Best Low Protein Dog Foods

Every time we visit the local pet center, we face hundreds if not thousands of dog foods. Food for puppies, dry food, semi-moist food, meals for dogs, prescription diets, organic food, food with added nutrients, therapeutic diets, canned food, meals in sealed packets, chicken flavor, dog food with chicken, chicken dog food, kibble…the list goes on and on in terms of ingredients, flavors, textures, types, quality and prices.

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine Gastro Intestinal Low Fat
Crude Protein (min) 6.0%
Crude Fat (min) 1.0%
Mattie’s healthy treats for dogs with kidney disease
Crude Protein (min) 6.8%
Crude Fat (min) 2.2%
Hill's Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care
Crude Protein (min) 12.0%
Crude Fat (min) 18.0%
Veterinary Diets Purina Veterinary Canine NF Kidney Function Dry
Crude Protein (min) 12.0%
Crude Fat (min) 13.0%

But what makes certain dog food a better option than the rest? And how to make the right choice?

sick dog

With so many commercially available types and brands, all using different wording and marketing claims, going dog food shopping can be a rather daunting and challenging task. Even though there is no ideal food and ultimately everything comes down to what your dog needs and what is most practical for you, to make things easier, we have reviewed few important steps towards the right decision. First of all, you need to consider several different variables such as age, breed, body composition, gender (including whether neutered or not), temperament, activity level and last but not least – taste preferences.

The perfect food is supposed to be the ideal balance of the six major nutrient groups: proteins, carbohydrates, fats and oils, vitamins, minerals and water.

More often than not, we forget to pay attention to the label and check out the ingredients list of the dog food we purchase. Being the manufacturer’s primary means of communication with you, as dog parent, the food label is of crucial importance. Although it may sound like a no-brainer, always look for a statement indicating that the food is specifically made for dogs. Dogs have particular nutritional needs and require certain things in their diets.

Commercial dog food is required to be nutritionally complete/balanced, meaning the food can be used as sole source of nutrition because it contains all necessary nutrients for your dog to grow and thrive. You do not need to worry about deficiencies, unless your dog has specific issues that require special diet or supplements.

One of those special diets is the low protein diet. As previously mentioned, protein is an essential nutrient that all dogs need to grow and maintain normal bodily functions. Proteins are made of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks in a dog’s body. Dogs require 22 amino acids, 12 of which they can synthesize on their own. The other 10 amino acids (essential) must come from the diet. Dogs suffering from certain chronic health conditions, have limited ability to digest those amino acids. For them, too much protein can be detrimental. Health issues that require special low protein diets include: chronic kidney disease, acute kidney failure, glomerulonephritis, Lyme-disease associated nephritis, nephropathies and other inflammatory kidney diseases, porto-systemic or liver shunts, hepatic encephalopathies, cirrhosis, Cushing’s disease, congestive heart failure and some types of urinary stones. Low protein diets are also indicated for naturally aging dogs, large dog breeds at risk of overgrowth and obese dogs that need to lose weight.

dog and bowl of dry

Addressing health concerns with corresponding diets, not only extends your dog’s survival period, it also increases their quality of life. However deciding your dog has to eat low protein foods must be medically supported. Low protein dog food is generally not recommended for healthy dogs. Therefore, low protein diets, are not available over the counter. They can only be recommended and prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. Regardless of what your vet prescribes, as a responsible dog parent, you should always monitor your dog’s body weight and condition.

Buying guide - Best Low Protein Dog Food

Nevertheless, being low in proteins is not the only criteria low protein dog foods should meet. To successfully navigate the minefield of choice and find the best option, we wrote a short Buying Guide and described a few important criteria:

1. Brand – we are all brand-driven purchasers. When it comes to health products, opting for a proven brand is always a smart choice. Stick to a brand you know and trust, even if it costs a few extra bucks.

2. Quality – as previously mentioned the diet must contain high-quality, easily digestible proteins. Preferred high-quality protein sources in low protein diets include chicken, eggs, fish, soy, dairy and beef.

3. Balance – pay attention to all ingredients and not just the proteins. Make sure the diet can be used as a complete meal and it does not contain harmful ingredients such as meat by-products, generic fat sources like animal fat or chicken fat, artificial preservatives, colors, flavors and harmful sweeteners like sucrose or corn syrup.

