We all want the best for our dogs. And with the increasing demand for the best nutrition, more than ever, it is difficult to find a high-quality kibble that offers a below-average protein content. But it doesn’t mean that you should resort to purchasing a poor-quality kibble. Thankfully, there are high-quality options that provide excellent nutrition, just with a lower protein content. So how do you get started on a low protein diet for dogs? You just need to find the right food.
But guess what, we have found them just for you, and Fido, of course. With hundreds of brands and products to choose from, we have done all the hard work for you.
Here we will present to you eight of the best lower protein dog foods. All complete with reviews so that you know which option is best for your pooch.
Yes, Fido might be disappointed with the idea that he can no longer flex his ripped muscles down the local doggy park anymore. But, with our yummy kibbles, he might not even realize that you’ve changed his diet.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2022
The 8 Best Low Protein Dog Foods
1. Nutro Ultra Weight Management Dry Dog Food – Best Overall
This product is an excellent quality kibble for all, not just those that need a low protein content. But at 23%, this option comes with a low-ish protein content. It still exceeds the basic requirements set by AAFCO, and it is nutritionally complete.
The first two ingredients are chicken and chicken meal, so you can be sure that despite the low content, he is still receiving high-quality protein. Lamb meal and salmon meal are also listed, but grains are more prevalent than these ingredients.
This option is designed for those needing to manage their weight, but it isn’t strictly just for them. It provides enough fats and calories to sustain his energy throughout the day.
It lists a variety of vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as ingredients such as coconut, kale, and pumpkin for a boost of antioxidants.
The only criticism we have of this product is that in an attempt to reduce fatty ingredients, the glucosamine content is low. So this is not a good option for senior or large dogs.
But overall, we think this is the best low protein dog food you can buy this year.
2. Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Dry Dog Food – Best Value
This is our top pick for the best low protein dog food for the money. The great price comes with a big kibble bag, so it’ll last you a long time, and there’s plenty to go round if you have more than one pooch.
Don’t let the packaging of this product put you off, and if it wasn’t for the great reviews, we would have done too! Inside the comic-style packaging is a great quality product that provides a well-balanced diet.
The protein content is 22%, and thankfully the first ingredient is chicken meal, which is a good sign of a top-quality product. Fish meal follows shortly after too. Meat meals are a concentrated protein that is full of glucosamine and fats for joint, cardiac, and cognitive health, to name just a few benefits.
It lists prebiotic fiber and probiotic ingredients to aid digestion, as well as a wide variety of vitamins and minerals for overall health.
The only reason that this product didn’t make it to our number one spot is that the brand isn’t as well known as the product above. That’s really it.
3. Natural Balance L.I.D. Grain-Free Dry Dog Food – Premium Choice
This is our low protein premium choice. Natural balance is a popular brand known for providing easy to digest formulas and limited ingredient diets.
This recipe provides 22% protein while ensuring that meat protein is the first ingredient, which is essential for a premium recipe. Lamb is the first ingredient and the only meat protein source. Lamb is an easy to digest meat protein, meaning this is an excellent option for those who find most meats too rich.
Brown rice is the second ingredient, which, again, is gentle on his digestive system. It also provides him with energy and other nutrients that his gut needs.
This recipe is fortified with vitamin and mineral supplements, meaning his organs are supported with everything they need to be as healthy as possible.
This is a premium product, so it might not be suited to all budgets, which is the main reason that this pick is not listed higher.
4. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Dry Dog Food
Hill’s science diet is a well-known brand across the world, and for good reason. Their recipes are carefully crafted by vets and canine nutritionists who have studied the needs of dogs, meaning that it is nutritionally balanced.
This recipe is super low in protein, and at just 15.5%, if your pooch needs the lowest he can get without a prescription, this is the best option for him. Chicken meal is the first ingredient, which also supplies glucosamine for his joints and overall health.
This diet is marketed at those aged seven years and older, but it is suitable for all adult dogs who have reached full maturity.
It is a grain inclusive diet, and it relies heavily on grains such as barley, rice, wheat, corn, and sorghum. This is ideal for those who find too much meat challenging to process. But it can cause digestive issues for dogs with sensitive digestive systems.
This recipe also lists artificial chicken liver flavor. This is not ideal, especially for those dogs who do much better on an all-natural diet.
5. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo has created this recipe with limited ingredients, and ultimately, stripping their formula back to basics.
The protein content is 18%, which is the protein baseline that AAFCO sets. The first ingredient is lean deboned turkey, with turkey meal following shortly after. This recipe is chicken-free, which makes it a great alternative to most other kibbles.
