The importance of meat for older dogs and cats

Veterinarians emphasize the importance of the intake of high-quality proteins of meat in the diet of older dogs and cats.

Thanks to the complete supply of essential amino acids (not present in plant food sources), meat proteins are necessary to maintain efficient functions of the animal body and play a key role in reducing and delaying senescence, even in dogs and cats.

During aging, animals tend to lose muscle tissue and increase body fat. When protein intake with the diet is insufficient, the body responds using muscle proteins to produce essential proteins (contained in enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc.). This conspicuous loss of muscle tissue is said, as for humans, geriatric sarcopenia.

Please leave our #pets alone, don't turn them into #vegan animals! The #veterinaries emphasize the importance of the contribution of #proteins deriving from #meat in the #nutrition of #dogs and #cats. Click To Tweet

In this situation, animals also have a reduced capacity to fight infections and diseases because the immune system is too weak. Muscle tissue loss is a predictor of morbidity and mortality in older dogs and cats. The ingestion of diets containing high-quality proteins such as those contained in meat, on the contrary, constitutes the primary nutritional strategy to fight geriatric sarcopenia. The maintenance of adequate muscle mass is also essential to lengthen life expectancy and improve responses to medication.

Another thing to consider is that the calorie intake of the diet affects the protein intake. Older dogs need fewer calories than younger dogs, so diets for healthy older dogs must contain adequate proteins of high biological value. The profile determines the quality of proteins or biological value in essential amino acids since amino acids have different properties.

Arginine, Leucine, Lysine, tryptophan, and tyrosine are essential amino acids to safeguard muscle tissue from depletion due to old age. The functions of arginine are manifold. In recent decades, numerous scientific studies have highlighted arginine’s properties in countering the physiological loss of muscle tissue, and the muscle uses arginine as a “building material”.

The #diets for #healthy elderly #dogs and #cats must contain adequate #proteins of high biological value, such as those of #meat. Click To Tweet

Some amino acids participate in protein synthesis and can take the body to perform particular “tasks”: in the immune response, in the synthesis of hormones and vitamins, in the transmission of nerve impulses, in the production of energy, and as catalysts of chemical reactions in many metabolic processes.

The nervous system, for example, needs a continuous supply of amino acids for the synthesis of neurotransmitters; in fact, the quantity and quality of proteins introduced with the diet can modulate the synthesis of amino acids and, consequently, neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the molecules that allow the transmission of nerve impulses between neurons (the brain cells). The amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine synthesize essential neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline.

In conclusion, meat is a food source that provides valuable molecules for the balance of the body, including muscle tissue and the nervous system. It is essential in the nutrition of healthy aged dogs and cats. Protein restriction is only indicated in certain exceptional cases, that is, in older dogs and cats with severe conditions such as kidney or liver failure and specific metabolic diseases.


Laurea a Torino in Medicina Veterinaria con il massimo dei voti, attualmente è Professore Universitario presso il Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie, Università degli Studi di Torino, Settore Zootecnia e Nutrizione Animale, dove riveste la Cattedra di insegnamento nei Corsi di Nutrizione Animale e Tecnica Mangimistica della Laurea Magistrale in Medicina Veterinarie. Tra le sue principali tematiche di ricerca ci sono la nutrizione degli animali in produzione zootecnica e degli animali d’affezione, la digeribilità degli alimenti e la qualità dei prodotti di origine animale.