Many owners are interested in feeding their pooch high-protein food. And fortunately, there are a number of protein-packed recipes on the market to choose from. But this can leave owners’ heads spinning and unsure of which one to choose!
Don’t worry — we’re here to help!
Below, we’ll explain some of the things you need to consider when picking a food, point out some of the reasons you may want to opt for high-protein food and share a few of our favorite high-protein dog foods.
Best High-Protein Dog Foods: Quick Picks
- Ollie Turkey Dish with Blueberries [Best Overall High-Protein Dog Food]: Have protein-rich, fresh dog food that’s portioned specifically for your pup delivered right to your door with this top-of-the-line option.
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon plus Wholesome Grains [Best High-Protein Dry Dog Food]: This protein-packed kibble features real meat as the top ingredient, plus belly-boosting probiotics, and Blue’s antioxidant-dense LifeSource Bits.
- Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete [Most Affordable High-Protein Dog Food]: Offer a hefty serving of protein without blowing your budget with this well-rounded, chicken-based kibble featuring probiotics and glucosamine.
- Purina Beyond Wild Prey-Inspired Grain-Free High Protein [Best High-Protein Wet Dog Food]: A trio of delicious meats and real organ meat make this pate-style wet food a good source of protein and other core nutrients.
What Constitutes a “High-Protein” Dog Food?
But first, we need to make sure we’re all on the same page. So, let’s begin by talking about what we mean by “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 nutritional 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 (again, on a dry matter basis).
So, technically, any food with a protein level exceeding these values 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 if you’re looking for a “high-protein” dog food.
There are two different ways dog food manufacturers can provide nutritional data regarding protein content. They can indicate the protein content on an “as fed” basis or as a “dry matter” basis.
Most dog food labels provide the protein content in the form of an “as fed” basis.
This type of characterization does not account for the moisture present in the food. This can skew your impression of the protein content, as the water incorporated into the food muddies the waters a bit. Among other things, this can make it tricky to make apples-to-apples comparisons of two different foods, as many have differing amounts of water content.
Accordingly, you’ll want to make comparisons based on a dry matter basis. When using a dry matter basis, you’re essentially removing the water content from the equation.
To find the dry matter basis for a food:
- Start by subtracting the moisture content of the food from 100%.
- Then, divide the “as fed” protein percentage by the percentage attained in the first step.
- The resulting figure is the protein content on a dry matter basis.
Or, you could just use this calculator. It’s designed for cat foods, but it would work with any prepared food.
Don’t like math? No worries!
We’ve already figured out the protein content on a dry matter basis for all of the foods discussed below!
The 11 Best High-Protein Dog Foods
If you’re looking for high-protein dog food, start by considering one of the following:
1. Ollie Turkey Dish with Blueberries
A delicious fresh food option packed with a whopping 39% dry matter protein.
About: Ollie Turkey Dish with Blueberries is a protein-forward fresh dish of turkey and nutrient-rich produce, including blueberries, kale, and carrots. Served in a delicious meaty mash with ingredients you can see with your own eyes, it’s a palate-pleaser across the board, including with pickier pups, plus it’s delivered right to your door, so there’s no need to trek to the store.
- Minimally processed to preserve flavor and nutrition
- Customized to your dog’s unique needs through a quick, easy quiz
- All recipes are vet-approved
- Made in the USA with human-grade ingredients
Turkey, Kale, Lentils, Carrots, Turkey liver...,
Oats, Blueberries, Pumpkin, Tricalcium phosphate, Chia seeds, Sunflower oil, Salt, Salmon oil, Zinc gluconate, Ferrous sulfate, Copper amino acid chelate, Vitamin E supplement, Manganese amino acid chelate, Choline bitartrate, Thiamine mononitrate, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Potassium iodide.
Dry Matter Protein Content: 39.29%
Options: Also available in Beef Dish With Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Dish with Carrots, and Lamb Dish with Cranberries.
