Last Updated on January 21, 2023
While all dogs need protein in their diet, some dogs can benefit from a high protein diet. Thankfully, if you’re a pet owner looking to feed your pooch high-protein dog food, there are various options on the market.
Keep reading to discover the best food for your dog depending on their life stage and find out which dogs need a high-protein diet as well as some of the benefits.
Top 5 Picks for Best High-Protein Dog Food
|High-Protein Dog Food Recipes||Our Rating|
|Best Overall High-Protein Dog Food (Editor’s Choice)||Blue Buffalo Wilderness High-Protein Grain Free Dog Food (Salmon)
|Best Budget High-Protein Dog Food||Purina Pro Plan Sport Formula Dry Dog Food (Chicken & Rice)
|Best High-Protein Puppy Food||Victor Classic – Hi-Pro Plus Dry Dog Food
|Best High-Protein Adult Dog Food||Wellness Core Grain-Free Dog Food (Deboned Turkey)
|Best High-Protein Senior Dog Food||Canidae All Life Stages Dog Dry Food
Best Dog Food with High Protein (by Life Stage)
When you start to look at all the different dog foods available, you may begin to panic. There are so many options available; how do you know which one is right for your pet?
To get you started, we’ve listed our top picks of the best high-protein dog foods and broken them down into life stages so you can choose one that is right for your dog’s current maturity levels.
Best High-Protein Puppy Food
Puppies need protein to build strong, lean muscles and develop their growing bodies. High protein diets can also help sustain the high energy levels of young, active dogs.
Here are some high-protein diets that are suitable for puppies:
1. Victor Classic – Hi-Pro Plus Dry Dog Food
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols)
Suitable for active dogs and puppies, Victor Classic Hi-Pro Plus is a high-protein dog food that contains 30% protein and offers your pet 406 kcal/cup.
Designed to be easy to digest and super tasty, this food features protein from beef, chicken, pork, and fish.
- This food contains selenium which boosts the immune system by promoting cellular regeneration
- A variety of mineral complexes are included in this food to support the paw pads and help your pet maintain a healthy skin and coat
- This food caused some dogs to vomit
2. Purina Pro Plan Sport Formula Dry Dog Food (Chicken & Rice)
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Chicken, Corn Gluten Meal, Rice
The Purina Pro Plan Sport Formula which contains 30% protein and 20% fat, is designed to be suitable for dogs of all life stages, from puppy to adult.
Promoting lean muscle mass, this food derives the majority of its protein from chicken.
- Packed with omega-three fatty acids, this food helps bolster your pet’s immune system
- The formula contains glucosamine which helps support healthy joints
- Some pet owners found their dogs had a very loose or soft stool on this diet
Best High-Protein Adult Dog Food
Active adult dogs and working dogs need increased protein levels. High protein diets will also boost your dog’s immune system and assist with organ functioning.
Here are some of our top picks of high-protein dog foods for adult dogs:
3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High-Protein Grain Free Dog Food (Salmon)
Our rating: 5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine), Peas
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness High-Protein Dry Dog Food features salmon as the main ingredient.
This grain-free food, which is made to replicate the diet of your pet’s ancestors, features a combination of meat meals and whole meat sources.
The formula also includes a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like blueberries, cranberries, and carrots.
- This food has been fortified with five different probiotics to regulate your dog’s digestive system
- Salmon is full of omega-three fatty acids for maintaining healthy skin and coat
- This food is made in the USA without any artificial preservatives, colors, or additives
- The formula includes pea protein as the fourth ingredient, and although not harmful for your dog, can make the protein content of this food a bit misleading
4. Solid Gold High-Protein with Duck
Our rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Duck, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal
The Solid Gold Dry Formula is a high-protein dog food featuring a mix of animal meats. This nutrient-packed kibble derives the bulk of its protein from duck, real chicken meal, and turkey meal.
At the same time, egg protein and whitefish meal are also included as secondary proteins.
