10 Best Low Protein Dog Foods in 2021

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This is our review of the best low protein dog food in 2021.

Dogs are omnivores who thrive on high protein diets based on animal meat. But some health conditions can make it dangerous for pups to eat too much protein in their diet.

Dogs with kidney and liver diseases need a low protein diet to reduce stress on these weakened organs. 

Most formulas with therapeutically low protein levels are prescription diets that require veterinary authorization. But non-prescription recipes may be suitable for seniors or dogs in the healthier stages of these conditions.

Finding a low protein diet that is safe for your dog can be difficult. So I used my background as a vet tech to research the best low protein formulas available.

Hill’s Prescription Diet l/d Liver Care Dog Food is my favorite low-protein dog food for pups who need nutritional support for liver health.

But every dog has unique needs, so I also reviewed the best low protein dog foods for furry friends with other concerns.

Let’s get started!

Our Best Low Protein Dog Food

  1. Hill’s Prescription Diet l/d Liver Care Dog Food
  2. Hill’s Prescription Diet g/d Aging Care Dog Food
  3. Diamond Naturals Light Formula Dry Dog Food
  4. FirstMate Weight Control Limited Ingredient Senior Dog Food
  5. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Kidney Function Wet Dog Food
  6. Solid Gold Holistique Blendz Sensitive Stomach Dog Food
  7. Bil-Jac Reduced Fat Chicken Recipe Dog Food
  8. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Dog Food
  9. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Healthy Weight Formula
  10. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support S Dog Food

10 Best Low Protein Dog Foods Reviewed

All of these dog food formulas meet the AAFCO recommended daily nutrient profiles for dogs. Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.

Hill’s Prescription Diet l/d Liver Care Dog Food

Hills Prescription Diet ld Liver Care Pork
  • First 5 Ingredients: Brewer’s Rice, Pork Fat, Egg Product, Soybean Meal, Powdered Cellulose
  • Key Feature: Low protein prescription diet with specific nutritional liver support
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 14.5% Crude Protein, 20.5% Crude Fat, 3.5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 402 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Pea-Free, Veterinary Diet, Low Protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Overall

Liver function is the primary reason that dogs may need to transition to a low protein diet. This prescription formula features specific nutritional support targeting liver function.

The controlled 14.5% protein content of this recipe comes from eggs. Eggs are an excellent source of all essential amino acids, providing moderate amounts of high-quality protein.

Damaged livers have a reduced ability to process high amounts of low-quality protein.

This formula also encourages normal fat metabolism in the liver with therapeutic levels of l-carnitine and l-arginine. These amino acids can help prevent the elevation of liver enzyme levels that contribute to liver damage. [1]

Concentrated vitamin and mineral fortification prevents the nutritional deficiencies commonly associated with reduced liver function. Hill’s unique SOx shield ingredients also help reduce the risk of crystallization in the urinary tract.

This formula does use soybean meal as a source of protein and may not be suitable for pups with soy intolerances. Animal protein is more bioavailable to dogs than plant protein, but soy protein also helps increase amino acids without placing excess stress on the liver.

Reviews share success stories managing elevated liver enzyme levels in dogs fed this diet. This formula’s nutritional values are also suitable for pups with different urinary or kidney health conditions that may require a low protein diet.




Hill’s Prescription Diet g/d Aging Care Dog Food

Hill's Prescription Diet gd Aging Care
  • First 5 Ingredients: Brewer’s Rice, Chicken By-Product Meal, Whole Grain Corn, Egg Product, Pork Fat
  • Key Feature: Prescription diet with controlled protein designed for aging dogs
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 15.5% Crude Protein, 8.5% Crude Fat,  2% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 361 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Pea-Free, Veterinary Diet, Low Protein
  • Life Stage: Senior
  • Best For: Low Protein Dog Food for Seniors

Dietary protein requirements can drop significantly as dogs age. While puppies require high protein levels to support growth, senior dogs may suffer from health conditions worsened by excess protein.

