What’s the best low-protein dog food for my pooch?

High-protein diets are typically recommended for dogs. However, certain pets require a reduced protein diet. This is generally due to health conditions or old age.

But choosing an excellent low-protein diet for your pup doesn’t have to mean compromising on quality.

Three healthy dogs eating wet dog food on a porch
Three dogs eating on separate plates under the sun

Let’s take a look at the best low-protein dog foods on the market so you can provide your pup with the best!

Top 5 Picks for Best Low Protein Dog Food in 2021

  Low Protein Dog Food Recipes Our Rating
Best Overall Low-Protein Dog Food Natural Balance L.I.D. Low-Protein Dry Dog Food

  • An excellent source of DHA for keeping the brain focused
  • Flaxseed provides a high-quality source of Omega 3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
  • Chicken-free formula for those who are allergic to poultry
5
Best Budget Low-Protein Dog Food Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula

  • Crafted with MCT or medium-chain triglyceride coconut or vegetable oil
  • Promotes total digestibility and optimal nutrient absorption
  • Recommended for dogs of all sizes and life stages who suffer from sensitive digestion
5
 

Best Low-Protein Puppy Food

Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Miracle Dog Food

  • Offers pet owners complete control over the protein content
  • Designed to improve vitality, joint flexibility, digestion, and appetite
  • Suitable for all breed sizes and loved by picky eaters
 

4.5

 

Best Low-Protein Adult Dog Food

Hill’s Science Diet Dry Low-Protein Dog Food

  • Manufactured in the USA to meet strict requirements for nutrient content
  • Includes Omega 3 fatty acids for nourishing a healthy skin and coat
  • A great option for adults and seniors of all breed sizes
5
Best Low-Protein Senior Dog Food Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 7+ for Senior Dogs, Small Bites

  • Contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • It comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee and is the number one choice by veterinarians
  • Easy-to-digest dog food with synergistic ingredient blend that promotes ideal weight and youthful vitality for seniors
 

5

Best Low-Protein Dog Food Brands by Life Stage

So, your dog has a health condition, and your vet has recommended a low-protein diet, but which one’s the best?

Take a look at 10 of the best low protein dog foods below and chose one that works for your dog and their specific life stage:

Best Low Protein Puppy Food

a Jack Russell Terrier puppy eating on a stainless bowl
An adorable Jack Russell Terrier enjoying its low protein food

Protein is essential for the growing needs of young puppies. However, some pups require low-protein diets. If your dog is one of these poor pups, have a look at the following diet options:

1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula

Blue Buffalo Large Breed Puppy Dry Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice
Type: Dry

This vet-formulated, large-breed puppy formula is made from an all-natural blend of chicken, fruits, veggies, and wholesome grains to assist with muscle growth and brain development.

It also contains a precise blend of antioxidants for immune functioning and proper digestion.

Pros:

  • Free from any meat by-products, corn, wheat, or soy
  • Contains DHA and ARA for healthy brain and eye development and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
  • High-quality protein diet made with L-Carnitine to support lean muscle development

Cons:

  • Some dogs had diarrhea while on this diet

CHECK PRICE HERE

2. Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Miracle Dog Food

Dr. Harvey's Canine Health Miracle Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Barley, Organic Triticale
Type: Freeze-Dried

This natural, organic premixed food is blended with vegetable or fish oil and protein as a special homemade meal.

It’s made from human-grade ingredients, including six organic grains, nine vegetables, and fourteen herbs, leaving it up to you to add your desired protein.

Pros:

  • Offers pet owners complete control over the protein content
  • Designed to improve vitality, joint flexibility, digestion, and appetite
  • Suitable for all breed sizes and loved by picky eaters

Cons:

  • A few dogs simply refused to eat this recipe

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best Low Protein Adult Dog Food

a happy Golden Retriever sitting while owner serves him dog food
A Golden Retriever patiently waiting for his food made with love

Regular dog food has more than 25% protein content.

While this is fine for most normal, healthy dogs, it isn’t suitable for every dog. Certain medical conditions need to be addressed through a low protein diet. 

1. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Low-Protein Dog Food

Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Chicken Meal

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Brewers Rice
Type: Dry

Featuring 16.5% protein, this low protein science diet uses chicken meal as its first ingredient and is packed full of vitamins and minerals.

