As a general rule, a high protein diet is an essential part of canine health. However, for dogs with certain medical conditions, the amount of protein in their diet needs to be limited. Low protein dog foods make it simple to do just that.
We reviewed dozens of low protein dog foods to identify the best of the best. For each food, we considered the amount of protein and its source, the overall nutrition offered, and how appealing it would be to dogs. We were also sure to include foods for even more specialized diets, including low protein foods that are also grain-free, low fat, high fiber, or low sodium. And, of course, we ensured that other consumers had great things to say in the reviews.
Our top pick is Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Miracle Dog Food. This dehydrated dog food mix allows you to feed your dog real nutritious, human-grade meals with only minutes of prep work.
The 5 Top-Rated Low Protein Dog Foods
|Best Low Protein Dog Food Overall||Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Miracle||4.6|
|Best Low Protein Canned Dog Food||Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient||4.6|
|Best Budget Low Protein Dog Food||Natural Balance LID||4.5|
|Best Low Protein Low Sodium Dog Food||Hills Science Diet Low Protein||4.7|
|Best Grain Free Low Protein Dog Food||Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Dry||4.5|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Best Low Protein Dog Foods Overall: Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Miracle Dog Food
Our top pick is Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Miracle Dog Food. You’re probably used to thinking of dog food in terms of dry kibble or wet food from a can or pouch, but Dr. Harvey’s is a little different. This food is made from fresh, whole, human-grade foods, including nine vegetables, crushed eggshells, and six organic grains, then it’s dehydrated to preserve freshness, nutrition, and flavor. When you’re ready to serve it to your dog, just add some warm water, let it sit for eight minutes to re-hydrate, then add your preferred source of animal protein, such as fish or eggs, and a healthy oil, such as flax oil, fish oil, or olive oil. Since you add the animal protein yourself, it’s easy to control the amount of protein in the food and ensure that it’s from a good quality source.
While this dog food is full of high-quality, nutritious ingredients, there are a few things it doesn’t have: preservatives, dyes, chemicals, fillers, by-products, and added salt or sugar. Dr. Harvey’s also sells various supplements, formulated for specific health concerns, that you can mix in for additional, customized nutrition. Dogs on low protein diets may particularly benefit from the Kidney Health supplement. Even without added supplements, however, Dr. Harvey’s food is great for kidney health, as well as for digestion, skin and coat health, and energy levels.
Once prepared, Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Miracle Dog Food has the same appeal as wet food, but with lower costs per serving since Dr. Harvey’s doesn’t have to build-in the high cost of shipping for wet food, and with less space taken up in your home. A five-pound bag will last giant breed adults (71 to 90 pounds) about 16 to 19 days and 3 to 10-pound toy breed adults up to three months. Since it’s so lightweight and compact before it’s prepared, it’s also a great option for traveling with your dog.
Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Miracle Dog Food Key Features:
- Fresh, human-grade ingredients
- Easy to control protein level
- Highly palatable
- Lightweight and space-efficient
- Comes in a 6.5-ounce trial size and 5 and 10-pound bags
Best Low Protein Canned Dog Food: Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet
Looking for a low protein canned dog food? Our favorite is Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet. While it isn’t advertised as a low protein recipe, it has a far lower minimum protein content than most dog foods we analyzed. According to the brand’s guaranteed analysis, it has a minimum of 7% crude protein.
The limited ingredient recipe only features a small selection of ingredients to help maintain your dog’s health. For example, it only features one animal protein source; real turkey. It also boasts plenty of important vitamins and minerals. The recipe is completely free of chicken, beef, dairy, eggs, corn, wheat, and soy, in addition to artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. So it’s a great choice if your dog has a sensitive stomach or suffers from certain allergies.
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Key Features:
- Turkey and potato flavor
- Single animal protein source
- Limited ingredient recipe
- Free of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
- A dozen 12.5-ounce cans per package
Best Budget Low Protein Dog Food: Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food
With high priced foods and complicated ingredients lists, it can seem tough to confidently feed your dog a healthy diet, especially when they have dietary restrictions and even more so when they have multiple dietary restrictions. With Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food, however, it doesn’t have to be. The food’s limited ingredient formulas allow you to carefully choose the source of your dog’s protein and carbohydrates and each recipe uses only one protein source. They’re also grain-free, packed with natural fiber, and vitamin and mineral fortified to provide complete, balanced nutrition for adult dogs, and they contain no artificial colors or flavors.
Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food is available in several different flavor formulas, but not all are low protein, so be sure to choose your formula wisely. The lowest protein flavors are Sweet Potato & Venison (which is the default flavor for our link) and Sweet Potato & Bison with 22.22% protein in the dry matter. The Potato & Duck, Sweet Potato & Fish, and Chicken & Sweet Potato formulas are a little higher in protein with 23.33% protein in dry matter. Avoid the Legume & Duck meal and especially Beef and Lamb flavors, as they’re all high in protein.
