If you want to know everything about the best low protein dog foods, then you are in the right place. We are going to present you with the top 10 options in the market. Furthermore, we are going to show you how to use this kind of food effectively. Low protein dog food is known to improve the health of dogs with pancreatitis or kidney failure, for example.
The most complete guide on the internet, ever, because we dispel all the myths to bring you accurate and crystal-clear information. We show you why certain owners have switched to dog food with low protein, the reasons that back it up (for example kidney disease) and how to know if your pet needs this kind of food as well. In addition, we will also show you why low protein is not enough and what other critical factors to consider.
What Are Low Protein Dog Foods?
Low protein dog foods are dog foods with a lower concentration of protein and a higher ratio of carbohydrates and fats. For instance, most commercial pet foods contain an average of 25% protein, whereas low-protein versions contain approximately 10-12%.
They are not ideal for all dogs, and that is why their use is advised for dogs with specific ailments like:
- canine pancreatitis,
- kidney stones,
- urinary problems,
- liver disease, or
- kidney disease.
Under such circumstances, it can be very helpful to support the effective treatment of the ailment to combat.
When Should I Give My Dog Low Protein Dog Food?
We have already seen some circumstances that require a switch from the normal protein ratio to lower alternatives, but to understand it properly, here you have a full explanation.
By far, it is the most common reason why your veterinarian can suggest you feed your dog a low protein diet because the kidney metabolizes protein, and by reducing the ingest, the workload of the organ is also reduced, which is essential in cases of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), because it will increase the chances of survival.
The kidneys of your dog will need extra help to get rid of elements like phosphorous, nitrogen and creatinine, which when in high concentrations, can create electrolyte disturbances that are especially harmful t animals that suffer this condition. By feeding your dog a lower ratio of protein, but of higher quality, your pet will have an easier time flushing out these minerals.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that, in the vast majority of cases, your veterinarian will recommend moist food over dry food, because the first is much easier to digest and process.
Another common cause for feeding your dog a low protein diet is to eliminate kidney stones. Unlike CKD, the diet will be temporary until your pet has gotten rid of all the renal stones. However, it is important to remember that a high-protein diet is not an inherent cause of this abnormality, but reducing the protein ratio helps with the treatment (see study).
Similar to CKD, when your dog suffers from liver disease, it is essential to reduce the workload of the organ affected. Such foods will contain protein of higher quality and easier digestibility, to bring the body of your dog more resources to heal properly because it is essential to retain muscle mass during the process. Although, you need to follow the instructions of your veterinarian carefully.
The quality of protein plays a very important role in low-protein food because you want to give your pet an easy time digesting it, and therefore, protein from animal sources will always be superior to plant-based such as rice, corn, wheat, etc.
Another common reason why owners opt for this kind of diet is due to hyperactivity; however, it is more a problem of the source rather than the ratio of protein in the dog food, because as long as the protein is high quality and easily digestible, it should not interfere with the behavior of your dog.
Is A High Protein Diet Bad For My Dog?
It entirely depends on the context. Indeed, it is not the same for a healthy and active dog than for an old dog with chronic kidney disease. Therefore, here you have the pros and cons.
Pros of a Low-Protein Diet
- Ideal for puppies to develop and grow optimally
- Perfect for pregnant mother dogs (critical for their optimal development)
- Better digestibility
- Allows your dog to retain its muscle mass and shed off extra fat (source)
- Controls the appetite of your dog by making it feel more satiated after a meal
Cons of a Low-Protein Diet
- It can lead to weight gain (because many high protein dog foods contain low-quality protein sources that are also very high in calories). It is a serious issue because 59% of dogs in the U.S are obese!
- May be problematic for dogs with severe cases of kidney disease and liver disease, especially if the quality of protein is low (ex: rice, corn, and wheat). Therefore, it is important to lower the ratio and increase the quality (meat based; lamb, chicken, fish, etc.)
What To Consider When Buying Low Protein Dog Food
Do you want to know if a low protein dog food is a good choice? In case you want to judge the plethora of low protein kibbles available, make sure you are using the below criteria. The amount of protein contained is obviously a must-know…
Always read the list of ingredients because the quality is better than quantity, especially when we are talking about a low protein ratio. As your dog will get less protein, it needs to be of higher quality to retain their muscle mass and guarantee optimal health.
Easy to digest and to assimilate. Furthermore, you should also check the quality of the fats and carbohydrates they include, along with the additives and possible fillers (avoid them at all cost).
Another metric to look for is the phosphorus level because high levels of it can be problematic for dogs with specific conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease. Nonetheless, you should check that your pick of low protein food for dogs also includes B-complex vitamins, omega 3 (like fish oil), antioxidants and amino acids because they are essential to counteract the low levels of phosphorus.
This is one of the most important metrics, even as important as the protein ratio because it has been proven to slow the progression of renal failure.
