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Understanding What a Low-protein Diet Can Do for Your Dogs

  • Proteins are important for a dog’s development and overall health. However, in some cases, they may lead to complications, and the vet may reduce the amount.
  • The ideal protein level in low-protein dog food for adult male dogs is 18%, whereas, for actively reproductive females and pups, it is 22.5%, according to AAFCO.
  • Low-protein dog diet is beneficial for dogs suffering from kidney or liver diseases. The vet may prescribe your pup to a permanent or temporal low-protein diet.
  • Pet parents should never lower their protein intake on their own. They should always consult with a doctor to avoid developing further health issues.

Most people consider pet dogs as part of their family, and they want to make sure that their pet canine has a clean bill of health. But they need to make sure their pet dog has a balanced diet, and many pet owners often don’t know how to provide this. Most experts consider protein as the most important nutrient that should be added to your dog’s diet. But if your dog is suffering from a chronic condition, a low-protein diet may be your best option. These are the times when protein is dangerous to the health of your canine friend, so you should visit your vet and ask if a low-protein diet for dogs can help.

There was a popular belief that senior dogs should have a lower protein intake than younger dogs, but this was proven to be wrong. Proteins are important for a dog’s overall well-being. They affect mood, weight, or behavior. However, pet parents must constantly monitor their dog’s behavior, especially when switching diets or meals. Some pets, regardless of age, breed, or gender, may have difficulty adjusting to the new diet and require low-protein meals.

In this article, we’re discussing all the low-protein foods. We’ll also cover the way it affects the overall dog health and when it is most recommended.

What is a Low-protein Diet?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials AAFCO defines a low-protein diet as consisting of a minimum protein content of 18 percent on a dry matter basis. Water dilutes the protein content of the dog’s food, so essentially a cup of dry food is much higher than a bowl of wet food. Water should not be included in your diet assessment. Most of the commercially available dog foods consist of 25 percent protein content. The good news is that there are specialty stores that offer low-protein diet food. It is worth noting that a low-protein diet is not right for all dogs.

What Conditions Indicate a Need for Low-protein Diets?

Certain conditions indicate a need for low-protein diets. If your dog suffers from kidney or liver disease, a low-protein diet helps decrease the workload of these organs. These two organs metabolize proteins so reducing intake will ease the burden on the kidneys and the liver. In addition, low-protein diets help prevent your pet canine from losing the protein they are already taking.

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But Dr. Ariel Monseco, a clinical associate professor of medicine specializing in nutrition, endocrine issues, and internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, reveals that dogs with low-protein diets experience some form of protein-losing nephropathy, a disease associated with progressive renal failure. According to studies, when you limit the amount of protein in the diet, you also limit the amount of protein lost by the kidneys.

Is a Low-protein Diet Right for My Dog?

A low-protein diet is never recommended without the supervision of a veterinarian. It will also have a detrimental effect if you design it yourself. They are only recommended for dogs with serious issues and making one will only make matters worse. The diet should be accompanied by proper monitoring through blood tests and must be conducted at the clinic.

If your veterinarian recommends a low-protein diet for your dog, there are some steps you need to do to make the diet successful. The first is to make sure that they only get high-quality protein. Second, you should also regularly monitor the weight and body condition of your pet dog. Make sure that they are not improperly losing or gaining weight as a result of their new diet regimen. The key to maintaining the overall health of your dog is to maintain a healthy weight as well.

Popular Low Protein Brands For Dogs

The best low-protein diet is the one prescribed by a vet or vet nutritionist. However, some brands stick to the recommended guidelines for a low-protein diet that can be helpful for you too. Ideally, according to AAFCO:

  • An adult dog’s low-protein food must contain at least 18% of protein on a dry matter basis.
  • An adult and reproductively active female and a pup must have 22.5% protein content.

To help you understand better, the best low-protein food must not be below 18%. Instead of looking for the products yourself, we prepared a list of the best low-protein food for dogs on the market. 

