For certain dogs, high protein dog food is a great way of providing them with the nutrients that they need to keep fit and well. Working dogs, competitive athlete dogs and dogs with a very active lifestyle have high protein requirements and would benefit from a diet rich in that nutrient. Protein is broken down by the body into amino acids and these are the building blocks that the body uses to build lean muscle.
The source of protein is also important. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of reading ingredients lists. The best sources of protein are high-quality meat products. Manufacturers then add a wide variety of superfoods (like sweet potatoes and blueberries), vitamins and minerals and possibly probiotics. To help you make the right food choices for your dog, here is our guide to the best high protein dog food.
The Best High Protein Dog Food
Orijen FIT & TRIM Dry Dog Food
Made locally in the US, this high protein dog food contains 42% protein and 16 % carbohydrates combined with a unique blend of soluble fiber for digestive health. The high protein content is provided by high-quality sources including free-run turkey and chicken, wild-caught fish and nest-laid eggs. Two-thirds of the meat in the recipe is either fresh (not frozen) and contain no preservatives or are raw and have been flash frozen. A full third of the dehydrated poultry content has been air-dried which delivers a concentrated source of protein that is superior to fresh meat.
There are no artificial additives and no highly processed carbohydrates. Instead, there are ingredients such as whole green peas, red lentils, and chickpeas. The formulation is fortified with minerals and probiotics.
42% protein content
16% carbohydrate content
High-quality protein sources
Contains peas, chickpeas, and lentils
- Weight24.9 lbs
Taste Of The Wild Grain Free High Protein Dry Dog Food
A premium high protein dog food that contains 32 % protein, 18% fat and 4 % fiber. Made in the US by a family-run business, the protein sources are buffalo, lamb meal and chicken meal. There are also plant-based proteins such as potato protein and pea protein.
This is a nutrient-rich recipe packed with superfoods including sweet potatoes, tomatoes, blueberries, and raspberries. There are also added vitamins and probiotics to promote general health.
32 % protein content
18% fat content
Protein provided by Buffalo, lamb meal and chicken meal
Contains superfoods such as sweet potatoes and blueberries
- BrandTaste of the Wild
- Weight30 lbs
Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food Real Chicken & Sweet Potato
A dry dog food that contains a minimum of 38% protein and 17% fat. The protein is provided by deboned chicken, chicken meal and turkey meal. It also contains chicken fat and salmon meal.
Fruit/vegetable ingredients include sweet potatoes, peas, apples, and blueberries. The recipe is fortified with vitamin and mineral supplements and has added omega 6 and omega 3 for healthy skin and a shiny coat. Glucosamine and chondroitin have been included for healthy hips and joints and probiotics have been included to support healthy digestion.
38% protein content
17% fat content
Proteins provided by deboned chicken, chicken meal and turkey meal
Contains sweet potatoes, peas, apples and blueberries
- Weight24.6 lbs
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food
For dogs who thrive on a high-protein diet, this product delivers 38% protein and 20% fat as well as 2.5% fiber. The principal sources of protein are turkey meal, chicken meal and whole fish meal. The added L-Carnitine helps your dog to burn off fat and produces lean muscle mass. There is a balanced ratio of fatty acids (Omega 6 and Omega 3) to help support healthy skin and a shiny coat.
The carefully selected vitamins, minerals, and probiotics support your dog’s immune and digestive system. The high-quality superfoods (flaxseed, spinach, blueberries) means that your pooch will produce less poop! It’s also grain and gluten free and so will suit dogs with allergies.
38% protein content
20% fat content
L-Carnitine to burn fat
High-quality poultry and fish meal protein sources
- BrandEarthborn Holistic
- Weight28 lbs
Solid Gold High Protein Dry Dog Food
A well-balanced, high-quality dog food that delivers all of the nutrition that your pooch needs to keep them healthy and strong. It is made up of 38% protein, 18 % fat and 4% fiber. The protein source is predominantly meat-based (beef, beef meal and buffalo) and is supplemented with fish protein as well as vegetable proteins such as potato.
