Sometimes, active dogs need a little more protein. This helps them function better and have more energy throughout the day.
And, since dogs are descendants of wolves, they need protein from high-quality animal sources. So what’s the best high-protein dog food that meets these needs?
My favorite option is Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free dry dog food.
It includes 32% of premium animal protein and omega fatty acids, and antioxidants for a balanced diet.
But there are other high-protein options, including a senior formula and premium dog food. No matter your dog’s nutritional needs or what you look for, you’re bound to find one on this list that works for both of you.
Our Best High Protein Dog Food
- Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Overall)
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Puppies)
- Wellness CORE Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food (Best for Seniors)
- Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed Dry Dog Food (Best for Small Breeds)
- Purina Pro Plan Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food (Best for Large Breeds)
- American Journey Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Budget Food)
- Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red Grain-Free Stew Wet Dog Food (Best Wet Food)
- Hound & Gatos Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Premium Food)
- ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Allergies)
- Nom Nom Dog Food (Best Fresh Food)
10 Best High Protein Dog Food Reviewed
The formulas listed below follow the AAFCO nutrient profile guidelines. Before switching your dog to a new food, please consult with your veterinarian.
- First 5 Ingredients: Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas
- Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 4% Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 422 kcal/cup
- Key Feature: High-protein dry food with probiotics for healthy digestion
There are many reasons why your dog may need a high protein diet. If they’re highly active, pregnant or nursing, or working, they need food that can keep them satiated.
Taste of the Wild High Prairie dog food gives them 32% Crude Protein, as well as high-quality animal proteins that will keep them going all day.
This formula starts with water buffalo, bison, and venison — lean proteins that offer iron, B vitamins, and zinc. These vitamins provide energy and keep muscles lean and strong.
Chicken fat and ocean fish meal supply omega fatty acids for joint health and DHA for brain function. And, sweet potatoes offer easy-to-digest carbs and prebiotic fiber — perfect for healthy digestion.
Probiotics are supplemented for a healthy immune system and gut health. Blueberries and raspberries also offer natural antioxidants, keeping your pup perky and alert.
This formula is made in the US by a family-owned brand. It doesn’t include grains, corn, wheat, artificial flavors, or artificial colors.
Pet owners love that this food works well with dogs who are sensitive to corn and wheat. And, many admit that they feed their dogs this brand exclusively from puppyhood to senior years.
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Peas, Tapioca Starch
- Guaranteed Analysis: 36% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 5% Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 423 kcal/cup
- Key Feature: High-protein puppy food with DHA for brain development
Puppies need a higher protein and fat diet to grow strong and fit. And, because growth is so substantial, both physically and mentally, they also need food that boosts their brain function.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free puppy food offers nutrients and protein for healthy growth.
This formula is packed with real deboned chicken. This provides a high-quality protein that includes glucosamine to encourage lean muscle mass. It also contains taurine, giving your pup a cognitive health boost and protecting their heart health.
Menhaden fish meal is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. And it includes DHA and ARA for brain development. And, it also nourishes your pup’s skin and coat, keeping them itch-free.
Blue Buffalo also adds their proprietary blend of “LifeSource Bits.” This provides antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals like turmeric, vitamin E oil, and more. These help reduce inflammation, boost your dog’s immune system, and give them energy.
This formula is grain-free. It doesn’t include any corn, soy, wheat, by-products, or artificial flavors.
Puppy parents agree that this food is delicious to their dogs and helps them with digestion.
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Lentils, Dried Ground Potatoes, Peas
- Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 6.25% Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 359 kcal/cup
- Key Feature: High-protein senior dog food with omega fatty acids for healthy joints
Even as your dog ages, they will still need high-quality protein to build and protect muscle mass, provide energy, and aid in joint health.
However, because their metabolism slows as they get older, you’ll also need to give a formula that is lower in calories to keep them at a healthy weight.
Luckily, Wellness CORE Senior dog food provides the best of both worlds. They offer a low-calorie formula with high-quality animal proteins.
This recipe starts with real deboned turkey, chicken meal, and turkey meal. These offer a whopping 32% of Crude Protein. And, they also provide glucosamine, chondroitin, and taurine for joint and hip health, as well as heart health.
Chicken fat and salmon oil add healthy fats, as well as essential amino acids. This helps keep joints flexible and improves the texture and health of your dog’s coat.
This formula is naturally preserved with rosemary extract and green tea extract. These extracts also help freshen breath and provide natural antioxidants for immune support.