4. Palatability – since most of the flavor of the food comes from the protein, dog foods with limited proteins can be rather tasteless. Buy small amounts of several different brands and let you dog decide which one it prefers. However, do not offer him too many varieties all at once, as it may lead to upset stomach and gastric pain.

dog bowl hungry meal eat

5. Nature of the dog food - the good news is that low protein dog food is manufactured in both dry and canned varieties, so finding a tasty option for your dog is not that hard. Most dogs prefer canned food since it has a more appealing smell and greater amount of animal preservatives. On the other hand dry food is easier to measure and buy in bulk, has a longer shelf-life and usually more nutritious. Whatever you decide on, make sure you understand how to compare canned food with dry food. For example 18% protein on the label of wet dog food is not the same as 18% protein on the dry dog food label. Canned food is generally much higher in protein than dry food, even though it may appear otherwise when comparing the labels.

6. Flavor – always choose the flavor your dog wants. To avoid unwanted digestive issues, pick a flavor you dog has previously eaten. The most popular flavor in low protein foods is chicken. Go with it, before trying new flavors such as – turkey, salmon or duck.

7. Appropriateness – believe it or not, even dog food shopping comes with rules. One of the most important rules would be to never buy puppy food for an adult dog and the other way around. Certain food product serves as a complete and balanced meal, but only for a specific developmental period of your dog’s life. In a nutshell, puppies should eat puppy foods, adult dogs should eat adult dog foods and seniors should eat senior dog foods. Low protein puppy foods are specially formulated for fast-growing bodies while those for older dogs are useful for joint care.

8. Phosphorus levels – low phosphorus levels are also important for maintaining the kidney’s health and proper function. However, low-phosphorus diet should be supplemented with enough B vitamins, potassium, antioxidants, buffering agents and omega-3 fatty acids.

9. Professional advice – last, but not least seek professional opinion. Consult with the salesperson at the pet center, a dog nutritionist or your trusted vet. Keep in mind that there is no universally good, one-bag-fits-all type of dog food, especially when it comes to therapeutic diets. When making the right choice, special attention should be paid to some additional factors:

Spayed and neutered dogs – they are prone to weight gain because of increased appetite and decreased activity

Breeds predisposed to allergies - Cocker Spaniels, Lhasa Apsos, Dalmatians, Miniature Schnauzers and English Springer Spaniels are allergic to certain dog foods

Pregnant and lactating bitches – they have higher energy requirements

Environmental conditions – dogs who spend time outside in the cold, depending on the temperatures, usually use 10-90% more energy than those who live indoors or in temperate climates.

TIP: If buying low protein dog food online, choose a good and reputable company with a return policy.

To make things even simpler and easier for you to understand we have compiled a list of the 10 best low protein foods for dogs, available on Amazon.

Top 10 Best Low Protein Dog Foods

Best Low Protein Grain Free Dog Food

From a quantitative point of view, low protein foods as the name suggests, do not contain many proteins. However, from a qualitative point of view, low protein foods must contain proteins of high-quality, because only high-quality proteins have a good balance of all essential amino acids. There is theory suggesting that dogs can tell when their food lacks certain amino acid and will avoid such meal.

Grain-free diets are recommended for dogs sensitive to grains. Additionally, dogs find certain grains to be hard to digest. Consuming such grains over a longer period of time causes damage to the lining of the digestive system, which results in bowel inflammation disorders, food sensitivities, food allergies, leaky gut and obesity. However, it all depends on your dog’s health status and the type of grain used in the food. For example, while corn, soy and wheat are considered to be cheap fillers, barley and quinoa are considered to be "super foods".

Our knowledge of the relationship between diet and health advances every day. Additionally, the range of foods available to dogs continues to expand. Therefore, it is important to base our feeding choices on good, science-based information.

Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage is low-protein dog food?

A majority of commercial dog foods, particularly maintenance dog foods for adult dogs, have a 25% protein content. A prescription diet, on the other hand, should fall between 18% - 23% to be considered a low-protein dog food. However, the amount of protein is not as important as the actual quality and ease of digestion of the protein in the food, says Dr. Lindsey Edwards, MVB, BSC, IVCA.

How to make low-protein dog food at home?

The following is a low-protein recipe you can prepare at home. But first, consult your veterinarian so he can make a few adjustments to the recipe in order to suit your dog’s specific needs.