This low protein senior formula boasts a 15.5% protein content from chicken by-product meal and eggs. Chicken meal contains crushed bones, which provide naturally occurring glucosamine. This chondroprotective molecule helps ease pain in aging joints. [2]

The low 8.5% crude fat content is also ideal for elderly dogs. Sedentary seniors are predisposed to weight gain if they consume high fat, high-calorie diets with excess energy. But the healthy omega-3 fatty acids in this recipe may support cognitive health in older pups.

Controlled protein, sodium, and phosphorus are essential components of a diet that avoids overloading your senior friend’s heart and kidneys. Older dogs also have reduced liver function, making low protein content especially important.

Veterinarians often prescribe this dog food to seniors who need comprehensive nutritional support. Dog owners appreciate the targeted nutrition, but the dry kibble may not appeal to pickier dogs.




Diamond Naturals Light Formula Dry Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Light Formula Lamb
  •  First 5 Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Ground White Rice
  • Key Feature: Affordable formula with low protein and caloric content
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 18% Crude Protein, 6% Crude Fat,  8% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 275 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Weight Control, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Budget Low Protein Dog Food

This affordable formula uses high-quality grain-inclusive ingredients to provide comprehensive nutrition without excess calories.

The recipe is ideal for sedentary or overweight dogs who have additional health issues that require a low protein diet.

Lamb meal acts as a high-quality animal protein source in a formula with a controlled crude protein content of 18%. This meat is an excellent option for sensitive dogs who have adverse reactions to more common ingredients.

Meat meals are also natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin. Overweight, senior dogs with liver health concerns frequently also suffer from painful joint conditions. These ingredients provide building blocks for joint cartilage and help ease discomfort.

The recipe uses a significant amount of whole grains as ingredients that are low in protein but high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. [3] However, this recipe still excludes common allergens like corn, wheat, and soy.

Pet parents highly recommend this dog food for dog owners who need an affordable formula for overweight dogs with kidney or liver disease risks.




FirstMate Weight Control Limited Ingredient Senior Dog Food

FirstMate Weight Control LID Senior Pacific Ocean
  • First 5 Ingredients: Potato, Pacific Ocean Fish Meal, Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat, Fish Oil
  • Key Feature: Premium dog food with controlled protein and whole-food ingredients
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 18% Crude Protein, 8% Crude Fat,  8% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 474 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Sensitive Digestion, Grain-Free, Limited Ingredient Diet, Weight Control, Gluten-Free, Pea-Free, Low-Protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Premium Low Protein Dog Food

This non-prescription dog food offers a premium formula for seniors who may need a low protein diet. The recipe features high-quality fats and protein sources that provide balanced grain-free nutrition.

Like many low protein recipes, meat is not the first ingredient. Potatoes are the primary source of calories in this grain-free recipe. This starchy vegetable acts as an alternative source of digestible carbohydrates and fiber.

Pacific ocean fish meal contributes to the low 18% crude protein content. This animal protein is also an excellent source of healthy fats. This recipe’s low crude fat content is ideal for seniors but still contains adequate omega fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids support skin and coat health. And l-carnitine helps promote lean muscle development on low-protein diets. [4]

Reviewers also recommend this limited ingredient recipe for sensitive dogs who suffer from allergies thanks to the single protein and carbohydrate sources.




Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Kidney Function Wet Dog Food

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Canned
  • First 5 Ingredients: Water for Processing, Meat By-Products, Rice, Corn Grits, Beef
  • Key Feature: Prescription kidney support in a low protein canned dog food
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 3.8% Crude Protein, 5.5% Crude Fat,  2% Crude Fiber, 74% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 483 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Low-Protein, Pea-Free, Veterinary Diet
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Protein Wet Dog Food

This Purina wet dog food formula is ideal for picky eaters who need advanced nutritional support. Most prescription low protein dry dog food recipes can be unappealing.

But dogs who suffer from health conditions that require low protein foods often also experience reduced appetites. [5]

The high 74% moisture content of this canned food reduces the crude protein percentages of this recipe.

A 3.8% content of high-quality protein is low. But this recipe still includes nutrient-dense animal proteins like beef and liver.

High levels of animal fat and meat products contribute to an appealing taste that stimulates fussy appetites. And fish oil adds healthy omega fatty acids to the high 5.5% fat content.