Several fruits and vegetables, like carrots, apples, blueberries, pumpkin, and broccoli, bolster this food’s vitamin and mineral content.
- The recipe does not include any grains, potatoes, or carbs that could lead to digestive issues for your pet
- Sesame and almond oil supply your dog with healthy fats
- Three different probiotic strains are included to help with your dog’s digestive functioning
- The ingredient list includes pea protein, which is not a great source of protein, and tomato pomace, a cheap carbohydrate source
5. Crave Grain-Free With Protein from Salmon and Ocean Fish Dry Adult Dog Food
Our rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Salmon, Chicken Meal, Chickpeas
The protein-packed Crave Dry Dog Food is made from salmon, chicken, lamb meal, and ocean fish meal and boasts a dry matter protein of 37%.
This grain-free recipe derives its carbohydrate content from chickpeas, split peas, and dried potatoes.
- Sunflower oil is included in the ingredients to help your dog maintain healthy skin and coat
- The recipe is fortified with plenty of vitamins and minerals to support your pup’s total body health
- This food comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee
- This food doesn’t include any antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables or the probiotics found in other recipes
6. Fromm Four-Star Beef Frittata Veg
Our rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Beef, Peas, Dried Whole Egg
This grain-free Fromm Formula is made of high-quality beef with dried whole eggs, pork meat meal, and beef liver, including in the ingredient list as secondary proteins.
The carbohydrate content of this formula is derived from peas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies are also included in the recipe, such as green beans, apples, carrots, blueberries, and cauliflower.
- Salmon oil is provided to bolster the healthy fat content and provide omega-three fatty acids that will maintain a shiny coat
- The recipe includes cheese to ensure the flavor appeals to even the pickiest of eaters
- This food, which is made in the USA, is also fortified with probiotics to aid digestion
- This food is a costly option
- Contains peas as second ingredient
7. Wellness Core Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal
Wellness Core Grain-Free Dog Food is a protein-rich recipe that features real deboned turkey as well as turkey and chicken meal.
Several other animal proteins like chicken liver, chicken fat, and salmon oil are also included in this recipe. The carbohydrate content comes from peas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
- This dry dog food is fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin, which assists in the building of healthy joints
- This food is free from any corn, wheat, by-products, or filler ingredients
- A variety of fruits and veggies, including kale, blueberries, and broccoli, supply vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Some picky eaters did not touch this food
8. Taste of the Wild High-Protein Real Meat Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal
Containing 32% protein, the Taste of the Wild High-Protein Dog Food features high percentages of real lean meat from lamb, chicken, and water buffalo.
Also, the grain-free recipe is designed to cater to pets with food allergies or sensitivities.
- This dry dog food is packed full of omega-three and omega-six fatty acids, which help maintain a lustrous skin and coat
- This food is fortified with probiotics to boost the immune system and aid digestion
- Some dogs needed to relieve themselves an excess amount on this diet
Best High-Protein Senior Dog Food
While many senior dogs are inactive and simply content to lay around on the couch all day, others still need a diet packed with protein. Here are some high-protein dog foods that even your aging pet can enjoy:
9. AvoDerm Natural All Life Stages Triple Protein Dog Food
Our rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Lamb Meal
Containing high-quality proteins from chicken, lamb, and turkey, Avoderm Triple Protein Dog Food has a natural formula designed to meet the needs of dogs in any life stage.
As the name suggests, avocados are included in the recipe to boost the immune system and help your dog maintain a shiny coat and healthy skin.
- This food is suitable for dogs with allergies as it’s free from any wheat, corn, or soy, as well as artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives
- A variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants help support your pup’s overall health
- Some picky eaters simply refused to eat this dog food
10. Canidae All Life Stages Dog Dry Food
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Lamb Meal
This all-purpose Canidae High-Protein Dry Dog Food features 24% protein content and 468kcal per cup is designed for dogs of all life stages and both large and small breeds.
The formula, which has been created by vets, does not contain common allergens like corn, wheat, or soy. Chicken, turkey, and lamb meals all contribute to the protein content of this food.