Wellness Core Grain-Free Senior is free of corn, wheat, and soy. While it is grain-free, it is manufactured in a facility that also processes grains.
Dog owners do say that this food may not be the best choice if your senior doesn’t have many teeth. But, if they can chew their food easily, many enjoy that it gives their dogs an extra boost of energy.
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Turkey Meal
- Guaranteed Analysis: 27% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 3.5% Fiber, 11% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 404 kcal/cup
- Key Feature: High-protein dog food with a small kibble size for small breeds
Yes, even toy and small breeds need protein. And for some, a high-protein diet is a great choice. If your dog herds, is highly active, or needs more protein for muscle support, Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed dog food is the best option.
This formula was created with small dogs in mind — featuring a smaller kibble size for small jaws and stomachs.
It starts with real deboned chicken and turkey meal, which offers 27% of protein, perfect for small pups. And, these naturally include chondroitin for hip and joint function.
Brown rice and quinoa provide prebiotic fiber and potassium for healthy digestion and strong bones. And, sunflower oil and salmon meal include high levels of omega fatty acids to help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat.
This recipe doesn’t contain potatoes, peas, or lentils. It’s not a grain-free diet, but it’s free of wheat, corn, and soy. Merrick dog food formulas are all crafted and cooked in Hereford, TX.
Owners with small dogs love that this kibble is super small and easy to eat for their dogs. And, many mention that it also helps with their dog’s digestion.
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Corn, Poultry By-product Meal
- Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 4.5% Fiber, 12% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 407 kcal/cup
- Key Feature: Lower-calorie dry dog food with probiotics for large breeds
Did you know that large breeds need fewer calories per pound than their small breed counterparts? But, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice protein, healthy fats, and fiber.
Instead, you need to buy food that is specifically formulated for large breeds. Purina Pro Plan Large Breed offers a high-protein diet with fewer calories and healthy fats that big dogs need.
This crunchy kibble is crafted for large breed dogs weighing 50 pounds or more. It starts with real deboned chicken as the very first ingredient.
This offers 26% Crude Protein and 12% Crude Fat to help maintain your dog’s body type, muscles, and joints. It also contains EPA for increased mobility.
Ground brown rice, whole grain corn, and wheat bran provide natural prebiotic fibers, calcium, and iron. These help promote muscle conditioning and support your pal’s digestive health. And, this formula supplements live probiotics as well for a boost to the immune and digestive system.
Purina Pro Plan Large Breed is not a grain-free or gluten-free food. If you need an option like that, keep reading for some other great suggestions.
Some dog owners admit that their picky pups didn’t like this food. But for those that did, they state that it’s great for joint and coat health.
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Lamb, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Chickpeas, Peas
- Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 5% Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 345 kcal/cup
- Key Feature: Budget-friendly and high-protein dry dog food with real lamb
It can seem challenging to purchase a high-protein dog food with high-quality meats that’s also friendly on your wallet. And, finding a balanced diet filled with wholesome fruits and vegetables may seem impossible.
But, American Journey makes it more accessible, so you don’t have to sacrifice premium food or your budget.
This formula includes deboned lamb, turkey meal, chicken meal, and deboned beef. These prime meats offer glucosamine for lean muscles and joint health, as well as essential fatty acids for brain health and energy.
Fish oil and sunflower oil provide extra omega-3s and vitamin E — reducing inflammation, promoting eye health, and nourishing the skin. Fish oil also includes DHA and EPA for cognitive function and metabolism support.
American Journey also adds fresh blueberries and cranberries for antioxidants to boost your dog’s immune system.
This is a grain-free formula. It’s also crafted without corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
Budget-conscious owners love the lamb formula and admit that it’s their dog’s favorite flavor!
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Beef Broth, Pumpkin, Carrots
- Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 7% Crude Protein, 2% Crude Fat, 2% Fiber, 85% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 216 kcal/can
- Key Feature: Grain-free and pea-free high-protein wet dog food made with deboned lamb
Yes, it’s possible to feed your dog a high-protein diet with wet dog food. And, canned food usually has more protein on a dry matter basis when compared to kibble. In this case, Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red wet dog food, when measured as dry matter, has a whopping 45% of protein.
This protein-packed food starts with high-quality sources, like shredded deboned chicken and lamb.
Stella & Chewy follow the “whole prey” approach as well — including muscle meat, organ meat, and cartilage in each recipe. This helps your dog eat like their ancestors — getting protein, iron, and calcium, and phosphorus all in one.
