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Cats Have Increased Protein Digestibility as Compared to Dogs and Improve Their Ability to Absorb Protein as Dietary Protein Intake Shifts from Animal to Plant Sources

Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc., Topeka, KS 66603, USA
Department of Grain Science and Industry, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(3), 541;
Received: 26 February 2020 / Revised: 18 March 2020 / Accepted: 19 March 2020 / Published: 24 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Nutrition)
Because dogs are omnivores and cats are obligate carnivores, it is of value to pet owners and nutritionists to know how well they digest protein from plants and animals. This study evaluated the difference in digestibility using plant and animal protein sources, which are used in the pet food industry. These plant and animal sources resulted in protein digestibility that met or exceeded that expected for dogs and cats. As previously shown, cats had superior protein digestibility as compared to dogs. Regarding the difference in digestibility between the proteins from plants or animals—as a class, there was no difference between plant and animal protein in dogs. However, in cats, the protein from plants was more highly digested than animal protein.
This retrospective study used 226 dogs and 296 cats to evaluate whether protein absorption was influenced by species, and within species, what influence increasing the percentage of total dietary protein, as plant protein, had on protein absorption. Each food was evaluated by at least one study with a minimum of six dogs or cats assigned to each study. Dietary inclusion of animal and plant based protein was calculated by analysis of ingredients and dietary inclusion level. Both dogs and cats were able to digest dietary plant protein, with protein digestibility in dogs unchanged as plant protein increased, while in cats, eating dry food, an increase in plant protein, was associated with increased protein digestibility. When individual plant high-concentration protein sources (excluding the protein from whole grains) were evaluated (i.e., soybean meal, soybean protein isolate, corn gluten meal, and rice protein concentrate) there was no response to increasing protein from these sources in the dog. In the cat, there was a significant positive effect on protein digestibility associated with an increasing concentration of corn gluten meal. In summary, as the dietary protein shifted from striated muscle and other animal proteins to plant based proteins, there was no effect in the dog, while in cats, increasing dietary plant protein was associated with increasing protein digestibility (5.5% increase at 50% protein from plants in dry cat food). Protein digestibility of food in dogs and cats is similar, if not enhanced, when the plant protein sources are concentrated from soybeans (soybean isolate, soybean meal), corn (corn gluten meal), or rice (rice protein concentrate). View Full-Text
Keywords: canine; feline; protein digestibility canine; feline; protein digestibility
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Golder, C.; Weemhoff, J.L.; Jewell, D.E. Cats Have Increased Protein Digestibility as Compared to Dogs and Improve Their Ability to Absorb Protein as Dietary Protein Intake Shifts from Animal to Plant Sources. Animals 2020, 10, 541.

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