- As this food is suitable for any dog, it can be used in houses with pets of multiple ages
- The formula is rich in antioxidants, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and has been fortified with probiotics
- A few pet owners complained this food crumbled very easily
Is a High-Protein Dog Food Good for Dogs?
The short answer to the above question is that it depends on the dog. Certain dogs need more protein than others, depending on their lifestyle, breed, and maturation.
The good thing about high-protein diets is that they are lean, and the nutrients are more easily absorbed. Having more protein in the formula means less space for unhealthy fillers, carbohydrates, and fats.
This means putting less strain on your dog’s organs and digestive system.
Which dogs may benefit from high-protein dog food?
The ancestors of dogs, like wolves, get most of their nutrition from protein-rich sources like wild prey.
While dogs can digest carbohydrates and other plant ingredients, these wouldn’t have made up the bulk of their ancestral diet, so it makes sense that canines benefit from a high protein diet.
That said, certain dogs naturally will need more protein than others. This is especially true of dogs with a high energy level that needs protein to support their activities.
Working dogs, such as police dogs and military canines, are examples of dogs that need more calories to sustain their lifestyles.
Herding, guarding, hunting, and tracking dogs are other working dogs that can benefit from a high protein diet.
Dogs that also spend a lot of time training for agility trials or canine sports may also need a high protein diet to support their muscles, as would dogs who regularly accompany their owners on long runs.
Pregnant and nursing dogs can also benefit from a diet with increased protein levels.
Puppies also need a diet that is higher in protein than your average dog food to support the growing needs of their bodies.
How Much Protein in Dog Food is Best?
Dogs need 22 different essential amino acids to support their whole body health. These amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
While half of these are naturally occurring in your dog’s body, the other half need to be supplemented through the food your pet eats.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines state that all adult dog foods should contain at least 18% protein on a dry matter basis.
Puppies and pregnant or lactating females should, however, eat dog food that has at least 22.5% protein.
Best High-Protein Dog Food Buying Guide
Remember when looking for a high-protein dog food that not all protein is created equal. Be sure to check out the ingredients list when making a purchase.
The first few ingredients on the list will tell you a lot about the food as the ingredients are listed in descending order of inclusion. Meat or meat meals and whole ingredients should be the first ingredients in your dog’s food.
Also, consider the quality of the protein included in your dog’s diet. Many pet foods contain multiple protein sources.
Protein should come from natural animal sources that are preferably organic or sustainably raised and free of any hormones and antibiotics.
Animal-based proteins can include muscle and organ meat, meat or liver meals, egg protein, or beef by-products.
If your food does contain a by-product or meal, ensure the protein source is identified, such as pork meal or chicken meal, and avoid vague alternatives like poultry by-products.
Additional protein sources, like peas or alfalfa, can be included, but these secondary protein sources should be farther down the ingredients list.
Proteins from plants tend to pass straight through dogs as they can’t digest these in the same way they do animal proteins.
Thus, foods that claim to have a high-protein content but include many of these ingredients do not provide your dog with the same benefits or nutrition.
You should also look for food that is rich in omega-three fatty acids, which help your dog to maintain healthy skin and coat.
Omega-three fatty acids also help prevent inflammation and support the development of the brain, especially in puppies.
Again, it’s better if these omega-three fatty acids come from animal products, like salmon oil, as opposed to plants, like canola oil. Foods that have been fortified with probiotics will help aid your pup’s digestion.
On the other hand, avoid any foods that contain artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, which can be problematic for your dog.
Try also to choose food made in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, or Western Europe, where there are strict manufacturing guidelines as to what can and can’t be included in pet food.
What are some of the benefits of high-protein dog food?
Dog food with high protein levels will supply your dog with the nutrients they need to build strong muscles and maintain healthy skin and coat.
As protein helps to bolster your pet’s energy levels, it can keep dogs sustained for more extended periods.
Proteins also assist in creating skin cells, in the repair and regeneration of bodily tissues, the growth of fur, and the creation of enzymes and hormones.