This diet has specifically been formulated for dogs over the age of seven and aims to promote vitality in just 30 days.

Pros:

  • Manufactured in the USA to meet strict requirements for nutrient content
  • Includes Omega 3 fatty acids for nourishing a healthy skin and coat
  • A great option for adults and seniors of all breed sizes

Cons:

  • Contains wheat, corn, and soy, so it’s not a great choice for doggos with gluten allergies

CHECK PRICE HERE

2. Holistic Select Natural Dry Low-Protein Dog Food

Holistic Select Weight Management Grain Free

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Peas
Type: Dry

Ideal for dogs with digestive issues and weakened immunity, this dog food has been formulated with ten types of probiotics to aid in gut health.

Made with 26% protein, this gluten-free weight management diet is specifically designed to meet overweight and low activity pets’ needs. 

Pros:

  • Contains glucosamine, l-carnitine, and taurine for heart and joint health and an improved metabolism
  • Live yogurt cultures, digestive enzymes, natural fiber, antioxidants, and Omega 3 fatty acids support overall health
  • A grain-free diet for canines who needs weight control and has sensitive digestion

Cons:

  • Some pet owners complained that the bag size had recently been reduced, although the price stayed the same

CHECK PRICE HERE

3. Nutro Ultra Adult Low-Protein Dog Food

Nutro Ultra Weight Management Dry

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Brown Rice
Type: Dry

A low-calorie, low-protein, low-fat weight management diet designed to promote joint health in overweight or inactive dogs.

The recipe contains 12 different superfoods, including oatmeal, beet pulp, flaxseed, egg, kale, and pumpkin, while wholesome grains help better digestion.

Pros:

  • Contains essential fatty acids and taurine for optimum immune system functioning
  • Made of lean proteins from farm-raised chicken, pasture-fed lamb, and salmon for strong, lean muscles
  • Has no soy, wheat, corn, preservatives, artificial colors, or flavors

Cons:

  • Some pet owners said this food was bland and boring and did not appeal to their dogs

CHECK PRICE HERE

4. Natural Balance L.I.D. Low-Protein Dry Dog Food

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Sweet Potatoes, Bison, Potato Protein
Type: Dry

This limited-ingredient diet made from real hormone-free bison and sweet potatoes features a 20% protein content.

It’s also a grain-free formula containing limited carbohydrates, no artificial flavors, and colors for pets of any life stage.

Pros:

  • An excellent source of DHA for keeping the brain focused
  • Flaxseed provides a high-quality source of Omega 3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
  • Chicken-free formula for those who are allergic to poultry

Cons:

  • Some dogs simply refused to eat this food

CHECK PRICE HERE

5. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Brewers Rice, Corn, Chicken Fat
Type: Dry

Low-calorie and vet-exclusive recipe boasting low-protein and a moderate amount of fats.

This formula has been designed by veterinarians specifically for pets suffering from chronic kidney disease. Some dog owners recommend wetting the kibbles for better hydration.

Pros:

  • Helps improve kidney function and urinary health because it’s formulated to promote a urinary environment unfavorable for stones, calcium oxalate crystals, and struvites to develop.
  • Pea-free option for adult dogs of all breed sizes with urinary health problems
  • Has low magnesium and phosphorus and anti-inflammatories through Omega 3 fatty acids to fight infection.

Cons:

  • Quite costly compared to other low-protein diets
  • A few dogs wouldn’t eat this kibble

CHECK PRICE HERE

6. CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited-Ingredient Recipe

CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Bison, Lamb Meal, Sweet Potatoes
Type: Dry

Another limited-ingredient diet, this formula is designed to improve digestive function and is made with real meat for great taste and whole foods for immune system functioning.

It’s a simple recipe for sensitive dogs with no more than ten easily recognizable ingredients.

Pros:

  • No corn, wheat, soy, or other common allergens
  • Contains essential fatty acids for minimizing inflammation of your dog’s kidneys
  • Fortified with CANIDAE’s HealthPLUS blend of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, antioxidants, and probiotics

Cons:

  • Some dog owners complained that this food was too expensive and the price kept going up

CHECK PRICE HERE

7. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Meat By-Products, Water Sufficient For Processing, Barley
Type: Wet

Help your canine’s digestive health with this veterinary- and nutritionist-diet made with healthy antioxidants, prebiotic fibers, glucosamine, chondroitin, and high-quality animal protein sources.

