The case for a high protein diet (or not)

there is a reason why the higest meat content foods with the highest protein levels like Orijen, Eden etc get the highest rating on the All About Dog Food Directory, its because that is the diet dogs should ideally be eating (also see the FAQ for how the scores are calculated).

High protein doesn’t “make the blood run hot”, cause hyperactivity, harm the kidneys or any of the other common myths that have come up over the past few decades.

skin is made of protein, so a higher protein level will help with the skin repair when allergies are being problematic, and a good food with high quality healthy ingredients and no questionable chemicals etc will alo help maintain a strong immune system.


I understand what you are saying and agree that high quality, named meat source is key in the selection of dog food. However I am not at all sure about the need for high protein content for all dogs. I know that it can be regarded as anecdotal but my experience is that when I start to up the protein (and hence fat) for my dogs they begin to put weight on. I reduce the quantity and continue to do so until I get the right quantity but it is at the expense of the dog being constantly hungry. It’s sometimes hard to know what to do. :-\

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this is interesting reading

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I wouldn’t class it as very high since raw meat would be 55% + protein.

Higher protein tends to increase satiety. Think of eating a bowl of rice, after an hour you’re hungry again. But eat the equivalent in steak and you feel full for hours. Its the same for dogs.

Be careful not to mistake hunger for greed, especially with a high meat content food that may actually have some taste compared to a bland grain based food.

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I feel your pain
Isnt it so hard to find the right level and food.

My understanding of these high % foods is based on my experience with working collies now my floss is from working stock and trained but she isnt worked anymore other than the odd farm visit and mainly to keep her mind active we do agility etc.
It is my understanding that the protein content in the food restricts how much you can feed [ backed up by the feed less on for example some 75/25 or 80/20] as overfeeding a high protein % food can result in the dog being unable to produce adequate stomach acids and enzymes to break the protein down, so this can result is food passing through the system undigested (usually loose poop). This can be overcome by reducing the feeding amount although should the dog be struggling to gain weight this can be an issue, a change in food to a lower meat/protein may be required so you can actually feed more.

I dont think that a high meat content in a kibble slows it down like raw, so it sits there longer so a dog feels fuller even with a small portion. so I guess with smaller portions a dog could feel hungry etc.

I also dont fully agree with this “all dogs are wolves lingo” as dogs have evolved etc but this is ony my thought so dont shoot me David 8)

I feel from my experience of a 80/20 not the brand david retails i add quickly! the one the post person mentions

For my dog it needs instant access to energy so fats and carbs give this for my breed of dog a BC I find a food with a good level of meats [no chicken as she is badly allergic to this source] a grain free source of carbs and a good level of fats works for us.
Now [ my name drop] I feed MWH I have found this to work for us we use a 60/40 mix I have also a 70/30 which I use as the odd meal or treats as I am eager to test the other recipes but its a busy time for floss so I am staying 60/40 for fuel and stamina.

My vet suggested from his experience of allergy tests through his practices that it is more than 1% dogs intolerant/allergies to chicken and so I wonder if more studies have been done lately David ?

Heres me rambling I am sorry, Good luck with your search my heart does go out to you its so hard to find something that suits and ticks all the boxes you need.

Its amazing we have this tool developed to use via this site and the experience and support of the website owner to guide us.


from this site’s FAQ section on how the ratings are calculated found at

"Here are a few of the overriding principles of our rating program:
Meat: Meat should always be the cornerstone of a dog’s diet and our rating system has been designed accordingly. Up to a point, the more meat a food contains, the better it will score.

Carbohydrates: Carbs are scored according to their nutritional value (including how easily they can be digested by the dog) and their quantity. Highly nutritious carbs like brown rice and sweet potato tend to score positively while more problematic carbs like maize and wheat always lose points. Too much of any carb is regarded as a filler and is downgraded.

Vegetables, fruits and herbs: We have always found many vegetables, fruits and herbs to be enormously beneficial for dogs and award points accordingly.

Ingredient quality: The quality of the ingredients is, of course, paramount, with high end, nutritionally dense ingredients scoring much better that highly processed forms, derivatives or by-products."

Just a couple of points where I disagree slightly with Louise based on my own research.

Dogs haven’t evolved, they may have adapted and there has been selective breeding that has affected some breeds, but the digestive system is generally unchanged. Some breeds are able to produce a little more amylase (the enzyme that digests starchy carbs) but it is only a slight increase.

Instant access to energy comes from glycogen stored in the muscles, not directly from carbs eaten in the diet. the glycogen is replenished after exercise in dogs (or during exercise for endurance based activities) by the digestion of fats, proteins and some carbs, in people who are better able to digest carbs doe to higher amylase availablity, carbs may be utilised first.

Lots to think about and research with very few definitive answers I’m afraid

  • New topic split from the thread here.