All formulas support healthy digestion, skin, and coat thanks to healthy, high-quality ingredients. In addition, each batch of food that Natural Balance makes undergoes nine different safety tests, each of which is conducted by microbiologists and chemists, making it even easier to not worry about what you’re feeding your pooch.
Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- Single protein source
- Grain-free limited ingredient recipe
- Nutrient fortified
- No artificial colors or flavors
- Also great for dogs with allergies, sensitive stomachs, and other dietary restrictions
- Comes in 4.5-pound, 13-pound, and 26-pound bags
Best Low Protein Low Sodium Dog Food: Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 7+ for Senior Dogs, Small Bites
Along with protein, vets frequently recommend limiting sodium levels in the diet of dogs with kidney and liver disease. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 7+ for Senior Dogs, Small Bites is our favorite low sodium, low protein dog food with a sodium dry matter percentage of just 0.32%.
This food is low in protein—19% protein with moisture removed—to make it easier on kidneys, but the protein it does have is high-quality, complete proteins to support the maintenance of lean muscle. In addition, this low protein, low sodium dog food is easy to digest and provides balanced nutrition to support further support kidney health, as well as heart health and a healthy energy level. It also includes Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and antioxidants for immune health, plus Omega-6 fatty acids and Vitamin E for healthy, moisturized skin and a healthy, shiny coat. It even helps maintain a healthy weight.
All of these benefits come from natural, high-quality ingredients from the United States and Europe that all have to meet Hill’s strict, industry-exceeding nutrient and purity standards, and the food itself is manufactured in the US. And, like with our top pick for low protein canned dog food, each purchase helps support Hill’s Food, Shelter & Love program, helping provide food to homeless pets.
Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 7+ for Senior Dogs, Small Bites Key Features:
- Specifically formulated for small dogs that are seven years of age and older
- Chicken meal, Barley, and Brown Rice recipe
- Only high-quality, natural ingredients that exceed the industry standard
- Each purchase helps pets in need
- Available in 5-pound, 15-pound, and 33-pound bags
Best Grain Free Low Protein Dog Food: Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
Finding a good quality low protein dog food can be difficult enough, but if your dog also has additional food sensitivities, it’s even harder. If you know about Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food, however, it’s easy. It comes in four different recipes, all of which have the same 22.22% protein content without moisture: Turkey & Potato, Duck & Potato, Lamb & Potato, and Salmon & Potato. Real meat is the first ingredient in each recipe and each recipe contains only a single source of animal protein, so you know your pup is getting complete proteins from animal sources for optimum health benefits with less stress on the kidneys and liver.
But what about those food sensitivities previously mentioned? Well, beef, dairy, chicken, wheat, soy, corn, egg, pork, and rice are all known allergens for dogs, so none of the Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food recipes contain any of those ingredients. They also never include artificial flavors or preservatives. Instead, this food contains healthy, easily digestible fruits and veggies, like potatoes, peas, pumpkin, flaxseed, blueberries, and cranberries for a boost of fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
It also contains fish oil for Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and is nutrient fortified for even more health benefits without adding additional ingredients that can be rough on dogs with food sensitivities. The ingredients that are included in this limited ingredient diet are all of the highest quality and from only natural sources. Have a question about a certain ingredient in a Blue Buffalo food? Their online ingredient tool tells you more about each ingredient so you never have to wonder.
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- Single protein source
- Grain-free limited ingredient recipe in four different flavors
- Nutrient fortified
- No artificial colors or flavors
- Also great for dogs with allergies, sensitive stomachs, and other dietary restrictions
- Available in 4-pound, 11-pound, and 24-pound bags
Who Should Buy a Low Protein Dog Food
While there is a misconception that high protein diets can cause liver damage in dogs, that’s not the case. The average dog owner should generally be more concerned about their dog not getting enough protein than getting too much.
With that said, there are some medical conditions that make a low protein diet a good idea. The liver and kidneys are responsible for digesting proteins, so for dogs that have been diagnosed by a vet with liver or kidney conditions, a low protein diet can help by reducing the workload of these organs. However, reducing phosphorous is also essential in managing kidney and liver disease. Reducing just protein without also reducing phosphorous requires a greater reduction in protein level to ease the kidneys and liver, which can result in a diet that’s too low in protein, causing a loss of important muscle mass as well as other health issues. Remember, even for dogs with kidney and liver disease, protein is still an essential nutrient for virtually all body functions.
Since kidney and liver disease are typically chronic, a switch to low protein, low phosphorous dog food needs to be permanent. On the other hand, a rare type of bladder stones, urate bladder stones, can be dissolved by switching to a low protein diet. In this situation, the diet would only need to continue until the stones have dissolved.