  • 1 lb. minced red meat (lamb/pork/beef)
  • 1 cup pork or chicken liver
  • 2 lbs. brown rice
  • 3 cups diced carrots
  1. Cook the rice. The ratio of rice to water is 1:1. Hence, you’ll need a cup of water for every cup of rice. Cook the rice for 20 minutes in a slow cooker. Prepare the other ingredients while you wait for the rice to cook.
  2. Cook the meat. Cook your preferred meat until it becomes brown in color. Set aside to cool. When your pet has kidney woes, it is wise to opt for red meats as they contain less phosphorus compared to white poultry meat.
  3. Prepare the organ meat. Bring a saucepan filled with water to a boil. Afterwards, add pork or chicken liver to the boiling water and drain the water as soon it’s cooked. Rinse the organ meat using cold water and drain. Don’t forget to chop the organ meat into fine pieces. Set aside.
  4. Boil the vegetables. Boil the carrots until they are tender. You may also use pumpkin, broccoli, or whatever vegetable your pet prefers. Also, you may just combine them all together. Dice them into smaller pieces afterward or toss them in a food processor.
  5. Mix all ingredients. As soon you’re done preparing the ingredients, combine them all in a large mixing bowl. Make sure it is large enough so you can mix the ingredients thoroughly. Extra tip: Choose fresh vegetables rather than canned or frozen ones. Fresh vegetables have more vitamins and no added salt.
  6. Add calcium and fish oil supplements. Crush a 1,000 mg calcium supplement until it becomes fine. Afterwards, add it into the mix. You also need 1,000 mg worth of fish oil. Hence, squeeze one or two fish oil capsules into the mixture. A majority of dogs are suffering from nutrient deficiencies due to their disease and hence, it is recommended that you incorporate supplements into your dog’s meal. Nevertheless, consult your veterinarian beforehand.
  7. Store the food. Pack your homemade low-protein dog food using small airtight bags. Afterwards, store them in the refrigerator. You can keep the food for up to two months if you store them in the freezer. Each bag should contain your dog’s recommended daily food intake. Don’t forget to reheat your dog’s food.
  8. Extra tip: You need to consult your veterinarian to know the right amount of food your dog needs on a daily basis.

What dog food has low phosphorus?

There are times when you need to feed your pet commercially-made dry dog food. The best options include the Hill's nutritionists and veterinarians developed Prescription Diet® k/d®. This particular dog food is low in phosphorus and low in sodium. On the contrary, it is high in essential amino acids for muscle development and Omega-3 fatty acids for heart health.

Moreover, this diet is specially calibrated for dogs with renal problems. Apart from minimally added salt, this dog food is fortified with vitamins and minerals to optimize your dog’s energy levels and immune system.

Are eggs high in phosphorus?

Yes, which is mainly due to its yolk. One large egg can supply roughly 95 mg of phosphorus but without its yolk, it only supplies a meager 5 mg.

What foods should a dog with kidney disease eat?

Choose a dry dog food made with high-quality ingredients that are easy on the stomach. Don’t skip on protein. Your dogs still need protein for maintaining muscle mass and other bodily functions. Chicken and turkey are good protein sources; however, white meat tends to contain more phosphorus than red meat. Hence, it is best to opt for red meat such as lamb or lean beef as much as possible. Second, make sure it contains salts that are carefully balanced to minimize the workload given to your dog’s kidneys.

If you prefer whole foods to dry dog foods, then opt for slow-burning carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and carrots, all of which also supply a good dose of vitamin A. Make sure to add some berries to your dog’s diet as they contain a plethora of antioxidants such as vitamin C, which help restore the pH balance of your dog’s blood. Lastly, opt for red meat for protein as these foods contain lower phosphorus levels than white meat. You can rest assured that your dog’s longevity is optimized by feeding him these foods.

What are the signs of kidney disease in a dog?

The following are signs that your dog has a kidney disease:

  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive sleep
  • Fluid retention or edema
  • Frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild intoxication
  • Vomiting

What foods should be avoided with kidney disease?

Stay away from cheap dog foods made with poor quality ingredients such as meat by-products, cereals, and a bewildering list of ingredients. These foods are a challenge to digest. Apart from that, these foods supply a staggering amount of metabolic waste products, which the kidney has to process and excrete.

Dogs with renal problems should also avoid foods high in sodium and phosphorus, such as jerkies, dairy, rawhide treats, and any food containing wheat gluten. When choosing dry dog food, make sure to feed your dog low-sodium dog food.

Where to buy low protein dog food?

You can browse for low-protein dog foods on Amazon, but you can also check the shelves of your nearest pet store.

How much protein should a dog with kidney disease have?



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