When Your Beloved Dog Needs A Low Protein Diet

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Generally most dogs require a diet that is high in protein so they can grow healthy and strong. Protein provides amino acids to build hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. It also plays a main role in hormone production. The protein in dog foods can come from animals, plants or a combination of both sources.

While protein helps your canine friend function well there are some circumstances when your dog might need a low protein diet. If a pet dog is unwell there are certain illnesses that a low protein diet would be beneficial. Your veterinarian might recommend you buy dog food that is low in protein to help your dog’s recovery if it is suffering from kidney or liver-related illnesses for example.

Here are some low protein dog food products that we think stand out in the pet food market. You can buy them online, at pet stores, suppliers or supermarkets or perhaps from your local veterinarian.

The Best Low Protein Dog Food

Canidae All Life Stages Large Breed Dry Dog Food, Turkey Meal and Rice, 44lbs
This dog food comes in 5 flavors that sound very tasty including turkey and brown rice and chicken. Whole foods including potatoes, brown rice, peas, lentils and cranberries are added with the meat and no fillers. The food is free of wheat, soy and corn. Probiotics is added to every kibble after cooking to support healthy digestion, antioxidants to support a healthy immune system, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat.

We see many glowing reviews from dog owners saying their pets enjoy this low-calorie dog food.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Healthy Weight Dog Food – Natural Dry Dog Food for Adult Dogs – Chicken and Brown Rice – 30 lb. Bag
Your dog will love flavorsome blends including chicken, lamb and fish mixed with brown rice, fruits and vegetables.

Formulated with reduced calories from fat, this dry dog food provides a fully satisfying meal without an excessive amount of calories from fat to help dogs achieve and maintain a healthy weight. No corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives are used in this dog food.

Your precious pooch will be munching on a formulated blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals carefully selected by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists, to support immune system health, life stage requirements and a healthy oxidative balance.

The brand is named after Blue the Airedale dog who had health problems. The founders of the company couldn't find the pet food Blue needed at that time so they made their own and it grew into a business.

We see lots of positive reviews from pet owners saying their dogs love this healthy dog food that is low in calories and perfect for a dog needing a low protein diet.

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food, Sweet Potato & Venison Formula, 4.5 Pounds, Grain Free
Some fancy foods are being served up with this brand including sweet potato and bison, potato and duck and sweet potato and venison. Sounds like the menu from a posh restaurant so you can be sure your dog will be happy at mealtime.

This low-carb product claims to promote healthy skin and coat and improve digestion issues. Simple recipes, quality foods and formulas for puppies, adults and seniors are available.

Positive reviews are shown from pet owners saying their dogs enjoy feasting on this healthy dog food that is low in calories. One buyer said her dog loves the product and is usually pickier than a five-year-old at a salad bar. What better review could you hope for than that?

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food with Grains, Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Formula, 28 Pounds
For dogs with sensitive stomachs and skin issues, this product could be a huge help.

This adult dry dog food promotes digestive health while nourishing the skin. It offers a source of prebiotic fiber to support a balanced gut microbiome in grown dogs. The easily digested formula is packed with vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids to help your grown dog maintain a lustrous coat and healthy skin.

Hill’s Food, Shelter and Love program donates food to shelters across America which is commendable. With every purchase of Science Diet, you help feed over 100,000 homeless pets every day all year round.

Hill's has plenty of positive reviews from people saying their dogs adore this healthy dog food that is low in calories.

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Sensitive Stomach & Skin, Chicken Recipe, 30 Lb Bag
Your lovely dog will be wagging its tail when you fill its bowl with this dog food.

The blend claims to be premium protein balanced with nutrient-rich superfoods for a complete and balanced diet. They guaranteed levels of all the nutrients your dog needs to thrive with no fillers.

