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Nutrition and Grooming Cleaning teeth, clipping nails got you stumped? Should you feed natural or commercial? Here's the place to post your comments and get your answers.

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  #1  
Old 01-28-2010, 01:36 PM
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the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

I'm now literally floating my dogs' kibble in water after reading this!!
The Dog Food Project - Is too much protein harmful?


Is too much protein harmful?
Old wives tales about dry dog foods high in protein causing kidney disease run rampant both on and off the internet and many people deprive their dogs of what they crave most for fear of damaging their health.

Unfortunately the whole protein thing is not easily explained in just a few sentences, so bear with me if I ramble on for a while. I'll try to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible without going too much into scientific terms.

First of all, it is important that we understand that protein isn't only a nutrient - the amino acids it is made up of (think lego bricks forming a bigger structure) also serve as building blocks for body tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones, antibodies and so on - roughly half of the dry body mass of a dog consists of protein. Knowing this it is easy to understand that growing puppies need protein to build above mentioned body tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones, antibodies and both adults and growing puppies constantly need to replace and rebuild these as well. The body recycles amino acids to some extent, but part of them need to be replaced, just like you can't endlessly recycle paper or plastic.

Protein is processed in the liver and any waste materials are filtered and excreted by the kidneys. High quality protein does not generate large amounts of waste that needs to be removed from the body, but poor quality protein which is difficult to digest does and thus puts stress on the kidneys. The liver needs water to process protein and as a medium to carry waste products to the kidneys, where they are filtered out and most of the water is reabsorbed. The less concentrated the waste products in this primary filtrate are, the easier it is for the kidneys to do their filtering work - that's why it is unhealthy to feed dry food only and so critical that dogs eating mostly or exclusively dry food and dogs with liver disease get lots of extra water. Dogs who eat mostly canned food or a home prepared diet automatically take in more moisture and do not need to compensate as much by drinking. Contrary to what many people think and pet food companies claim, dogs (and cats) do not know instinctively how much extra water they have to drink to make up for what is lacking in the dry food. This is why I so highly recommend that people always add water to the kibble at feeding time.

Now that we have the basics laid out, we can return to the protein in the food. Many people cite old, outdated research that claims high protein percentages in the food are harmful to dogs and do all kinds of damage, especially to the liver. Fact is that these studies were conducted by feeding dogs foods that were made from poor quality, hard to digest protein sources, such as soy, corn, byproducts, blood meal and so on. From my explanation above, you now already know that it is a question of protein quality that affects the kidneys. Consider a wolf in the wild, who will eat relatively little else but meat if they can help it - these animals don't get kidney diseases on the same scale domestic dogs do. Their protein comes in the form of quality muscle and organ meat though, not processed leftovers from human food processing. It also contains around 70% moisture, whereas most commercial dry foods contain a maximum of 10%. Dogs and other "dog like" animals (canids) evolved eating a diet that consists primarily of meat, fat and bones, which they have been eating for hundreds of thousands of years. Commercial foods, especially dry food, has only been widely available for the past 60 years and we are still learning how much damage certain aspects of it can do. Things have improved quite a bit from hitting rock bottom in the 70s and 80s, but the majority of pet food manufacturers still produce bad foods from poor quality ingredients.

Just to digress for a moment, when I went to the grocery storeyesterday, I saw that Purina Dog Chow was on sale, $8 for a 22 pound bag. That's a little over 36 cents per pound, including the profit the supermarket makes on it, cost for the pretty, colorful packaging, advertising and all. On top of that, of course the manufacturer (Nestle/Purina) wants to make a profit too. How much do you think the food actually costs them just to make, without any profits? The answer is pennies per pound, which also reflects the ingredient quality. If I calculate a 40% profit margin for each the supermarket and the manufacturer, it comes to about 13 cents per pound. That's $260 per ton of food. Yikes.

Anyway, back to the protein. Protein in dog food can come from either plant or meat sources. Logically, plant sources are cheaper, especially considering that corn gluten meal, the most popular, cheap protein booster, is a byproduct of the human food processing industry, left over from making corn starch and corn syrup. It has a crude protein content of 60%, so theoretically even if your food recipe contained no other protein sources at all, you could make a food with a 20% crude protein content by mixing it 1:2 with some cheap carb source.