It also comes in a low-fat diet while providing lower levels of protein.

Pros:

  • Crafted with MCT or medium-chain triglyceride coconut or vegetable oil
  • Promotes total digestibility and optimal nutrient absorption
  • Recommended for dogs of all sizes and life stages who suffer from sensitive digestion.

Cons:

  • Some dog owners said their pets wouldn’t eat this particular recipe

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best Low Protein Senior Dog Food

a beautiful senior Miniature Shepherd standing
Meet Princess, a senior Miniature Dachshund finished her low protein meal – Image source

Older dogs with chronic liver and kidney disease or low energy levels are sometimes prescribed a low-protein diet. 

1. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Small Bites Dry Dog Food

Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Small Bites

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Brewers Rice
Type: Dry

Dog food is specifically made for senior dogs older than seven years with poor kidney health. This pet food allows older dogs to maintain a healthy weight while providing complete body nutrition.

The all-natural, quality ingredients contain a precise blend of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids to support your pet’s immune system.

Pros:

  • Contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • It comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee and is the number one choice by veterinarians
  • Easy-to-digest dog food with synergistic ingredient blend that promotes ideal weight and youthful vitality for seniors

Cons:

  • Some dogs got sick while on this formula

CHECK PRICE HERE

Is a low-protein dog food good for dogs?

a Shih Tzu Maltese sitting with a plate full of food
Meet Dora, a Shih Tzu x Maltese appreciating the buffet meal – Image source

Dogs need protein to build muscle mass, cells, and tissues. It also aids in their development, growth, and the synthesizing of hormones and enzymes.

However, these proteins need to be processed by the liver, kidneys, and intestines.

These organs work to break down proteins into their essential amino acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood.

However, dogs that have diseases that affect these organs can struggle to break down proteins, and in these instances, a low-protein diet needs to be considered.

What dogs will benefit most from low protein diets?

For dogs suffering from kidney or renal failure and difficulty in producing urine won’t be able to break down the 30-40% protein content that most dog foods contain.

For these dogs, high-protein diets can lead to further and rapid deterioration of these organs. More severe problems can then also develop, including hepatic encephalopathy and even comas.

Reducing the amount of protein in your dog’s diet will help alleviate the pressure on these vital organs.

Health conditions that might require a low protein diet

Several health conditions may require limiting your dog’s protein intake. These include:

  • Renal failure – a disease in which the kidneys cannot provide their function of producing urine. Too much protein in the diet leads to a build-up of nitrogenous waste. Renal failure in dogs is generally brought on by another health issue such as diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, Lyme disease, or even skin infections.
  • PLN (protein-losing nephropathy) – similar to renal failure, PLN causes severe damage to the kidneys, allowing large protein molecules to pass through the organ’s filtering system. Increased protein levels only serve to exacerbate the disease further.
  • Liver disease – This occurs when the liver is unable to process toxins. These toxins accumulate in the blood and can even reach the brain, leading to more severe ailments.
  • Bladder stones – urate crystals can be eliminated through the introduction of a low-protein diet. In this case, a low-protein diet can be a temporary solution to the problem.

When are low-protein diets a good idea?

an overweight Bulldog with a dog bowl filled to the brim
A picky overweight Bulldog rejecting the dog food

Dogs need 22 amino acids for healthy functioning.

Thus, protein is a critical part of a dog’s diet. Insufficient protein levels can lead to low energy and slowed growth, leading to bone density problems, skin conditions, and ear infections.

That said, for dogs that cannot absorb protein properly, any additional protein will just be excreted in the urine and can lead to severe kidney and liver issues.

In these cases, low-protein diets can save your dogs from developing advanced stages of these diseases and assist with better aging.

High-protein foods will have high-calorie levels and can also lead to rapid weight gain. This can be a problem in already overweight or low-energy pets.

How much protein amount is considered as low-protein food?

As dogs need protein in their diet to stay healthy, a low-protein diet does not mean the complete absence of proteins.

Dog food that contains a minimum protein content of 18% can be considered a low-protein diet. Foods that have lower protein levels can be dangerous for your pet.

Although some of the products listed above contain higher protein levels than this.

Ingredients have been specifically formulated to care for common health ailments such as kidney disease or digestive issues.