Wellness CORE is available in grain and grain-free recipes, as well as limited ingredient diets for dogs with food sensitivities. It is made with a high concentration of protein from fresh meat ingredients and is full of omega fatty acids from ingredients such as flaxseed and salmon oil. This dog food is supported by omega fatty acids, antioxidants, glucosamine, probiotics and taurine for a healthy heart.

We see lots of positive reviews from pet owners saying their dogs love this healthy dog food that is low in calories.

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Reduced Fat, 12-Pound Bag
Your lovely dog will be wagging its tail when you fill its bowl with this dog food.

The blend claims to be premium protein balanced with nutrient-rich superfoods for a complete and balanced diet. They guaranteed levels of all the nutrients your dog needs to thrive with no fillers.

Wellness CORE is available in grain and grain-free recipes, as well as limited ingredient diets for dogs with food sensitivities. It is made with a high concentration of protein from fresh meat ingredients and is full of omega fatty acids from ingredients such as flaxseed and salmon oil. This dog food is supported by omega fatty acids, antioxidants, glucosamine, probiotics and taurine for a healthy heart.

We see lots of positive reviews from pet owners saying their dogs love this healthy dog food that is low in calories.

Who Should Buy Low Protein Dog Food?

Liver and Kidney Problems

The liver and kidneys digest proteins, so for dogs with liver or kidney conditions, a low protein diet can help by reducing the stress on these organs.

Reducing phosphorous is also essential in managing kidney and liver disease. Often a cure isn’t possible, but the situation can be managed. So this diet is usually permanent.

A dog with liver or kidney failure can still live for a long time. One of the best ways to enable them to live the rest of their lives out is by feeding them a healthy diet and making their surroundings comfortable.

Try out different brands of low protein dog food until you find the one your dog likes the best. It may enjoy a certain brand for some time before desires a different taste. Luckily there are many options on the market and dog food producers are quite creative with their flavor options.

Before starting your dog on the new diet take note of its weight and measurements. This way you can check every fortnight to see if your dog is putting on or losing weight. Some small weight loss or gain can be expected with any new diet. But you want to make sure the weight change isn’t dramatic as it could cause further health issues.

Urate Bladder Stones

A rare type of bladder stones, urate bladder stones, can be dissolved by switching to a low protein diet. After your dog has recovered it should go back to a normal diet.

Bladder stones, also known as uroliths or cystic calculi, are hard formations of minerals that are found in the urinary bladder. They are more common than kidney stones in dogs. There may be one big stone or several stones varying in size from grains to small rocks.

Urate bladder stones are usually caused by a genetic abnormality that causes a defect in the metabolism of uric acid.

Other causes of urate bladder stones include liver diseases like portosystemic shunts. A portosystemic shunt is an abnormal vein joining the blood supply returning from the intestines to the vein returning blood to the heart, bypassing the liver (shunting). The shunts might be present from birth or developed over time. The urate bladder stones can form if the urine is highly acidic or concentrated.

Dog breeds most prone urate bladder stones are Dalmatians, English Bulldogs and Black Russian Terriers. Genetic testing should be done before breeding these breeds to lower the occurrence of this condition.

Signs your dog has bladder stones are hematuria (blood in the urine) and dysuria (straining to urinate). Hematuria happens when the stones rub against the bladder wall, irritating and damaging the tissue which leads to bleeding. Dysuria may cause inflammation and swelling of the bladder walls or the urethra. It is likely to be painful for your dog.

Big stones can cause an obstruction at the neck of the bladder, the point where the bladder joins the urethra. Little stones may flow with the urine into the urethra where they can become lodged and cause an obstruction. If an obstruction happens, the bladder can’t be properly emptied. If the obstruction is whole, the dog will be unable to urinate at all. If the obstruction is not fixed there is a danger the bladder can burst. Complete obstruction can be fatal and should be treated as an emergency.

If urate bladder stones form because of a portosystemic shunt, your pet might also display signs of neurologic impairment (dullness or disorientation, head pressing or seizures).