- Excellent protein content
- Most dogs are head over paws for the flavor of this fresh food option
- Human-grade ingredients are the best of the best
- Unfortunately, quality comes at a price, and this food is expensive
- Refrigeration is required
2. NomNom Turkey Fare
About: Up your pup’s protein game with NomNom Turkey Fare, a fresh food that’s carefully measured to meet your dog’s dietary needs, whether he’s a seasoned squirrel chaser or a leisurely lapdog. Just complete the quick and easy online quiz, select your desired plan, and have food delivered to your door in no time.
- Can be fed on its own or served with your dog’s kibble
- All recipes are designed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists
- Plans change with your dog, letting you adjust as he grows or switches preferences
- Made in the USA using gentle cooking methods
Ground turkey, Brown rice, Eggs, Carrots, Spinach...,
Dicalcium phosphate, Calcium carbonate, Citric acid, Potassium chloride, Salt, Water sufficient for processing, Fish oil, Choline bitartrate, Natural flavor, Vinegar, Iron amino acid chelate, Taurine, Zinc gluconate, Vitamin E supplement, Copper gluconate, Niacin, Manganese gluconate, Vitamin A supplement, Thiamine mononitrate, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Cholecalciferol, Potassium iodide, Folic acid, Vitamin B12 supplement
Dry Matter Protein Content: 35.71%
Options: Also available in Pork Potluck, Chicken Cuisine, and Beef Mash.
- Great protein content (and formulated by a veterinary nutritionist!)
- Most pups give it a paw’s up for taste
- Quality is next-level awesome
- Pricing is up there compared to standard kibble
- Food requires refrigeration
3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon plus Wholesome Grains
A high-protein dry kibble made in the USA with real protein as the first ingredient.
About: Capture high protein goodness in kibble form with Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon plus Wholesome Grains. Containing real meat as the first ingredient plus produce for natural fiber and nutrients, this dry food also features Blue’s antioxidant-rich LifeSource Bits for immune support.
- Probiotic blend aids in gut health
- Doesn’t contain corn, soy, or wheat
- Grain-free and grain-inclusive recipes are available
- Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients
Deboned salmon, Fish meal, Dried chicken, Oatmeal, Barley...,
Chicken meal, Potatoes, Dried tomato pomace, Dried egg product, Chicken fat, Natural flavor, Sweet potatoes, Peas, Pea protein, Potato starch, Flaxseed, Direct dehydrated alfalfa pellets, Salt, L-Threonine, DL-Methionine, Potassium chloride, Calcium carbonate, Pea fiber, Alfalfa nutrient concentrate, Dried chicory root, preserved with mixed tocopherols, Choline chloride, Carrots, Zinc amino acid chelate, Zinc sulfate, Vegetable juice for color, Ferrous sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, Iron amino acid chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried kelp, Yucca schidigera extract, Niacin, Calcium pantothenate, Copper sulfate, Biotin, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, L-Lysine, Vitamin A supplement, Copper amino acid chelate, Manganese sulfate, Manganese amino acid chelate, Taurine, Thiamine mononitrate, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 supplement, Vitamin B12 supplement, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, 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, Sodium selenite, Oil of rosemary
Dry Matter Protein Content: 34%
Options: Offered in Grain-Free Salmon, Chicken Plus Wholesome Grains, Grain-Free Chicken, and Grain-Free Duck.
- 34% protein content is rock solid
- Most dogs are happy with the flavor
- Kibble size works well with dogs large and small
- Mixed proteins can be a problem for dogs with sensitivities
- Some dogs refuse to eat Blue’s LifeSource Bits
4. Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Prairie
About: Fuel your four-footer with Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Prairie‘s high-protein recipe featuring a delicious blend of roasted bison and venison. Omega fatty acids nourish your dog’s skin and coat, while probiotics give his belly a boost.
