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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
You want to give your dog everything they need to be their healthiest—and for some dogs, that means a diet high in protein.
Not all pups need high-protein dog food, but it can be a good choice for senior dogs who need help maintaining muscle, high-exercise and working dogs, and even some overweight pups. Wondering if your dog fits the bill? We asked Jessica Gore, Certified Pet Nutrition Specialist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), to share her insights on high-protein diets for dogs below.
For those who already know their pup needs a high-protein dog food, we’ve rounded up some of the best on the market.
Best high-protein wet and fresh foods:
- Ollie Subscription Dog Food (Verified Review)
- Nom Nom Pork Potluck Fresh Dog Food (Verified Review)
- Raised Right (Verified Review)
Best high-protein dry foods:
- A Pup Above’s Cubies (Verified Review)
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High-Protein, Grain-Free Dog Food
- Victor Classic Hi-Pro Plus Dry Dog Food
- Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete High-Protein Dry Dog Food
- Taste of the Wild High-Protein, Real Meat Dry Dog Food
- Solid Gold Sun Dancer High-Protein Dry Dog Food
- Crave High-Protein White Fish & Salmon Dry Adult Dog Food
Ollie Subscription Dog Food (Verified Review)
Ollie offers human-grade, subscription-based fresh dog food with easy-to-pronounce ingredient lists that always start with proteins. We tried out the chicken recipe, which lists chicken and chicken gizzard as the first two ingredients and contains roughly 37% protein on a dry-matter basis. (Wondering what a “dry-matter basis” is? Read below!)
We like that their proteins come from human-grade farms in the U.S. (or free-range farms in the U.S. and Australia, in the case of their lamb). Ollie can also make recipe and feeding recommendations based on your dog’s reported age, weight, breed, activity level, and allergies.
- Fresh subscription dog food minimally processed for nutrient retention
- Customized recipe recommendations based on your answers to a short questionnaire about your pup
- Easy to store—though we found you’ll want to calibrate your subscription to the amount of fridge or freezer space you have available
Nom Nom Turkey Fare Fresh Dog Food (Verified Review)
Packed with protein from ground turkey and supplemented with nutrient-rich brown rice, eggs, carrots, and spinach, this fresh dog food formula from Nom Nom is delivered in pre-portioned packages according to your dog’s caloric requirements. The Turkey Fare recipe has a strong 36% protein on a dry-matter basis.
Our testers especially liked that this food comes in portions calculated to match your pup’s size—no juggling Tupperware or rubber-banding half-eaten packages here!
- Subscription based fresh food
- Pre-portioned packages developed for your dog’s specific dietary needs
- Meat and veggies are gently cooked separately, then sealed in packages to preserve nutrients
Raised Right Fresh Dog Food (Verified Review)
Raised Right is another fresh-dog-food subscription, this time with an emphasis on food safety and limited ingredients. Each batch is lab-safety tested for pathogens and doesn’t go out to you and your pup until the results are in (you can even see the results on their website).
Pups with sensitive stomachs will like their limited ingredient recipes, which all have just one source of animal protein and no preservatives or high-carb fillers like potato, rice, or oats. (Note that carbs aren’t necessarily your pup’s enemy—but some dogs need to avoid them for health reasons.)
Most impressive of all is Raised Right’s protein content: their Beef and Pumpkin Paté recipe has an astonishing 66% protein on a dry-matter basis. Our test pup Pepper gave it an enthusiastic review.
- Single-protein options for sensitive stomachs and allergies
- Limited ingredient recipes with only 10 whole-food ingredients
- Plastic-neutral certified, with recyclable shipping boxes and compostable liners
Porky’s Porchetta Cubies by A Pup Above (Verified Review)
Cubies come from fresh-food maker A Pup Above, who took their popular gently-cooked recipes and baked them slowly at low temperatures to produce this simple scoop-and-serve dry food. Cubies have the shelf-life of kibble without the reported nutrient loss that results from high-temperature baking and extrusion. Rover test pups found they were pleasing to even picky palates, and the pork recipe packs in an impressive 34% protein on a dry-matter basis.
Note that Cubies are a bit of an investment—we like to use them as high-protein meal-toppers and high-value treats.
- Transparently sourced ingredients and recipes—enter your package’s lot number to see where your pup’s food came from
- Many of the benefits of fresh food without the need to rehydrate, refrigerate, or keep frozen
- Gentle processing retains more important nutrients
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High-Protein, Grain-Free Dog Food
As over 800 five-star reviews on Chewy attest, this high-protein dry dog food from Blue Wilderness is a favorite with pet parents looking for a reliable dry food option. It has 37% protein on a dry-matter basis and is packed with nutritious ingredients that include salmon and sweet potatoes.
A quick note for pups with dietary restrictions: Though this is a salmon-based recipe, it does contain chicken meal—so pups who need single novel protein diets may want to look elsewhere.
- First ingredient is real deboned salmon
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids support coat and skin health
- Contains proprietary “LifeSource Bits” with key vitamins and minerals
Victor Classic Hi-Pro Plus Dry Dog Food
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. It contains about 33% protein on a dry-matter basis, and it’s an especially popular choice for pregnant and nursing dogs (though as always, check in with your vet about diet first if you have a pregnant pup on your hands).
