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What Amino Acids Does Your Dog Need?

Written by FOTP Team


cute dog lying in daisies

Molecular science – let’s go!  In this article we will examine the range of amino acids required by healthy dogs – and how they all work.  Psst: If you’re here with a symptomatic dog and you want to know how to treat a suspected deficiency, skip straight to the end for a straightforward guide to choosing the right FoTP supplements.

What Are Amino Acids?  

Amino acids are molecules which combine to form protein.  Why do dogs need protein?  It’s an incredibly important part of their diet – they’ll use protein to build muscle, gain energy and develop a strong immune system.  Some amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are naturally produced by the body.  But others aren’t synthesized inside your dog’s body, so they need to be included in their diet.  There are 10 which they need:

Arginine (L-arginine)

Arginine is a protein-builder with an important role in promoting blood circulation, which can help with heart conditions.

Histidine (L-Histidine)  

As you might guess from the name, this one enables the body to produce histamines – so it’s important in regulating allergies as well as blood regulation.  

Isoleucine (L-Isoleucine) 

Isoleucine is vital for healthy blood: it has a key role in controlling blood sugar and supporting wound-recovery. 

Leucine (L-leucine)

This one’s very important: leucine is so helpful for building muscle and providing energy that it is sometimes given as a supplement to older people.  

Lysine.  (L-lysine)  

It’s important in keeping skin healthy, and promoting absorption of other dietary nutrients. 

Methionine. (L-methionine)  

This supports healthy skin and helps to defend the body against aging and inflammation.  

Phenylalanine.  (L-phenylalanine) 

You might have seen some bad press on this one – but it’s essential for dogs (as well as humans).  It supports the neurological and nervous systems.

Threonine (L-threonine) 

Threonine supports strong skin, tissue and muscles; it is used to promote fluid movement.

Tryptophan (L-tryptophan)  

Tryptophan helps your dog’s body to produce serotonin, which is a mood-regulator; in combination with the other amino acids, it’s used to help treat stress and anxiety.  

Valine (L-valine)

One of three branched-chain amino acids, valine is important for growth and muscle-building.  

How Can You Ensure That Your Dog Is Getting These Amino Acids?

In the US, AAFCO guidelines state that “balanced” dog food must contain the essential amino acids.  However, in practice it’s difficult to be sure that your dog is getting the right nutrition, because some proteins are easier to digest than others.  

Processing (heat treatment) may reduce the nutritional value, while complementary ingredients (like pectin and dietary fiber) are thought to increase nutrient uptake.  In short, it’s complicated – but scientists are on the case!  They’re trialing different ways to measure digestible amino acids to increase the standards of the food we give our dogs.

What does this mean for owners?

It means that a good dog food – formulated by an expert and tested or researched to demonstrate results – is more likely to deliver the correct levels of amino acids.  This is a complex science, because it should include a range of complementary proteins to complete the profile.

It’s worth investigating the manufacturer to find out how their recipes are developed, and whether they are tested.  

After choosing a good-quality food, stay mindful about common deficiencies and symptoms.  

Since amino acids support growth, muscle mass, healthy skin and fur, response to inflammation, and neurological balance, some of the symptoms of deficiency could include:

  • Slow rate of growth
  • Skin problems
  • Dull fur (one of the first noticeable signs of an AA deficiency)
  • Anemia
  • Stress or anxiety.   

You can boost their levels of amino acids by feeding your dog additional sources of protein such as fish, liver, eggs and dairy, or you can try a supplement designed to address your dog’s condition.  See below for the options available from FoTP.

Does My Dog Get Amino Acids In Their Vegan Diet?

If you’ve chosen a vegan diet for your dog, be assured that all 10 of the essential AAs can be found in plant-based sources.  While animal-based AAs typically contain more protein and amino acids, they are also slightly more likely to trigger allergies – perhaps you even swapped to a vegan diet because of that.  As long as it’s legit, your vegan dog food is carefully formulated and usually supplemented with Taurine and Vitamins A and B, which are difficult to get without eating meat or dairy.

If your vegan dog isn’t the shiny-coated, strong and energetic pup that you expect, consider supplementing their diet with extra or complementary proteins.  In the first instance, talk to your veterinarian about the brand of food and possible foods to try.    

Front of the Pack Supplements

If you suspect that your dog’s diet is causing any problems, it can be difficult to figure out which nutrient they’re lacking!  But you know we’re always here to help.  So we’ve created supplements formulated to tackle different types of health conditions, from stress and anxiety to stiff joints.  As well as amino acids we’ve added proven complementary ingredients from the world of supplement research.

Here’s a round-up of our supplements… and the essential amino acids we use to make them.  


Developed especially to nurture the neurological system, Harmony features an amino acid called L-theanine.  It’s not one of the essential AAs but it is known to raise natural levels of dopamine and serotonin, which induce a sense of calm.  


Engineered to promote healthy skin, Soothe was developed with egg membrane – which contains several amino acids including Arginine, Valine and Methionine. 


Our formula for stiff and aging dogs is loaded with good stuff.  We’ve used Collagen, which is high in amino acids like Glycine and Proline, to strengthen muscle tendons and cartilage.  

The One

If you’re unsure where to start, our wonder-supplement is a great place!  It features proven ingredients like L-Theanine, L-Carnitine (a non-essential AA that helps turn fatty acids into energy) and Taurine, which supports the nervous and immune systems.