- Real meat is the top ingredient
- Produce like raspberries, blueberries, and peas provide natural fiber and antioxidants
- Also available in a grain-inclusive form
- Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients
Water buffalo, Lamb meal, Chicken meal, Sweet potatoes, Peas...,
Potatoes, Chicken fat, Egg product, Roasted bison, Roasted venison, Beef, Natural flavor, Tomato pomace, Potato protein, Pea protein, Ocean fish meal, Salt, Choline chloride, Taurine, Dried chicory root, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Raspberries, Yucca schidigera extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, Vitamin E supplement, Iron proteinate, Zinc proteinate, Copper proteinate, Ferrous sulfate, Zinc sulfate, Manganese sulfate, Copper sulfate, Potassium iodide, Thiamine mononitrate, Manganese proteinate, Ascorbic acid, Vitamin A supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium pantothenate, Sodium selenite, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 supplement, Folic acid
Dry Matter Protein Content: 32%
Options: Also available in 13 grain-free and grain-inclusive recipes including Pacific Stream, Pine Forest, and Sierra Mountain.
- Great mix of protein options to choose from
- Taste gets a tail wag from most dogs
- Pricing is reasonable for such a quality kibble
- Some pups struggled with belly issues while transitioning to TOTW
- Mixed protein recipes won’t work for dogs with food sensitivities
5. Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete
A protein-focused dry food featuring cage-free chicken and probiotics at an affordable price point.
About: A great price tag is a bonus of Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete, a high-protein kibble containing probiotics and joint-boosting glucosamine and chondroitin. Real produce also provides natural fiber and nutrients.
- Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient
- Omega fatty acids support canine skin and coat health
- Antioxidants provide an immunity boost
- Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients
Chicken meal, Chicken, Ground white rice, Chicken fat, Cracked pearled barley...,
Egg product, Ground miscanthus grass, Dried beet pulp, Natural flavor, Flaxseed, Potassium chloride, Salt, Choline chloride, Dried chicory root, Glucosamine hydrochloride, L-Carnitine, Kale, Chia seed, Pumpkin, Blueberries, Oranges, Quinoa, Dried kelp, Coconut, Spinach, Carrots, Papaya, Yucca schidigera extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, Vitamin E supplement, Beta carotene, Chondroitin sulfate, Iron proteinate, Zinc proteinate, Copper proteinate, Ferrous sulfate, Zinc sulfate, Manganese sulfate, Copper sulfate, Potassium iodide, Thiamine mononitrate, Manganese proteinate, Ascorbic acid, Vitamin A supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium pantothenate, Sodium selenite, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 supplement, Folic acid
Dry Matter Protein Content: 32%
Options: Extreme Athlete is available in a single Chicken recipe.
- Affordably priced, especially for quality, high-protein kibble
- Inclusion of probiotics is always a win
- Large bag size great for large breeds or multi-dog families
- Some dogs need enticing to give it a try
- More protein options would be nice, as not every dog tolerates chicken
6. Ketona Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food
American-sourced chicken and a low-carb blend of pea products make for a super high protein level.
About: The high-protein, low-carb Ketona Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food features nearly double the protein content of most kibbles. Made with 90% fewer carbohydrates than standard dry dog food, it focuses on real protein with American-raised chicken as the top ingredient.
- Made with non-GMO chicken sourced from farms using sustainable practices
- Doesn’t include corn, soy, wheat, or grains
- Meets AAFCO standards for all life stages except the growth of large-breed puppies
- Made in the USA
Chicken, Pea protein, Ground green peas, Oat hulls, Chicken fat...,
Flaxseed meal, Phosphoric acid, Gelatin, Chicken liver digest, Calcium carbonate, Salt, Pea fiber, Potassium chloride, Choline chloride, Vitamine E supplement, Niacin supplement, Thiamine mononitrate, Calcium pantothenate, Vitamin A supplement, Sunflower oil, Vegetable oil, Citric acid, Ascorbic acid, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D3 supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 supplement, Folic acid supplement, Zinc proteinate, Iron proteinate, Copper proteinate, Manganese proteinate, Iodine proteinate, Sodium selenite, Lecithin, Mixed tocopherols, Rosemary extract
Dry Matter Protein Content: 51% (our calculation is even higher than the 46% the brand advertises)
Options: Also offered in Salmon Recipe.