Your vet will try to feel for the stones and maybe successful if they are big enough. If not an ultrasound or a method using dye to outline the stones in the bladder will be used as X-rays can’t detect the stones. From these results, your vet can diagnose if your dog has crate bladder stones almost for sure and treatment can begin. The only way to confirm the condition 100% is by analyzing one in the lab. Your dog may need surgery or another method called urohydroppropulsion which is not so invasive.

Following this, a low protein diet can prevent further stones from forming. Your vet will give specific recommendations depending on your dog’s history and condition.

Overweight Or Obese Dog Overweight Or Obese

If your dog is overweight and in danger of developing further health problems your vet may recommend a diet low in protein. It is important to keep your dog active and give it regular exercise. Eating a proper diet and getting regular exercise is much healthier than a low protein diet that is needed due to a lazy or inactive dog.

Of course, senior dogs can be prone to putting on weight as their metabolism changes and they become less able to be active. Dogs will other illnesses or injuries can also be inactive. In this case, encouraging gentle exercise as often as possible will help your dog remain agile and in good spirits.

Your veterinarian may also recommend a low protein diet in the following cases:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Lyme-disease associated nephritis
  • Other inflammatory kidney diseases
  • Portosystemic shunt (liver shunt)
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Prevention of some types of urinary stones

Introducing The New Low Protein Food

At first, your dog might not be so interested in the low protein diet. This might be because it’s something new or because it prefers the taste of the food you previously served up. You can’t blame your precious pooch for being unhappy about the diet but there isn’t much option here if you want a healthy dog. So you have to be firm and persist with this special diet for the good of your pet. Most dogs will get hungry and eventually try the new food. After some time they will develop a taste for it and be happy to eat again.

If your dog won’t eat try moving its bowl inside or to another area. Sometimes a scene change can inspire your dog to take some bites. Once it starts eating its taste buds are stimulated and it will eat more.

It can be stressful to know your dog is going on a mini hunger strike. Be strong and encourage your dog to eat what is best for its overall health and wellness. If your dog continues to not eat the food for more than three days ask your veterinarian for professional advice.

Important Factors To Consider

There are some must-haves for a low protein dog food including the following:

  • Protein source: Protein should come from high-quality animal sources. Animal proteins are the easiest for your dog to digest and process. Check the label for ingredients such as meat, eggs and dairy.
  • Amount of protein: Most commercial dog foods for adult dogs are made up of about 25% protein. A diet shouldn’t be less than about 18% protein from dry food (unless your vet recommends otherwise). Note that water dilutes the protein content. So a cup of dry food will have more protein than a cup for wet food for example.
  • Quality: Quality is important and often more expensive brands are priced as such due to quality. There is a high chance you are moving to a high protein diet for your dog because it is sick. So it is important even more so due to your pet’s health issues that it gets the best possible food.
  • Balanced nutrition: Food has to be low in protein and fat and have the right amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients so your dog is fit and healthy. Stay away from food with color, preservatives, sweeteners or artificial flavors. These can be irritating and unhealthy for your dog. If your dog is ill this can especially be detrimental to its health.
  • Flavor: The food needs to be tasty and enjoyed by your dog. Most flavor comes from protein so some low-protein dog foods can lack tastiness. Try different brands and find one your dog loves. Consider mixing the dry food with wet food if your pet is picky. A dog in renal failure will often have symptoms including acidic stomach and nausea. That can often make them reject food or have a low appetite. So the taste of the dog food is very important. Your dog needs to like the taste so it stays very motivated to eat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What proteins are best for my dog?

Lean ground beef and pork, duck, white fish and egg whites are all foods with good sources of protein for your dog. These are all good options due to the ratio of fat to phosphorus.

Here is a helpful guideline to refer to when measuring protein amounts:

  • Salmon 20 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
  • Pollock 23 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
  • Lamb 25 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
  • Beef (lean and ground) 26 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
  • Turkey (lean and ground) 27 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
  • Chicken 27 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
  • Goat 27 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
  • Venison 30 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat

What fat source is best for my dog?