  • Royal Canin Renal Support – this dog food contains high levels of Omega 3 amino acids and tastes good. It’s one of the most recommended dog foods for kidney diseases.
  • Diamond Naturals Dog Food – it is most recommended for dogs suffering from digestion issues because of the ingredients. This food does not include corn, soy, or wheat, which can cause indigestion.
  • Hill’s Science Diet Adult Healthy Mobility Dog Food – An excellent choice of food made of high-quality ingredients. It comes highly recommended as a grain-free diet for dogs.
  • Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care Dog Food – A product rich in Omega 3 which contains 6 amino acids. Additionally, it is grain-free, which is also perfect for any tummy issues.
  • Canidae Grain-Free PURE Dry Dog Food – is an excellent choice of food made of wild boar and garbanzo beans as main ingredients. This product contains 25% protein and is best recommended for female dogs or pups.

Why is Low-protein Diet Important For Dogs?

The low-protein diet is defined as reduced amounts of protein in pet food. Protein is a crucial ingredient in pet food as it impacts overall well-being. Lower amounts of protein can result in melancholia, fussy pets, low activity, etc.

However, in case a pet suffers from kidney or liver disease, the low-protein diet acts as a stabilizer. When functioning well, kidneys will process the proteins from the food and contribute them to the blood system, then to the entire body. But, if the kidneys are failing, they are unable to process the proteins from the food, and they leave through the urinary tract. This is known as proteinuria, a condition that may lead to kidney failure. 

So, when you take your pet to the vet, the doctor will prescribe you a low-protein diet that will not affect the kidneys as much and will prevent further complications. The same goes for liver disease. 

The bottom line is if the pet is healthy, do not put it on a low-protein diet. Otherwise, distressed dogs can have many benefits after testing the new low-protein dog food. Below we discuss them in detail.

10 Benefits Of Low Protein Diet For Dogs

As mentioned, the low-protein diet for dogs is only prescribed by a vet. This will help you to care for your puppies and large breed dogs properly. Below we picked out the top ten benefits of putting your dog on low-protein dog food.

1) Ease During Bladder Stones

When pet parents see urine discoloration in their pets, they panic and fear it is a fatal consequence. However, bladder stones are quite common in dogs, and they are treatable.

Urinary tract infections are common in dogs, and apart from the discoloring in the urine, the pet may have difficulty urinating. They may also be unable to hold their urine, which leads to wetting themselves or urinating in inappropriate areas, for example, in your home. That is not an indication of misbehavior but a urinary tract infection. 

If you are ever faced with this, you must consult a vet, so they can set a proper diagnosis and offer the proper treatment therapy. Once they establish the severity of the infection, the vet may suggest lowering the protein level in your dog’s diet.

Low-protein dog food prevents forming of a bladder stone and soothes the infection. You will have to track the behavior once you put the dog on a diet. If their mood improves, it means the diet is working. However, if you don’t notice any changes, you will have to consult a vet. 

The vet may put your dog on a permanent low-protein diet to prevent the further forming of bladder stones.

2) Ease During Liver Disease

Liver disease is also common in dogs, and it can be really discomforting. It is easy to notice liver disease as yellowish eyes, tongue or gums, unstable walking, or food rejection characterize it. However, this disease may turn into hepatic encephalopathy and affect the nervous system.

In this case, the vet may put your pet on a diet, usually a low-protein one, until they can cure the liver disease. Once the dog shows improvement, the vet will likely put the dog back on the regular diet or prescribe the low-protein one permanently. It all depends on the final results. 

3) Ease During Kidney Failure

As mentioned, the low-protein diet can be beneficial if the pet struggles with kidney disease. While the dog is on treatment, the low-protein dog food helps soothe the discomfort with the urinary tract as there are lower amounts of proteins to process. One of the things the vet will ask you to do is to take tests to track kidney performance. If there is no improvement, it may lead to further complications.

4) Recommended for Weight Loss

If your dog or pup suddenly gains weight, you may consider putting them on a low-protein diet until they reach the optimal weight. Please mind consulting with a vet or pet nutritionist about the new diet. Lowering the protein intake of your pet may lead to weight loss but also various health issues. Therefore, take your pup to the vet, and determine the diet together with a specialist.