- Contains protein from beef, chicken, pork, and fish meals
- GMO-free grains, with no corn, wheat, soy, or gluten
- Popular among picky eaters
Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete High-Protein Dry Dog Food
Not only is the Extreme Athlete dry food from Diamond Naturals 35% protein on a dry-matter basis, but it’s also formulated without any corn, wheat, or filler grains. There are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives—making it a popular pick for pet parents looking for a natural approach to high-protein dog food.
- Contains proprietary probiotics, antioxidants, and prebiotics for digestive support
- Omega fatty acids promote skin and coat health
- Popular choice for sporting dogs
Taste of the Wild High-Protein, Real Meat Dry Dog Food
For pups with adventurous palates, try this dog food from Taste of the Wild, which gets its high-protein categorization (35% on a dry-matter basis) as a result of bison and venison. Note that it’s grain-free, which isn’t for all pups—we recommend having a chat with your vet about whether a grain-free diet is right for your dog.
- Contains dog-specific probiotics to promote gut health
- Novel proteins include buffalo and bison (though note that the recipe also includes some chicken meal, if you’re avoiding an allergy)
- Dried chicory root offers prebiotic fiber for easy digestion
Solid Gold Sun Dancer High-Protein Dry Dog Food
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. It’s a little more moderate in the protein department than some high-protein formulas, with 31% protein on a dry-matter basis. Note that this recipe is grain free.
- Grain-free and gluten-free recipe
- Contains living probiotics and omega fatty acids for gut and immune support
- Popular among pet parents looking to combat loose stool and gas in their pups
Crave High-Protein White Fish & Salmon Dry Adult Dog Food
Made with whitefish, chicken, pork, and salmon meal, plus protein-rich veggies, this grain-free dry food from Crave has an impressive 37% protein on a dry-matter basis—which is plenty of protein for even the most active of pups.
- Grain-free, with no corn, wheat, or soy
- Also available as wet food
- Popular among pet parents looking to combat dry skin in their pups
Is High-Protein Dog Food Healthy for Dogs?
To a lot of pet parents, high-protein dog food recipes sound like they would be inherently better than standard protein recipes. After all, our dogs’ wolf ancestors subsisted almost entirely on protein-filled meat. So wouldn’t a high-protein diet make more sense?
The reality is it depends on the dog. All dogs need protein, but not all dogs benefit from a high-protein diet. Adult dogs require a minimum of 18% protein in their diets, and many can benefit from more—but how much more depends on a dog’s age, breed, health, and activity level.
“The one thing we know about nutrition is that every individual is different,” says Jessica 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.”
The following dogs are sometimes considered good candidates for a high-protein diet:
- Dogs with a higher activity level need more protein to support their activity
- Senior dogs sometimes need more protein to help them maintain muscle mass
- Pregnant and nursing dogs can often benefit from extra protein to support growing puppies
- Overweight dogs are sometimes recommended high-protein diets, provided the high-protein food is also low-calorie
There are, however, dogs for whom high-protein diets can be dangerous:
- Large-breed puppies can see accelerated growth on a high-protein diet, which can result in abnormal joint development
- Dogs with kidney disease often need a low-protein diet, since processing protein requires a lot of work from a pup’s kidneys
Thinking about switching your dog to a high-protein diet? We recommend checking in with your vet, who can advise you about your pup’s specific nutritional needs and tell you whether a high-protein diet would be a good fit.
What Is Considered High-Protein Dog Food?
A high-protein dog food is a dog food that’s, well, high in protein. But how high?
There’s no agreed-upon standard when it comes to defining high-protein dog foods, but most have at least 30% protein on a dry-matter basis and list animal meats and meals as their first ingredients.
We use the phrase “on a dry-matter basis” when talking about protein in dog food because different dog foods will have different amounts of moisture, and that can make it hard to understand how much protein they have relative to each other. For example, a wet food might have 70% moisture and 12% protein, while a dry food has 10% moisture and 30% protein. Which dog food has more protein?
The answer is the wet food. That’s because when we take away the moisture and just compare the amount of dry matter (the nutritious part), we find that protein makes up a bigger percentage of dry matter in the wet dog food than it does in the dry food.
To calculate protein on a dry-matter basis, subtract the percentage of the dog food that’s “moisture” from 100 to get the total amount of dry matter in the mix. Then divide the percentage of protein by the amount of dry matter. The result is the percent of protein on a dry-matter basis.
How We Chose
The high-protein dog foods featured here were selected based on a combination of our own hands-on testing, a comprehensive look at customer reviews across a wide variety of retail platforms, and interviews with nutrition experts. We prioritized foods that contained at least 30% protein, surpassed the AAFCO’s minimum nutrition standards, and received positive feedback from pups with picky palates and sensitive stomachs. We’re also guided by the experience of living and playing alongside our own much-loved and strongly opinionated dogs, who are never stingy with their feedback.