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Best High Protein Dog Food: Protein-Packed Eats For Your Canine!

For a variety of reasons, many owners are interested in providing their pooch a high-protein food. Fortunately for these owners and their dogs, there are a number of protein-packed recipes on the market to choose from.

But, while it is a good idea to make sure your dog gets plenty of protein in his daily diet, keep in mind that not all proteins are created equally – at least as far as your dog is concerned. It’s also important to note that the nutritional information provided on some dog foods is a bit misleading.

We’ll recommend five of the best high-protein dog foods below, so you can select the best option for your pet. But first, we’ll talk about some of the reasons you may want to choose a high-protein food and talk about the differences between various proteins.

Quick Picks: Best High-Protein Dog Foods

Which Dogs May Benefit from a High-Protein Dog Food?

Dogs are omnivores who can digest most cooked carbohydrates without difficulty. However, your dog’s ancient ancestors derived the bulk of their calories from proteins and fats, rather than carbohydrates – just like modern wolves, coyotes, and dingoes. Consequently, most dogs will benefit from a high-protein diet.

Nevertheless, some dogs will benefit more from a high-protein diet than others will. This includes:

  • Working Dogs – Dogs who spend their lives working often require more calories and more protein than the average dog does. This includes (but is not limited to) police or military K9s, search-and-rescue dogs, herding dogs, guard dogs, tracking dogs, and hunting dogs.
  • Canine Athletes – If you and your dog spend hours each week training for agility trials, canicross, disc dog activities, or any other canine sport, a high-protein dog food can help ensure he gets enough fuel for his muscles. This also includes dogs who run or jog alongside their owners on a regular basis.
  • Reproductively Active Female Dogs – Pregnant and nursing dogs obviously require a bit more protein than normal – they’re essentially helping to “build” new dogs from the ground up. In fact, pregnant and nursing females require the same protein content that puppies require, and there’s nothing wrong with providing them with even more.

What Constitutes a “High-Protein” Dog Food?

The AAFCO publishes guidelines for labels like “low calorie” or “low fat,” but their guidelines don’t discuss “high protein” foods. They do, however, publish nutrient requirements. These requirements state that adult dog foods should contain at least 18% protein on a dry matter basis*, while puppies and reproductively active females require foods with at least 22.5% protein.

Technically, any food with a protein level exceeding this can be described as being high-protein. But, for practical purposes, you’ll probably want to look at foods that have at least 30% protein. Some also suggest that high-protein dog foods should have a carbohydrate content of less than 43%.

*Most dog food labels provide the protein content in the form of an “as fed” basis, which does not account for the moisture present in the food, which can skew your impression of the protein content. To find the dry matter basis for a food:

As fed Protein% / (100% – moisture%) = Dry Matter Basis Protein%

Or, you could just use this calculator. It’s designed for cat foods, but it would work with any prepared food.

Dog Food with High Protein

Picking the Best Proteins

Most dog foods derive their protein content from a variety of different sources. While multiple protein sources can certainly help provide the type of protein content you are looking for, some sources are better for your dog than others.

Most of the protein should come from a whole meat, such as deboned chicken, salmon, or beef, and these types of items should be listed at the very beginning of the ingredient list. And, while there may be small differences between the various types of whole meats used, you needn’t worry too much about choosing between them.

dog food meat protein

Most dog foods also include one or more additional protein sources, listed farther down the ingredient list. These ingredients are included to help ensure the food provides the desired amount of protein. These secondary protein sources require just as much scrutiny as the primary protein source does.

Specifically, you want to look for foods that rely primarily on animal-based proteins. This includes things like chicken meal, liver meal, egg protein, or beef byproducts. These types of ingredients may not sound very appetizing to humans, but they’re very nutritious and your dog will likely love the way they taste.

Just be sure that the source of the meat meal or byproduct is properly identified. This means opting for foods made with “chicken meal” or “pork meal,” rather than “poultry meal” or “meat byproducts.”

Plant-based protein sources, such as those derived from peas or alfalfa, are completely safe, but much of the protein they contain may pass straight through your pup. Dogs lack the biochemical adaptations to digest these items as well as they can animal-based proteins.

dog-food-pea-protein

Accordingly, foods that feature a lot of plant-based proteins may boast a very high protein content, but much of this protein will remain inaccessible to your dog. You can’t always avoid plant-based proteins when picking a dog food (particularly if you are opting for a grain-free option), but it is wise to select one that relies on animal-based proteins as much as possible.

Fair Warning: You’ll Pay for More Protein in Your Dog’s Food

Many owners seeking a high-protein dog food experience a bit of sticker shock when they start shopping, as these types of high-protein pet foods are invariably more expensive than typical dog foods. And unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to work around this.

