cost them less). These sources can include many unsavory items that are discarded in the processing of other foods including beet pulp, bone meal, chicken feet, blood meal, etc. “Chicken” on the label does not in many cases mean human grade chicken breast although there are high quality dog treats and dog foods that do have this ingredient. It could, in fact, mean chicken feet or other typically unusable parts of the chicken. Lower quality protein sources require that your pet’s organ’s, including the kidneys and liver, work harder to process the protein from the dog food or dog treat. If a dog treat or dog food is listed as 25% protein in the guaranteed analysis but the particular protein source is only 60% digestible then your dog is getting the benefit of a diet consisting of only 15% protein.
Lower quality protein sources are typically used to boost the protein percentage in the guaranteed analysis at a low cost to the manufacturer. As an example, the most commonly used plant based protein source, which is often the first ingredient in inexpensive dog treats and dog foods, is highly indigestible "Corn Gluten Meal".
When analyzing the right dog food and dog treats for your pet consider not only the percentages on the nutritional analysis but also the sources of the ingredients that make up those percentages. Excellent information can be found on the dog food and dog treat manufacturer’s websites as well as on independent pet sites. A few quality independent sites to consider include www.dogfoodproject.com as well as www.dogfoodadvisor.com.