It is critical to stress that the term "crude protein" is used in the guaranteed analysis, which means there is no statement whatsoever as to its digestibility. Protein comes in many forms, even shoe leather, chicken feathers or cow hooves have a fairly high crude protein content, but the body is only able to extract and process very little of it, at the price of a lot of work and stress to do so.

Due to this labeling issue (only one of many, many others), the percentage of protein in a food by itself doesn't say anything at all. Ingredient lists are not 100% straightforward and truthful either, but at least you can somewhat gauge if there's even any quality protein in there at all.

Just to illustrate once again by example, let's say we have two foods which have the same percentages of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber and moisture. Food A contains 25% protein that is 60% digestible and food B contains 25% protein that is 85% digestible. That means of food A the body is able to utilize 15% of the protein content, but of food B 21.25%. Logically, to meet the body's requirement of protein, you'd have to feed more of food A than of food B, and the body of the dog eating food B will have to work less to utilize it.

I guess in really simple terms you can compare it to the engine of a car and the type of fuel you use. Just because you use high octane gas in a car that doesn't need it, it's not going to do any damage, but if you use poor quality fuel, regardless whether it is high or low octane, there will be buildup in the engine that hampers performance and will eventually lead to damage.
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  #2  
Old 01-28-2010, 01:49 PM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

Many people have posted that when they feed grainfree their dog's get constipated. I have posted for years that you must add enough water to dogfood (especially grainfree) to ensure your dog has a moist not hard/dry stool.

I always recommend water be added, not enough to float like cheerios but enough so you see the water, ie just less then the Cheerio level

Sled dog owners did a study years ago and TOO much water can cause diarrhea and you don't want to go that way either

Conversely many who feed raw diets like to brag their dogs stool turns white and blows away and they don't have to scoop. THAT is actually a sign of too much bone in the diet

With cats, those fed a dry diet exclusively don't get anough water in their diets and OFTEN get UTIs or urinary disease
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  #3  
Old 01-28-2010, 02:03 PM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

I'm a confirmed kibble floater. Chili gets about a cup of Taste of the Wild a day mixed with prepared raw (which is high in water content). Bamboo (kitty) gets half Orijen and half Wellness canned, which he does well with. Both are good water drinkers.
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  #4  
Old 01-28-2010, 02:29 PM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

I too feed Taste of the Wild, but I don't mix in water, so this had me worried. I mix other things in their kibble (cottage cheese, yogurt, ground raw meat, sardines, eggs) I feed twice a day, so their meals are always different. They also get a chicken neck at sometimes during the day. I hear a lot of warnings on how I feed my dogs, but they seem healthy to me. I lost my last 2 Rotties to cancer, but I don't think the diet was the cause. I've always been told I'm ruining their kidneys, but have never had a dog with kidney disease. I supplement with the kibble, due to my lack of confidence in feeding all raw. Geez- I wish I could stop worrying so much about what I feed. I see so many people at Atwoods (farm supply) buy the 50lbs for 12oo kibble- and their dogs look fine! I'm always worried and reading stuff on nutrition. I don't get it! Just when I think I'm doing the right thing for my dogs, I see someone with a beautiful Rottie at a show and they are feeding it Beneful!
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  #5  
Old 01-28-2010, 09:47 PM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

I have fed Orijen for a long time now and I never add water. My dogs definitely drink more than when they were on a food with grains, though.
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  #6  
Old 01-28-2010, 10:14 PM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

I always add moisture to Moose's food. I add cooked oatmeal and have it a little runny and mix it in his kibble. I have always believed in feeding wet food. I know that he is getting liquid that way if he doesn't drink enough water.
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  #7  
Old 01-28-2010, 10:22 PM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

Thanks again RDN for helping out a new Rottie owner. I switched to Orijen LBP a few weeks ago and CHamp has been chugging water like it's the last time he'll ever get it. We've had to limit water a few times... just late at night past 10 because he'll drink it til he's sick. I'm going to start adding water to the Orijen immediately to make sure he's getting enough
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:11 AM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

There is so much bad science in this post, I just had to say something. While no one is going to harm their dogs by putting extra water on dry food- the reason stated in this post is not scientifically sound. RDN people are smarter than this!

