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The Best Proteins for Dogs

Written by: Michelle Toma Olson



Time to read 6 min

You might have heard the saying “food is fuel” regarding human diets. What we choose to “fuel” our bodies with definitely determines how well they function. The same applies to all living creatures, especially our pets! Since our dogs – and some of us humans! – might prioritize taste above all else, it’s up to us pet parents to ensure our pups get the nutrients they need from what they eat. Whether it comes from healthy dog treats, pet foods or even dog chews, one of the most essential nutrients in a dog’s diet is protein. Why do dogs need protein, what are the best sources of proteins for dogs, and how can we ensure what we feed our dogs provides those proteins? Read on to find out!


Just like us, our puppos require a variety of nutrients to survive and, more importantly, thrive. These include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and you guessed it – protein! In fact, of all the elements that make up a healthy dog diet, protein just might be the most important one. This macronutrient can be found in various foods, especially animal-based foods like meat and other animal products like eggs and dairy, as well as some vegetable sources. But it’s what the protein does that makes it so essential to dog nutrition.

When your dog eats foods with protein, that protein is broken down into amino acids, often called the “building blocks” of protein. In fact, there are approximately twenty different amino acids that make up a protein molecule! These amino acids are hugely important because they “fuel” a variety of functions and processes a dog’s body such as:

  • Encouraging cellular growth and turnover
  • Keeping skin and fur healthy
  • Supporting strong muscles
  • Providing energy – for walks and playtime and everything in between!
Doodle chomping on a Farm to Pet Chicken Chip in the park after a hike.
Protein packed Farm to Pet Chicken Chip


While dogs, like humans, can make some of these amino acids in their own bodies, there are ten amino acids – called “essential” amino acids – that they can’t make on their own. The only way dogs can get all the essential amino acids they need is by eating protein-rich foods. Complete proteins for dogs contain all ten amino acids and include meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy.

In addition, not all proteins provide the same levels of amino acids, so rotating protein is an excellent way to be sure your dog’s diet includes all of them over time. This is why choosing the right protein source is so important. By ensuring you’re feeding your dog high-quality sources of complete protein, whether in meals or healthy dog treats, you’re giving your dog the range of essential nutrients, they need for total health support.

Toy Aussie, Dakota, waiting for her Farm to Pet Chicken Chip.
Chip vs. Dog...who can wait the longest


While nutrition needs can vary from dog to dog, most experts recommend that a dog’s diet be comprised of a minimum of 18%-25% protein and even more for puppies. A good rule of thumb for feeding is about one gram of protein per pound of your dog’s ideal weight. For reference, an ounce of chicken, turkey, beef or pork has 7 to 8 grams of protein per ounce – like the 7 grams in each of our Farm to Pet chicken chip or turkey chip healthy dog treats! – while an egg has about 6 grams of protein and half cup of yogurt has about 4 grams.

There are some instances when a dog might need more or less protein, such as more when pregnant or lactating or less when diabetic or obese, so it’s best to seek advice from a veterinarian when in doubt or if there are preexisting health issues. However, even though there has been a misconception to the contrary, it’s rare that a high-protein diet could be inherently harmful to a doggo. So be sure her diet includes plenty of sources of high-quality, pure protein like those below!

Four dogs waiting for their healthy single ingredient Farm to Pet Chips.
Chips for ALL


Brooks, the goldendoodle, posing with his Farm to Pet Chicago Bag.
Made in Chicago, Farm to Pet treats are the perfect protein snack.

While protein can be found in a variety of foods from plants to meat to dairy, the quality and quantity of protein can vary greatly from source to source. Again, to ensure that your dog gets the essential amino acids that he can’t make on his own, his diet should first and foremost be rich in sources of complete protein – of which meat is the most obvious choice for dogs! After all, our doggies’ ancestors were carnivores; in the wild, their diets would definitely prioritize protein; and of course, they love eating it! Plus, animal-based proteins are not only complete in terms of amino acids, but they also are the most efficient sources of protein in terms of grams per serving.

High-protein meats found in many dog foods and healthy dog treats include traditional choices like chicken, turkey, beef and lamb. Novel proteins, or those that are less typically included in canine diets, are another great choice to introduce different nutrients in your dog’s diet as well as stave off food sensitivities that can arise from eating too much of the same thing. These include duck, venison, rabbit and elk.

While we typically think of muscle meats from animals, organ meats (think liver, heart or kidney) from these sources are incredibly nutritious for dogs as well. These veritable canine superfoods contain considerable amounts of protein, as well as vitamins and minerals that any dog can benefit from. For example, organ meats are a great source of vitamins like Vitamins D, E, B, and A, as well as essential minerals like iron and selenium.

Dogs can also get protein from fish eggs and yogurt, as well as plant-based sources like peas, lentils and even some greens. These foods also offer different nutrients your dog needs that animal proteins don’t provide, so a balanced diet is key to supporting overall canine wellness.


Swirl, the black and white rescue pup, eyeing the Farm to Pet Turkey Chip.
Eyes on the Protein

Now that we’ve covered why protein is so important for dogs and the best sources for it in a dog’s diet, how do we ensure that the dog foods and dog treats we choose have the right kind and quality? The simplest way is to read the packaging and look for the following:


Like the nutrition labels used in foods made for human consumption, the ingredients listed on nutrition labels in dog foods and treats are listed by the highest amount contained down to the lowest. If the package lists a protein source first, you know that it’s predominantly protein. For example, the healthy dog treats and dog food toppers we make here at Farm To Pet each have a single ingredient on their lists – chicken or turkey! Even our chews are a single ingredient – organic elk antler! It could also list organ meat, like chicken liver, but if the list starts with a type of “meal” or “byproduct” that could mean low quality or waste parts of the animal – so move on.


If you want to give your dog the best ingredients available, the term “human grade” on the package speaks volumes! This ensures that you’re giving your dog a treat that is made with a high-quality protein source that can be consumed by humans and animals alike, and that means better nutrition for your pup.


Unfortunately, many dog foods and treats are made with unnecessary additives, preservatives, binders, and fillers in addition to the main ingredients. We have learned in other blog posts on the subject that certain ingredients can be unhealthy for our fur babies and should be avoided, so stick with recipes that contain recognizable, whole food ingredients you can pronounce!


It is pretty clear that when it comes to your dog’s nutrition, his need for protein tops the priority list! Not only is it a source of energy to burn, but complete proteins are also the only way he can get the range of amino acids needed for canine nutrition and wellness. Keeping your pet's meal plan full of high-quality foods and healthy dog treats made with human-grade protein sources will help keep them healthy, happy, and living her best life!

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