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Which Protein Makes for a Healthy Dog Treat?

Written by: Michelle Toma Olson



Time to read 5 min

What we feed our pets is so essential to their health and wellbeing. After all, we at Farm to Pet built a company and an entire line of healthy dog treats and organic dog chews around that philosophy! What makes our treats so healthy? It’s partly because our Chicken and Turkey chips are 100% protein-based, and protein is an essential part of any pet’s diet. It’s also because of the quality of protein and processes that we use to make them. But are there other proteins that make a healthy pet treat? Are some better than others? Read on for more information about the importance of protein to a dog’s nutrition and how to choose protein-based treats that are best for yours.

Protein: Bar None, the Best Ingredient in a Healthy Dog Treat

Dog eating Farm to Pet Chicken Chip
Doodle Chomping Chips

Dogs – and to an even higher degree, cats! – are natural carnivores, built to seek, devour and thrive on protein. In fact, according to most veterinary experts, protein should make up 20-30% of a doggo’s diet each day. Dogs use protein to function more so than humans and more so than any other calorie source. Without enough protein ingested through food, a dog must actually use his own muscles to get energy and nutrients for activity and body function. So, being sure your pup gets enough protein is critical to her wellness and helps her to maintain both energy and muscle mass. Getting protein from food, treats, chews, and even food toppers ensures your dog’s dietary needs are met most effectively and easily. 

Are Different Proteins Better than Others in a Healthy Dog Treat?

Toy Aussie Dog with Farm to Pet Healthy Dog Treats
Toy Aussie ready to eat Healthy Treats

While animal sources are top of mind when it comes to protein – and rightfully so as you’ll see below – there are many other sources of protein as well. Some of them can make great healthy snacks and treats for pets and humans alike! Let’s learn a little bit more about the different animal and vegetable sources available and how to incorporate them in our pet treat repertoire.


Animal-Based Proteins

We pet parents know our dogs love meat! As a source of protein, there is no better option, with meat, poultry, and fish providing much more protein per serving than non-animal sources. Beef is a great option for most pets, rich in protein and iron. Lamb is another good, low-allergenic option for red meat, as is pork. Poultry like chicken and turkey are an excellent source of lean protein as well, while duck offers protein with higher fat content that can be beneficial to skin and coat. Similarly, salmon provides both protein as well as essential fatty acids that lubricate skin, coat and joints. For dogs with food sensitivities, novel proteins – meaning those not routinely found in dog foods or diets – like lamb, turkey, venison, rabbit or fish can further minimize the risk of reaction. 


However, not all animal protein is created equal. Regardless of the animal source, the highest meat protein comes from muscles and organ tissue, with both being rich sources of amino acids that provide optimal fuel for our fur friends’ bodies. Eggs are another great source of protein and amino acids. While there is little risk of adverse reaction in pets from eating raw eggs, cooking them first ensures there is no chance of salmonella, leaving only the nutritional benefits behind!


What isn’t good for animal protein is when it comes from byproducts like skin or other leftover parts from meat processing plants. These simply do not provide the nutritional punch of lean muscle or mineral-rich organs and end up just being empty calories. Additionally, meats and eggs from free-range animals are measurably lower in fat and higher in nutrition than those from cage-raised sources. 


Vegetable-Based Proteins

While meat, poultry, and fish are the most efficient sources of protein because they offer the highest levels per serving, many veggies and grains can be rich sources of protein for pets as well – probably more than you might think! Legumes like lentils, beans, and chickpeas are high in protein and low in fat. Certain greens, including broccoli, spinach, and kale, and grains like quinoa are also sources of protein. While most fruits are low in protein, guava contains protein and is safe – and yummy – for doggos. Avocado is another fruit source of protein that can be given in moderation to pets, as are most nut butters, but don’t look to any of these for high levels of protein. 


Non-Protein-Based Options for Healthy Dog Treats

 Not all of your dog’s calories can or should come from pure protein! There are some great healthy dog treat options right from your fridge or pantry as well. For example, a spoonful of peanut butter or pumpkin will make most pups drool! From the crisper drawer, safe and nutritious options include carrots, peas and zucchini. Cooked sweet potatoes and white potatoes are also good, as are bananas, watermelon, blueberries and apples (NO seeds!!) for fruits, and brown rice and oats when it comes to grains. If you’re snacking on or serving up any of these options to the family, sharing them with your dog children is safe and satisfying! Of course, we don’t need to add seasoning or spices to our pup’s portion of what we’re making for dinner – just keep some separate to ensure they don’t accidentally ingest something that could upset their tummies, cause a reaction or worse. 

How to Incorporate Protein-Based Treats into your Dog’s Diet

Dog eating out of human
Yorkie trying Healthy Treats

Clearly, quality is key when choosing anything to put into your pet’s belly. Free-range, whole food, human-grade sources of nutrition are the best for their constitutions as well as for our peace of mind. Most importantly, watch for reactions as you introduce any new foods to your furry friend, and introduce them one at a time with a day or two in between so you can identify the source should an issue arise. 


And protein-based or not, with any treats, the key is not to overdo it. Just like with us humans, our fur babies can have too much of a good thing! Most of our pets' calories and nutrition should come from meals rather than snacks – even if they are low-calorie, high-nutrient, and healthy dog treats overall. Treats are just that – treats! Something unique, exciting, and motivating for training and as a reward. 


Simply choose the protein – read: flavor! – that your dog seems to enjoy the most. She might be indiscriminate and love them all, or he might be more picky and only like one or two. Luckily, there are many options – some in your kitchen and of course pure, single-ingredient Turkey and Chicken options right here at Farm To Pet that your furiends are sure to love eating as much as we love making them!

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