- More than double the protein of some standard kibbles
- Low-carb recipe may be a good fit for diabetic doggos
- Some pet parents noted improvements in canine coats and skin
- Pricing is steep
- Super-high protein levels aren’t for every dog
7. ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Food
An air-dried food featuring a whopping 96% real meat, organ, and mussels for peak protein.
About: Give your pup a hefty serving of real meat and organs with ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Food, a protein-centered food that offers a bounty of well-rounded nutrients with green mussels and kelp. Feed it as a topper or as a complete meal.
- Limited ingredient list
- Contains meat sourced from animals not treated by hormones or growth promotants
- Entirely grain-free recipe
- Made in New Zealand
Lamb, Lamb heart, Lamb tripe, Lamb liver, Lamb kidney...,
Lamb lung, New Zealand green mussel, Lamb bone, Lecithin, Inulin from chicory, Dried kelp, Dipotassium phosphate, Magnesium sulfate, Zinc amino acid complex, Copper amino acid complex, Iron amino acid complex, Manganese amino acid complex, Selenium yeast, Salt, Parsley, Citric acid, Mixed tocopherols, Vitamin E supplement, Thiamine mononitrate, Vitamin D3 supplement, Folic acid
Dry Matter Protein Content (Lamb Recipe): 35%
Options: Available in Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Mackerel & Lamb, Tripe & Lamb, and Venison.
- Meat and organ-rich recipe focuses on animal-derived protein first and foremost
- Single-protein recipes ideal for dogs with sensitivities
- Taste gets a bark of approval from most dogs
- Grain-free food isn’t for every dog
- No bones about it: It’s expensive
8. Purina Beyond Wild Prey-Inspired Grain-Free High Protein
A protein-dense pate featuring a trio of tasty meats, including nutrient-rich organs.
About: The meaty pate of Purina Beyond Wild Prey-Inspired Grain-Free High Protein is loaded with nutrient-dense organ meat for lean muscle development. The meaty mixture can be served on its own or added to your dog’s regular diet for a protein-rich treat.
- Real meat is always the first ingredient
- Contains a natural source of glucosamine for joint support
- Doesn’t contain corn, soy, wheat, or poultry by-product meal
- Made in the USA
Turkey, Turkey broth, Chicken, Liver, Duck...,
Chicken liver, Potassium chloride, Zinc sulfate, Ferrous sulfate, Copper sulfate, Manganese sulfate, Potassium iodide, Sodium selenite, Chicken heart, Guar gum, Salt, Carrageenan, Choline chloride, Vitamin E supplement, Niacin, Thiamine mononitrate, Calcium pantothenate, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 supplement, Riboflavin supplement, Vitamin A supplement, Folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, Biotin
Dry Matter Protein Content (Turkey, Liver & Duck Pate): 40.91%
Options: Available in Turkey, Liver & Duck and Beef, Liver & Lamb.
- Real meat and organ make for a top-notch protein content
- Taste is a win with most dogs
- Pricing is pretty reasonable, especially when compared to diets with less protein
- Pate texture doesn’t always mix well into kibble or please picky palates
- Mixed proteins aren’t a good fit for every dog
9. Wellness Core Wholesome Grains Puppy
A protein-forward kibble for puppies that promotes lean muscle development for healthy growth.
About: Help your growing growler develop the lean muscles his active frame needs with Wellness Core Wholesome Grains Puppy, a protein-rich recipe made with a tasty blend of poultry. Added DHA nourishes your pup’s eyes and brain, helping him grow into the bestest and brightest boy he can be.
