Whether you are looking to build up muscle on your dog following an injury, period of recovery or compete more strongly in a dog sport, the key is always in quality protein.
Some dogs can also find themselves reducing in weight due to digestive issues. If the dog was not absorbing or digesting food efficiently due to this problem, they may well have lost weight and condition.
Amino Acids, the Components of Protein
Many of the components of protein, known as Amino Acids, actually play a vital role in the healing of the digestive lining, so ensuring good quality protein reaches your dog is vital for repair and ongoing gut support too.
Dogs need ten essential amino acids from protein, we humans are said to only need eight.
The ten amino acids dogs need are called: Arginine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valine.
Dogs primarily get these from the meat component of their diet. As many food processing methods can compromise these in meat some are also included in the nutrient supplement of a processed food. Some amino acids are found in plants or seeds your dog may eat, however the protein source should ideally be meat, as it is far safer to include them that way. The fresher the meat source, the better quality the protein and therefore the amino acids. Raw dog food is an ideal choice.
Reasons Your Dog May Need Extra Protein
There are many reasons why a dog may need extra protein in their diet:
- Healing of an injury
- Build them up after an extended period of rest
- Support of their digestive system and gut lining
- Added strength for work or a dog sporting activity
- Faster recovery after strenuous activity
- Increase weight, condition or muscle definition
- A tripod dog needing extra support for their remaining muscles.
- Fed a low quality diet and need a nutritional boost
Top 3 considerations for building canine muscle mass:
As mentioned, the first step is to improve the dogs diet to ensure good quality protein is being included. The fresher the better is the key here. Processed foods have been subjected various intensive heat treatments throughout their creation, which results in something called ‘denaturing of proteins’ and can even change them molecularly making them less bio available to the dog’s internal systems.
Fresh real meat, whether fed raw or lightly cooked is the way forward here.
This is a basic look at the different meats you could feed and the amino acids they provide:
- Chicken comes out top for almost all amino acids levels, especially Lysine.
- Lamb is also high, less than chicken, but still high in Valine, and Isoleucine.
- Pork showed the highest in Histidine (not to be confuse with Histamine, that’s different).
- Turkey despite being known for Tryptophan levels is actually higher in Methionine.
- Finally Beef, rates second highest below chicken on almost all the amino acids and particularly Arginine.
Interestingly, it is chicken that includes the skin and bone content that rates the highest for the amino acid content. The lean chicken breast we humans prefer to eat and would often consider offering to our dogs in a home cooked diet, does not carry the same levels. The components of the body such as the tiny muscles, sinews, tendons and essentially all those gooey or dark meat bits that attach muscle to bone carry the highest quality protein content.
As mentioned in our other blog articles on the importance of a balanced raw diet, feeding variety is the key to including all the different nutrients your dog needs, including the different amino acids.
Could Supplements Enhance Dietary Protein?
Choosing one that carries the best kind of protein and bio-available amino acids is the key with supplementation. Not all supplements are created the same. Look for supplements created with seed proteins, as these contain amino acids at their generative stage, rich in vital force and potential for your dog. One of the ways a Vegan (human) can obtain the correct protein and amino acids balance is by combing different seeds into their diet. Pumpkin Seeds for instance are jam packed with amino acids, other nourishing seeds are Hemp Seeds and Flaxseed, which also has a great essential fatty acid profile.
Avoid protein supplements derived from dairy sources. It comes down to digestibility. For your dog to benefit from the supplement you have purchased they need to be able to digest the protein and break it down into appropriate amino acids to re-build muscle again.
This whole process is hindered with dairy products, nature developed these proteins to be best digested by the animal they came from. Dogs find, not just the diary sugar ‘lactose’ but the ‘casein’ proteins much harder to digest and recognise in the body. The inability to digest can create intolerances, and even contribute to allergies, which is the opposite of your intention.
Being a coach pawtato is never going to be good for a dog to become the lean, strong dog you wish them to be. Exercise is a must!
One of the best for building muscles is swimming.
If you have a clean fresh water pool or lake nearby, perhaps your dog already leaps in and swims away, you’ll know how much fun they have and how healthy they look as a result.
For those without that natural luxury nearby professional canine hydrotherapy pools offer a similar experience. Many offer free swimming in a large open pool, whereas often more veterinary based pools, are more like a treadmill in water. You may even find a veterinary physiotherapist providing services from either type of canine hydro-pool.
There are specific weight pulling, weight holding or weighted dog coat based activities organised by some dog training clubs. If you are serious about the strength or muscle definition side of things it could be fun to try these with your dog too.
Simple walking, especially including running and climbing during walks, is of course a wonderful way to support dogs building muscle too.
So many dogs enjoy and very much need sniffing for their emotional contentment it is often important to factor in both a sniffy type walk as well as an exercise, muscle building walk during the day. Walks should not always be about exercise and moving forward along the road, specialising both types of walk each day is very useful.
Concentrated activities such as dog dancing, agility or at times even free-ball are often too condensed or small in their range or amount of movements. These are fantastic for many reasons but not necessarily for building overall, balanced muscle mass.
Rest and Down-time
In contrast to the above consideration, without at times enjoying the comfy couch your dog will not have sufficient opportunity for growth, repair and building of muscle. This occurs as they rest. Dogs, even adult dogs, need considerably more down-time and sleep than us people. Some experts say up to 16 hours of the day should be rest time for an adult dog.
During exercise, natural minute tears occur in muscle which allows for it to re-build and that way get stronger each time. This is natural physical occurrence we can support to ensure our dogs become the strongest they can be.
Rest-time is also where the influence of the anti-inflammatory foods you include in their diet are important. Foods that contain high Omega 3 fatty acids being the key to anti-inflammatory meal content.
It may be nice once your dog’s body has calmed after exercise to include a soft massage during rest time. Organisations such as the Canine Massage Guild offer day workshops whereby you learn the basics of doing this for your dog to enhance muscle mass, recovery and muscle re-building rates.
One of the key factors to canine muscle mass is also in supplementation, just as we find ourselves in need of some support during our training regimes or at times our body has been through physical stress, so our dogs benefit in exactly the same way.
As keen canine sports fans ourselves, we at Pro-Dog Raw have taken time and care to create supplements that support your dog in either building strength, muscle gain or recovery from injury.
One of our most successful and powerful supplements is Muscle+.
Developed through feeding trials (to ensure it actually works!) and measured via in-depth analysis into high quality amino acids content, we are very proud of it, being our best-selling canine performance supplement to date.
We hope you will find it extremely useful for your dog no matter what the demand. If you need canine muscle development then Muscle+ will deliver!