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"Proteins are harmful for growth"

We often hear that "high-protein diets" are likely to make the growth accelerate, and then, are in favour of osteo-articular diseases. Two questions come from this statement: what is a high-protein diet, and what is the influence that proteins may have on growth ?

There is no absolute optimal proteic content in a puppy diet. We only know some inferior critical values: below these values, some deficiencies becom obvious. However, minimal values vary according the digestibility and the biological value of the proteins sources involved: it is possible to feed puppies with only 15 % proteins on DM (NRC 1985 recommandation) , but provided that the proteic supply consists in purified amino-acids, distributed in a perfectly well-controlled environment.…

When using classical ingredients, even of excellent quality, it is necessary to provide more proteins to allow the assimilation of enough energy and all the undispensable amino-acids. Some recommandations take this factor into account (NRC 74, AAFCO 1995) , and advise 22 % proteins on DM as a minimum content.
This value is often given as a reference: " neither the meat contains more than 20 % proteins". This is true for fresh meat. But in fact, considering the dry matter, the meat contains 40 - 60 % proteins.

Moreover, we know that any ordinary stress induces hormones secretion that makes the internal protein consumption increase. In a natural environment, dogs are submitted to various stress: temperature changes, physical activity, competition within a canin group, parasitism, diseases, etc… Then, it is safer to keep a security margin towards the minimal recommandations, in order to face the additional requirements of the puppy.

Dog is naturally carnivorous, and he tolerates quite well a great amount of proteins in his diet. Some clinical and radiological recent studies have shown that the proteic content of the diet does not have any influence on calcium metabolism, on skeletal development, neither on the final adult size. The authors (Nap, Hazewinkel, 1991) conclude so: "it is unlikely that osteochondrosis (…) lesions can be explained by the proteins role in the food.". Somehow, the authors confirm that seric proteins (albumin) drop when the puppy is fed with a proteic deficient diet.

A high-protein diet does not arise any special problem in puppies, providing the quality of these proteins is good. But, if proteins are low-quality ones, they arrive undigested in the large intestine, and promote some bacterial fermentation, inducing flatulences and eventually putrid diarrhea.

The maximum rate of growth achievable is genetically determined. The belief that a high-protein diet could accelerate the growth is false: only the total energy intake is able to influence the growth rate, allowing a more or less early expression of this growth potential.

For large breed puppies, the critical period takes place mainly between 2-4 months. At that point, growth reaches its maximum of intensity, and this is the period where stance defects are the most likely to appear (wrists problems especially). Overweight can prevent the articulation to get back to normal, and makes it stay definitively in a vicious position.


Limitation of the food intake of a well-balanced diet can slow the growth down, but it does not interfere with the final size of the dog (unless the restriction is very severe and prolonged).

Finally, let's remember that excessive mineral supplementation are responsible for numerous osteo-articular diseases. Calcium excess is especially harmful: it inhibits the normal remodeling of bone and cartilaginous tissues, which is very disturbing for the bone growth.

Donated by the Borg Cardona and Co. Ltd. visit Borg Cardona website

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