The Truth About The Protein Content on Dog Food Labels

Want your dog to stay happy and healthy and live a long, full life?

Of course you do!

A big part of making that happen, you know, means feeding your dog a healthy diet.

And when it comes to canine nutrition, one of the most important things to do is make sure your dog is getting enough protein.

Protein is an essential nutrient for your dog to stay healthy. But how do you know if your dog is getting enough protein? Doesn’t every dog food have loads of it?

Sadly, no.

Many dog foods contain cheap or inferior protein sources that are not good enough to keep your dog in optimal health. And unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell which dog foods are packed with high-quality protein and which are not.

Most people simply look at the “Guaranteed Analysis” label on their dog food and they trust that to give them an honest, accurate representation of how much protein is in their dog food.

Unfortunately, the “Guaranteed Analysis” label is often misleading.

And here’ why:

Why You Have To Look Beyond The Numbers

Looking at the “Guaranteed Analysis” section on your dog food label will give you some helpful information…but that information will be incomplete.

To find out why, let’s look at an interesting fact from an article on Dog Food Advisor:

If you grind up a pair of leather boots, some used motor oil, and a scoop of sawdust, mix it all together, and send it to a food testing laboratory, the results will come back like this:

 

  • 32% Protein
  • 18%  Fat
  • 3% Fiber

 

It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s true! The leather has some protein, the oil contains fat, and the sawdust has fiber in it.

But obviously this is NOT something you would ever feed your dog. That’s because none of those nutrients are easily digestible or absorbable—so you wouldn’t actually get much real nutrition from eating these items.

Protein Misconception #1: Moisture

If you’ve ever tried to compare the protein content of a dry dog food vs a canned dog food, you probably noticed a big discrepancy between the two.

And the reason why? Moisture.

You see, canned dog food can contain up to 70% water. But dry kibble is dehydrated and contains very little moisture. As a result, when you look at the Guaranteed Analysis, it will look like the dry food has much more protein than the canned food.

But does it really?

Maybe…maybe not.

What you have to keep in mind is that the serving size of a canned food is larger than the canned food. So while each bite of dry food might have more protein, your dog will take more total bites of the canned foo.

It could be that the dry food does, in fact, have more protein.

Or maybe the canned food has more protein.

Or maybe they’re almost the same!

The point is that you can’t simply glance at the label and instantly learn the truth. Getting an accurate picture requires a deeper analysis.

Protein Misconception #2: Protein Quality (Biological Value)

Another problem that arises has to do with protein quality.

To put it simply, some proteins are better than others.

Proteins are made up of a variety of different amino acids. Your dog requires 22 amino acids, 10 of which are considered “essential” amino acids because your dog’s body cannot produce them on its own. (In other words, essential amino acids MUST come from your dog’s diet.)

Some protein sources contain very few of these essential amino acids, making them inferior proteins. And others contain a rich and varied combination of amino acids, making them very good protein sources.

And we can measure the quality of protein using something called “biological value.” The higher a protein’s biological value, the better.

Protein Misconception #2: Protein Digestibility

The final thing to keep in mind when judging protein is:

How well can your dog actually digest it?

After all, the best protein in the world won’t do any good if it passes through your dog’s digestive system without being absorbed.

That’s why it’s important that your dog’s protein should be a variety that your dog is able to digest and absorb easily, so that they are able to reap the benefits of all that protein.

How To Choose Dog Food With High-Quality Protein

So now that we’ve covered the 3 big protein misconceptions…

  • Moisture
  • Protein Quality (Biological Value)
  • Protein Digestibility

You might be wondering: How do I choose a good protein source for my dog?

As you might have guessed, you can NOT simply look at the Guaranteed Analysis—because it doesn’t account for any of the 3 misconceptions listed above.

Instead, you have to also look at the Ingredients Label to find out where the protein is actually coming from.

If the protein comes from rice, oatmeal, wheat, or other vegetarian sources, then be wary—that is not a good source of protein for your dog.

Instead, the best protein sources—those with a high biological value that are easily digested—include animal sources and whey protein isolate.

(The same protein sources we use in all our Bully Max products!)

To learn more, check out our blog post titled The Best Protein Sources For Dogs.