Simply put, animal-based proteins are pricey. You’ve probably noticed as much when shopping for your own food – a pound of chicken costs three or four bucks, but a 5-pound bag of rice costs only half that. And I’m pretty sure they give things like carrots and corn away for free.

It just costs more money to make a food containing more meat and fewer carbs and cheap vegetables.

Things to Look for when Picking a Good Dog Food

Although we primarily looked at the protein content (and the sources from which the protein was derived) when putting together our recommendations below, we also considered a number of other important factors. In fact, you should always look for foods that have a couple of key features.

Specifically, you’ll want to look for foods that:

  • Are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help support skin health and keep your dog’s coat shiny. They also help reduce joint inflammation and promote proper brain development in puppies. Typically, omega-3 fatty acids derived from animal-based products are preferable to those derived from plants.
  • Contain probiotics. Probiotics help to promote proper digestion and elimination habits, and they’re often helpful in easing your dog’s transition from his old food to his new one.
  • Are made without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. All of these items are unnecessary and potentially problematic: Foods made with high-quality ingredients taste good without artificial flavors, your dog doesn’t care what color his food is, and natural preservatives can be used in lieu of artificial ones.
  • Are made in a country with high quality and safety standards. This typically means sticking to foods manufactured in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Western Europe.

Note that you can purchase standalone omega-3 or probiotic supplements if you find an otherwise-acceptable food that is deficient in either of these items.

High-Protein Dog Food

The Five Best High-Protein Dog Foods

If you’re looking for a high-protein dog food, start by considering one of the following five:

1. Blue Wilderness Adult Salmon

About: Blue Wilderness foods are designed to provide your dog with the kind of nutrition his ancestors enjoyed. Grain-free and made with a combination of whole meats and meat meals, Blue Wilderness Adult Salmon Recipe is one of the best options for owners seeking a protein-packed food for their pooch.

Features: Blue Wilderness Adult Salmon (like most Blue Wilderness recipes) features an impressive ingredient list. Deboned salmon – a very nutritious protein that is full of omega-3 fatty acids — is the first listed ingredient, and chicken meal and menhaden fish meal are included to provide additional protein.

All Blue Wilderness recipes are grain-free, so they are made without any corn or wheat; instead, they derive the bulk of their carbohydrate content from things like peas (and pea derivatives, such as pea starch) and sweet potatoes. They are also made with carrots, blueberries, cranberries, and parsley, which taste great and provide your dog with antioxidants.

Blue Wilderness foods are manufactured in the USA, and they are made without artificial flavors, colors, or additives. And, in addition to vitamins and minerals, Blue Wilderness Adult Salmon is fortified with five different probiotic bacteria, which will help regulate your dog’s digestive system.

Dry Matter Protein: 37.7%

Price: $$$$

See ingredients

Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine), Peas, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Dried Tomato Pomace, Dried Egg, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Starch, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, DL-Methionine, Dried Chicory Root, Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Caramel Color, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Yucca schidigera Extract, Dried Kelp, Turmeric, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Oil of Rosemary, Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite.

Dog Food Advisor Rating: 5/5

Controversial Ingredients: Pea protein is perfectly safe for your dog, but it doesn’t provide a lot of useable protein for your dog, meaning that the protein content of the food is a bit misleading. Additionally, some owners consider things like dried tomato pomace and alfalfa meal to be low-quality carbohydrates (nevertheless, they are perfectly safe).

Additionally, caramel color is a natural ingredient, which is currently recognized as safe by the FDA. However, coloring agents of any kind are unnecessary in dog foods.

PROS: There are a ton of things to like about Blue Wilderness Adult Salmon Recipe. It has as much protein as all but one of the other foods we recommend here, and salmon is one of the most desirable proteins used in dog foods. It satisfies all of the primary criteria owners want, and most dogs love the way it tastes

CONS: Aside from the handful of mildly disappointing ingredients included (like caramel color), the only other significant problem with Blue Wilderness Adult Salmon Recipe is its cost – this is a pretty pricey food. However, it’s actually one of the more affordable foods in this review.

2. Solid Gold High-Protein with Duck

About: Solid Gold High-Protein with Duck is a holistic dog food designed to reflect the evolutionary diet of wild canids. And Solid Gold not only features several different protein sources, but it is also made without grains, potatoes or any of the other carbs that give some dogs problems.

Features: Solid Gold High-Protein with Duck features three very high-quality proteins – duck, chicken meal, and turkey meal — right at the beginning of the ingredient list. Whitefish meal and egg protein are included a little later on the ingredient list to help elevate the protein levels in this recipe even more.

Peas and chickpeas provide the bulk of the carbohydrate content, and a number of fruits and vegetables – including pumpkin, apples, carrots, blueberries, and broccoli, among others — are included to provide the kinds of vitamins and minerals your dog needs (most dogs will also appreciate the additional flavor).

