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You want to give your dog everything they need to be their healthiest—and for some dogs, that means a diet high in protein.
But is high protein dog food the best option for your dog? What are the benefits of a high protein diet? And what are some of the best options on the market?
We asked Jessica Gore, Certified Pet Nutrition Specialist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), to share her insights into high protein diets for dogs.
Is High Protein Dog Food Healthy for Dogs?
So, first things first—is a high protein diet a healthy option for your dog?
And the answer is—it depends on the dog.
“The one thing we know about nutrition is that every individual is different,” says Gore. “Some individuals, breeds, lifestyles, and maturity levels may require more protein. That being said, even if a high protein diet is appropriate now, that could change with age, lifestyle, and other factors and environmental conditions.”
Generally speaking, dogs with a higher activity level need more protein to support their activity. But keep in mind that not all protein is created equal!
“The other thing to consider is the quality of the protein,” says Gore. “Ideally, all or most of your dog protein will come from an animal.”
What Are Some of the Benefits of High Protein Dog Food?
“The benefits of a quality-ingredient, high protein diet for your pup is increased health, wellness, and longevity,” Gore says. “Diets high in high-quality protein are lean, and more bioavailable [contain nutrients that are better absorbed] to dogs. A balanced, high-protein diet that agrees with the individual won’t put added strain on the system or organs which can lead health concerns.”
Having more protein in a dog food formulation also means less room for less-than-healthy ingredients—which can make for a more nutritious dog food overall.
“One of the reasons a high protein diet can benefit pups is because protein is viewed as a superior macronutrient to carbohydrates and fats,” says Gore. “Foods that are not as high in protein, will be higher instead in carbs and fats, which can be more taxing on the internal systems, and not as healthful, or beneficial to your pup.”
What Should I Look for When Shopping for High Protein Dog Food?
When you’re shopping for a high protein dog food, the first thing you should do is look at the ingredient list—and, more specifically, look at the first few ingredients on said list. “The ingredients on dog food labels work the same way as human food, listed in most to least,” says Gore.
If you want to make sure you’re getting your dog the highest quality high protein food—the kind that’s going to support their overall health and wellness—you want to look at the top of the ingredient list and make sure those ingredients are healthy, whole foods. “Look for as many whole ingredients listed first as possible, preferable animal proteins like meat, meat meals, by-product meal, organs, and bone,” says Gore.
In other words, if you can’t pronounce the first few ingredients on your dog food’s ingredient list? It’s probably not the healthiest choice for your dog.
Best High Protein Dog Food for 2021
Clearly, high protein dog food can be a healthy choice for many dogs. But which foods to choose?
Based on our research, what we’ve learned from Gore, and our other articles about the dog food ingredients, here are our picks for some of the best options for 2020.
According to its 2200 five-star reviews on Amazon, this high-protein dry dog food from Blue Wilderness appears to be a favorite with pet parents—and because it’s packed with nutritious ingredients such as salmon and sweet potatoes, it’s a healthy option as well.Shop Now on Amazon
The Hi-Pro Plus from Dog Food brand Victor is formulated with a variety of beef, chicken, pork, and fish meals to pack a high-protein punch that’s ideal for active dogs.Shop Now on Amazon
Not only is the Extreme Athlete dry food from Diamond Naturals high in protein, but it’s also formulated without any corn, wheat, or filler grains and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives—making it a great option for pet parents who want to take a more natural approach to high protein dog food.Shop Now on Amazon
Ollie’s fresh dog food is human-grade and contains no fillers. Their ingredient lists are easy to pronounce and always start with proteins; for example, we tried out the chicken recipe which lists chicken and chicken gizzard as the top two ingredients. Recipe plans are designed specifically for each dog’s dietary needs to make sure they get the protein intake needed based on their age, size, breed, and activity level. Ollie’s proteins come from human-grade farms in the US (or free-range farms in the US and Australia, in the case of their lamb).Shop at Ollie
Does your dog have an adventurous palate? Then you’ll definitely want to try this dog food from Taste of the Wild, which gets its high protein categorization as a result of bison and venison—not your typical dog food meats.Shop Now on Amazon
This high protein offering from holistic pet food brand Solid Gold combines a high protein formulation with a variety of superfoods (including pumpkin, cranberries, carrots, and lentils) for a well-rounded, nutritious food for your pet.Shop Now on Amazon
Made with real salmon, this dry food from Crave is an impressive 34 percent protein—which is plenty of protein for even the most active of pups.Shop Now on Amazon
Consult With Your Vet Before Putting Your Dog on a High Protein Diet
There are some great high protein dog foods on this list. But before you introduce any new dog food or put your dog on a high protein diet, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian. Again, because every dog is different, every dog has different nutritional needs. Make sure you talk to your vet about your dog’s health and activity level; they can tell you if a high protein dog food is the right fit for your dog and their overall health.
Want more information about specific varieties of dog food and treats? Check out one of the articles below.