What constitutes a “high-protein” dog food?
While technically, any foods that contain more than the AAFCO suggested levels for protein could be considered high-protein, most manufacturers who market a high-protein diet include more than 30% protein in their formulas.
Some dog owners also say that high-protein diets should not contain more than 43% carbohydrate content.
To get an accurate idea of the protein content, you need to look at the dry matter basis and not the as-fed content included on many manufacturing labels.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
To grain or not to grain: Do dogs need grain-free, high-protein food?
Many high-protein dog foods are also grain-free to be closer to what your dog’s ancestors would have naturally consumed in the wild. Grain-free diets are free from any corn or wheat, both common allergens for dogs.
Instead, these foods derive most of their carb content from vegetables like peas and sweet potatoes. That said, grain-free diets are currently being investigated by the FDA for their possible link to canine cardiomyopathy.
As a result, your vet may rather recommend a diet that incorporates wholesome grains, such as brown rice, lentils, or oatmeal, rather than avoiding grains altogether.
Can you give homemade high-protein food to your dog?
A homemade diet can help you to avoid low-quality ingredients as well as artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
In addition, making your own dog food in large batches can actually be a cheaper way to feed your pet a high-protein diet.
This is especially true if you hunt your own venison, raise your own chickens or have a quality source of good meat on hand.
When feeding your dog homemade food, ensure that you cook all the ingredients properly to avoid salmonella contamination.
Also, avoid any seasoning, such as onions or garlic which can be toxic to your dog. Here is a delicious DIY dog food to try at home:
- 1 1/2 cups brown rice
- 3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 pounds ground turkey
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 2 carrots
- 1 zucchini
- 1/2 cup peas
- In a large saucepan, cook the rice in the water.
- Once the rice is cooked, set it aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the ground turkey and cook until browned. Make sure to crumble the turkey as it cooks.
- Shed the carrots, zucchini, and spinach and add together with the peas to the brown rice.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes until the spinach has wilted and the mixture is heated through.
- Stir in the turkey and mix together.
- Set the mixture to cool completely before serving it to your dog.
Is the excessive protein in dog food bad for your pet?
Your dog needs a balanced diet just like you do in order to cater towards all his nutritional needs. Dogs’ bodies are built to digest proteins which is why in the wild, canines live on a diet that primarily consists of wild meat.
While there’s no scientific evidence that suggests a high protein diet will be bad for your dog, some pet owners claim that dogs on a high protein diet are more hyperactive.
It’s however true that dogs with existing kidney problems can struggle to digest proteins and so can benefit from a limited protein diet.
You should also be careful when feeding a high protein diet to large breed puppies because too much growth too quickly can put unnecessary strain on the bones and joints of these dogs.
Are there any dogs who shouldn’t eat high-protein dog food?
While most dogs can handle a high protein diet and benefit from one, these types of foods should be avoided with elderly dogs or those suffering from kidney problems.
Dogs with poor kidneys will struggle to process high-protein diets efficiently. Overweight dogs should also avoid high protein diets as these foods usually have higher calorie levels.
Transition: Before You Switch to a High-Protein Dog Food
Before you put your dog on a high protein diet, be sure to consult with your veterinarian.
As each dog is different, they have different nutritional needs, and your vet will be able to advise on the best food for your dog’s specific activity level and health.
Before you make the transition to a high protein diet, remember that these dog foods are going to be more expensive than regular kibble.
Because of the higher meat content and fewer carbs and vegetables, it makes sense that a high protein diet is on the pricey side.
Once you’re ready to purchase high-protein dog food, be selective in your choice. Opt for a brand that uses high-quality ingredients that will provide the best nutrition for your pet.
There are a variety of dog food brands that we haven’t mentioned above that also offer excellent high protein dry and wet dog foods, such as Diamond Naturals, Orijen, Holistic and more.
Do you feed your pooch high-protein dog food? We would love to know more about which brand you use and if your pup loves it in the comments below.