Age plays another determining role. Always check that the formula is appropriate for your dog because it would be a mistake to give your puppy a dog food like Royal Canin Veterinary Diet, which is formulated for senior dogs. In addition, in the case of puppies, they need a higher protein ratio to ensure their optimal development.
Furthermore, always check out the list of ingredients, to ensure that it does not contain elements that could trigger reactions in your dog.
You should always pick a flavor that your dog likes, so he can switch to it easily and avoid potential digestive issues. If your dog loves lamb, then it makes sense to pick a food like Premium Edge Lamb, Rice and Vegetables Dry Dog Food that uses it as its main animal protein source.
Furthermore, it is always worth it to read reviews about the flavor, especially from owners with picky dogs because it will give you a clear idea if your dog will like it or not.
Again, another reason why checking the list of ingredients is fundamental because you need to ensure that it contains all the elements that your dog needs for its treatment. In addition, you need to ensure that all of the macronutrients are of the highest quality, to bring your dog balanced and complete nutrition.
10 Best Low Protein Dog Foods
You now know when a dog requires a low protein diet, be it temporally or permanently in the case of CKD. It is important to remember that not all dog food with low protein is created equal. Only a few actually contain the highest quality protein and the best composition, to provide your dog with optimal nutrition.
Here is a list of the most popular low protein dog foods.
1. RC Veterinary Multifunction Renal Support
Royal Canin, one of the most famous pet good manufacturers in the world, fabricates it. They have formulated it especially to combat kidney and urinary problems such as kidney stones and kidney disease because its formula increases urine volume. Therefore, it helps your dog to flush out minerals that could cause problems. It uses chicken by-product meal as its main protein source, along with plant-based sources like egg product and brewers rice.
According to owners, it lives up to the hype because it truly helps with urinary problems. This formula helps to clean the urinary tract and does a good job at expulsing bladder stones (including struvite stones). Therefore, it is highly effective for treating urinary and kidney problems, and hence, a frequent addition to a renal diet. Nonetheless, because it contains poultry, corn, and wheat, it can trigger allergic reactions, especially if a dog has sensitive skin.
2. Hills Prescription Diet k/d
Fabricated by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a reputable American pet food company. Its composition features highly nutritional foods like chicken, egg product and pork fat, along with essential minerals and vitamins, to bring your dog optimal nutrition. In addition, it has an excellent flavor, which makes it easy for your pet to adapt.
Furthermore, it contains key benefits like low sodium and phosphorus content, Enhanced Appetite Trigger technology for dogs and therapeutic levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and L-Carnitine.
According to customers, they are feeding their pets with kidney disease with this food and getting excellent results, thanks to the scientific formulation, which provides them an optimal protein ratio, essential nutrients and a low content of problematic elements like phosphorus and sodium. It has a strong odor, but according to owners, most dogs don’t mind it. Even though it is a solid product, it is worth noting that it contains problematic ingredients like soybean oil.
3. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets
Fabricated by Natural Balance, an American pet food company with headquarters in Burbank, Los Angeles. It features bison as its main protein source while limiting carbohydrate sources, which is an attractive trait for many owners whose dogs react negatively to ingredients like corn meal and wheat. It contains bison, sweet potatoes, potato protein, and salmon oil, all of which are excellent nutritional foods for your pet. Furthermore, it is also rich in amino acids and contains no fillers, and in consequence, it is ideal for senior dogs.
Based on reviews, it is excellent for dogs with skin allergies, which can be triggered by foods like soy, which certain low-protein dog foods contain, and therefore, it is a valid alternative. Furthermore, customers vouch for its weight loss properties, in consequence, making it great for chubby dogs. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that they change switched owners to Purina, and therefore, the formula has changed, which has left some customers disappointed.
4. Nutro Ultra Weight Management
It is fabricated and formulated by Nutro, a subsidiary company of Mars Incorporate and it is based in Franklin, Tennessee. It’s an excellent blend of protein because it combines high-quality sources:
- salmon, and
Furthermore, they also include other foods like sun-ripened blueberries, egg protein, and chia seeds. It is 100% free of soy, corn, wheat, preservatives, and artificial flavors. Its composition is completely natural.
According to owners, it is excellent for dogs with bladder problems and obesity, because of its high-quality protein and easily digestible foods provide optimal nutrition to your pet. Furthermore, according to reviews, most dogs love the flavor of the kibble. In addition, the coat of the dogs that consume this product has become brighter and healthier, which is a result of the high-quality composition of ingredients. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that customers complain about the kibble size, which is too small.
5. Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food
It is fabricated by Holistic Select Natural Pet Food, a recognized pet food manufacturing company. Their formula focuses on bringing balanced nutrition to your dog, in order to reduce gas, bloating and discomfort, whilst aiding in the treatment of ailments like kidney disease. It features a grain-free formula that uses chicken as its main protein source, along with other foods like peas, lentils, and potatoes. Furthermore, it is advertised as a weight management food.
