Protein is an essential part of a dog’s diet, but there may be situations in which your dog may need a low-protein dog food due to health reasons, such as kidney or liver disease. Most dog food brands are high in protein, which can make finding the perfect fit a challenge. If you’re in this boat, we’re here to help.
In this guide, we’ll list the 10 best low-protein dog foods with in-depth reviews to help you make the best decision possible for your doggie. Let’s check them out.
A Quick Comparison of Our Winners of 2023
|Best Overall||Nature's Logic Canine Duck & Salmon Feast||
|Best Value||Gentle Giants Natural Dry Dog Food||
|Premium Choice||The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Dog Food||
|Best for Puppies||Iams ProActive Health Dry Dog Food||
|Purina ONE +Plus Adult Lamb & Brow||
The 10 Best Low-Protein Dog Foods
1. Nature’s Logic Canine Duck & Salmon Feast – Best Overall
|Main ingredients:||Duck, duck broth|
Nature’s Logic Canine Duck & Salmon Feast is perfect for doggies that love wet food. This food is low in both fat and protein content and is our choice of the best overall low-protein dog food.
If your pup does not like duck or salmon, the manufacturer also has other flavors, such as beef, chicken, pork, lamb, rabbit, or sardine. This recipe contains high-quality ingredients, such as natural eggshell calcium and animal plasma. This all-natural, nutrient-dense dog food contains muscle and organ meat with no chemically synthesized ingredients and is highly digestible.
This food is grain-free, so we recommend you check with your veterinarian to ensure that grain-free is suitable for your dog. Note that the inclusion of grains is beneficial to most dogs unless your pup suffers from a grain allergy.
2. Gentle Giants Natural Non-GMO Dog Food – Best Value
|Main ingredients:||Chicken meal, pearled barley|
Gentle Giants Natural Non-GMO Dog & Puppy Chicken Dry Dog Food is complete and balanced nutrition low in protein that’s made with 12 whole fruits and veggies, such as beets, cranberries, blueberries, apples, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, and more. It contains prebiotics and probiotics for increased digestion, as well as essential vitamins and minerals to keep your dog healthy.
The packaging is different but fun but may also throw people off of this product, especially with the brand name, which is not well known. Some dog owners also report that the food made their dogs have digestive issues, so it may not work for your particular doggie.
This dog food is affordable and made with quality ingredients, making it our pick for the best low-protein dog food for the money.
3. The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Beef Recipe – Premium Choice
|Main ingredients:||Dehydrated beef, organic oats|
The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Beef Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food is easy to serve—just add water! This human-grade dog food is crafted in a human food production facility to provide the freshest ingredients, such as ranch-raised beef, that’s gently dehydrated for maximum flavor and nutrient retention. It’s easy for your dog to digest, complete and balanced, and is suitable for adult dogs of all breeds and sizes.
No by-products are included, and it’s free from artificial preservatives, fillers, and GMO ingredients. It is a little pricey, but it’s a safe, high-quality, human-grade dog food that’s low in protein. However, some dogs may not like it due to the food having little to no smell.
4. Iams ProActive Health Puppy Food – Best for Puppies
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, chicken by-product meal|
|Calories:||380 kcal ME/cup|
Puppies generally do not require a low protein diet, and the recommended protein amount is 22%–32% on a dry matter basis. That said, Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Original Dry Dog Food is perfect for the growing puppy. It contains real farm-raised chicken as the first ingredient, which helps your puppy develop strong muscles and is followed by wholesome grains and essential antioxidants. This food also contains omega 3 DHA to aid in cognitive development, and it’s reasonably priced.
Some consumers state the food causes diarrhea and excessive gas, so we recommend keeping a close eye on your puppy while on this food.
5. Purina ONE +Plus Healthy Weight Canned Food
|Main ingredients:||Lamb, chicken broth|
Purina ONE +Plus Adult Tender Cuts in Gravy Healthy Weight Lamb & Brown Rice Entree Canned Dog Food is made with real lamb and brown rice that most dogs love. This 100% complete wet dog food includes two times the recommended levels of antioxidants with zinc, selenium, and vitamins A and E. Its protein percentage is only 10%, making it perfect for doggies that require a low-protein diet.
This dog food is easy on the wallet and is suitable for dogs of all breeds and sizes. However, it is unsuitable for doggies with a chicken allergy, as it contains chicken broth.
6. Hill’s Prescription K/D Kidney Care
|Main ingredients:||Brown rice, brewer’s rice|
Hill’s Prescription K/D Kidney Care is a low-protein chicken recipe that protects kidney and heart function. The first two ingredients are brown rice and brewer’s rice, and it’s low in sodium. This veterinarian-recommended dog food has enhanced omega-3s that are vital in low-protein dog food, and it supports your dog’s natural ability to build and maintain muscle mass while also increasing your doggie’s appetite using Enhanced Appetite Trigger (E.A.T.) technology. It also includes high levels of essential amino acids and L-carnitine for improved heart health.
This recipe is suitable for all breeds of all sizes, but it’s only available through a prescription from your veterinarian. It’s also on the pricey side.
7. AvoDerm Weight Support Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Chicken meal, ground brown rice|
AvoDerm Weight Support Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food is a low-fat, low-protein dog food designed for weight management, making it perfect for overweight, less active pooches. It has an appropriate amount of avocado and avocado oils to maintain healthy skin and coats, along with nutrient-dense superfoods to make up a complete and balanced diet. It also contains probiotics for gut health and is appropriate for all breeds and sizes.
Weight control may not be achieved in all dogs needing to lose a few extra pounds, and it may dry out some dogs’ skin.
8. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult Renal Support S
|Main ingredients:||Corn, brewer’s rice|
This dog food supports kidney health and contains tasty ingredients to promote a healthy appetite. The ingredients substitute a meat-dense diet and replace it with a highly palatable, energy-dense formula. It contains a balanced amount of antioxidants and fatty acids consisting of fish oil, and low phosphorus and protein levels.
This dog food requires a veterinary prescription, and it is expensive—however, it is appropriate for all breeds and sizes. Another potential downfall is some consumers state their dog will not eat the food, however, most dogs love it and do quite well on the food.
9. Diamond Naturals Light Formula Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Lamb meal, whole grain brown rice|
Diamond Naturals Light Formula Dry Dog Food is formulated with real pasture-raised lamb as the first ingredient and has fewer calories ideal for less active dogs or seniors. This budget-friendly dog food contains probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants to help support the immune system and healthy digestion. Some of the ingredients include blueberries and oranges, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, and more to provide a rich blend of omega fatty acids for optimal nutrition.
The protein percentage could be a tad lower if you’re looking for a low-protein food, and the kibble size may be too large for smaller breeds. It may also cause excessive gas or diarrhea in some dogs.
10. Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet KS Kidney Support
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, chicken broth|
Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet KS Kidney Support Grain-Free Wet Dog Food is a grain-free option for dogs with a grain allergy. This veterinary, low-protein diet includes controlled levels of phosphorus and sodium to support kidney health, along with enhanced antioxidants, L-carnitine, and omega-3 fatty acids for a complete diet for overall health. This holistic formula contains fish oil, blueberries, cranberries, potatoes, flaxseed, carrots, and peas that provide a taste your dog will love, and it contains no chicken by-products.
This dog food requires a veterinary prescription, and it is often out of stock. This is also a grain-free food—we recommend checking with your vet to ensure your dog requires a grain-free diet, as the inclusion of grains is beneficial unless your dog has a grain allergy.
Buyer’s Guide: Picking the Best Low-Protein Dog Food
When it comes to shopping for appropriate dog food, your choices may seem overwhelming, especially for a low-protein diet. Not all dogs require a low-protein diet, and we recommend checking with your veterinarian to ensure it’s warranted before switching. That said, let’s dive deeper into what to look for in a low-protein diet for your dog and address any questions you may have.
Why Would a Dog Require a Low-Protein Diet?
Certain medical conditions may cause your dog to require a low-protein diet. Oftentimes, the reasons are due to kidney disease, liver disease, or some types of bladder stones, which is the least common reason. The purpose of feeding a low-protein diet is to ease the stress and workload of the kidneys and liver when disease is present. Also, if disease is present, a low-protein diet will often be permanent.
While some dog foods listed in this article do not require a prescription, it’s important to get the go-ahead from your vet before putting your dog on one, and most times, the diet will be by prescription only to ensure the food is indeed suitable for your dog’s particular condition.
What Exactly Is a Low Protein Diet?
The general consensus is that a low-protein diet should contain 20% or less protein. Some low-protein diets may have slightly higher protein percentages, but you’ll find that most veterinary dog foods formulated by veterinarians will usually have well below 20%, with percentages averaging anywhere from 3% to 12% protein content.
There are some non-veterinary formulas that are lower in protein for dogs that need weight management or senior dogs that are less active and not able to burn calories like they once did in their prime—this is another reason to ensure your dog requires a true low protein diet rather than switching your dog to this type of diet on your own.
Things to Consider When Looking for a Low-Protein Dog Food
A low-protein diet should not exceed 25% protein, and ideally, that number should be lower than 20%, with a range of 3% to 20%. The food should also have a lower fat content, not to exceed 12%.
Complete and Balanced
In addition to a low protein percentage, dog food should consist of a well-balanced diet that contains essential antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Dogs with sensitive digestive systems will require a formula with prebiotics and probiotics for smooth digestion. Omega fatty acids, such as fish oil and canola oil, will help keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy and shiny.
Another important factor to look for is to ensure the dog food is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which will ensure the dog food is complete and balanced.
If a low protein diet is needed due to liver or kidney issues, then the phosphorus content will play a huge role in the diet. Studies indicate that phosphorus has more of a significant impact on the organs rather than protein, and too much phosphorus can be dangerous to your dog. Dogs with kidney issues will not be able to filter phosphorus very well, which is why it’s important to check with your veterinarian before switching your dog to a low-protein diet to ensure the phosphorus content is not too high.
Quality Over Quantity
One issue you may run into is the price of high-quality dog food that’s low in protein, which will be more on the pricey side compared to regular dog food diets. However, it’s vital to provide your dog with all essential ingredients while feeding a low-protein diet, which is where your veterinarian comes in—your vet can help you in making the appropriate decision on which diet is best for your dog’s particular condition.
A high-quality dog food will have real meat as the first ingredient rather than a by-product meal or rice. If the dog food contains meat of low quality, then your dog will not receive the essential amino acids required to stay healthy while on a low-protein diet.
We hope our reviews of the best low-protein dog foods help you in making the best decision for your dog, but we advise consulting your veterinarian before switching on your own.
To recap, Nature’s Logic Canine Duck & Salmon Feast has 11% protein, lists duck as the first ingredient, and is reasonably priced for our best overall choice. Gentle Giant’s Natural Non-GMO food is affordable and great value, and The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Beef is human-grade for our premium choice. Purina ONE +Plus Adult Tender Cuts contains lamb and chicken broth and is our Tender Cuts for Adults choice.
Featured Image Credit: Tanya Dol, Shutterstock