The Best Protein Sources For Dogs

Want your dog to grow big, strong, and healthy? Then you need to feed them enough protein to build lean new muscle while keeping their body nourished and healthy.

Protein is an essential nutrient if you want your dog to thrive. Without enough protein, your dog can have all sorts of health issues. Some of the common signs of protein deficiency include:

  • Low energy or lethargy
  • Unwanted weight loss
  • Dull coat or chronic skin problems
  • Behavior problems
  • Weak/deformed bones
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Weakened immune system

It’s important to realize that not just any protein will do. After all, what’s important isn’t how much protein your dog eats…it’s how much they digest. That’s why the best proteins are easily digested—they have a high “biological value.”

“Biological value” refers to how easily a protein can be digested. A food with low biological value means that your dog can’t absorb the food, and it will pass through their system undigested and wasted. A food with high biological value means that your dog can easily break down and absorb the food, using the protein to stay strong and healthy.

Protein ratings of ingredients commonly found in dog food & supplements

By using the protein rating chart below, you can determine the quality of the protein source in your dog food or supplement.

If a particular brand advertises a high protein content, it doesn’t necessarily mean the protein is beneficial.

Plant protein is inferior to meat protein and the protein found in quality dog supplements.

Food or Supplement Protein Ratings
Whey protein Isolate 159
Whey protein Concentrate 104
Whey protein 96
Chicken / Turkey 79
 Fish 70
 Lean Beef 69
 Unpolished Rice 59
Oatmeal 58
Brown Rice 57
 Peas 55
 Whole Wheat 49
 Soy beans 47
 Whole-grain Wheat 44
 Wheat Gluten 40
Corn 36
Dry Beans 34
White Potato 34

The Best Protein Sources For Dogs

It should come as no surprise that the best protein sources (with a high Biological Value) come from real meat sources like chicken, fish, and turkey.

Chicken, Fish, & Other Poultry

Real lean meats are a great source of low-fat, high-quality protein that dogs love. Poultry is one of the most natural, healthiest, and easily digested sources of protein you can feed your dog. Some of the most common sources of poultry include chicken, turkey, and duck. Fish also offers the benefit of omega 3 fatty acids, a healthy source of fats that encourage a shiny, healthy coat.

Other Real Meats

Beef, venison, and liver are just a few more examples of real meat that serves as a great source of protein for dogs. When evaluating these meats in your dog food, the most important thing is to make sure that you’re getting real meat—and not meat by-products.

Meat Meal

Meat meal is one of the most understood forms of meat in dog food. It can be called by many names, including meat and bone meal, chicken meat meal, and others. Many people confuse “meat meal” with “meat by-products,” but as you will learn, meat meal is actually a much healthier form of meat and a great source of protein for your dog. Meat meal is a dried form of meat in which the water has been removed, leaving a highly concentrated source of high-quality, easily digested protein.

High Quality Meat Meals include:

  • Chicken meal
  • Lamb meal
  • Duck meal
  • Turkey Meal
  • Buffalo Meal
  • Beef Meal

The Worst Protein Sources For Dogs

If the best protein sources come from real animals, the worst protein sources with low Biological Value come from plants and unhealthy by-products.

Plant-Based Protein

Plant foods—like corn, wheat, and gluten—contain a small amount of protein, but it is not a good source of quality protein. For one thing, your dog’s digestive system was never meant to digest a large amount of foods like gluten or corn meal. And to make matters worse, these protein sources do not contain the full spectrum of essential amino acids (like real meat does).

Meat By-Products

If meat meal is a great protein source, meat by-products are at the exact opposite side of the spectrum. When an ingredient label says “by-products,” it’s telling you that the ingredient has been stripped from an animal carcass. Meat by-products will contain a small amount of real meat, but they will also include other animal parts including horns, hooves, hair, feathers, beaks, and claws.

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