- Meets AAFCO standards for puppies (though not large breed puppies)
- Doesn’t contain any meat by-products, legumes, or potatoes
- Probiotics provide digestive support
- Made in the USA
Deboned chicken, Chicken meal, Turkey meal, Oatmeal, Barley...,
Chicken fat, Ground flaxseed, Tomato pomace, Quinoa, Salmon oil, Natural chicken flavor, Salt, Chicory root extract, Choline chloride, Potassium chloride, Taurine, Vitamin E supplement, Spinach, Broccoli, Carrots, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Kale, Zinc proteinate, Mixed tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc sulfate, Calcium carbonate, Niacin, Iron proteinate, Ferrous sulfate, Yucca schidigera extract, Vitamin A supplement, Copper sulfate, Thiamine mononitrate, Copper proteinate, Manganese proteinate, Manganese sulfate, d-Calcium pantothenate, Sodium selenite, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Biotin, Vitamin D3 supplement, Calcium iodate, Vitamin B12 supplement, Folic acid, Ascorbic acid, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Rosemary extract, Green tea extract, Spearmint extract
Dry Matter Protein Content: 36%
Options: Available in Grain-Free and Grain-Inclusive varieties.
- High protein content ideal for active or working puppies
- Most puppies seemed to like the taste
- Kibble size and shape work great for puppies
- Lack of protein variety (A lamb or fish option would be nice)
- Doesn’t meet the need of large-breed puppies
10. Portland Pet Food Company Grandma Ada’s Turkey & Yams
A grain-free tasty topper featuring real meat, hearty yams, and unctious berries.
About: Serve up a surprise meaty bite with Portland Pet Food Company Grandma Ada’s Turkey & Yams, a kibble topper containing a pop of protein in a grain-free recipe. Best of all, it’s made with human-grade meat sourced from livestock that wasn’t raised with any antibiotics or hormones.
- Gentle cooking methods preserve nutrients and taste
- Packaged in earth-friendly, BPA-free pouches
- Shelf-stable for two years
- Made in the USA with US-sourced ingredients
Turkey, Green beans, Yams, Eggs, Chicken gizzards...,
Cranberries, Apples, Potato flour, Powdered eggshells, Vegetable oil, Sea salt
Dry Matter Protein Content (Turkey & Yams): 30.77%
Options: Offered in Turkey & Yams, Pork N’ Potato, Chicken & Yams, Salmon N’ Rice, and Beef N’ Rice.
- Can be fed with your doggo’s existing diet
- Limited ingredient list ideal for doggos with sensitivities
- 5% of net profits go to non-profit animal shelters and programs
- Pouches can be messy, especially if you’re not serving all at once
- On the expensive side
11. Bully Max High Performance Super Premium Dog Food
A protein-focused food that's also calorie-dense, making it ideal for dogs needing to gain weight.
About: Aid in your active dog’s weight gain or maintenance with Bully Max High Performance Super Premium Dog Food, a calorie-rich, high-protein kibble containing a whopping 535 calories per cup. Perfect for working dogs, it blends protein-dense chicken meal with complex carbohydrates for lasting energy.
- Contains menhaden fish meal to supply omega fatty acid content
- Meets AAFCO standards for all life stages
- Probiotics support digestive health
- Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients
Chicken meaI, Brown rice, Chicken fat, Dried pIain beet pulp, Ground grain sorghum...,
PearIed barley, Brewers dried yeast, WhoIe ground fIaxseed, Menhaden fish meaI, Egg product, Natural fIavor, Menhaden fish oiI, Potassium chloride, Salt, L-Lysine, DL-Methionine, Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product dehydrated, Propionic acid, Vitamin E supplement, Ascorbic acid, Niacin supplement, Organic dried kelp, d-Calcium pantothenate, Riboflavin suppIement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 supplement, Thiamine mononitrate, Vitamin A acetate, Pyridoxine hydrochIoride, Citric acid, Vitamin D3 suppIement, Folic acid, Iron sulfate, Zinc sulfate, Zinc proteinate, Iron proteinate, Copper sulfate, Zinc oxide, Manganese suIfate, Manganese proteinate, Copper proteinate, Manganous oxide, Sodium selenite, CaIcium iodate
Dry Matter Protein Content: 33.33%
Options: Offered in a single chicken-based recipe that also contains fish meal.
- High calorie content gets more bang per cup, helping your dog gain or maintain weight by eating the same amount or potentially less
- Flavor is a hit with most doggy diners
- Most pet parents report dogs gained weight as intended
- Only suitable for dogs who need to gain weight or those who need to maintain weight with a rigorous exercise regimen
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.
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.
