High Protein Dog Food: Sorting Through The Confusion

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For us as humans, protein is not one of those food nutrients that we bother so much about. We don’t exactly ask ourselves if we have taken too much protein or not. We focus our attention on the carbs and the fats and that’s fine. Now, your reading this article on high protein dog food tells us that the case is different for dogs.

A lot of dog parents are concerned and want to know if there is a thing like too much protein for their dogs. Yet others want to know whether high protein dog food is a good idea or not. Whatever you’re here to look for (concerning high protein dog food, that is), we’ve got you covered.






Protein is a class of food nutrients with the responsibility of body growth, muscle building and general body maintenance. The human body is made up of a good portion of protein as protein can be seen in practically every cell in the body. Same goes for animals.

There are basically two protein sources: animal sources and plant sources. This means that everyone, irrespective of your eating orientation (omnivore (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), carnivore and herbivore) can ingest the appropriate quantity of protein.




Dogs and Protein

It is common knowledge that the cute friendly dogs we have today are descendants of the big bad wolves. It is also common knowledge that the wolves are major protein consumers. This then follows that our dogs should also be major protein consumers.

However, overtime (due to evolution and probably association with their human friends), dogs have come to consume less and less proteins. Dog parents like to feed their dogs balanced diets which usually translates into less proteins than their ancestors consumed.

Whether this is a good thing or not is a decision we’ll leave to you to make. However, we’ll help with your decision making process by giving you enough information to make the right decision. Stick with us…

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What’s High Protein Dog Food About?

Proponents of the high protein dog food idea are of the opinion that a high protein diet is what is natural for dogs. So whatever you feed your dog, protein should be of the largest quantity. Dogs are usually very active and so need protein not just to build muscle but to sustain their energy level.

One question that is vital to ask is “How high is too high?” or first, “is there such a thing as too much protein? Answering these questions should help us better understand the concept of high protein dog food.

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Now, there are two reports we will like to show you and then we’ll proceed from there. The first is from Dailypuppy.com. They give 30% as the benchmark protein consumption level for a dog. Anything higher is too much and anything lower than 20% is too low.

The second is from the Association of American Feed Control Officials. They give 18% as the minimum protein level for commercial dog foods and no maximum level.

What we can take out of these two reports is that, there might be such a thing as too much protein. High and too much are two different things. However, if you are purchasing commercially packed dog food and it has the AAFCO label of approval on it then it should be OK.




High Protein Dog Food For Puppies

Puppies are not yet mature, right? What this means is that their bones are yet to form and their bodies will experience a number of transformations as they progress into adulthood. With protein being the building blocks in food, it then follows that a growing dog will need a good quantity to grow properly.

Look at a human child. Before he or she starts to take in all the carbs, he or she is given milk; first from their mother and then in formulas and stuff. Those things have quite a concentration of protein because as babies, energy per se isn’t what they are looking for.

So, if you have a pup, a high protein dog food might be your best bet so that he can properly grow his bones and have decent lean muscles too. It is widely recommended that a puppy’s diet should be about 28% protein.




High Protein Dog Food For Adult Dogs

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Adult dogs do not need so high a protein diet. They just need enough to counteract the tendency to get overweight as a result of their high carb diet. Now, some of you might be thinking “well, wolves, who are dog ancestors, eat a diet that’s high in protein and are fine”. And you would be correct.

However, the problem with equating your dog with their ancestors is evolution. A whole lot happened when dogs stopped being wolves and started being the dogs we know now. One of them being that their kidney function greatly reduced. And you know that whenever there is a mention of protein there has to be a mention of the kidneys.

So the kidneys that process all the protein in wolves are not the same kidneys that process protein in your dog. What we are saying is you might not necessarily need to give your dog high protein. But you should give him enough protein.

The proper protein requirements for adult dogs is according to how active they are. An averagely adult dog will do great with 18% protein in his diet. A performance dog will need higher, as high as 25%. While an athletic dog, the kinds used for racing and sledding, will need as high as 35%.

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High Protein For Pregnant And Lactating Dogs

Because pregnant and lactating dogs are eating for more than themselves, they have to take in more protein. So, while the average adult dog’s food should contain about 18% protein, a pregnant or lactating dog should be consuming as high as 28% protein.




