🐶 Summer Sale - up to 70% off + Extra 20% Sitewide : JULY20 🐶
0 $0

Will Too Much Protein in a Dog’s Diet Cause Health Problems?

Will Too Much Protein in a Dog’s Diet Cause Health Problems?

Jun 09, 2021
AUTHOR Dr. Ross Bernstein

Reviewed by Dr. Ross Bernstein

Dr. Ross Bernstein is a seasoned veterinarian who we’re fortunate to have as the head of our Board of Pet Experts. Dr. Ross earned his doctoral degree in veterinary medicine at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where he was trained under the guidance of some of the country's most renowned veterinary professionals.

High Protein Diet for Dogs—How Much Protein Does Your Dog Need?

Does your furry buddy howl at the moon? No? Well, we are on the same page—dogs are not wolves, although, at times, they certainly think they are. Despite the popular opinion that these two species should eat similar food, they don’t have the same food requirements.

A common misconception has grown around the theory that dogs need lots of protein to satisfy their meat needs. Canines are not obligate carnivores, despite what you’ve heard from many pet food companies.

Finding the perfect balanced nutrition for your furry one is difficult, and you do need to use your Sherlock Holmes skills to rule out harmful products from your pup’s diet. There are a lot of excellent formulas out there, but you need to dig deep.

First, start with the specific nutritional needs of your pooch. Highly active dogs will have different diet requirements from pups, whose primary duty is to walk to the food bowl and back. Even these lazy couch potatoes need to have some exercise during the day, but the activity levels need to be reflected in their feeding.

All ingredients should be taken in moderation, and the same goes for proteins. Read on to learn how much protein is safe for your pet and why balanced nutrition is so important.

We are not affiliated with any food manufacturer, and we are not paid to promote products. Everything you read in our articles is based solely on verified and accurate information that we gathered for our research.

Our evaluation

Our team of avid dog lovers is here to help you. We investigate each dog-related topic to the fullest, with the aim of providing you with verified information. If you are not certain how much protein your dog can have, there is someone who knows.
For this topic, we chose to consult

  1. Three veterinary nutritionists
  2. Dog parents
  3. Dog lovers community

Veterinary nutritionists gave us their professional opinion on the matter. Years of experience have resulted in an in-depth knowledge of how much protein is sufficient for your pup.

Lots of dog parents perform diet trials on their pups, and this helps them figure out what’s the best nutrition for them. Dog owners who have gone through this process told us the most common mistakes the other pet owners make, and how they should correct them. They stressed that every dog owner must be informed adequately and have valid information at their disposal.

Lastly, our dog lovers community-recommended lots of products that provide our pups with balanced nutrition. They told us these formulas are costly, but if you worry about your dog’s health, then you should not put a price on it.

And remember, we are not sponsored to give promotion to any food company. We present to you our findings to help your hairy companion have a healthy life. Everything you read in the article is the result of our detailed research.

What Are the Typical Mistakes and Misconceptions among Dog Owners

Dogs don’t need a diet that consists mostly of meat. That’s the greatest misconception circulating in the dog world. Dog food companies have instilled this idea as part of their marketing strategy. Just like us humans, our little friends are also omnivorous. You must have noticed this yourself—whenever you leave them unsupervised, they eat anything they find in their way.

This misconception also stems from the fact that dogs are related to wolves, which are carnivorous animals. After many years of evolution, these two species have gone different ways, and while wolves remained carnivorous, dogs have developed the ability to digest plant-based nutrients.     

How Much Protein Should Be in Dog Food

Proteins need to be part of every dog’s diet. Proteins contain amino acids, which are crucial for their nutrition. The lack of proteins can lead to severe issues such as

  • Weight loss
  • Sickness
  • Fatigue
  • Rough coat

The problem with feeding your dog high-protein formulas is that your pup’s body can’t digest too much protein at once. All excess protein can either be burned in energy or turned into fat. For dogs who like to sleep and rest day in day out, too much protein can lead to severe health problems with

  1. Kidneys
  2. Liver
  3. Obesity
  4. Immune system
  5. Diarrhea

Puppy pups need a greater amount of protein in their diet because their bodies are developing. However, you should be careful with large breed puppies. If they gain too much weight, it will put enormous pressure on their growing spine and joints. The same goes for dogs who have short legs. Their nutrition needs to be tailored not to stress their joints. Dogs who put on too much weight are less likely to be active, and thus will turn into a dog version of Garfield.

So it’s difficult to say what’s the exact amount of protein that your pooch should get. It all depends on their breed, activity, lifestyle, size. According to our research, a rough estimate would suggest that puppies should get around 29 percent of protein. Adults require approximately 18 percent dietary protein along with all amino acids that their body needs.