Coconut oil is great because it is high in good fat but low in vitamins. Avocado oil is a great alternative.

Which vegetables are best for my pet dog?

Green beans, pumpkin, potato, broccoli and carrots are all great options for your dog.

Which carbs and fiber foods should I give my dog?

Rice, vegetables, barley, fruits and grains such as brown rice are great as they are easy for your dog to digest.

My dog’s appetite is low. What can I do?

Try feeding your dog smaller meals more frequently. Mix up the food so the taste is varying. Sit with your dog and encourage and praise it when eating. Never force your dog to eat.

At what age should I start considering the amount of protein my dog is eating?

Puppies and young dogs rarely need a diet low in protein. You only need to consider protein if your dog suffers from bladder stones, kidney or liver issues or is overweight. For all of these conditions, you will need to visit the veterinarian for advice and treatment. At that time your vet will discuss your dog’s current diet and make suggestions on modifications.

Is peanut butter good for my dog with kidney issues?

Peanut butter is high in salt so isn’t good for dogs with kidney issues. Even if this is your dog’s favorite treat try not to feed it peanut butter after the vet has diagnosed kidney problems.

Can my dog still eat egg on a low protein diet?

Eggs are high in protein so you need to be aware that too many are unhealthy for a dog that needs a low protein diet. Eggs contain many essential amino acids and fatty acids and are excellent treats or dietary supplements for dogs. So some egg is recommended even for dogs on a low protein diet but only in moderation.

Low Protein DIY Dog Food

You might want to create your own dog food that is low in protein. This can be affordable and you know exactly what has gone into the food your dog is eating. It’s not as hard as you might imagine. Here are some simple recipes you can try if you want to create some homemade dog food.

CLASSIC MEAT AND VEGETABLES

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of ground beef or pork
  • 3 cups of carrots, green beans or sweet potato
  • 2 cups of cooked rice or macaroni
  • 3 ounces of organ meat such as beef, pork or chicken liver
  • Calcium supplement
  • 1,000 mg fish oil (don’t use cod liver oil)

1: Brown the meat and drain off any fat.

2: Boil the vegetables.

3: Cook the starch and let it cool.

4: Crush up some calcium supplement or use eggshells that are high in calcium.

5: Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate.

THE TROUT FEAST

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of baked trout
  • 15 egg whites
  • 1 pound of green beans
  • 2 cups of uncooked rice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin

1: Cook the rice and let it cool.

2: Steam the green beans.

3: Cook the trout and remove bones.

4: Put all ingredients in a blender and mix it to a smooth puree.

THE HEALTHY HEART 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 2 cups of cooked rice
  • 1 well-cooked egg chopped finely
  • 3 slices of brown bread crumbed

1: Cook the beef in a frying pan and let it cool.

2: Add the rice, egg and bread together and mix well. Rice and bread are easy to digest and are low in protein.

3: Serve a portion to your dog and refrigerate the leftovers for the next meal.

LOW PROTEIN BOOSTER 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef
  • 3 cups of potato
  • 2 cups of cooked brown rice
  • 3 ounces of chicken liver

1: Brown the meat and drain off any excess fat.

2: Boil the potatoes and let them cool.

3: Cook the brown rice and let it stand.

4: Cook the chicken liver well.

5: Mix all the ingredients and serve to your hungry canine.

6: Refrigerate the leftovers for the next meal.

These recipes are easy to make and not expensive. You can find many more great recipes online or make up your own using some combinations of the ingredients listed above. From time to time add in some health supplements to give the meals a boost. Below are some examples of supplements ideal for a dog on a low protein diet and your vet will be able to recommend more in powder or pill form.

