Pet food safety: dietary protein

Top Companion Anim Med. 2008 Aug;23(3):154-7. doi: 10.1053/j.tcam.2008.04.009.


The goal of this article was to review the evidence surrounding the risks posed by insufficient or excessive dietary protein. Dietary protein is required to provide essential amino acids and replenish protein reserves. When intake is deficient, protein turnover slows and lean body mass is gradually depleted. These changes lead to increased morbidity and mortality. Dogs can maintain nitrogen balance (typically used to define minimum requirements in adults), yet be in a protein-depleted state due to physiologic adaptations. Preservation of protein turnover and lean body mass requires about threefold more protein than nitrogen balance. The ability of excess dietary protein to induce renal pathology was studied in both dogs with chronic kidney failure and older dogs without kidney failure. Numerous studies have confirmed that protein does not adversely affect the kidneys. However, phosphorus- and protein-restricted diets are clinically beneficial in dogs with existing chronic kidney failure. Protein restriction for healthy older dogs is not only unnecessary, it can be detrimental. Protein requirements actually increase by about 50% in older dogs, while their energy requirements tend to decrease. When insufficient protein is provided, it can aggravate the age-associated loss of lean body mass and may contribute to earlier mortality. Older dogs should receive at least 25% of their calories from protein, typically provided by diets containing at least 7 g protein/100 Kcal ME.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animal Feed
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases / chemically induced
  • Cat Diseases / diet therapy
  • Cats / physiology*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dog Diseases / chemically induced
  • Dog Diseases / diet therapy
  • Dogs / physiology*
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Renal Insufficiency / chemically induced
  • Renal Insufficiency / diet therapy
  • Renal Insufficiency / veterinary


  • Dietary Proteins