High Protein Dog Food For Senior Dogs

If your dog is a senior, you should be looking into low protein dog food, especially if he has kidney related issues. Feeding a senior dog high protein dog food might prove too much for his kidneys. At that point in your dog’s life, you want to be thinking about reducing his protein intake so that his kidney(s) can take a break.




The High Protein Dog Food Argument

Aside the argument what high is too high, there is also the argument on whether high protein dog food is even a good idea in the first place. Here are the arguments:

Arguments Against High Protein Dog Food

The people that put forth the arguments against are primarily of the opinion that dogs are omnivores. And just like humans, do not need a great quantity of protein. They argue that if dogs consume too much protein, the body takes what it needs and is forced to pass out the rest as waste. This puts a lot of pressure on their kidneys forcing them to work overtime processing the protein turned waste.

Some others argue that a high protein diet can make a dog hyperactive. We don’t really understand how this works because we know that it should be high consumption of sugar or carbs that lead to hyperactivity. After all, we get energy from carbs, don’t we?



Arguments For High Protein Dog Food

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The proponents of this argument are of the opinion that whatever negative effects that dogs have that seems to be a result of protein consumption is not a quantity problem but a quality problem (we’ll discuss this in detail in the next sub).

Doglistener even goes as far as saying that if protein is the right quality, you can feed your dog a 100% protein diet and he’ll still be fine. Also, Chewy gives better coat and skin, more improved immune system and growth of lean muscles as reasons for you to start giving your dog high protein dog food.

Furthermore, they go on to say that if you deprive your dog high protein, you put him at risk of losing muscle mass. If his body does not see the protein it needs to function, it starts tearing down the muscles as an alternative.



Protein: Quality And Quantity

This is a spin-off of the argument for high protein dog food. So, the supporters of this cause, as we earlier said, believe that the issues with protein in dogs is not in quantity but in quality. They seem to believe that if dogs eat the right kind of proteins, irrespective of how much they consume, they should be good.

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On what constitutes bad protein Doglistener gives some animal body parts like eyeballs and chicken beak and even talks about shoe leather. Doglistener says that these thing are quite high in protein but at the very crude form.

This is what gives your dog’s kidneys the workout that everybody attributes to protein consumption. They claim that meat and fish based protein sources are the best protein sources for your dog. He gets all the protein he needs and doesn’t even need to consume too much to get what he needs.

We agree that quantity is always better than quality. And there are bad proteins that are giving all proteins a bad name. However, we do not support giving your dog (who has come a long way from what his ancestors are) a 100% protein diet.

There are no studies that show that a high consumption of protein will weaken your dog’s kidneys and liver. However, keeping your dog on an only protein diet forces him to forgo the other nutrients which is not exactly a brilliant idea.




In Buying Commercially Processed High Protein Dog Food

When buying dog food in general, pay serious attention to the ingredients on the label. Because your dog doesn’t know any better, it is your duty to ensure that the ingredients on the product you want to buy are safe. Cuteness gives us a few things to look out for when buying a high protein dog food:

  • The exact species of the meat should be mentioned. If it contains chicken or lamb, it should be explicitly mentioned and not just left at “meat”.
  • You also want meat or meat based protein listed as the first ingredient.
  • Whatever ingredients are mentioned as the first three/four are usually the major sources of protein in the meal. Take extra care to understand what they are and what they are about.
  • If there are one too many mentions of corn in different contexts and you’re not looking for a corn based meal then steer clear. Too many mentions of corn is usually an indication that the meal is majorly corn. Same as basically any other ingredient.

Finally, whenever you are in the market for dog food, be sure to look for the AAFCO’s label of approval. If that label is on the product, then the product is good.




One More Thing

So, we’ve talked about a whole lot here. However, we would not have done right by you if we end this article without mentioning this…

Do not embark on any diet reformation on your dog without consulting with your veterinarian. If you’ve done something like that in the past and it worked for you, do not use that one event to generalize outcomes.

Sit down and discuss with your vet and let them decide what’s best for your dog. If you’ve spoken with them and they give the A OK on high protein dog food for your dog then by all means go ahead.





It is very important that you understand that a high-protein diet is not the same as a ‘too-much protein’ diet. A high-protein diet is good for dogs and provided you stick with the percentage recommendations we gave, you and your dog will be fine.