The fiber content in this recipe is 7%, which makes it a high fiber diet. This is great for those who are forever hungry, as it keeps them feeling fuller for longer. Or those who need extra fiber for better gastrointestinal or stool health.
This formula is designed for seniors, but again it is suitable for all of those aged one-year plus. This recipe is grain inclusive and uses a mixture of grains and vegetables for carbohydrates and fiber.
We do not like that this recipe appears to be guilty of a tactic known in the nutrition world as ingredient splitting. There are three pea ingredients found in the first nine ingredients. This likely means that the protein is not as meat-based as most would think.
6. Dave’s Pet Food Restricted Diet Protein Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
This is our one and only wet food option, so if Fido is a fussy pooch who prefers the luxury of wet food, this is his only option on our list.
The protein content here is 4.5%, which is not comparable to the dry food, but by wet food standards, this is low. It also controls the phosphorus level, which is another essential factor to consider for some dogs needing a low-protein diet because of kidney concerns.
The first ingredient is chicken broth, with the third ingredient being real chicken. Although this is isn’t something we would generally recommend, this is acceptable for a low-protein diet. But, with pea being listed before chicken, this suggests the protein content isn’t as high-quality as it could be.
Vitamin and minerals are listed to strengthen your dog’s immune system and keep him feeling as healthy as possible despite his kidney concerns.
7. AvoDerm Weight Support Dry Dog Food
This product is made by AvoDerm, which is a company that uses high-quality avocados in their recipes. Although dogs should not eat avocados on their own, a little bit of it is very beneficial for his coat and organ health.
This product has a 20% protein content, making this a middle of the road product on this list. It is designed for those needing to manage their weight, but as long as your pooch isn’t an energetic working dog, this should be suitable for him.
This formula has a lot of vitamins and mineral supplements listed. And antioxidants and superfoods such as pineapple, papaya, and avocado give his immune system an extra boost.
It also lists many probiotic fermentation ingredients, which is fantastic for his gut health. Meaning that if he struggles to achieve regular digestion, this is a good option for him. Kelp meal is nutrient and calcium-rich too.
This product also lists natural flavor, which is not ideal. And rice is the second, third, and fourth ingredient in this formula, meaning it relies heavily on rice.
8. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Dry Dog Food
Nutro is a well-known brand, and this is another Nutro product that has made it onto our top recommendations. Which shows just how well they do.
This recipe is made with farm-raised chicken, which is the first and second ingredient listed. The protein content is 22%.
This is a grain inclusive diet, which lists brown rice, brewers rice, and barley, which are gentle on his stomach when compared to corn, wheat, and soy.
It lists natural sources of omega fatty acids, such as flaxseed, which means his coat and overall health are well cared for. And glucosamine is found in the meat meal ingredients. It also has a long list of vitamins and minerals, which is essential for organ function and overall wellness.
This recipe also lists natural flavor, which is disappointing, but just like all the products recommended in this guide, it is highly rated by their customers.
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting the Best Lower Protein Dog Food
There are a few reasons why dogs need a low protein diet, and the different reasons might dictate which option you choose. Thankfully, with the increased awareness that not every dog is the same, there are high-quality options to choose from.
Because different reasons dictate different options, you need to understand why he needs it and what a lower-protein diet is. As well as what a low protein diet means his health and what separates a poor-quality diet from a good one. So, let’s take a closer look.
What Is Protein?
Protein is essential for every living thing in this world. It provides the vital building blocks for life, and these are called amino acids. Without amino acids, dogs couldn’t develop from puppies to adults, and they couldn’t maintain their muscles. They would have little energy, and overall, they would become very poorly indeed.
This is why it is crucial to buy a kibble, rather than create your own low-protein recipe. Because they are made with the necessary minimal standards of protein needed. You can’t just remove all protein from Fido’s diet.
High Protein Ingredients
Most people associate meat with protein, and although meat is a fantastic source of protein, it isn’t the only source. Ingredients derived from plants, such as vegetables and grains, are sometimes just as high in protein. So, it’s essential to understand what other ingredients you need to be wary of.
Here are other ingredients commonly found in dog food that are high in protein, aside from meat:
Is A Low-Protein Diet For Dogs Healthy?
Although we see our pooches as meat-eating machines, this isn’t always the case. There are a handful of reasons why some dogs need a low-protein diet.