The ten most essential amino acids for our dogs are:

  • Lysine
  • Arginine
  • Threonine
  • Histidine
  • Valine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Tryptophane
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine

Your task is to find food that contains as many amino acids as possible, as each one of them contributes to healthy development of your pooch.

You should also know, it’s not always the amount of protein that matters, but its quality and digestibility. Make sure that your pup gets protein from high-quality ingredients. The food you’re giving to your pet must contain both animal-based and plant-based proteins.

Protein is burned in the liver, and the excess protein is filtered in the kidneys. High-quality protein does not produce much waste. Poor quality protein is not easy to digest, and it puts too much pressure on kidneys. The liver needs water to process protein, so we advise all dog owners to mix dry food with canned food. Extra moisture found in the wet food will be beneficial for them, and it might prevent liver disease.

Can protein sources cause allergies in dogs?

While pet owners usually suspect that their pooch is having issues with grain, the actual problem can just as easily be protein-based. Chicken and beef are proclaimed the biggest causes of dog allergy. Even though they belong to high-quality protein sources, in case your pet is allergic or sensitive to beef or poultry, look for the products that don’t contain these ingredients.

If your pup suffers from allergies, we advise you to consult with your vet to help you find the perfect diet for your buddy.

Where to Find High-Quality Protein

Our hairy companions are omnivorous. We need to give them protein if we want to keep our dogs healthy and strong. Search for the food with a high biological value that your pooch will digest easily. In the list below, you’ll find the kinds of food that have this value.

Top-quality food brands always use different sources of protein. So you’ll see that apart from lamb, beef, or poultry, they almost always add extra protein sources from eggs, fish, or cheese. So, let’s see how much protein we can find in these ingredients.

Meat as Protein Source

Meat is an excellent source of protein, but you need to make sure you find products that contain real meat. Despite the claims of dog food companies, always read the ingredient list before opting for a certain formula. Meat that’s most often included in high-quality formulas is:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Duck

Meat by-products are slaughterhouse waste. They contain some proteins, but they’re usually difficult to digest. If you can afford it, always go with formulas that contain real meat. Meat by-products typically contain:

  • Feathers
  • Horns
  • Claws
  • Beaks
  • Hooves
  • Hair

Fish as Protein Source

Fish is used in many high-quality products as it is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. These acids maintain healthy skin and provide your pup with a lustrous coat. Your pup will be proud of their look, and they will want to have some friends over, just to brag.

Eggs as Protein Source

Believe it or not, dogs can sometimes get more proteins from eggs than meat. You can give eggs to your pup as part of their homemade meal, as long as they’re cooked.

Balanced Diet

Your beastie must get protein from different sources. If they continuously eat the same food, based on the same protein sources, they can grow a sensitivity to it. As we have already mentioned, the best formulas are the ones that mix animal and plant-based proteins. Several factors also influence well-balanced nutrition, and those are:

  1. Vitamins. Vitamins contribute a lot to your pooch’s health, especially their eyesight. The formulas you’re feeding to your dog should contain around one percent of vitamins.
  2. Carbohydrates. Regular intakes of carbs will keep your canine’s colon healthy. They contain fiber that aids digestion and regulates colon bacteria. Carbohydrates are excellent energy providers.
  3. Minerals. If you want your pup’s bones and teeth healthy, look for food that contains about two to four percent of minerals.
  4. Fat. Your dog’s food should contain from ten to twenty percent of fat. It promotes healthy coat growth and a strong immune system.

Below you’ll find two food formulas that we selected for you. They can serve you as a model while you’re searching for your pooch’s perfect diet.

How We Chose Our Top Picks

We choose two products that we would like you to use as a paragon when buying food for your hairy pup. We had in mind that these formulas would provide your canine with a well-balanced diet, meeting all their nutritional needs. It was vital for us that it meets the following criteria:

  1. Have a specific meat source as the number one ingredient
  2. Don’t have meat or vegetable by-products, as well as grain
  3. Meet the requirements of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
  4. Doesn’t include ingredients that most often cause allergies

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Food Review (Dry)

Source: blue buffalo

This Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe contains tasty, high in protein deboned chicken along with natural ingredients that your dog will adore. It is full of vitamins and minerals that promote your pup’s healthy bones and a strong immune system. It provides the perfect balance between crude protein and crude fat. Glucosamine keeps your dog’s joints healthy. Omega 3 and Omega 6 acids maintain your canine’s skin and coat. The formula doesn’t contain any by-product meals.

Guaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein24.0% min
Crude Fat14.0% min
Crude Fiber5.0 % max
Moisture10.0% max
Calcium1% min
Phosphorus0.7% min
Omega-6 Fatty Acids*3.0% min
Omega-3 Fatty Acids*0.5% min
Glucosamine400 mg/kg min


Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Pea Starch, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Peas, Pea Protein, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Dried Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor DL-Methionine, Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Garlic, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract

Additional Ingredients

Niacin (Vitamin B3), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Cranberries, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, 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).

Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Source: taste of the wild

Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is a formula that gets all proteins from fish. Smoked salmon will provide your doggo with their inner-wolf requirements. High levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids maintain your pup’s healthy skin and coat. This product will give your puppy pal food that will support their active life. The grain-free formula also contains peas and sweet potatoes that render your pooch lots of energy.

Guaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein25.0% min
Crude Fat15.0% min
Crude Fiber3.0 % max
Moisture10.0% max
Zinc150 mg/kg min
Selenium (Se)0.35 mg/kg min
Vitamin E150 IU/kg min
Taurine0.12% min
Omega-6 Fatty Acids*2.4% min
Omega-3 Fatty Acids*0.3% min
Total MicroorganismsNot less than 80,000,000 CFU/lb min


Salmon, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), lentils, vitamin E supplement, salmon meal, smoked salmon, potato fiber, copper proteinate, natural flavor, salt, thiamine mononitrate, 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, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D supplement, folic acid, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride.

Provide Your Pooch with the Best

As you can see, there are plenty of things you need to pay attention to when searching for your dog’s food. Use our guide to find perfect protein-balanced nutrition for your beloved one.

Too much of anything can be harmful, so don’t exaggerate by giving them a high-protein diet that their body can’t process. Always pursue well-balanced nutrition that will provide your little friend with everything their body requires.

You can also find some ideas in our list of the best dry dog food for small dogs or best large breed dry dog food and see if any of these could be your dog’s food of choice. You’ll find food for both small and large breeds in these lists. If you’re looking for canned food, we recommend you to take a peek at the best canned dog food.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_food
  2. Tjernsbekk, M. T., et al. “Protein and Amino Acid Bioavailability of Extruded Dog Food with Protein Meals of Different Quality Using Growing Mink (Neovison Vison) as a model12.” Journal of Animal Science, vol. 94, no. 9, Jan. 2016, pp. 3796–3804., doi:10.2527/jas.2016-0526.
  3. Robertson, Debora. Bone appétit: 50 Clean Recipes for Healthier, Happier Dogs. Harper Design, 2019.
author image

Dr. Ross Bernstein

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Ross Bernstein is a seasoned veterinarian who we’re fortunate to have as the head of our Board of Pet Experts. Dr. Ross completed his undergraduate studies at Duke University, earning his B.S. in Neuroscience with a minor in Economics and Psychology. He then went on to pursue his doctoral degree in veterinary medicine at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where he was trained under the guidance of some of the country's most renowned veterinary professionals.

After UC Davis, Dr. Ross completed a one-year rotating internship in Medicine & Surgery at the University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine, and recently completed an additional year of further training in small animal surgery at the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center, where he gained extensive experience in complex soft tissue, orthopedic and neurological procedures.

Dr. Ross shares his home with a Golden Retriever named Duma. We’re lucky to have someone as experienced, knowledgeable, and passionate as Dr. Ross in our pack – not only as our trusted advisor, but also as our good friend. Thank you, Dr. Ross!

Top Posts

Dog Eye Infections: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention
Dog Eye Infections: Symptoms, Causes
Dog Sneezing? Here’s Why Dogs Sneeze – And What To Do About It
Dog Sneezing? Here’s Why Dogs
Dog Ear Yeast Infections: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention
Dog Ear Yeast Infections: Symptoms,
Addison’s Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
Addison’s Disease in Dogs: Sym
Can Dogs Eat Avocado? Our Vet Weighs In
Can Dogs Eat Avocado? Our Vet Weighs

Welcome to our Vet Corner

Each week, we publish high-quality, helpful content written & reviewed by our team of board-certified veterinary specialists. Think of us as your partners in pet parenthood: we’re here to provide you with expert medical answers to your pet health questions, so you can continue to give your pets the happy & healthy lives they deserve.

The Vet Stamp of Approval

Ah, the coveted Vet Stamp of Approval. We live for this badge. When you see it, you’ll know you’re in good hands. (Not seeing the badge on an article that needs it? Reach out to us and we’ll get right on it!)


The medical, nutritional, or behavioral advice we provide is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Our editorial content is not a substitute for formal or personalized medical advice from a veterinary professional. Only board-certified veterinary specialists who have examined your pet should diagnose medical conditions, provide personalized treatment, or prescribe appropriate medication. For questions regarding your pet’s health, or if your pet is exhibiting signs of illness, injury, or distress, contact your veterinarian immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.

    Your Cart
      Calculate Shipping
      Apply Coupon