Like all dogs, chow chows require a diet
that contains proteins from animal and vegetable sources. These proteins contain 10 essential amino acids that dogs cannot produce on their own, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies. While chows require normal protein levels in their diets, a high-protein diet may not be the correct choice for this breed, depending on the weight, age and health of the individual dog. It is best to consult your dog's veterinarian before putting the dog on a high-protein diet.
Chow chows are relatively inactive dogs, needing only moderate amounts of exercise in the form of a few walks per day. These medium-sized dogs generally weigh between 45 and 70 pounds. Based on their size and relatively low activity levels, chow chows generally need between 989 and 1,272 calories per day, with a minimum of 10 percent of their diet consisting of protein, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies.
Adult dogs should receive a diet consisting of a minimum of 18 percent protein, while puppies need a higher protein diet that contains at least 22 percent protein, according to food trials performed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials and reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration . A female chow chow nursing her offspring requires the same amount of protein in her diet as her growing puppies do.
While higher protein diets, containing up to 30 percent protein, help extremely active dogs develop muscle strength, most chow chows are low-activity dogs. Higher protein diets won't benefit such dogs unless your dog is nursing or less than 1 year old. In general, homemade diets with greater than about 45 percent digestible protein are not recommended for healthy dogs at any age, including chow chows.
Chow chows are prone to renal dysplasia and hypoplasia, conditions which affect the dog's kidneys, according to The Merck Veterinary Manual. A dog's kidneys filter toxins from the body, including the byproducts of protein digestion, which include urea, creatinine and phosphorus. Because protein byproducts are harder for a chow chow's body to filter through their kidneys, high-protein diets are not generally recommended for dogs diagnosed with a kidney disease.
Chow chows are also prone to developing diabetes, according to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. Diabetes requires treatment with injections of insulin to allow the body to properly process glucose. Because of problems with the glucose level in a diabetic dog's body, a high-protein diet in dogs with diabetes is generally avoided so as not to put further strain on the kidneys.
High Protein Diets for Weight Loss
Because many chow chows tend to be couch potatoes, they can easily become obese if they are overfed. A chow chow whose ribs cannot readily be discerned under the dog's skin and fat needs to lose weight to prevent health issues. Some prescription veterinary weight-loss diets contain high amounts of protein, typically between 45 and 50 percent, to promote weight loss without reducing the calories your dog consumes each day.
A study published in the August 2004 edition of "The Journal of Nutrition" evaluated the effectiveness in dogs of a low-carbohydrate, high-protein weight-loss diet that contained 47.5 percent protein. The study found that overweight dogs lost body fat and retained muscle mass on the diet better than dogs fed a diet containing 23.8 percent protein. These types of protein-rich weight-loss diets may work well if your chow chow needs to lose weight and has no medical conditions that could impair the dog's kidneys.
Such a diet requires veterinary supervision and may not be suitable for long-term feeding, depending on your dog's health. While feeding a high-protein diet to a healthy chow chow won't by itself cause kidney failure, a diet with a high amount of protein, fed to a dog with compromised kidneys, is not advisable, according to the book "Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs are Getting Fatter and a Vet's Plan to Save Their Lives." Always consult with a veterinarian before starting a high-protein diet to determine whether your dog has any preexisting medical conditions that could preclude a high-protein diet.
Dogs, including chow chows, need a diet that contains a meat protein as one of the five primary ingredients. The primary ingredients are those that make up the majority of the food. Ingredients are listed on a pet food label in order of dry weight, according to the FDA. Meats provide more of the amino acids a dog needs, making them more desirable than vegetable proteins as the major ingredients in your chow chow's food, according to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Poultry, beef, lamb, cooked eggs or fish all can provide your dog with the dietary protein they need. Meat byproducts contain fewer digestible forms of protein, and should not be a major component of the diet. Vegetables and fruits provide healthy fiber and nutrients for your dog. Chow chows also require healthy carbohydrates such as barley and brown rice, along with animal fats. Fats and carbohydrates each provide your dog with energy sources the body can easily break down to produce glucose, instead of breaking down the proteins that are needed to maintain the chow chow's tissues. Fats also help to keep your chow chow's thick coat soft and shiny.
Feeding your chow chow a commercially prepared diet that is certified by AAFCO on the label and listed as "complete and balanced" ensures that your dog gets the right amounts of protein, nutrients, vitamins and minerals to maintain the dog's health. These foods will provide at least the minimum requirements for your chow chow's protein and nutrient requirements. The food package should also say whether the food is for "all life stages" or "maintenance" for adult dogs, or "for growth" if you are feeding chow chow puppies or nursing mothers.