The carrots, peas, pumpkins, and apples in the recipe provide plenty of natural fiber. There’s a careful blend of added vitamins and minerals including Vitamin E and Vitamin B6. Added omega 6 and omega 3 promotes a healthy coat and the high antioxidant content will keep your pooch in excellent general health.
38% protein content
18 % fat content and 4% fiber content
Natural fiber provided by peas and pumpkins
Added omega 6 and omega 3 oils
- BrandSolid Gold
- Weight22 lbs
Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Dry Dog Food
A carefully blended high protein dry dog food that will appeal to your dog’s natural instincts. Dogs in the wild are hunters and enjoy a meat-rich diet and this is what this food delivers. It’s a mixture of meat-like morsels and crunchy kibble which contain 30% protein and 11% fat.
The only meat it contains is real turkey and venison and there are no meat by-products. It’s a completely natural product with no fillers and no artificial additives. It includes a source of glucosamine which will support healthy joints and antioxidants to reduce inflammation.
30% protein content
11% fat content
Contains real turkey and venison
Natural source of glucosamine
- BrandPurina ONE
- Weight27.5 lbs
Crave Grain Free Adult Dry Dog Food With Protein
A high protein nutrient profile makes this a sensible choice for your healthy and energetic four-legged friend. It contains 34% protein which is mainly provided by salmon. Supplementary protein sources are chickpeas, lamb meal, and pea protein. High-quality carbohydrates are provided by potatoes and beet pulp.
There are no meat by-products whatsoever and no corn, wheat or soy proteins. This makes it safe for dogs with allergies to these ingredients. There are plenty of added vitamins and minerals and is suitable for small and large breeds.
34% protein content
Healthy salmon protein content
Contains potatoes and beet pulp
No corn, wheat or soy
- Weight22 lbs
Weruva Caloric Harmony Natural Dry Dog Food
Most of the calorie content of this food is made up from the proteins which make up 39% of the weight of the feed. Fats make up a further 14 %. It’s produced in the US by a family owned business and is aimed at dog owners who want to take charge of their furry friends’ calorie intake. Because the protein content is so high, and the carbohydrate content is low, your pooch will feel satisfied after eating fewer calories and their weight can be controlled. The low glycemic ingredients keep them feeling full for longer.
It’s made with simple and wholesome ingredients which are easy on the digestion. The protein element is provided by deboned chicken, deboned turkey, salmon meal, turkey meal, and lentils. It has no grains or potatoes but the pumpkin and seaweed support efficient digestion. All of the ingredients are ethically sourced.
39% protein content
14 % fat content
Calories provided by protein not carbohydrates
Pumpkin and seaweed to aid digestion
Ethically sourced ingredients
- Weight4 lbs
Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance Formula Dry Dog Food
If you are the proud owner of a sporting dog, a cattle dog, a hunting dog or a dog that competes in athletic-based competitions, this finely tuned high protein dog food will meet their very particular nutritional needs. The food helps your dog’s body to metabolize oxygen very efficiently which gives them increased stamina. Dogs who exercise a lot need a lot of protein and this formulation delivers a full 30% protein and 20% fat so they will never be short of amino acids.
Most of the protein is provided by chicken although poultry by-product meal does provide the glucosamine which is essential for supporting joint health and mobility in dogs that need to run, jump and crouch a lot.
Formulated for working dogs and sporting dogs with high energy demands
30% protein content
20% fat content
Increases efficiency of oxygen metabolism for stamina
- BrandPurina Pro Plan
- Weight18 lbs
Natural Balance High Protein Dry Dog Food
A limited ingredient, high-protein dog food that would be perfect for dogs with allergies and intolerances. It contains no grains, potatoes, fillers or chicken and is all natural.
So that you are completely in control of what your dog is ingesting, there is only one source of animal protein (lamb/lamb meal) and two primary sources of carbohydrate (chickpeas and peas). The protein content is high at 32% and it contains 14% fat. A full 48% of the total weight is derived from lamb. There are plenty of added vitamins and minerals to support general health.