This canned food does contain some by-products and grains that may upset sensitive tummies.

But many dog owners swear by this formula as the only veterinary formulated renal support diet their picky dogs will eat.




Solid Gold Holistique Blendz Sensitive Stomach Dog Food

Solid Gold Holistique Blendz Ocean Fish Meal
  • First 5 Ingredients: Oatmeal, Pearled Barley, Peas, Ocean Fish Meal, Dried Eggs
  • Key Feature: Low protein dog food with nutritional support for digestive health
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 18% Crude Protein, 6% Crude Fat,  4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 340 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Protein Dog Food for Digestive Health

This dog food features a unique recipe designed for pups with digestive health issues who also need a low protein diet. The high portions of fibrous ingredients contribute to the low crude protein percentage while supporting gut health.

Ocean fish meal is the primary source of an 18% crude protein content. This animal protein also has high concentrations of omega fatty acids that help manage gut inflammation. But meat is only the fourth ingredient of this low-protein formula.

Whole grains like oatmeal and pearled barley are the primary ingredients in the recipe. These whole grains are easily digestible, providing a concentrated source of energy and fiber. [6]

Fiber is a prebiotic that nourishes the good bacteria responsible for breaking food down.

A probiotic culture introduces additional good bacteria into the digestive tract for extra support.

Dog owners also appreciate the controlled levels of phosphorus and sodium that make this non-prescription formula suitable for dogs in the healthy stages of kidney and liver disease.




Bil-Jac Reduced Fat Chicken Recipe Dog Food

Bil-Jac Reduced Fat Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken By-Products, Corn Meal, Chicken, Dried Beet Pulp, Oatmeal
  • Key Feature: Low protein dog food formula with ideal nutritional content for large breeds
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 17% Crude Protein, 10% Crude Fat,  5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 350 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Weight Control, Pea-Free
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Protein Dog Food for Large Breeds

This reduced fat dog food offers a low protein diet without a prescription. Larger breeds generally have slower metabolisms that require less protein than smaller pups. The low-fat content and high fiber content of this formula are also ideal for large breeds.

The first ingredient is a mixture of chicken by-products that contains organs only. This animal product provides the 17% content of high-quality protein in this recipe and a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals.

Bil-Jac food uses a proprietary method of low-temperature vacuum-drying to extract moisture from the kibble without reducing nutrition. In addition to low protein, this formula also features 30% less fat than other Bil-Jac recipes.

Although the 10% fat content is low, it includes sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help manage inflammation in the stressed joints of big pups. [7]

Carbohydrates like slow-cooked oatmeal have a low-glycemic index ideal for the slower metabolisms of larger breeds.

Owners of gentle giants often share that this dog food helped their gentle giants maintain a healthy weight.




Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Dog Food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Low Fat
  • First 5 Ingredients: Brewers Rice, Chicken By-Product Meal, Wheat, Barley, Natural Flavors
  • Key Feature: Low protein dog food with support for sensitive digestion
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 20% Crude Protein, 8.5% Crude Fat,  3.9% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 248 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Weight Control, Pea-Free
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Protein Dog Food for Sensitive Dogs

This prescription dog food formula from Royal Canin helps support sensitive gastrointestinal systems with controlled fat and protein content.

High-protein, high-fat diets can be challenging to digest and lead to vomiting and diarrhea in susceptible pups.

Brewers rice is the first ingredient. Rice is a complex carbohydrate with easily digestible energy that can help soothe upset stomachs. The controlled 20% protein content comes from chicken by-product meal. This animal protein is also highly digestible.

Therapeutic levels of probiotics and prebiotics support good gut bacteria to help regulate digestion. Dietary fibers like beet pulp are the primary source of prebiotics. [8]

Concentrated omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil also help reduce inflammation in the GI tract.

The low 8.5% fat content and 248 kcal/cup caloric content are ideal for dogs who struggle with weight management.

Pet parents who fed their pup this dog food noticed significant digestive health improvements and reduced gastric upset.