According to owners, it lives up to its promises, because it is excellent for controlling weight, especially in obese dogs. In addition, they also point out its ease to digest, which is great for a dog with sensitive stomachs. However, it is important to note that it has a noticeably high concentration of plant-based food, which can be a downside for certain dogs.
6. Iams Proactive Health MiniChunks
It is fabricated and formulated by Iams, a popular brand that belongs to Spectrum Brands and Mars Inc. Worldwide. Its formula uses authentic farm-raised chicken, to bring your dog with a great quality protein source. It is 100% free from soy, wheat, and artificial preservatives. It combines chicken with wholesome grains and beet pup for boosting energy and easing up digestion.
Customers express that its weight management properties live up to the hype, and therefore, it is great for chubby dogs. The taste seems to be good because most dogs eat it without hesitation. Also, it makes their coat look bright. However, it is pricier than average.
7. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet
It is fabricated by Blue Buffalo, a company with headquarters in Wilton, Connecticut. It outstands because it uses salmon as its unique animal protein source. The recipe also includes peas and pumpkin to ease digestion, and omega 3 & 6 to promote optimal coat and skin health. It also contains LifeSource bits, to guarantee an optimal blend of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins in every single bite. It’s 100% free of grains, poultry, soy, artificial flavors, and preservatives. An excellent dog food recipe.
According to customers, it is a great alternative for dogs that are allergic to poultry, grains, and soy. Therefore, it is ideal for pets with allergies and dry skin. Furthermore, thanks to its low content of protein, but of higher quality, it is ideal for dogs with CKD and liver disease. Also, it is great for dogs with stomach issues, because its ingredients are easy to digest. In consequence, it is great for senior dogs with health problems. Nonetheless, it is expensive and it is very smelly.
8. Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food
Fabricated and formulated by Hill’s Science Diet. It includes easily digestible ingredients to provide your dog with optimal nutrition. Its formula is especially effective for adult dogs because it includes omega-6s, an optimal balance of minerals to enhance kidney and liver function, and vitamin E to bring your dog a bright and healthy coat. Its main protein source is chicken meal.
According to owners, it is ideal for adult dogs because it provides them an optimal ratio of protein, carbs, and fat. In consequence, it brings them more energy and vitality. Furthermore, it is ideal for obese dogs because it allows them to lose weight easily. Therefore, the testimonials and reviews prove the high quality of this low-protein dry dog food. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that it also contains soybean oil, which can be problematic for certain dogs.
9. Purina EN Gastroenteric Low Protein
Purina, one of the most popular pet food brands in the world, formulates and fabricates this dog food. They have engineered it specifically for adult dogs with chronic kidney disease, and therefore, its formula contains a proper ratio of protein and fat (only 12% protein). It uses egg product as its main animal protein source, along with vegetable sources like brewers rice and whole-grain corn. It is specially designed for kidney care.
According to owners of dogs with kidney problems – including kidney failure – this food has helped them to improve the health condition of their pets. Furthermore, they confirm that it tastes and works better when soaked with some water. In addition, it is also good for a dog with heart problems thanks to its low content of sodium. Nonetheless, due to its high content of plant-based protein like corn and dried wheat, it can trigger allergies.
Things to Remember
Finally, it is worth it to remember the following things when buying food for dogs with low protein, to ensure that you pick the best for your pet.
Spayed and Neutered Dogs
Spayed and neutered dogs are prone to weight gain due to their increase in appetite and lack of activity. Therefore, it is preferred to opt for a higher protein ratio (to satiate them) and to pick a food that helps with weight management, such as Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food, to control their weight.
Breeds Predisposed To Allergies
Breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatians and Lhasa Apsos might be allergic to some ingredients in low-protein dog food (like soy, corn, and wheat), therefore, double check the list of ingredients. Some goods options in the market are Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet and Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets.
Pregnant and Lactating Dogs
As stated before, pregnant and lactating mother dogs have higher nutritional requirements that low-protein dog food may not be able to supply them with. Therefore, it is better to opt for a normal protein ratio diet. The same goes for puppies. In conclusion, it’d be a bad idea to feed your pet a low protein or low-fat diet during this stage.
It is also important to factor in environmental conditions because if your dog lives in the cold and has to work in a daily basis – like a Husky in Alaska – then you need to upper up his protein supply, along with the total caloric content because your pet will need plenty of energy. The same goes for feeding athletic dogs.
Therefore, as you can see, there is no inherent problem with a high-protein diet, as long as the quality of the protein is exceptional. Nonetheless, in specific cases like CKD and liver disease, as well as kidney stones, low-protein dog food can be a better choice.
In conclusion, it is not all black and white, because like a low-protein diet has its benefits, the same goes for a low carb diet. It all depends on the context.
Now you know everything about the best low protein dog foods. You know how to pick them thanks to our top 10 and buying guide, and you also know what cases require it (and which ones don’t).