32% protein content
14% fat content
Nearly half of the weight is derived from lamb
Carbohydrates are peas and chickpeas
- BrandNatural Balance
- Weight24 lbs
Best High Protein Dog Food Buying Guide
How to Choose The Best High Protein Dog Food
There are plenty of high-protein dog foods to choose from. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal choice and the taste of your dog. Here are a few things that you may want to think about when choosing the best high protein dog food for your dog.
- Did your vet recommend it?
The best person to recommend a high protein diet for dogs is your vet or a qualified animal nutritionist or experienced breeder. If you are unsure, seek advice. Your dog will have particular nutritional requirements based on their age, breed, lifestyle, and health.
- The % protein content
High protein dog food often has around 30% protein but some will have more and some will have less. Become accustomed to reading dog food ingredients labels. Also look out for carbohydrates and fat content because these are needed for energy.
- The source of the protein
Ingredients are listed on dog food labels in order of weight. The first listed ingredient should, therefore, be a high-quality meat source. Protein for dogs should be provided by things like lamb and chicken but fish sources are also high in protein. You may have ethical reasons for preferring free-running poultry sources or line-caught fish.
- Added ingredients
Many high protein foods are fortified with a mixture of vitamins and minerals to support overall health. Look out for omega 3 and 6 fatty acids as they help reduce inflammation and promote a healthy coat. Glucosamine is good for active dogs as it supports the joints.
- Ingredients that are left out
For some dogs, it’s just as important to look at what is NOT in the ingredients lists. Some dogs are allergic to wheat, soy or corn so you may want to avoid these. Also, it is best to avoid fillers and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives – they are simply unnecessary.
The Advantages of High Protein Dog Food
For dogs that have the metabolism to cope with a high protein diet, and who have an active lifestyle, there are several advantages. It is important to remember that in the wild, dogs would have lived off a diet that was very rich in fresh meat and therefore contained a lot of protein. If you have checked with your vet that your pooch would benefit from a high protein diet, here are some of the advantages:
- Muscle development. Protein is essential for muscle development. Human body-builders and athletes have a diet rich in protein to help them build up muscle mass. Dogs are no different. If your pooch has a very active occupation (e.g. a search and rescue dog) or enjoys a very active lifestyle that requires muscle strength and stamina, they will benefit from a high protein diet.
- Coat and skin condition. The amino acids provided by protein are used to build skin and hair cells. Therefore, a high protein diet will result in healthy skin and a full and glossy coat.
- Protein can be used to produce energy. It is an alternative source of energy to carbohydrates. Dogs who are very active will have plenty of energy on a high protein diet.
- Fighting disease. Protein is essential for your dog’s body to make hormones and enzymes that fight disease. With plenty of protein in their diet, your dog can fight off pathogens that have the potential to make them ill.
- Healthy organs. Amino acids are needed to manufacture the enzymes that keep internal organs functioning properly. A high protein diet helps the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and lungs to work well.
- Reproduction and growth. Pregnant and nursing dogs will thrive on a high protein diet as the pups will be taking some of the nutrients from them. The advantage of a high protein diet is that there will be plenty left for the Mom! Pups (of smaller breeds) will benefit too as the high protein content will allow them to grow and develop at normal rates.
Can Dogs Have Too Much Protein?
Healthy dogs do well on a diet that is very high in protein. After all, in the wild, their diet would have been made up almost entirely of meat. Most dog food contains around 25% protein. It is an expensive ingredient and so cheaper dog foods tend to contain less. The protein content needs to be balanced with other essential nutrients including fats, fiber, and carbohydrates. Most dogs can cope with a diet that is made up of at least 30% protein.
There are some dogs who cannot tolerate a high protein diet and they can be made ill if they are fed very high protein dog food. They need formulations that contain a much lower proportion of protein. The dogs that will suffer from too much protein are:
- Dogs with liver disease and protein intolerance. Their liver is no longer able to break down protein into amino acids and does not process waste products so they build up in the bloodstream and affects other organs.
- Dogs with excess copper in their liver. This can eventually lead to liver failure. Foods like red meat that are high in protein usually contain high levels of copper. High protein diets will, therefore, make this condition worse.
- Dogs with kidney disease. Kidneys filter waste products out of the blood and turn them into the urine. When a dog’s body breaks down protein, a lot of toxins are produced. High protein foods are not suitable for dogs with some types of kidney disease.