Pumpkin and carrots offer natural fiber and vitamin A for a boost to gut and eye health. And, sunflower oil and flaxseed oil provide both vitamin E and essential fatty acids for healthy joints.
This formula is free of artificial ingredients, fillers, preservatives, grains, and potatoes.
While this is a high-protein food, it is essential to note that it’s also low in calories. So, if you have a large breed or dog that needs a high-calorie diet, this may not be the right choice for you.
Pet parents say that this formula is more like a “soupy stew” and that their dogs run when the can is being opened. So it’s safe to say they like it!
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Lamb, Egg, Sweet Potato, Tapioca, Lamb Fat
- Guaranteed Analysis: 27% Crude Protein, 19% Crude Fat, 2.5% Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 110 kcal/g
- Key Feature: High-value and high-protein dog food made without chicken
Want to spoil your pup with gourmet and high-quality food? Hound & Gatos Grain-Free Cage-Free Lamb dry dog food is a perfect choice.
This grain-free formula starts with deboned and free-range lamb as the first ingredient. It also contains cage-free whole eggs.
Both of these ingredients provide your pet with the essential animal protein they need. Lamb also includes phosphorus, glucosamine, and fatty acids for healthy bones, joints, and muscles.
Instead of grains, Hound & Gatos include sweet potato and flaxseed for healthy fiber. And, sweet potatoes also include beta-carotene and vitamin A, which aid in eye health.
For healthy fats, lamb fat is added — offering anti-inflammatory omega-3 and vitamin E oils. And, vitamin E could reduce potential heart problems for dogs, keeping them active longer.
Because this recipe is chicken-free, it’s also an excellent choice for dogs with allergies or sensitive tummies.
This formula doesn’t contain peas, lentils, chickpeas, or white potatoes. It’s a limited ingredient diet that’s made in the U.S.
Some dog owners mention that this is a great food to help clear up dermatitis. But besides that, most say that their dog loves the taste and get plenty of energy.
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Lamb, Lamb Meal, Lamb Liver, Sweet Potato, Whole Chickpeas
- Guaranteed Analysis: 31% Crude Protein, 17% Crude Fat, 5% Fiber, 12% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 371 kcal/cup
- Key Feature: Allergen-friendly formula with real deboned lamb and probiotics
For many dogs with allergies and sensitivities, ingredients like chicken and eggs can cause flare-ups and wreck gut health.
Because of this, finding a limited ingredient diet that includes novel proteins can reduce your dog’s chances of an allergic reaction.
ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Diet dry dog food contains 65% of single-source animal protein — deboned lamb. Lamb includes taurine for heart health and natural antioxidants for circulatory function.
Apples and sweet potatoes offer prebiotic fiber to nourish your dog’s digestive system and protect it against harmful bacteria. And, they include other vitamins like vitamin C for additional immune support.
Pollock oil and vitamin E oil provide essential fatty acids, selenium, and phosphorus. These vitamins help reduce redness and itchiness during allergy reactions and lock in moisture for a shiny coat.
This formula is free of peas, corn, and plant-protein isolates. It’s also made in the U.S.
Pet parents say that this food helped with their dog’s digestive and skin issues. And, many love the added oils for coat shine and reduced inflammation.
- First 5 Ingredients: Ground Turkey, Brown Rice, Eggs, Carrots, Spinach
- Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 10% Crude Protein, 5% Crude Fat, 1% Fiber, 72% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 201 kcal/cup
- Key Feature: High-protein and human-grade customized dog food
Got a picky pup? Want to offer them food that’s customized to their needs? Try out Nom Nom. They provide human-grade dog food with ingredients like ground turkey, brown rice, and spinach.
Nom Nom offers a customized plan that fits your dog’s specific dietary needs. They start with a quiz about your pup. They’ll ask questions about their height, weight, body type, allergies, and activity level.
After you finish the quiz, Nom Nom calculates their caloric, protein, and fat needs. Then, they’ll make your dog’s food fresh for them every two weeks.
Nom Nom has four different recipes that you can choose from — including turkey, pork, beef, and chicken. You can choose one recipe or all four. Also, each recipe is evaluated by Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists. So, you can feel comfortable feeding your dog this food.
After choosing the recipe you want to feed your dog, Nom Nom will ship the food right to your doorstep. These recipes are made in small batches and are tested and shipped out while they’re fresh. And, you’ll know exactly how much to feed your pup because Nom Nom individually packages the food.
