Proteins are complex molecules made up of amino acids, the building blocks of cell growth, maintenance and repair. Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids. While dogs produce about half of these amino acids internally, the other half, termed “essential amino acids,” need to be provided by the diet.
We often tend to treat dogs like us–as omnivores. But that isn’t necessarily on point. Dogs, like their ancestor the wolf, are primarily carnivorous, and are best suited to digest meats. (1) There are plenty of non-meat foods that are beneficial in a pup’s diet, but their internal makeup (from their teeth, and the way they chew to their high level of stomach acid and shorter small intestine) is best suited to digesting and pulling the nutrients they need from meats.
This means that amino acids are more readily available to a dog via a meat-focused diet. Plant-based proteins present less digestibility for dogs, and subsequently, the amino acids in them are less available. According to animal nutrition expert Donald Strombeck, DVM, “Dogs digest these [meat] proteins efficiently and they provide amino acids in proportions suitable for tissue protein synthesis. In contrast, the biological value of most plant proteins is low, due to insufficiencies of specific amino acids and lower digestibility.” So it stands to reason that the ratio of meat-based protein to plant-based protein in your pup’s diet is a hugely important bit of information to have on hand when considering food options.
So What Is An Amino Acid?
An amino acid is an organic compound that combines with others to build proteins. Some are produced by the body naturally, and some must be acquired with diet.
They are categorized into three groups.
- Essential amino acids — Which must be acquired through diet
- Nonessential amino acids — Can be produced by the body
- Conditional amino acids — Not usually essential, except in times of illness or stress on the body
Why Does The Body Need Them?
The body needs amino acids to help perform crucial functions like growing, building proteins, repairing tissue, and “synthesi[zing] hormones and neurotransmitters.” (2)
While the human body requires 20 essential amino acids, our canine pals require 10 essentials, gleaned from their diet.
What Are The Essential Amino Acids Necessary In A Dog’s Diet?
The 10 Essential Amino Acids that dogs need:
- Arginine — healthy blood flow
- Histidine — oxygenates blood
- Isoleucine — muscle repair, boosts energy
- Leucine –promotes healing of skin and bones, maintains muscle strength
- Lysine — enables calcium and protein absorption
- Methionine — essential for growth, regulates enzyme and cellular replication,
- Phenylalanine — essential for growth
- Threonine — controls release of enzymes and hormones such as insulin
- Tryptophane — essential for growth, promotes production of serotonin and melatonin
- Valine — increases energy and endurance, helps muscle repair, regulates blood sugar
Now that we’ve broken down the ‘why’s’ and ‘what’s’ of amino acids, it’s easy to see that they really are the “building blocks of life,” and it’s evident why dogs need an easily digestible, largely meat-based diet that is complete with the full list of amino acids! Luckily, Grocery Pup presents just that! Bone Appetit!