Lean Body Mass & Protein

Lean Body Mass & Protein
lean body mass and protein grey dog image
Maintaining lean body mass can improve longevity. Optimal body condition, together with sustained lean body mass, is important for overall health.

Lean body mass (LBM) includes skeletal muscle and organs, essentially everything except fat. It serves as an amino acid reservoir from which dogs and cats produce vital proteins such as immune cells, red blood cells and hormones.

With age, protein degradation often exceeds synthesis and this imbalance leads to progressive loss of LBM. This age-related loss of LBM, unrelated to disease, is called sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia in dogs and cats (and people) is associated with increased risk for mortality and other health problems.1 

 

The science behind lean body mass

The science behind lean body mass

By keeping LBM loss to a minimum, cats and dogs can maintain a healthier condition and potentially live longer.

Insufficient dietary protein may contribute to loss of LBM, however there is controversy about how much dietary protein is adequate.

While cats need only 1.5g of protein per kilogram body weight to maintain nitrogen balance (protein) they need over 5 g protein/kg body weight to maintain LBM.2 

old dogs need 50% more protein than young dogs

Dogs require about three times more protein to maintain protein/DNA ratios (an indicator of protein reserves) compared to that needed to maintain nitrogen balance, and old dogs need 50% more protein than young dogs regardless of the measure used.3 

Purina's research

purina's research

Purina studies correlated an increase in LBM with an increased chance of survival and showed that higher protein diets can help preserve LBM and body weight in both cats and dogs. 

Preserving lean body mass

skinny old cat syndrome graphic

A study of 256 cats showed they begin to lose both LBM and fat at approximately 12 years of age.4 

This advanced loss of LBM, called sarcopenia, poses a risk for health problems and a shorter life span.

lean body mass and protein cat graphic
loss of lean body mass
skinny old cats graphic

For “skinny old cats” every 10-gram increase in LBM results in a 2% increased chance of survival.5,6

Lean body mass and higher protein diets

High-protein, low-calorie diets significantly increased fat loss and reduced loss of LBM in overweight cats undergoing weight loss when compared with cats fed normal protein, low-calorie diets.7

Lean Body Mass & Protein cat graphic
graphs
lean body mass protein graphs

Purina research also demonstrated that older dogs fed a high-protein diet showed slower age-related loss of LBM than dogs fed a diet lower in protein.8

lean body mass and protein dog graphic

Purina research with overweight dogs also showed that a high protein diet protects LBM during weight loss.

In this study, overweight dogs fed a diet with a higher percentage of calories from protein lost more fat and retained more LBM while moving closer to their optimal body condition.

Loss of LBM during weight loss is common. Since lean body mass burns more calories than fat tissue, preserving LBM may help to prevent future weight gain.

Body composition and LBM are much better indicators of overall health in dogs and cats than body weight.9,10

A body condition assessment is a focused, hands-on inquiry that veterinarians can use to evaluate the body composition of dogs and cats. Owners can also be taught the same method to monitor their pets.

Purina scientists developed the 9-point Body Condition System (BCS) for cats and dogs, which is a simple method for estimating body fat coverage and determining a pet’s optimal body condition, regardless of breed or body weight.9,10 

Independently validated and published in peer-reviewed journals,11-13 this practical tool in nutritional management for dogs and cats is now used by veterinarians worldwide.

body condition video with Dottie Laflamme

Learn why a Body Condition Score is crucial in assessing a pet’s health.

Key things to remember

  • Maintaining LBM in cats and dogs is important for longevity and overall health.
  • Purina research showed that for “skinny old cats”, every 10-gram increase in LBM results in a 2% increased chance of survival.
  • Higher protein diets can help preserve LBM and body weight in dogs and cats. While there is controversy about how much dietary protein is adequate, insufficient dietary protein may contribute to loss of LBM.
  • Purina researchers developed the 9-point Body Condition System to provide a practical tool in nutritional management for dogs and cats. This method has been independently validated and is used by veterinarians worldwide.

Find out more:

  1. Freeman, L.M. (2012). Cachexia and sarcopenia: Emerging syndromes of importance in dogs and cats. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 26, 3-17.­
  2. Laflamme, D.P. (2013). Protein requirements of aging cats based on preservation of lean body mass. Proceedings of the 13th Annual AAVN Symposium (17). Washington, USA. 
  3. Wannemacher, R.W., &  McCoy, J.R. (1966). Determination of optimal dietary protein requirements of young and old dogs. Journal of Nutrition, 88(1), 66-74.
  4. Perez-Camargo, G., Patil, A.R., & Cupp, C.J. (2004). Body composition changes in aging cats. Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing Veterinarian, 26(Suppl 2A), 71. 
  5. Cupp, C.J., Kerr, W.W., Jean-Philippe, C., Patil, A.R., & Perez-Camargo, G. (2008). The role of nutritional interventions in the longevity and maintenance of long-term health in aging cats. International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine, 6(2), 69-81. 
  6. Cupp, C.J., & Kerr, W.W. (2010). Effect of diet and body composition on life span in aging cats. (2010). Nestlé Purina Companion Animal Nutrition Summit (36-42). Florida, USA. 
  7. Laflamme, D.P., & Hannah, S.S. (2005). Increased dietary protein promotes fat loss and reduces loss of lean body mass during weight loss in cats. International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine, 3(2), 62-68. 
  8. Hannah, S.S. & Laflamme, D.P. (1998). Increased dietary protein spares lean body mass during weight loss in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine,. 12, 224.
  9. Laflamme, D.P. (1997). Development and validation of a Body Condition Score System for Cats: A clinical tool. Feline Practice, 25, 5-6, 13-18.
  10. Laflamme, D.P. (1997). Development and validation of a Body Condition Score System for Dogs. Canine Practice, 22(4), 10-15.
  11. Bjornvad, C.R., Nielsen, D.H., & Armstrong, P.J. (2011). Evaluation of a nine-point body condition scoring system in physically inactive pet cats. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 72(4), 433-437.  
  12. German, A.J., Holden, S.L., Moxham, G.L., Holmes, K.L., Hacket, R.M.,  & Rawlings, J.M. (2006). A simple, reliable tool for owners to assess the body condition of their dog or cat. Journal of Nutrition, 136(7), 2031S-2033S. 
  13. Mawby, D.I., Bartges, J.W., D'Avignon, A., Laflamme, D.P., Moyers, T.D., & Cottrell, T. (2004). Comparison of various methods for estimating body fat in dogs. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 40(2), 109-114.