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(Dogs, Cats, Horses)



Dogs are omnivores, meaning they can get their nutritional needs from both meat and plant-based foods. Dogs can digest animal proteins and carbohydrates, and their metabolism is similar to other omnivores, like humans.


The Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) recommends that dog diets contain at least 22% protein for growth and 18% for maintenance. However, most dog foods contain more than the AAFCO minimum. A dog food that contains 26% protein would provide about 65 grams of protein per day.


In July 2018, the FDA began investigating a potential link between certain high protein dog foods and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). These foods are often grain-free and contain high levels of peas, lentils, potatoes, and other novel protein sources. Some studies suggest that these diets may lead to taurine deficiency, which has been linked to DCM. However, as of July 2019, there is only a correlation between specific types of food and DCM, not a scientific link. 


When should you reduce your dog’s protein:

If your dog is having seizures, especially seizures in senior dogs, it may help to reduce your dog’s protein level to 10% or less.  Be sure to discuss it with your veterinarian, because there are some types of seizures that may actually benefit from higher protein diets.


Can you feed a dog too much protein?

Yes. A dog food that contains 30% or more protein is excessive and may actually be dangerous for your dog.  Consult your veterinarian before feeding your dog food that is over 26% protein.




Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they rely almost exclusively on eating prey, not plants. They have adapted to a diet of small prey that is high in protein and moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates. Cats require two to three times more protein than omnivores.


Adult cats need at least 5.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 11.5 grams of protein per pound, per day. However, this number can vary depending on a cat's age, activity level, and health status. For example, kittens and pregnant cats need at least 30% protein.  The average adult cat requires 30%-40% protein, while senior cats may need up to 55%.  Many commercial dry cat foods contain 1.5 -2 times more protein than the AAFCO minimum for adult cats. 


When choosing the right food for your cat, look for foods in which meat, meat byproducts, or seafood are listed among the first few ingredients. This indicates the food probably contains enough animal-source ingredients to supply essential amino acids and fatty acids.


Can you feed a cat too much protein?

Not usually.  Excess protein isn't generally harmful to cats unless they have a health condition like chronic kidney disease.  Always discuss it with your veterinarian before feeding a cat a diet that is more than 40% protein.




Horses are herbivores and, as such, they need a very specific diet. They must consume lots of fiber to keep their extremely long and sensitive digestive tract working and they must eat little and often, almost all day long. In simple terms, horses eat grass and hay or haylage, but salt, concentrates and fruits or vegetables can also enhance their diets, depending on the required work regime and available feed.


The amount of protein a horse needs depends on its type and workload. Mature horses typically need 8–12% protein, but horses that are in intense training need more. The minimum percentage of crude protein in a horse's ration depends on the class of horse:

  • Maintenance: 8.5%

  • Pregnant mare -- Late pregnancy: 11.5%

  • Early lactation: 14.0%

  • Late lactation: 11.0%

  • Working horses -- light work: 10.0%

  • Working horses -- medium work: 11.0%

When choosing a protein source for your horse, look for feeds that contain lysine, methionine, and threonine. These are known as "limiting" amino acids, which means they are always needed to build protein.  Soybean meal is the most common protein supplement, which averages around 44% crude protein. Brewer's grains (the mash removed from the malt when making beer) is another nutritious option with about 25% crude protein and is also high in fat (13%) and B vitamins. 


Can you feed a horse too much protein?

Yes.  Protein is frequently overfed to horses. People may think that if some protein is good, then more is better—that couldn't be further from the truth. Excessively high protein feeds are not only more expensive, they are unhealthy. Most active adult horses do not need a feed with more than 14% protein.

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