Dog owners love that this food’s protein content is specified for their dog. And, they agree that the multiple formula options is helpful as well.
Buying Guide for High Protein Dog Food
Not sure how and why to buy high-protein dog food? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is High-Protein Dog Food?
AAFCO has nutrient guidelines that also include a minimum protein amount for dogs. According to their specifications, anything with a Crude Protein level of 22% or higher is more than their recommended minimum.
However, for most dogs, high protein would be 25% or more.
Is High Protein Food for Dogs Healthy?
Yes, a higher protein food works well for many dogs. Your adult dog needs an average of 18% of Crude Protein. That’s even if they’re not highly active, pregnant, or working.
If your dog does more than lay around the house, they’ll need more protein to keep up with a healthy lifestyle.
Remember, your dog is an omnivore. So yes, they can eat grains and can digest most of them for protein. But, dogs are descendants of wolves. So real animal protein will always be best.
Benefits of High Protein Dog Food
High-quality protein is essential for dogs. It helps your pup with their growth and muscle maintenance. And, quality protein can also help your dog recover from their daily activities, reduce inflammation, and more.
Protein has quite a few other benefits too. High-protein dog food has amino acids that can improve your dog’s skin health and keep their coat shiny.
And, besides maintaining healthy muscles and joints, it also helps your dog build a robust immune system.
Can All Dogs Eat a High Protein Diet?
No, not all. However, many dogs can thrive on higher protein formulas. This includes puppies (within reason), working dogs, highly active pups or athletes, and pregnant or nursing pooches.
For example, if your dog works on a farm or trains all day, they’ll need more protein to keep up with their activity level.
And pregnant and nursing dogs need more protein to produce enough milk for their litter. If you think your furry friend needs to be on a high protein diet, consult your veterinarian.
Is Too Much Protein Bad for Dogs?
It can be. If your dog isn’t active, has kidney issues, or needs slow growth, a high protein diet can become a problem.
For dogs that aren’t active, too much protein will cause them to gain weight. Kidney or liver issues can cause organs to work harder than they should if your dog consumes too much protein. These dogs need lower protein diets.
And, large breed puppies need slower growth to protect their muscles, joints, and bones. If they grow up too fast, these body systems can suffer, causing health issues later in life.
Before switching your dog to a high protein diet, check with your veterinarian. They can check your dog and let you know how much they should be eating.
What to Look For When Buying High-Protein Dog Food?
Not all high-protein dog foods are created equal. Some proteins are easier for dogs to digest than others. This bioavailability is critical when choosing a formula.
The higher the bioavailability (or digestibility) of a protein, the better it is for your dog to absorb. The easiest proteins for dogs to digest include; eggs, bison, fish, beef, lamb, and chicken. This consists of both real animal proteins and meals (like fish meal).
It’s also important to remember that ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy have protein too. But 30% of protein from plants and carbohydrates isn’t as digestible as 30% of protein from meat.
You’ll also want to look at the types of meats you feed your dog. Focus on animal protein that is rich in omega fatty acids for joint and skin health.
And, search for natural or added probiotics for easier digestion. Avoid formulas with artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. These fillers can cause health issues and aren’t part of the balanced nutrition your dog needs.
You may also want to choose a dog food that’s made with high-quality ingredients. This usually requires buying from a country with higher standards.
So you’ll want to buy from companies that make their formulas in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or even Western Europe.
There are many high-protein options for active dogs.
But of course, the best overall is Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food.
This option can work well with most dogs, from small to large breeds or throughout their different life stages.
If Taste of the Wild doesn’t work well with your pet due to allergies or taste (or another reason), there are great high-protein options on this list as well.
Have questions about high-protein dog foods? Here are some questions and their answers.
What dog food has the most protein?
Is a high-protein dog food good for dogs?
It can be. Most dogs thrive on moderate to high protein diets. But, your pup will need to stay active and eat the appropriate amount of protein for their size.
Is high protein food bad for dogs?
High protein formulas can be harmful to some dogs — like those with kidney issues. But usually, high protein is okay. But, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, excess protein can be stored as fat. So remember not to overfeed your dog. Follow the instructions listed on their food, so you know how much to feed them.
If you have a large breed puppy, you’ll also need to make sure not to give them too much protein. If they grow too fast, they can have bone and joint problems.
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