5) Improves the Overall Metabolism

Low-protein diets can be quite beneficial for some pets who struggle with issues in their metabolism. The low-protein diet can improve overall well-being as it doesn’t overwhelm the system with food processing. Usually, vets will prescribe you a specific calorie intake, and you should always follow the instructions.

6) Low-protein Diet Affects the Hyperactivity

Some pups may be super hyperactive and cause too much trouble when you need to take them out or pay a visit to your vet. Depending on their breed and overall test results, in consultations with your vet, they may suggest you lower your pet’s protein intake. 

Although this is not a common treatment for hyperactivity, in some cases, it proved beneficial and even improved the overall pet health.

7) The Best Cure for Pets with Special Needs

Some pets born with special needs that affect their kidneys or liver benefit the most from low-protein dog food. We already explained how the diet affects the kidneys and overall health, only in this case, your pet may be put on a permanent low-protein diet. This means that your pet will have a specific protein daily intake you have to follow. Also, if you’re buying food, always get it from reputable brands to prevent complications.

8) Decreases Anxiety

Some dogs, especially if you adopt a stray dog, suffer from anxiety until they gain trust in the new homeowners. Additionally, they may need to adjust to the new setting. In this case, you may notice the pup or dog rejects food and shows anxiety symptoms. 

Again, consult a vet on what measures to take. A low-protein diet can improve anxiety and help the dogs during the adaptation process. Once the dog gains trust in its pet parents, the anxiety will go away on its own, and the vet will suggest you increase the protein level.

9) Recommended for Senior Dogs

First and foremost, senior dogs need more protein. However, some dogs, as they age,  develop some kind of disease. In this case, an increased level of proteins will not be beneficial for your dog at all. Instead, you will need to take your pet to a vet and find a better solution based on a diet. Some of the conditions that require low-protein diseases include:

  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Liver shunt
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Lyme-disease
  • Chronic kidney disease

10) Nothing Better than a Clean Meal

Last but not least, a low-protein diet is a super easy DIY meal. You can do it with ingredients you have at home, such as eggs and fresh meals, and mix it with dry food.  Moreover, you will be certain that the pet received high-quality food.

Things To Consider While Choosing A Low-Protein Diet For Dogs

Not all dog food you see in the market will be suitable for your pup. We prepared a list with a few tips to keep in mind when you choose low-protein dog food.

Digestible and Quality Protein Sources

When lowering the protein in your pet’s diet, you will have to consider that the pet still takes the necessary proteins. Fresh meat and eggs are usually the best sources of proteins because the origin is organic and helps the pet digest the food accordingly. Proteins that come organically are the best ingredients because they mostly help with digestion.

Include the Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The low-protein dog food – or any kidney-specific diet – must contain quality sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids DHA and EPA. The Omega 3 fatty acids help in curing kidney disease as they have anti-inflammatory properties that are more than necessary if your pet gets diagnosed with kidney disease. Otherwise, the Omega 3 Fatty Acids DHA and EPA are usually found in fish oils.

Monitor the Adaptation to the Diet

If you put your pet on a low-protein diet, expect to see changes in their behavior and weight. Normally, they may become less active and a bit melancholic due to the decreased protein in their system. Additionally, they may lose or gain weight, depending on how the dog accepts the food. 

If you notice any dramatic increases or decreases, please consult a vet to prevent any further complications.

Use Quality Ingredients

If you’re preparing a low-protein diet for your pet, please make sure that the ingredients you use are fresh. Optimally, eggs and fresh meat are the best sources of proteins in home conditions, but they may be costly for daily meals. However, you can mix them with dry food and save the rest for the next day.

You can also try introducing some fruits, like berries, into your pet’s diet. Strawberries and raspberries for dogs? Yes, they don’t really need them, but your dog may like them. 


Low-protein food is a special diet that is usually recommended for treating some kind of disease your dog or pup may develop or is born with. In other words, you should never put your dog on low-protein food without the instructions of a vet. It may complicate the health or develop severe health issues.

To lead a healthy life, dogs need their proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and other nutritional values, as the vet prescribes. We hope you found this article helpful and that you have learned the importance of low-protein food for dogs.

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