Is a low protein, high fat dog food good for your dog?

Is a low protein, high fat dog food good for your dog?

There has been a recent craze of many dog owners putting their furry friends on a low protein, high-fat dog food diet.

But can all dogs partake in such a diet? What are the benefits of giving your dog fewer proteins and a lot of fat? In this post, you will get answers to these questions and much more.

Ready, let us begin...

What is low protein food?

Low protein food is essentially dog food that has minimal amounts of proteins and increased amounts of fat.

How much protein do dogs require?

The amount of protein a dog needs depends on its activities and age.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials recommends that adult dogs should get at least 18% of protein from their meals. However, most commercial dog foods provide 20% to 25% protein.

Lactating dogs, puppies, and performance dogs require more proteins, at least 22.6% per serving, though most recipes provide between 25% to 29% of proteins.

Protein percentage in low-protein dog food

The protein levels in a "low protein" diet may vary but mostly range between 11% and 17%.

However, protein quality and other recipe ingredients could increase the value.

In addition, most of the commercial high-fat, low, protein dog feeds don't have the protein percentages that your vet doctor recommends, as they mostly range between 11% to 16%.

Advantages of a low protein high-fat dog food

Digestion of proteins can be hectic, especially for dogs with organ problems. 

Hence by minimizing the amount of protein in a dog's diet, you lessen the pressure on its organs; thus, your pup will be healthier.

When should you offer your dog low-protein food?

Your veterinary doctor could recommend a low protein, high-fat diet for various reasons, but the top among them is health issues.

Particularly medical conditions interfere with the normal functioning of critical organs like the liver and kidneys.

The reason is that the digestion of proteins produces uremic toxins as a byproduct, and dogs release uremic toxins through urine. 

However, if a dog has kidneys that aren't working correctly, the toxins build up and cause health problems.

Note: Contrary to popular belief, older or senior dogs do not need a low protein, high-fat diet unless they are sick.

Some of the health conditions that may necessitate a low protein diet are

  • Liver shunt (portosystemic shunt)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Inflammatory kidney diseases
  • Lyme disease
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Urinary stones (Bladder stones)

What is the ideal protein level to feed your dog?

Veterinary doctors are yet to determine the maximum amount of proteins you can offer your canine. 

The main reason is that dog breeds require varying amounts of proteins depending on their age, temperament, and environment.

As long as the food you feed your pet has all the essential nutrients, and the protein level is between 3-4 grams per 100 calories, your dog will be fine.

Primary composition of Low protein dog food

Quality low protein dog food should have 

  • Small quantities of phosphorous 
  • High amounts of fat
  • Minimal amounts of high-quality protein

On average, your dog needs 1/5 fat calories, 1/3 protein calories, and 1/3 carbohydrate calories daily to be healthy.

In addition, you should use low protein, high-fat dog food made using the finest whole food ingredients.

Ingredients to avoid in low protein high fat dog food

You should not use some elements while making homemade low-protein dog food. 

Moreover, if you notice these ingredients in commercial food, you should steer clear.

Some of these ingredients include:

Polyunsaturated vegetable oils 

These oils will strain your dog's kidneys and liver, which isn't ideal, especially if the organs aren't working correctly. 

Instead, doctors recommend using fish oil; it's easily digested and has no toxic byproducts. Hence it's helpful to dogs with liver and kidney diseases.

Soy products 

Most soy products are made through genetic modifications, and they contain high quantities of toxic glyphosate, which may cause cancer or a leaky gut.

Furthermore, soy can also cause health issues such as 

  • seizures
  • hyperthyroidism 
  • Allergies


Studies have shown that dogs can't effectively digest corn. Scientists have found that corn could attack your mutt's pancreas and liver by interfering with these organs sugar controlling abilities.

When such happens, your dog could have

  • Liver disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes 
  • Pancreatitis

Cod liver oil

Some dog parents utilize cod liver oil to supplement DHA and EPA levels, but doctors don't recommend such.

Cod liver oil contains omega-three fatty acids, which could harm canines with gastrointestinal disorders.


Flaxseed is only harmful if you use it in large amounts. The substance contains tiny cyanide traces that aren't easily broken down into DHA and EPA. 

When the cyanide accumulates, your dog could develop issues like

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting 
  • Watery eyes
  • Muscle spasms (painful contractions of muscles) 


Sunflower has copious amounts of omega six; hence you should offer it in correct proportions to omega three acids. 

If you give your furry friend the wrong ratio, it may negatively affect his immunity system.


Even though phosphorous has nutritional benefits, research has shown that high amounts could harm dogs with chronic renal failure. 

Hence it would help if you regulated the amounts of phosphorous your dog partakes in his meals.

Phosphorous is present in cheese, egg yolk, bones, and organ meat.

Commercial versus homemade low-protein dog food

Some pet parents prefer to make homemade low-protein, high-fat dog food instead of buying commercial foods, which is understandable.

However, most canines don't like homemade low-protein dog food as it isn't palatable. 

The reason is that much of a dog's food taste comes from protein.

So, the food becomes somewhat tasteless when you reduce the protein level. No wonder it's best to go for the commercial varieties and add some flavor additives to improve the taste.

Nevertheless, if you prefer to make low-protein dog food, kindly discuss it with a vet doctor to determine the best recipe.

Your vet doctor could also recommend other supplements and vitamins you can include in the diet.

Does low protein high, fat dog food affect a dog's behavior?

A study by Dunstan Skieb, a lead animal researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, reported that some amino acids from specific proteins could influence a dog's behavior.

Dunstan's report stated that the amino acids modified the synthesis of chemical signals in a dog's brain(neurotransmitter).

This explains why dogs on a high protein diet tend to be more aggressive than those eating low protein food.

Even so, more research is still ongoing to determine the exact amounts of protein that can lead to aggression and what type of protein should be avoided.

What else can you offer your dog while it's on a low protein, high-fat diet

When you introduce your dog to a low-protein diet, there are some factors you can include to make the diet more effective. They are

Easily digestible proteins

Since your dog is getting minimal amounts of protein, you should ensure that the protein he acquires is of good quality.

In addition, the type of protein you use should be easy to digest and absorb.


Free-flowing radicals are the primary cause of kidney diseases. Hence you can supplement your dog's low protein diet with antioxidants to reduce the number of free radicals in the canine's system.

Antioxidants also slow kidney disease progression. 

B Vitamins

Dogs with kidney disease usually urinate often compared to healthier dogs. The increased urination leads to the loss of water-soluble B vitamins. Therefore, you must supplement that gap.


When a dog urinates regularly, it loses water and may become dehydrated.

You can prevent dehydration by giving your dog sufficient amounts of clean water.


Probiotics fasten your dog's digestion, reduce stress, and help detox his gastrointestinal system.

An ideal probiotic you can offer your canine is Safe Guard probiotic.

Safe Guard probiotic has adequate amounts of healthy bacteria like Bacillus, Escherichia, and lactobacillus, which increase nutrient absorption and strengthen your pup's immunity.

Final thoughts

Low protein high-fat dog foods offer many benefits. However, veterinary doctors only recommend such diets for dogs with kidney or liver conditions.

A low protein, high fat diet feeding a healthy dog, could lead to muscle wasting.

Hence you should always consult your doctor before switching your dog to the diet.