Has your vet has recommended a low protein dog food for your pet? Find out why a low protein formula is better for some pets as well as where to find one.
What Is Low Protein Dog Food?
Low protein dog food is manufactured in both dry and canned varieties. The protein is lower than the protein in normal dog food and is often recommended by a veterinarian to address certain health issues. Many of these foods can only be obtained with a prescription because feeding your dog food that is too low in protein can be harmful to healthy dogs, so always speak to your veterinarian before switching your dog's food to a low protein diet.
The protein requirements for a dog will also vary with the age and activity of the pet. Doctor's Foster and Smith lists some of these requirements, with growing puppies, lactating mothers, or performance dogs requiring a higher protein level. An average adult dog needs a diet that consists of about 18 percent protein. A low protein diet consists of less than 16 percent protein.
Why Low Protein May Be Needed
Healthy animals excrete uremic toxins in the urine, but these toxins can build up when a dog has kidneys that are not functioning properly. Digesting protein produces the toxins, so you can keep the toxins at lower levels by limiting the protein in your dog's food. This way his body will not have to work so hard.
Low protein food may be prescribed by your vet for a number of reasons. Although many people think that they should switch to a low protein food as their dog ages, this is not necessarily true. Low protein foods are indicated when there are serious health problems, generally those that affect the kidneys or liver.
Relevant health issues include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Lyme-disease associated nephritis
- Other inflammatory kidney diseases
- Portosystemic shunt (liver shunt)
- Hepatic encephalopathy
- Prevention of some types of urinary stones
For pets with liver disease, protein restriction is not always recommended. Make sure that you speak with your veterinarian about your dog's specific needs.
What to Look For
Besides just trying to find dog food that is low in protein, you should also look for a food with high-quality, easily digestible protein. Generally, dairy, egg, chicken, and soy are great protein sources for pets that require low protein diets. All the prescription veterinary diets on the market contain proteins that are easily digestible. Diets for kidney disease will usually have low phosphorus levels, and are supplemented with potassium, B vitamins, buffering agents, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.
One of the most important factors in feeding a low protein diet is palatability. A lot of the flavor of the food is in the protein, and dog food with limited protein can be tasteless. You may need to try dry or canned varieties, or a couple of different brands to find one that your dog likes. Whenever you change your dog's diet, try not to offer too many varieties at once and mix the new food together with the old food gradually over a week to prevent an upset stomach or diarrhea.
Brands to Consider
- Purina Proplan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function contains 14.4 percent protein
- Hill's Prescription Diet l/d, designed for dogs with liver disease, has very little protein at just a 4.5 percent guaranteed minimum
- Hill's Prescription Diet k/d, designed for dogs with kidney disease, contains 15.9 percent protein
- Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine Renal Support F has a minimum of 11.5 percent and maximum of 15.5 percent protein
Prescription brands are usually recommended if your pet has serious liver or kidney disease. While you can probably find a low protein dog food on the shelf, these diets are not formulated to meet all the other needs of a patient with these diseases. If your pet refuses to eat any of the prescription diets, a home cooked option can be created by a veterinary nutritionist.
Feeding a Prescription Diet
Dealing with a sick pet can be overwhelming, but low protein dog foods can actually increase the survival time and the quality of life in dogs with chronic kidney disease. Always follow your veterinarian's advice and continue to feed your dog the low protein diet as prescribed to keep your canine companion healthy for years to come.