Thank you for the posts and the useful links about the case for a high protein diet for our dogs. There seems to be a convincing argument for higher protein levels in dog food. If you have a dog that can handle this sort of diet, then fine but some cannot. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that all dogs are different - appetite, age, general health and activity levels all vary enormously and it may not be appropriate for every dog, no matter what the companies tell us.

My own experience is that the weight control problems in my dogs coincided with my desire to give them a ‘better’, higher protein/fat diet. I did this because I believed the blurb about this leading to a healthier dog, despite the fact that they were already healthy on a lower rated food. I can remember it clearly; I switched them to wet food that is rated highly on here. Now I know more about it I realise that the fast weight gain was because the fat level is 28%. And no, I did not overfeed - in fact I gave less than the recommended daily allowance.

I was interested in Louise’s comments about gastric enzymes breaking down protein because one of my dogs has recently been diagnosed with gastro oesophageal reflux for which the vet has prescribed a low protein (22%) and low fat diet. I don’t know whether this has been brought on by me giving her a so called ‘better’ diet. :frowning:

It is a hot topic and one that did not seem so prevalent when I first had dogs many years ago. Us dog owners have a a lot more choice these days and it can become quite confusing. Ratings are important but IMO we should not be too swayed by them. Some dogs do better on a lower rated food and in fact are perfectly healthy on them. We just have to monitor our dog’s response to the food that we choose for them and do the best we can.


Some more interesting information on protein/fat etc levels in whole prey, the tables at the end show what the levels are in various prey sources

I fully agree that health is a factor that can override other factors entirely, though even some of the historically accepted factors are now under dispute due to flawed historical research.

It would be useful to have David Jackson’s input to this discussion, as a canine nutritionist and founder of All About Dog Food.

I did see this in his Site FAQ

"Do I need to worry about nutrient levels? Probably not. As long as your dog is fit and well and doesn’t have any history of health problems, then chances are the macro-nutrient levels of your dog food won’t even need to cross your mind. If, on the other hand, your dog belongs to one of the below groups, the nutrient levels may need to be considered.

Overweight dogs: If your dog needs to lose weight, try to look for a food with below average fat levels.

Hungry dogs: For very food-orientated dogs, a high fibre diet can really help by slowing down digestion and making him feel fuller for longer.

Highly exercised dogs: The best sources of energy for a dog are fat and protein so if your dog is engaged in rigorous activity on a daily basis, he may benefit from a food with above average fat and protein levels.

Puppies: To maintain healthy growth, puppies need plenty of protein and fat - any puppy formula should fit the bill.

Health problems: Many health problems can be eased or even cured with dietary changes so if your dog is suffering from anything from itchy skin to cancer, please ask your vet what macro-nutrient levels would be best.

Once you have an idea of the best nutrient profile for your dog, please visit our Dog Food Directory - you can specify the levels of protein, fat, fibre and ash you’re looking for in the filers section on the left."

That is sensible advice and I wish I had taken heed of it. Unfortunately it’s easy to be influenced by the hype of raw food/high protein diet and also by the fact that it is these very foods that score so highly.

I don’t see any mention of concerns with raw or high protein, and I don’t see carbs discussed at all.

I would also add that percentages in themselves can be misleading if the total amount fed is lower, 15 % of 100g is 15g fat, but if only 60g is fed of a 25% fat food that is still only 15g fat… so actually no difference.

ichard Allport:

Hello there! Sorry about joining the debate so late!

In general, I look at canine nutrition, at least for dogs with no underlying health problems, in exactly the same way as I look at my own nutrition - as long as the ingredients are healthy and balanced and prepared in a suitable way, then there’s really no need to worry about exactly how much protein/fat/carbs/minerals/fibre they are providing.

This is one of the big differences between what I see as the good manufacturers and the bad ones - the good design a food based on a suitable balance of ingredients and then test for the typical analysis, the bad go about meeting their pre-determined typical analysis with whatever ingredients they can find, usually at the lowest cost.

When it comes to protein, quality is much more important than quantity. All of the myths highlighted above about the health problems associated with high protein diets sprang up in an era when the chief sources of protein in pet food were vegetable derived. It is now widely recognised that dogs simply don’t digest plant proteins as well as meat proteins and as a result, a lot more dogs develop issues with prolonged exposure to vegetable proteins. The more vegetable proteins you put into a dog, the more likely those problems become so, if your only option is foods with low grade proteins (which was the case until a couple of decades ago), then low protein is indeed the best choice.

These days though we have much more choice. For me, a good dog food has to contain a decent amount of meat. Since meat is predominantly made up of protein, that inevitably means that good foods tend to have higher protein levels. Again note that just because good foods usually have high protein levels, this does not mean that all foods with high protein levels are good.

As I state in the FAQ, if your dog is healthy, then the ingredient list alone will tell you everything you need to know about the suitability of your dog’s food.