Ok, so I'm not a nutrition expert, and certainly not a dog nutrition expert, but I have a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and I'm in a PhD program for analytical chemistry. I know quite a bit about this "protein stuff." I also notice a complete lack of references in this article. Shame, shame! I'd be interested in looking up this "outdated" research... and where is the newer research that disproves it?

First of all, most protein from animal sources are almost completely hydrolyzed to amino acids in the gastrointestinal tract, while some fibrous protein (like the cow hoof the article mentions) are only partially digested. Protein content in corn (and most plant foods) is protected against breakdown by indigestible cellulose. The author of the article is calling these partially indigestible proteins "bad" protein sources. While we don't want to feed these proteins to our dogs because they won't be able to extract and utilize the amino acids, these protein sources will NOT have the harmful affects on kidney that the author claims. If the proteins are not broken down, there is no way for the kidney to filter them. In other words, it's pooped out!

The "good" protein sources the author talks about, are the proteins from animal sources that can be completely hydrolyzed (broken down) into amino acids. Yes, this is crucial for dogs (humans too) because we need amino acids for many functions. However, amino acids are eventually broken down to ammonia, which is toxic to animals. Meat eaters have evolved very specific ways of dealing with ammonia, but I'm sure you can imagine that unnaturally large amounts of protein can cause problems. This is why I agree with the "Old Wives Tale" that a high protein diet, without enough water, can cause kidney problems.

Like I mentioned, I'm not a nutrition expert, so I don't know what is considered a high protein diet for dogs. Most veterinarians don't know either. I would even argue that scientists studying dog nutrition don't know either. That is why research is being done! No, we don't know everything- and if you think you do, you're an idiot.

Anyway, I realize there is no harm in what this author is saying. Actually, I think it's a good idea to put water on your dog's dry food. Is it going to save a dog from kidney disease? Nobody knows! It's just not that simple.
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  #9  
Old 01-29-2010, 12:19 AM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

Quote:
High quality protein does not generate large amounts of waste that needs to be removed from the body, but poor quality protein which is difficult to digest does and thus puts stress on the kidneys.
This is the statement I have the most issues with. If someone has a reference for this, please, educate me!
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  #10  
Old 01-29-2010, 12:29 AM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

poor quality protein CORN...sorry that/s all I know
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  #11  
Old 01-29-2010, 08:47 AM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

Quote:
There is so much bad science in this post, I just had to say something. While no one is going to harm their dogs by putting extra water on dry food- the reason stated in this post is not scientifically sound.
I tend to agree with this. There aren't really any specific scientifically-studied facts stated, just general statements. Most dogs drink as much water as they need as long as they have access to it. It won't hurt to add water to kibble, but this story as stated doesn't really hold up to scrutiny as written. It may well be true, but it's not convincing as stated.
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  #12  
Old 01-29-2010, 09:28 AM
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Re: the importance of adding water to high protein kibble

I too noticed that there were no references attached to this article (believe me I did look for them!)...indeed it didn't even list an author to see his credentials...but after doing a search on a Rate It website where people posted on how they like certain dog foods (specifically Core) I did notice quite a few posts where it was mentioned that their dogs water intake increased significantly once they started feeding a high protein food. So it would appear that feeding a high protein dog food MAY indeed increase their need for water...whether or not dogs some dogs won't do this on their own I can't speak to but felt adding water to their kibble was a can't hurt and might help thing to do and that this worth posting and certainly worth discussing. Given the number of dogs that develop impaired renal function, I do feel there is something we're doing wrong. Also it is my understanding that most feeding requirements for dogs are based on MINIMUM requirements...so feeding higher levels protein seems to make sense. But in trying to research this, I've found little research to evaluate the benefits/risks in doing so...and the few published studies I did find did indeed fed poor protein sources so I do agree with the author on that point.
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