Blue Buffalo Life Protection Healthy Weight Formula

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Healthy Weight Adult
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Pea Fiber
  • Key Feature: Low protein, high fiber formula compatible with weight control diets
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 20% Crude Protein, 9% Crude Fat,  10% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 326 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Weight Control, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Protein Dog Food for Weight Control

This dog food formula from Blue Buffalo is optimized to support healthy weight management with wholesome ingredients. Low levels of high-quality protein from deboned chicken help promote lean muscle development instead of excess fat.

Added L-Carnitine helps your dog efficiently utilize the low 20% protein content. This amino acid promotes healthy metabolism and encourages lean muscle development.

Unlike some low-protein formulas, real meat is the first ingredient in this recipe.

A low 9% fat content lowers the caloric content to prevent excess energy from turning into extra pounds.[9]

Overweight dogs also often develop joint disease from the extra weight. The added glucosamine and chondroitin in this recipe help support healthy joints.

The exceptionally high 10% fiber content from whole grains like barley helps keep your pup full without extra calories. Several reviews share successful weight loss programs using this specialized dry dog food.




Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support S Dog Food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support S
  • First 5 Ingredients: Corn, Brewers Rice, Chicken Fat, Brown Rice, Chicken By-Product Meal
  • Key Feature: Veterinary diet with controlled protein for kidney health
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 10.5% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat,  4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 365 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Low-Protein, Pea-Free, Veterinary Diet
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Protein Dog Food for Kidney Health

Kidney health concerns are some of the most common reasons to consider feeding your dog a low-protein diet.

This prescription formula has exceptionally protein content to reduce workload on stressed kidneys. Additional specialized ingredients enhance support for needy pups.

Chicken by-product meal is the primary source of animal protein. But meat is not the first ingredient in this 10.5% protein recipe. Low-protein digestible carbohydrates like rice and corn act as the primary sources of energy in this formula.

Dogs with kidney disease often have poor appetites. The recipe of this dog food produces a savory flavor that encourages picky pups to eat. And the energy-dense formula ensures that your dog gets all the nutrition he needs in a small serving size.

In addition to a low-protein content, controlled phosphorus and sodium also help reduce the concentration of minerals that weakened kidneys have to filter. [10]

An antioxidant complex of vitamins and omega fatty acids from fish oil also helps protect tissue from oxidative damage.

You can also safely combine all Royal Canin veterinary formulas for dogs with multiple health conditions.




dog looking at dry food

Low Protein Dog Food Buying Guide

There are several different medical reasons to consider feeding your dog a low protein diet. But, protein is an essential part of a complete canine diet.

So consulting your vet and understanding the critical factors to consider when developing this diet for your pup is vital.

Why Do Some Dogs Need a Low Protein Diet?

Dogs need protein in their diet to provide the building blocks for cells and tissues. But like other nutrients in your dog’s diet, several organs play an important role in breaking down proteins so that your dog can utilize them.

The small intestines break down proteins into amino acids. The byproducts of this metabolism then travel to the liver for processing. Finally, the kidneys eliminate nitrogenous waste leftover from protein digestion.

If your dog has chronic kidney failure, his kidneys may not adequately filter nutrients from the blood.

High protein levels can overload the kidneys and prevent them from efficiently removing wastes produced by digestion. This accumulation of byproducts can be problematic. [11]

Hepatitis and reduced liver function can also cause the accumulation of waste products in the blood. But even pups with these health conditions need some protein to support normal body processes.

The recommended minimum protein content for typical dry food is 18%. Low protein diets for dogs without severe health conditions usually have a 20% protein content.

But some prescription diets for dogs with extreme health conditions have even lower protein amounts.

Non-prescription diets with low protein content can help senior dogs at risk of developing kidney or liver problems. These foods reduce stress on the weakened organs of older dogs and may help slow the progression of the disease.

Benefits of Low Protein Diet

There are numerous benefits of feeding some dogs a low protein diet. Lower protein levels allow the organs involved in metabolism to rest and function optimally. Some pet owners may notice the alleviation of symptoms associated with impaired organ function.

The accumulation of wastes from protein metabolism can lead to other health conditions like encephalopathy.