A number of healthy (and delicious) fats, such as sesame oil and almond oil, are featured in the recipe, and three different probiotic strains are included to help keep your dog’s digestive system operating the way it should. Solid Gold foods are manufactured in the USA and backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Dry Matter Protein: 42.2%

Price: $$$$

See ingredients

Ingredients: Duck, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Chickpeas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Whitefish Meal, Egg Product, Pea Protein, Tomato Pomace, Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, L-Carnitine, Carrots, Pumpkin, Apples, Cranberries, Blueberries, Broccoli, Parsley, Spearmint, Almond Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Sesame Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Yucca schidigera Extract, Dried Kelp, Thyme, Lentils, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium animalis Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus reuteri Fermentation Product, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D Supplement, Folic Acid. 001-DDP

Dog Food Advisor Rating: 5/5

Controversial Ingredients: The only troubling ingredients in Solid Gold High-Protein with Duck are tomato pomace and pea protein. However, these ingredients are both completely harmless. Pea protein is simply not a great source of protein for dogs (animal-based proteins are more biologically available for dogs) and tomato pomace is a rather cheap carb.

PROS: Solid Gold High-Protein with Duck is a fantastic option for owners seeking a food with plenty of protein. In fact, it provides more protein content than any of the other foods we reviewed. Most dogs love the taste, and most owners were happy with it – a few even noted that it reduced the amount of gas their dog produced.

CONS: The only significant downside to Solid Gold High-Protein with Duck is the price, but that’s a common issue for most high-protein foods.

3. CRAVE Grain-Free High-Protein Salmon & Oceanfish

About: CRAVE Grain-Free High-Protein Salmon & Oceanfish is a nutritious and delicious food, designed to appeal to your dog’s inner carnivore. Made with multiple animal-based protein sources and healthy fats, CRAVE foods provide the kind of nutrition owners want and a taste dogs love.

Features: Real salmon is the first listed ingredient in this CRAVE recipe, but chicken meal, menhaden fish meal, and lamb meal are also included to help provide even more protein. Instead of grains, CRAVE relies on chickpeas, split peas, and dried potatoes to provide most of the carbohydrate content.

Sunflower oil helps to provide additional calories and promote a healthy, shiny coat, and natural flavors are used to help improve the taste. The bulk of the remaining ingredients are primarily vitamins and minerals, which are added to ensure your dog gets the nutrition he requires to stay healthy.

CRAVE foods are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Dry Matter Protein: 37%

Price: $$$

See ingredients

Ingredients: Salmon, Chicken Meal, Chickpeas, Split Peas, Menhaden Fish Meal, Dried Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Lamb Meal, Pea Protein, Sunflower Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Natural Flavor, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, DL-Methionine, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Selenium Yeast, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract

Dog Food Advisor Rating: 5/5

Controversial Ingredients: The only troubling ingredients contained in CRAVE Salmon & Oceanfish are things like pea protein, dried plain beet pulp, and alfalfa meal. None of these ingredients are dangerous, but they are relatively low-value ingredients that don’t add much nutrition to the recipe.

PROS: Most dogs love the way CRAVE Grain-Free High-Protein Salmon & Oceanfish tastes, and many owners love the amount of protein included in the recipe. Additionally, CRAVE is very affordable compared to most other high-protein dog foods, which makes it a great option for cost-conscious owners.

CONS: While most CRAVE recipes – including their High-Protein Salmon & Oceanfish recipe – are packed with protein and affordable, they skip a lot of the extras that many comparable foods provide. This includes things like probiotics and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.

4. Fromm Four-Star Beef Frittata Veg

About: Fromm is a premium dog food manufacturer that uses a variety of nutritious whole foods in their recipes. Packed with protein and made without grains of any kind, Fromm Four-Star Beef Frittata Veg is designed to provide your dog with the nutrition he needs and a taste he’ll love.

Features: Fromm’s Four-Star Beef Frittata Veg is a high-quality dog food with an extremely impressive list of ingredients. Real beef is the primary protein and first listed ingredient, but dried whole eggs, pork meat meal, and beef liver are included as supplemental proteins.

Fromm Beef Frittata Veg is a grain-free recipe, so it draws most of its carbohydrate content from potatoes and sweet potatoes rather than corn or wheat.

Salmon oil is used to provide healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as to improve the palatability of the recipe. Additionally, like most other Fromm recipes, this one includes cheese to really ensure your dog loves the taste.

Cauliflower, apples, green beans, carrots, blueberries, and other fruits and vegetables are used to provide antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and it is fortified with probiotics to help promote proper digestion. All Fromm recipes are produced in the USA.

