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The “High Protein” Myth

The High Protein Myth

 We often have clients whose dog or cat has an ailment such as kidney disease, which requires them to be on a low protein diet. Often, they have been advised by their veterinarian to feed a specially formulated kibble that is low in protein. This is because veterinarians calculate protein content based on the dry matter of the food. Meaning if we were measure the dry content of a meat such as beef, it would be considered high protein. However, our purpose with this blog is to explain why this is not the case. Even those without sick pets are often mislead into thinking that a raw food diet could cause renal dysfunction in the long term. It almost seems like common knowledge to assume that raw meat is high protein. If you were trying to get more protein in your diet, your first thought would probably be to eat more meat (if you are not a vegetarian/vegan of course). However, there is much more to meat than just protein. Unfortunately, the protein myth is a grave misconception and one that should be addressed for the health of our pets.


Moisture – The Lurking Variable

When breaking down the components of any pet food whether it be raw, canned or kibble, we often look for the nutritional contents such as protein, fat and fibre. The one component often missed is the foods moisture content. Moisture is not a nutrient so why is it even important? Moisture is what balances out all the dry matter of food. Cats and dogs need moisture in their diet and it is absolutely essential for renal health. Water helps flush the kidneys and allows them to properly eliminate wastes from the body. Pets who do not get adequate water from their food must drink more to compensate. The amount of water consumed by healthy adult dogs and cats is about 2.5 times the amount of dry matter consumed in food. Therefore, you can see why it is unlikely a dog or especially a cat would be getting enough water without it being consumed with their food.


Because kibble has very little moisture in it, there is nothing to balance out the protein in the food. This puts an extreme amount of pressure on the liver and kidneys to process this dry food without water as filtration. Pets who are fed a kibble diet long term may be more prone to developing kidney dysfunction later in life.


Canned Food

By looking at the nutritional breakdown of most canned food, you can see that the amount of protein is lower than that of kibble. This is because canned food has moisture added to balance out the protein – a much better option than kibble!



Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Raw Foods

Many people will choose this route when they want to feed their pet raw but are a little squeamish or are looking for convenience. If you look at the nutritional information for a bag of freeze-dried or dehydrated food, you will see that the protein content is quite high. It is important to keep in mind however that this is based on the dry matter and it is always recommended that you add quite a bit of water to this food. After rehydration, the relative amount of protein goes way down.


Raw food

Raw meat, bones and organs will always be the best choice for your pet – after all it is what nature intended. If you read a package of raw food for pets, you will notice that the protein content is often much lower than that of a kibble or other dried food. While many people believe raw meat is high in protein, it is important to remember that raw meat also contains an extremely high amount of moisture to balance out any protein.



As you can see, from breaking down some of the most popular types of pet foods, raw frozen food comes in as having the least amount of protein. The most important fact to take from this blog is that when comparing pet foods, the most important factor that comes into play is the moisture content. The higher the moisture content, the lower relative protein content and vise versa. Moisture is essential for proper filtration and elimination of wastes in the body and inadequate moisture is the leading cause of renal dysfunction in cats and dogs. So whatever you choose to feed your pet, make sure they are getting plenty of water in their diet!


For more information, please contact or visit us in store today as we are always happy to help!

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