- Dogs with urate bladder stones. Bladder stones are made partly of purines and these enter your dog’s body in protein. Dogs who are susceptible to bladder stones should not be fed a high protein diet.
- Large breeds pups. It is possible for large breed pups to grow too quickly and this makes their bones weak. The amount of protein in their diet, as well as the calcium and phosphorus levels, need to be carefully controlled and they should be fed a commercial dog food designed specifically for large breed pups. High protein puppy food is not suitable for them.
What Kind Of Dogs Need a High Protein Dog Food?
Some dogs need more protein in their diet than others. Here are the main groups that would benefit from dog food with the most protein.
- Puppies. Pups are growing and developing very rapidly. Their cells are multiplying very quickly and for that, they need biological building blocks which are supplied by protein. It is important to choose a dog food that is designed for puppies.
- Pregnant or nursing females. Being pregnant and providing milk to nourish a hungry litter of pups is hard work and your female dog’s body needs all the help it can get. She will benefit from the extra amino acids that a high protein dog food can provide.
- Working dogs. It is important to remember that not all dogs are pets. Some have important work to do. Dogs that are used for herding cattle or sheep, for hunting or for competing in agility contests need a lot of stamina and strong muscles. To build up strong muscles, they need a lot of protein in their diet.
- Very active dogs. Some pet dogs are very active because of their breed or because of their personality! They have high protein requirements to fuel their active lifestyle.
Best High Protein Dog Food FAQ:
Q: Why do dogs need protein?
A: Protein provides the building blocks that your dog needs to grow and repair tissue. The body breaks down protein into amino acids and these are used to build new cells. There are 22 different types of amino acids and food protein has to provide about half of them.
Protein is very important for muscle development and dogs need plenty of healthy muscles for their active lifestyles. Amino acids also play a crucial role in the formation of enzymes and therefore are needed for reproduction and fighting diseases.
Q: How much protein does a dog need per day?
A: A dog’s daily protein requirement will vary according to their breed, age, activity and the condition of their health. There is no one figure that suits all dogs. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) states that an adult dog’s diet should consist of at least 18 % protein (dry matter).
When you buy a standard commercial dog food, it will probably have around 25 % protein which is great for most dogs. Dogs who need a high protein diet may need more like 30% or even more. A low protein dog food typically contains less than 20%.
It is important that you speak to your vet to find out how much protein your pooch needs in their diet.
Q: How can I tell if my food has enough protein?
A: The main thing you should do is develop the habit of reading pet food labels. Look at the stated minimum crude protein content. For standard dog food, The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) stipulate that this should be at least 18 % on a dry matter basis. If the percentage of protein is less than 18%, you should only feed it to your dog under the direction of a vet.
However, not all proteins are equal! Look out for animal sources of high-quality protein. Chicken, lamb, beef or venison are great. Avoid meat products if possible. Some protein can also be delivered by vegetables and peas are a good source.
Q: Is the meat meal good for my pet?
A: There are two different types of meat meal that may appear on the dog food label. If you see ‘Lamb meal’ written, it means that anything from the lamb carcass has been cooked (rendered) and ground up to make a substance that is powdery in consistency and can be added to animal food. However, it will NOT have manure, blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, rumen or stomach contents in it. Many experts believe that this is a highly nutritious and protein-rich ingredient. Some dog owners may find it repulsive and would prefer to avoid it.
However, meat by-product meals are different. Here, just about anything on the carcass is rendered and ground up. This is not considered such a desirable ingredient for dog food and some food manufacturers use the fact that their product contains no by-product meal as a selling point for their product.
Our Top Pick
Orijen FIT & TRIM Dry Dog Food - this high protein food contains at least 42% protein and 16 % carbohydrates as well as plenty of fiber for a healthy digestion. The ingredients list features free-run turkey and chicken and wild-caught fish. The air-dried poultry delivers a concentrated source of protein.
There are no artificial additives or highly processed carbohydrates and it is fortified with minerals and probiotics.
Orijen FIT & TRIM Dry Dog Food