SUPPLEMENTS TO ADD TO DOG FOOD

  • Half a teaspoon of ground-up eggshell for calcium
  • Fish oil capsule (burst the capsule and add to food)
  • Kelp – just a little will be enough of a boost
  • Molasses for iron and B vitamins.

More Information To Remember

Treats: Doggy treats can be high in protein. Even if they are moderately rich in protein it can add up if you are giving your dog treats many times a day. Try to swap out the dog treats with other rewards such as praise and pats when your dog does something good and deserves some recognition. Resist those pleading eyes that are begging you for one more treat.

You can buy low protein dog treats. Then your dog can still enjoy treats but you don’t need to worry too much about excess protein intake. Check labels for details on how much protein is contained in products like this. Choose products with high-quality proteins. A high-quality protein is easy to digest and can be found in sources like chicken, turkey, beef, fish and eggs. Treats with animal proteins as the main ingredient are usually the top option for dogs. Some of the dog food brands we recommended earlier have complementary products including dog treats. So if your dog is especially fond of a particular brand it might love the matching doggy treat too.

Water: Make sure your dog is getting plenty of water so it stays hydrated. If your dog is eating less on a low protein diet it must be getting enough H2O. Also, it creates a feeling of fullness for dogs that are eating less. Make sure your dog has a big bowl of fresh water that it can drink from any time of the day or night. Often sick dogs will lose their appetite so water is vital.

Senior dogs: Liver or kidney failure is common amongst older or senior dogs. When your dog reaches the golden years make sure you get it checked by a veterinarian frequently and get updated recommendations for its diet. Not every older dog will suffer from these ailments. A lot is down to genetics and overall health. If your dog is showing no signs of illness continue feeding it a healthy diet high in protein and other goodness. If you are worried as your dog gets old book an annual checkup at the veterinarian so you can catch any health issues early on.

Protein is essential for your dog so it can maintain and repair cells and other tissues such as skin, muscle, bone and hair. It helps support the immune system and makes hormones, antibodies and enzymes essential for healthy living. So any time you reduce the protein intake for your dog, it is important to make sure it is receiving enough protein as well as other nutrients. Protein can also be a source of calories to fuel your dog’s energy levels.

Always check with your veterinarian if you are unsure of what food is best for your pet pooch. Every pet is different and when it comes to low protein diets it is important to get it right so your dog is receiving all the goodness it needs.

So now you know that low protein dog food is often recommended for dogs with kidney and liver conditions so there is less stress on them to process the protein. Kidney and liver issues in dogs are quite common and veterinarians all around the world are diagnosing this condition every day.

Lowering the levels of phosphorous is also important for managing kidney and liver disease. These are the most common reasons for a dog to need a low protein diet. There are many others and your vet will discuss diet upon diagnosis. Sometimes your vet will prescribe or recommend the dog food you should buy.

You can buy special food to fit these needs or make your own. If you are unsure of what your dog needs concerning its condition please consult your local veterinarian for professional advice.

Dogs that have been diagnosed with liver and kidney failure can still live long lives if the condition is well managed. Diet is key so it is important to invest time and effort into finding the right food combination for your beloved pooch as it enters a new stage of its life. Getting the diet wrong can only increase your dog’s health issues so make sure you research well, monitor your dog and work with your vet to design a dog diet that is right for your furry paws friend.

Sources

  1. How to Make Low‐Protein Dog Food – Wikihow.com
  2. How do I Calculate the Calorie Content? – Association of American Feed Control Officials
  3. Treats for Dogs With Bladder Stones – Dog Nutrition Topics and Tips

About the author

Dr. Madison Finch

Woofs!
My name is Madison and I'm a veterinarian. One of my strengths is taking a dull, dry topic and crafting it into something sparkly and bright to engage readers; and I specialize in creating animal health content, written for pet owners in an entertaining style.
I have extensive experience in the pet health niche, ranging from ghost-writing for top-ranking blogs to working as a developmental editor for veterinary textbooks.
Wags,
Madison

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