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Judging the Biological Value of Dog Food 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: April 23, 2024

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Judging a Dog Food's Protein Quality

Feathers. Beaks. Hooves. What do these three types of body parts all have in common?

They each contain a high amount of protein.

Yet unfortunately, it’s mostly unusable protein — protein that’s nearly impossible for a dog to digest.

High Protein May Not Mean High Quality

Just because a particular dog food boasts a high protein content doesn’t necessarily mean the protein is beneficial.

That’s because a product’s stated protein percentage can ignore a very important factor — its nutritional value to the dog.

Biological value is a scientific way to compare the nutritional worth of different protein ingredients. It’s a measure of a protein’s ability to supply amino acids — especially the 10 essential amino acids.

And to supply them in the appropriate proportions.1

Biological value (BV) uses a number to represent how nutritious a protein is to the animal.

BV = (protein used/protein available) x 100

In other words, the higher a protein’s biological value — the more usable it is to the animal.

The Incredible Egg

Due to their near perfect usability, chicken eggs are used as the official benchmark by which all other proteins are judged.  So, eggs are assigned a reference biological value of 100.

Take a look at the following table2.  And notice the substantial difference in protein usability of these typical ingredients

From this table, it’s easy to conclude…

Animal protein can be expected to demonstrate a notably higher biological value than vegetable protein3

That’s why it’s crucial to check a dog food’s list of ingredients and judge the product’s dominant source of protein. Otherwise, you could be depriving your pet of better nutrition.

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1, 3: “Nutrition for the Adult Dog”, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Client Information Handout

2: Palika, Liz, The Consumers Guide to Dog Food, New York, Howell Book House, 1996

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