What are the 10 essential amino acids for dogs as identified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)?

Your dog needs a total of 22 amino acids, the building blocks the dog uses to make muscles, hair, skin and enzymes. Twelve of them are synthesized in their bodies; the other ten must be provided by diet.

AAFCO, the American Association of Feed Control Officials, regulates labeling. In order for a food to be considered “balanced and complete,” it must include the following essential amino acids:

• Histidine
• Valine
• Arginine
• Leucine
• Methionine
• Isoleucine
• Lysine
• Phenylalanine
• Tryptophan
• Threonine.


Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids. There are non-essential ones—called that because they can be produced in the liver—and essential (or indispensible) ones that must be provided through the diet. A high protein diet for your dog is critical. Low blood protein levels are often caused by a dietary deficiency; however, there are other conditions that can cause low blood protein levels as well, such as intestinal disease or malnutrition.

Low blood proteins can also be caused by liver disease, since the normal function of the liver involves the formation of amino acids into proteins. When disease is present that interferes with this process, protein levels in the blood are reduced.
Symptoms of low protein levels include muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass, fatigue, water retention, weight loss and a slowing of the growth process.
Low protein levels can be treated by giving your canine foods high in protein, such as eggs, meat or fish.
There’s one caveat: Just because a food is labeled “high protein,” please don’t assume it contains all of the essential amino acids. Not all proteins are alike and their amino acid profiles can be very different.

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