And excess protein can also lead to the growth of crystals in the urinary tract. A low protein diet can help prevent these disorders and limit toxin production. [12]

dog checkup at vet

Health Conditions The Require a Low Protein Diet

Unique nutritional needs for numerous health conditions require a low-protein diet for correct management.

Renal Failure

Reducing protein intake is scientifically proven to slow down the development of renal failure.

Renal failure occurs when kidneys can no longer remove wastes from the blood and produce urine. Increased protein content increases nitrogenous waste and overloads stressed kidneys.

Liver Disease

The liver plays a vital role in processing toxins produced by protein metabolism. Reduced liver function can limit toxins’ filtration, leading to an accumulation of wastes in the blood.

If these wastes reach the brain, they can cause hepatic encephalopathy.

Bladder Stones

Urate crystals from protein metabolism can sometimes accumulate in the urinary tract as bladder stones. Low-protein diets can help these crystals dissolve so that your dog can return to his regular diet.

Protein-Losing Nephropathy

Although not always associated with renal failure, this disease is capable of accelerating progressive kidney decline. Damage to the filtering mechanism of the kidneys can allow large protein molecules to pass through. 

These holes can become more extensive and increase protein lost through urine. Reducing protein content in the diet can help reduce the gaps and enhance protein absorption.

dog eating

Things to Consider When Buying Low Protein Dog Food

Even in dogs with health conditions that require reduced protein content, this macronutrient is still essential for vital bodily functions.

Make sure to select a safe low-protein dog food by first considering these factors.

High-Quality Protein Source

If your dog can only eat a controlled amount of protein, ensure that his diet has a high-quality source of protein. High-quality protein sources provide all of the essential amino acids that dogs need for muscle development. [13]

Although meat may not be the first ingredient in low-protein recipes, look for formulas that still include animal protein sources. Meats that use the entire animal are excellent digestible sources of essential amino acids.

Dogs are omnivores with gastrointestinal tracts optimized for meat digestion. So animal proteins have a much higher biological value for dogs than plant proteins. While plant sources may boost overall protein content, your pup may not be able to digest them efficiently.

Amount of Protein

Dietary guidelines recommend that canine diets should have at least 18% protein. If your dog does not have severe health conditions that require lower protein, non-prescription diets with 20% protein may be adequate.

Dogs at risk of renal failure or liver disease may need prescription diets with even lower protein content.

Veterinary low protein diets can have a controlled protein content as low as 10%. Choosing a prescription formula ensures that the low protein diet is veterinarian approved.

Wet food has lower nutrient percentages due to the high moisture content. Wet low-protein formulas have a crude protein content of around 4%.

Balanced Nutrition

Low protein diets still need to include the comprehensive nutrition necessary to support your pup’s overall health. Balanced ratios of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are essential for dogs with health conditions that require low protein diets.

Nutrient-dense whole food ingredients can provide concentrated sources of micronutrients without unbalancing protein and fat ratios.

If your dog suffers from reduced kidney or liver function, make sure you select a food that has reduced phosphorus content.

Palatability

Kidney conditions can also reduce appetite in picky pups. Low protein diets may not be as appealing to dogs, but tasty fats and added aromas can make them more palatable.

Concentrated nutrients in smaller serving sizes can also help dogs with reduced appetites.

Conclusion

A low protein diet can help reduce stress on the organs responsible for filtering metabolic waste.

The accumulation of protein metabolism by-products in dogs at risk of kidney or liver failure can cause severe complications. But protein is an essential aspect of a complete canine diet.

I recommend Hill’s Prescription Diet l/d Liver Care Dog Food as my favorite low protein dog food. Prescription diets can help ensure that the low-protein formula is safe for your pup.

A nutrient-dense formula with a low protein content from a high-quality animal source can help manage health issues so your furry friend can live his best life. Talk to your veterinarian today about supporting your dog’s health conditions with a low protein diet.

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AUTHOR
Caroline Cochran is a former veterinary technician who is passionate about helping fellow dog lovers learn about canine nutrition. Her best friend is a rescued Great Pyrenees named Syrah, who is also very enthusiastic about dog food.

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