Picking the Best Proteins: Good Protein Sources for Dogs
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.
That said, we’ve written about the best meats for dogs before if you’d like to learn more.
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.
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.
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 above, we also considered a number of other important factors.
In fact, you should always consider a few important things when choosing a good dog food.
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.
Find a great high-protein dog food that’s lacking in some area? Supplements may be a viable strategy for turning a less-than-stellar food into a great option.
For example, you can purchase standalone omega-3 or probiotic supplements if you find an otherwise-acceptable food that is deficient in either of these items.
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.
The Best High-Protein Dog Foods: FAQ
We’ve discussed most of the important issues surrounding high-protein dog foods above, but we’ll address a few of the most common questions owners have below, just in case you have any lingering questions.
What dog food has the highest protein content?
This is tricky to pin down, as manufacturers constantly tweak their recipes to reflect a variety of market factors. However, Ketona leads the pack at the moment, with a whopping 51%. Other protein-packed options include Ollie’s Turkey Dish with Blueberries, which contains 39.29% protein, and ZIWI Peak, which has 35% protein content.
Is high-protein food better for dogs?
It depends on your dog’s specific health condition, age, size, lifestyle, and a litany of other factors. In fact, dogs suffering from some health conditions may need to completely avoid high-protein recipes in favor of a low-protein dog food.
Can dogs eat too much protein?
Yes. In fact, excess protein consumption may cause a variety of health problems, including obesity, among other things. This once again demonstrates the importance of discussing your dog’s diet with your vet.
What protein percentage is best for dogs?
The ideal protein percentage for dogs will vary from one pooch to the next. However, the AAFCO recommends that adults consume a food with at least 18% protein. Puppies and reproductively active females require slightly more, and generally need foods with at least 22.5% protein.
How do I know if my dog needs more protein?
There can be a variety of signs that indicate you may need to talk to your vet about increasing your dog’s protein intake, including poor coat condition and low energy levels. Additionally, puppies who’re in need of more protein may fail to grow as quickly as they should.
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!
December 24, 2019
Sorry for the typo:
I am writing about a three year old dog with black fur that is slowly turning reddish. Do you think we need to increase the protein content in her diet to keep the fur shiny and black? Do you have other suggestions? Thanks!
December 7, 2019
I used to feed Evo until Mars bought the company and then discontinued it. Now I feed Instinct Raw Boost ad supplement it with 1/3 cup of raw bites per meal. I have a 6 month old German bred German Shepherd and she get two cups a day along with the bites.
Her growth rate is perfect and her muscle tone is just right. I thoroughly believe in a high protein, high fat and low carb diet. I also believe seniors need a high protein diet as well, more than an adult dog.
Good article, BTW.
October 31, 2019
My dog had a severe liver infection. We were advised to switch to a high protein, some grain is acceptable but no peas or lentils dog food. What dog food brand you would advise? Thank you!
January 2, 2020
I am a vet surg nurse. Any type of liver issues in dogs should always be on a low protein diet. High protien can lead to more issues.
October 26, 2019
Hello, my 14lb long haired chihuahua who is 12 Yrs old has just been diagnosed with insulinoma of the pancreas. Vet advised switching to high protein, high fat, low carb diet.
What prepared dog foods would you recommend? I am considering making it myself so do you have any recipes ?
Thank you. I am devastated by this diagnosis and want to give my baby the best food for his illness. Thank you.
October 28, 2019
Hey, Lily. Sorry about your pooch’s issue.
Check out our article about foods for diabetic dogs. You may be able to find a good recipe there.
Best of luck!
October 5, 2019
We have been feeding our dog Merrick Brand food. And I don’t see it in the top 5 list of high protein foods. It list 38% and the highest I see on the list is 34%. Is there something I’m missing?
July 30, 2019
I feed my dog Acana and Orijen dry dog foods. Any reviews on these?
July 31, 2019
We generally think that Acana and Orijen are very high-quality foods. We’ve written about them a little in our article about diabetic dog foods (they’re also a great option for non-diabetic dogs).
Thanks for reading!