We met Dr Giulia Pignataro (@thedietvet), gastroenterologist and veterinary nutritionist.
Through simple questions, we wanted to look deeper into an always much debated topic and one of great interest to our animal companions, that is proteins and their importance in cat and dog food today.
Almo Nature: Hello Giulia and welcome. So let’s talk about proteins: what are they and why are they important for cats and dogs' organisms?
The Diet Vet: Proteins are biological macromolecules made up of chains of amino acids and are the nutritional basics that, besides giving energy, develop an animal's muscle mass, form and maintain the body's tissues, and aid sensory and physical development.
They can be of animal origin (red meat, white meat, fish, cheese, eggs) or of vegetable origin, such as legumes or tubers. The latter are not recommended for pets as the only protein source because plant origin proteins are less bioavailable/digestible than those from muscle.
The quality of the protein also depends on its concentration of essential amino acids.
The term "essential" means that the animal cannot produce the amino acid and needs to supplement it in its diet. The essential amino acids for dogs are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine. For cats, in addition to these, taurine is also essential.
Almo Nature: How important is the quality of the ingredients used and therefore of the proteins for our pet's kibble?
The Diet Vet: Fundamental. They are the most important nutrients in our pet's diet. The best proteins are found in meat, fish, and eggs, as the proteins derived from these products are of excellent nutritional quality because the composition of amino acids is balanced in essential amino acids. They are in fact defined as proteins with high nutritional value. As for biological value, vegetable proteins (cereals and legumes) come next, and in last place are the proteins from bones, legs, feathers etc (which may be present in meat flours) as they are less digestible and bioavailable to the animal organism.
Almo Nature: So kibble with proteins from meat and fresh fish is of higher quality than that from flours/desiccated animals?
The Diet Vet: Yes, if the raw material arrives fresh at the production plant, it always clearly undergoes a thermal process (extruder firing) but the amino acid profile remains better and for this reason the quality of feed proteins prepared with fresh meat or fish is better than feed prepared with meat meal.
Almo Nature: So even more digestible?
The Diet Vet: Yes. In particular, the balance between essential and non-essential amino acids improves the biological value of the proteins of a food by promoting the animal's nitrogen metabolism. This means that proteins are more digestible and there is therefore less digestion waste, called nitrogen waste, which is eliminated through the kidneys and urine. If there is too much of this waste, it weighs down the kidney and can lead, in the long run, to problems with the urinary tract: a possible situation caused by wrong protein intake or poor protein quality.
Moreover, feeding a cat or a dog with less digestible proteins can also lead to nutritional deficiencies because proteins are eliminated through the faeces without being assimilated.
Almo Nature: So when you choose a kibble, must you look at the quality or the amount of protein?
The Diet Vet: Definitely the quality!
Proteins are necessary because they are the basis of a carnivore's nutrition, but the most important thing is certainly the origin and the type that identify their quality.
Above all, if we think about our animal companions, apart from a few exceptions such as working dogs or sports dogs, they don’t need too much protein for the lifestyle they lead.
On the contrary, an excess of protein can contribute to the animal's weight gain.
Kibble, being a complete and concentrated food, needs to be well balanced with all other nutrients (fats, carbohydrates, fibrE, vitamins and minerals) for the well-being of the gastrointestinal system and the microbiota.
Almo Nature: Finally, Giulia, what should we look for when choosing the best food for our cat or dog from the point of view of proteins?
The Diet Vet: Always read the labels of dry and moist commercial food for your animals: check that the sources of animal protein, such as meat or fish, are the first ingredient on the list and if they come from fresh meat so as to identify the quality. Only then will you be able to choose the best food for your cat or dog, which will ensure their general and long-lasting well-being.
We thank Doctor Giulia Pignataro for this study on proteins. The information she gave us in this interview confirms that the quality of the ingredients is important from a nutritional point of view, not only for humans but also for our animal companions.
Our HFC kibbles are prepared with ingredients originally suitable for human consumption and now food for cats and dogs, meat and fish are always the principal ingredient and in our kibbles are 100% fresh. No animal meal at all!
Now you know how to choose the best kibble, discover our HFC line 👇