Remember, when in doubt about any part of your dog’s health, including their diet, talk to your vet for guidance.
Important Features to Consider
A low protein dog food should have a few important features. Here’s what to consider when selecting a low protein food for your dog:
- Protein source. Protein should come from high-quality animal sources. Animal proteins are digested and used easier by your dog’s body, making their protein consumption more efficient. Look on the label for ingredients like meat, eggs, and dairy.
- Amount of protein. Unless instructed otherwise by a vet, you want to aim for a diet that consists of at least about 18% protein. However, that doesn’t mean that the number in the guaranteed analysis on the food package needs to be 18%, since the percentage on the bag is relative to the entire food, including moisture, but the nutrients your dog absorbs are from the dry matter only. For example, wet foods tend to be higher in protein on a dry matter basis than dry foods, but because they have a lot more moisture, the percentage of protein listed in the guaranteed analysis is much lower on wet food than dry food. You can calculate the portion of dry matter that protein (or any other nutrient, for that matter, makes up) relatively easily: Subtract the percentage of moisture, which will also be listed on the food package, from 100% to get the portion of the food made up by dry matter. Then divide the percentage of protein listed on the bag by the portion of dry matter to get the portion of the dry matter made up by protein. Alternatively, you can just plug the numbers into an online dry matter calculator.
- Complete, balanced nutrition. Just reducing protein isn’t enough. If food is low in protein but is high in fat, that’s not healthy either. In addition, the food still needs to provide the correct amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to keep your dog healthy. If anything, this is especially important with a low protein diet since the dogs that need it most are ones with other health conditions. Avoid foods with fat and artificial ingredients like sweeteners, preservatives, flavors, and colors. Make sure that the food is also low in phosphorous to help further reduce the burden on the kidneys and liver.
- Palatability. The flavor in most conventional dog foods comes from protein, so many low-protein dog foods are bland. You should anticipate trying a few different foods before you find one that your dog really enjoys, so it’s a good idea to only buy a small amount at first until you know your dog likes the food. While trying different foods, be sure not to switch too frequently, as this can upset your dog’s digestive system. Dog foods with more scent tend to have more flavor, but that’s not a guarantee that your dog will enjoy it. In addition, dogs typically prefer wet food over dry food, so you may want to try switching to wet food or mixing a portion of wet food in with a portion of dry food to make the dry food more enjoyable.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I feed my dog on a low protein diet?
Some people elect to make low protein food for their dogs using nutrient-rich, low protein human foods. DIYing dog food requires a lot of care to make sure that you’re giving them a balanced diet and a lot of time to actually prepare the food, so it’s not for everyone. Fortunately, there are also plenty of commercially available low protein dog foods on the market. Few of them advertise themselves as low protein, however, since most people are looking for a high protein diet for their dogs, so be sure to check the guaranteed analysis on the label.
You can also reduce your dog’s overall protein intake by feeding them less regular food and making up the difference in calorie intake with low protein human foods that are also healthy for dogs, like sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, apples (just be sure not to give them the core or seeds), pumpkin, and blueberries. Don’t forget about treats either. There are low protein treats commercially available, but you can also give your dog small amounts of healthy, low protein human foods like the ones we just listed or make your own, which takes much less time and effort than making their entire diet yourself. There are tons of recipes available online.
What meat is lowest in protein?
Seafood like fish and shrimp tends to be low in protein compared to other meats, though it varies based on the cut of meat and the lifestyle of the animal. Fish and other seafood also tend to be very lean, making them a great option for low protein diets for dogs. However, they’re still relatively protein-rich compared to other foods, so be sure to limit serving sizes when giving them to your dog. Use low protein, nutrient-rich fruits and veggies to round out your dog’s dietary needs.
What are the benefits of low protein dog foods?
For the average dog, there is no benefit from a low protein dog food and, in fact, the average dog is better off on a high protein diet. However, low protein diets can be food for select health conditions. Low protein, low phosphorous diets can help manage liver and kidney disease by reducing the stress on these organs. A low protein diet can also help treat urate bladder stones, a rare type of bladder stone, by causing the stones to dissolve. However, a regular diet should be resumed after the stones have dissolved.
What percentage of protein is considered low protein dog food?
There’s not an agreed-upon standard for what constitutes a low protein dog food. The average commercial dog food for adult dogs contains about 25% protein. Unless instructed otherwise by a vet, an adult dog’s diet should contain at least 18% from dry matter. As stated above, that’s not the portion listed on the packaging, so be sure to calculate the percentage of protein relative to dry matter or use an online calculator to do so.
For the purposes of this list, we’ve mostly focused on dog foods containing between 18 and 23% protein, though we have a few that have more or less of it.