Protein is processed by three main organs in his body, the small intestine, the liver, and the kidneys. Without getting too scientific, these organs digest, metabolize, and eliminate toxins. Protein is a labor-intensive ingredient to digest, so by feeding him a low protein diet, his organs have time to heal or conserve energy.
Therefore, if he is suffering from any health concerns associated with these organs, he might need a low protein diet. This could include inflammatory bowel disease, renal failure, bladder stones, hepatitis, and cirrhosis. Suffering from pancreatitis is another condition that might require a low protein diet.
Alternatively, if a dog has a sensitive digestive system, sometimes ingredients that are too rich or high in fats are difficult to digest. Occasionally, this can include protein.
But, because protein is important, it is essential to consult with your veterinarian before you change his diet to a low-protein one.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the body that sets the standards that all pet food must adhere to. AAFCO states that, on a dry matter basis, puppies and pregnant dogs need a minimum protein content of 22.5%, and adult dogs need a minimum protein content of 18%. So, unless you are advised by your vet that your dog needs a super low protein content, never go below this guidance.
All dog kibbles that are AAFCO compliant will have the AAFCO stamp of approval, so be sure to look for this label. Low quality kibbles that arent AAFCO compliant, will not be allowed to carry this stamp. So if you can’t see it, avoid it.
All kibbles are required to list their ingredients, and they will also have a guaranteed analysis section. This is where you will find the protein content. Be sure to check this out if you need a low protein diet.
What Is A Low Protein Diet?
How low is low, exactly. Well, most over-the-counter low protein diet should start with at least 18% or 22.5% protein (depending on what category he falls into). Generally speaking, a low protein diet shouldn’t exceed 25%.
Many prescription diets or science-based diets will go much lower than the recommended AAFCO requirements. Some can go as low as 10%, but you should never go this low without approval from your vet.
Do not attempt to create your own low-protein diet for dogs, because you risk going too low, or not meeting his other nutritional requirements. Both of which will undoubtedly make him feel worse.
Tips On Choosing A Low Protein Diet
When choosing a low protein kibble, there are certain things that you need to think about in addition to it being a low protein kibble. Here are the main factors to consider:
His kibble must not forget about his other nutritional needs. A well-balanced diet includes protein, carbohydrates, fiber, omega fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. And just because the protein content is low, doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be low in everything.
If he needs a diet that is easy to digest because he has a sensitive digestive system, look for prebiotic fibers and probiotic ingredients.
You need to make sure that his diet is providing him with omega fatty acids because these have a wealth of benefits. From a shiny coat to healthy brain and eye development, to nutrient absorption and organ function and much more. Examples of this are meat meals, fish oils, canola oils, flaxseed, and egg products.
Thankfully, by choosing a high-quality kibble, and one that is AAFCO approved, you are almost guaranteed a well-balanced diet.
Quality Over Quantity
Dogs that need a low protein content should look for quality over quantity when it comes to protein sources. Unless it is a science-based recipe or one recommended by your vet, you should always look for a kibble that lists real meat as the first ingredient. This is a sure-fire sign that it is a high-quality product.
Meat is an easier protein to digest than plant-based protein, so meat should always come before ingredients such as peas or rice.
Meats should always be named, and avoid something that says ‘poultry meal’ or ‘red meat’ because this doesn’t name the protein source. This is particularly important for those with a sensitive digestive system.
If your dog needs a low-protein content because of his liver, small intestine, or kidneys, you need to discuss the role of phosphorus with your vet. Research is starting to show that phosphorus has a significant impact on his organs rather than protein alone.
Phosphorus is a mineral, and although a little is beneficial, too much of it can be dangerous. If your pooch suffers from kidney diseases, his kidneys might not be able to filter phosphorus very well. Meat protein is high in phosphorus, which is why it is recommended to lower protein.
Ultimately, this is something that you need to discuss with your vet. And your vet might also want to take a look at the phosphorus level of his new diet too.
Hopefully, we have made the world of low-protein dog food a little clearer for you. Now you should be able to pick from one of our recommendations above thanks to the reviews.
Not every dog is the same, and the same goes for budget. But whatever product you pick, make sure it is the best option for Fido and his health needs.
Choosing a kibble based on flavor difference is not a life-changing decision, but if he has medical concerns that dictate he needs a low-protein option, it could be. Always be sure to discuss a change in his diet with your vet. After all, they can offer you tailored advice.
Overall, our best overall low protein choice is Nutro Ultra Weight Management Dry Dog Food. And our top best value pick is Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Dry Dog Food.By choosing any of our recommendations here, you are taking a step in the right direction towards better health for Fido.
Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock