Protein (built with amino acids) is important for all pet animal species, including horses, dogs, cats, fish, reptiles, rabbits, ferrets, birds, etc. The skeletal and muscular system, organs, nervous system, glands, immune system, circulatory system, and blood alkalinity, all depend on protein to function. It is even more critical for breeding, lactating, and growing animals.
“Protein not only builds muscle and maintains organ structures, but is also needed to mount prompt, strong immune responses,” explains Carol S. Johnston, professor and director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “You want to have adequate protein intake daily to have amino acids ready for immune protein synthesis at the time of infection.”
We began to study the protein requirements of omnivores and herbivores when formulating Bottom Bites fish food. There is a common misconception that protein isn’t as important for herbivorous and many omnivorous animals, or that meat is the only good source of amino acids. We knew that couldn’t be the case for herbivorous fish, so we proceeded to heavily research their dietary requirements and seek out the most digestible sources. I’ve since broadened that research to include a wide range of animal species.
Sources of Plant-Based Protein / Amino Acids for Herbivores & Omnivores
There are good sources of plant-based amino acids, and then there are excellent, nearly complete sources of a wide range of amino acids. The ‘infographic’ below shows some of the plant kingdom’s protein superstars, all of which boast a wide range of amino acids.
A combination of the following fruits, vegetables, grains and herbs will provide a range of amino acids. Research your pet’s amino acid and protein requirements, then customize a diet rich in appropriate fruits and vegetables from the list below.
Please note: Not all of the items on this list are suitable for all species of animals. Research your pet’s dietary requirements and select protein sources that are most appropriate. Only very low-carbohydrate vegetation (such as seaweed) should be fed to carnivores.
Nuts – pine nuts, pistachios, black walnuts, almonds, peanuts
Seeds – pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds
Grains (wheat, rye, barley, corn and brown rice) and ‘pseudo-grains’ (buckwheat, millet, amaranth, wild rice, alfalfa and quinoa)
Berries: Acai berry, Strawberry, Blackberry, Raspberry
Seaweed & algae
Gabi leaves & rhizomes
Greens, including mustard, turnip, collard, swiss chard and beat greens
Herbs: garlic, mint, ginger, ampalaya leaves/shoots, burdock root, basil
??? How do you ensure your pet receives enough amino acids? Please share your comments below.
Dahinog, M. Amino Acid Composition of Vegetables and Fruits from the Philippines. 1982.
ABC News – Health
Food and Nutrition Board, Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Protein and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). 2002.
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