Dry Matter Protein: 33.3%

Price: $$$$$+

See ingredients

Ingredients: Beef, Peas, Dried Whole Egg, Potatoes, Pea Protein, Pork Meat Meal, Beef Liver, Sweet Potatoes, Dried Tomato Pomace, Salmon Oil, Flaxseed, Cheese, Carrots, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Apples, Green Beans, Pork Cartilage, Potassium Chloride, Cranberries, Blueberries, Salt, Chicory Root Extract, Alfalfa Sprouts, Celery, Lettuce, Watercress, Spinach, Yucca schidigera Extract, Sodium Selenite, Folic Acid, Taurine, Parsley, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Vitamins, Minerals, Probiotics.

Dog Food Advisor Rating: 4.5/5

Controversial Ingredients: There aren’t any hazardous ingredients included in Fromm Four-Star Beef Frittata Veg, but like many other foods, it is made with pea protein and tomato pomace. The protein contained in pea protein is not very helpful for dogs, and tomato pomace is a rather low-quality source of carbohydrates.

PROS: Fromm is a great-tasting food that most dogs will love, and it is made with the types of whole, nutritious ingredients that most owners want for their pet. It has all of the major characteristics that owners typically seek in a food, and it comes with plenty of premium ingredients, such as cheese, salmon oil, and broccoli.

CONS: There’s a lot to like about Fromm Four-Star Beef Frittata Veg, but it is very expensive. It is likely too expensive for many owners, but, for those who can afford it, there are few better options on the market. We’d prefer if Fromm identified the exact probiotic strains in their foods, but this is a minor issue.

5. Wellness Core Grain-Free Original Turkey & Chicken

About: Wellness Core Grain-Free Original Turkey & Chicken is a nutrient-dense, protein-rich dog food that is made without corn, wheat, by-products, or fillers. Designed to provide your dog with the nutrition he needs to remain healthy, happy, and active, this is a great choice for owners looking for a high-protein food.

Features: Wellness Core Original Turkey & Chicken is made from an impressive slate of ingredients. A whole protein – deboned turkey – is listed right at the top of the list, and it is followed by turkey meal and chicken meal, which are both valuable supplemental proteins. Several other animal-derived ingredients, such as chicken fat, chicken liver, and salmon oil, are also included in the recipe.

Peas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes provide most of the carbohydrate content in this grain-free recipe, and a wealth of fruits and vegetables are included to supply vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This includes everything from kale and broccoli to apples and blueberries.

Wellness Core Grain-Free Original Turkey & Chicken is fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin to help promote proper joint health and four different probiotics to ensure proper digestion. This is a US-made food, and it is backed by the manufacturer’s “Wellness Guarantee.”

Dry Matter Protein: 37.7%

Price: $$$$$

See ingredients

Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Potatoes, Dried Ground Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Chicken Liver, Natural Chicken Flavor, Flaxseed, Salmon Oil, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Kale, Broccoli, Spinach, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Biotin, Folic Acid], Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate], Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Taurine, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract. This is a naturally preserved product.

Dog Food Advisor Rating: 5/5

Controversial Ingredients: Wellness Core Original Turkey & Chicken is made with tomato pomace, which some owners consider a cheap filler. However, there is nothing hazardous about the ingredient at all.

PROS: Wellness Core Grain-Free Original Turkey & Chicken provides just about everything owners would want and most dogs seem to enjoy the taste. It is made with several different animal-based proteins and a ton of tasty and nutritious fruits and vegetables. Many owners noted improvements in coat condition and energy level after trying the food.

CONS: The only real down-side to this recipe (or any other Wellness Core Grain-Free recipe) is its cost. However, this is to be expected of any high-protein dog food, particularly one that is also made without grains.

Are There Any Dogs Who Shouldn’t Eat a High-Protein Dog Food?

Most dogs can handle high-protein dog foods without issue, but it is always a good idea to run the notion by your vet before you switch things up (in fact, it is always a good idea to talk to your vet before making substantial changes to your dog’s diet).

Dogs who are old or suffering from kidney-related diseases may not be able to process the additional protein effectively, which may cause additional health problems.

High-protein foods may also be inappropriate for overweight dogs as high-protein foods are usually pretty high in calories, which can lead to additional weight gain.

  

High-protein dog foods can be very beneficial to many dogs, but it is important to be selective when picking a specific product for your pup. Not only will this help ensure your pet gets a high-quality food, it’ll also make sure you get the best value for your dollar.

Any of the five foods reviewed above should fit the bill, so look over each one carefully and try to choose the best one for your pet’s specific needs.

Do you give your dog a high-protein dog food? We’d love to know which one you chose, and we’d be particularly interested in hearing from owners who have tried one of the five we recommend. Tell us all about your experiences in the comments below!

Last update on 2018-12-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the Author Ben Team

Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.

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