Best Low-Protein Dog Food Buying Guide

As discussed above, low-protein diets can be a good fit for dogs with specific medical conditions. But what else should you consider when looking for food for your pet?

a woman reading the information behind the dog food bag
A woman meticulously reading the nutrient contents of a dog food

What are the benefits of Low-Protein dog food? 

For dogs with kidney, liver, or digestive system problems, low-protein diets can improve metabolism by giving these ailing vital organs a rest

These diets can help alleviate some of the symptoms caused by these diseases.

Low-protein diets also help prevent the accumulation of toxins and nitrogenous waste in the blood while also eliminating kidney stones that can block the urinary system.

What Should Consumers Look For in a Low-Protein Dog Food?: What should dogs eat?

No matter what dog food you choose for your pet, you should always opt for one that has animal products as the primary protein source.

High-quality proteins from animals are more easily digested by dogs, so the protein content in these diets is better utilized.

Many low-protein dog foods also focus on limiting the phosphorus levels in the food. Low-phosphorus diets are seen by vets to help dogs with kidney impairments.

For dogs with bladder stones, diets that include natural acidifiers like cranberries, alongside low-protein levels, can relieve this condition.

Most quality low-protein diets will also include active probiotics, healthy fiber, and digestive enzymes, making these foods easier on sensitive stomachs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

a puppy laying on the floor with half eaten dog food
A stuffed cute Puppy laying after munching its food

Which type of low-protein dog food should you go for?

Wet dog food generally has higher protein content levels than dry kibble, so it may not be best for pets on a low-protein diet.

Also, protein content should be calculated on the crude protein content, which means they dry matter weight. This needs to be taken into consideration if you opt for wet dog food for your pet.

Do dogs also need grain-free food when on a low-protein diet?

Grain-free dog foods often contain a higher protein content than grain-inclusive diets, so these may not be the best choice for dogs that need low-protein food.

They often contain more meat protein to simulate what dogs would naturally eat in the wild while including additional plant-based protein options such as legumes and potatoes.

In this case, it would be better to go for a grain-based diet with whole grains and a low-protein, low-calorie content.

What can I feed my dog on a low-protein diet? 

For dogs that suffer from digestive issues, some foods can give your dog a protein boost without causing problems for a sensitive stomach.

Eggs are a great healthy option. Also, make sure any protein you’re giving your dog is easy to digest and lean, such as chicken, turkey, venison, and fish.

For dogs on a low-protein diet, bananas can also be a wonderful treat.

Bananas contain just 1 gram of protein per serving while providing plenty of vitamins and minerals. They are also naturally free from sodium, cholesterol, and fat.

Other fruits and vegetable options for dogs include prunes, blackberries, peaches, kiwis, and figs. These fruits are low in protein but excellent sources of Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.

Homemade low-protein dog food you can make

If you want to DIY, there are plenty of recipes online that you can try. This is one example that we think your pooch will love.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of calcium carbonate (you can purchase calcium carbonate and blend some of it until it’s powdery)
  • 3 slices white bread, crumbled
  • 1 hard-boiled egg (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 cups of cooked white rice (unsalted)
  • ¼ ground beef (not lean)

Instructions:

  1. Cook the beef thoroughly.
  2. Mix in the other ingredients and stir well.

** You can feed your dog twice a day with this, but the maker of this recipe said to be sure to give your dog a vitamin supplement.

Talk to your vet once you’ve chosen the best low-protein dog food

a Doxie licking its face while grazing at a full dog bowl
A hungry Dachshund ready to devour its food

Low-protein diets aren’t suitable for every dog. They’re usually advised by veterinarians if dogs suffer from kidney problems, liver disease, have allergies, or are overweight.

Always talk to your vet before introducing any new food to your pet, particularly in the case of a low-protein diet which can be detrimental to your dog if not necessary.

They’ll be able to advise you on the best food options for your dog’s health ailments, weight, age, and dietary requirements.

In some instances, particularly if your pet’s disease has reached end stages, your vet may also opt to put your dog on a prescription diet rather than a store-bought kibble.

Does your dog suffer from any of the diseases mentioned above and is on a low-protein diet as a result? Let us know what you’re feeding them in the comments below.

Further Reading: Dog foods with specific formulas

  • Best Dog Food with Grain
  • Best High-Protein Dog Food
  • Best High-Fiber Dog Food
  • Best Limited-Ingredient Dog Food

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