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Amino Acid — The Stealth Dog Food Nutrient More Essential Than Protein

Mike Sagman


Mike Sagman
Mike Sagman

Mike Sagman


Dr Mike Sagman is the creator of the Dog Food Advisor. He founded the website in 2008, after his unquestioning trust in commercial dog food led to the tragic death of his dog Penny.

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Updated: September 27, 2023

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I’m always amazed at the obsession most pet owners have about dog food protein.

obscureEspecially since protein isn’t even considered an essential nutrient.


Well, that’s because it’s the stuff protein is actually made of that’s essential — not the protein itself.

You see, amino acids make up the basic building blocks of all protein.

Think of protein as a freight train with each car of that train being an amino acid.

And it’s the kind of cars — and the order they’re arranged — that makes each protein unique.

Ten ‘Life-or-Death’ Nutrients

Every dog has the natural ability to manufacture every amino acid he needs — except for 10 very special ones.

These ten essential amino acids must come from the diet.

Otherwise, a dog could suffer serious health consequences — even death.

These ten essential amino acids include…

  • Arginine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophane
  • Valine

What Happens When
One Is Missing?

Proteins chains are manufactured by a dog’s cells in a step-by-step, assembly line fashion — and if just one amino acid is lacking, the entire process shuts down.

This missing nutrient is known as the limiting amino acid. That’s because its absence “limits” the process from using any of the other available amino acids altogether.

So, every dog food must contain all ten.

The Bottom Line

Trying to judge a dog food by the amount of protein alone can be misleading.

Just because a dog food boasts a high protein percentage doesn’t mean it contains the right amino acids.

So, how can you improve the odds a dog food will meet your pet’s amino acid needs?

Well, even though the right combination of vegetable proteins can be made to satisfy a dog’s amino acid needs, animal protein naturally contains a more favorable mix of essential amino acids.

So, don’t choose a dog food simply because it appears to have a lot of protein on its label.

Sure, a higher protein content can suggest you’ve come across a better dog food.

However, don’t forget to judge the source of that protein, too.

Final word

The Dog Food Advisor does not accept money, gifts, samples or other incentives in exchange for special consideration in preparing our reviews.

However, we do receive a referral fee from online retailers (like Chewy or Amazon) and from sellers of perishable pet food when readers click over to their websites from ours. This helps cover the cost of operation of our free blog. Thanks for your support.

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