Best Low Protein Dog Foods – Low Grain & Healthy Nutrition

You might wonder who would want to buy low protein dog food when people everywhere are looking for high protein, grain free foods. That’s a reasonable thing to ask.

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First, let me say that Mary Straus at has collected some great research on this subject (and on many other topics).  Her web site is highly recommended for anyone looking for in-depth information about protein and kidney disease.

To answer the question, for a long time it was thought that high protein could be dangerous for dogs and harmful to their kidneys. This idea was apparently based on some old research with rats. It’s only been in the last 20 years or so that researchers, vets, dog food companies, and owners have changed their mind about protein. The thinking now has shifted toward feeding your dog plenty of high quality protein.

That still leaves the issues of a dog’s kidneys. Most dogs can eat normal protein diets without any problem. Even dogs with some degree of kidney disease can eat good, high quality protein. They do not have to lower their protein percentage. It’s only dogs with a greater degree of kidney disease who start benefiting from a lower protein diet. But these dogs do start needing a lower protein dog food.

It used to be thought that senior dogs would benefit from eating a lower protein diet but this has also been disproved. However, many pet food companies still make senior dog food with lower levels of protein and lower fat levels. If you have a senior dog, we encourage you to look for a dog food with high quality protein and at least a moderate percentage for protein. You do not have to feed him an extremely high percentage of protein – especially if you are not having his kidneys checked by a vet annually – but it is important for senior dogs to have good protein that is easy to digest. A senior dog can have less efficient digestion as he gets older, so he needs to be able to get the nutrients in the food easily.

Some pet food companies, unfortunately, combine a weight loss dog food with a senior dog food, as though all senior dogs are overweight. This is false. Many senior dogs have trouble keeping their weight. The last thing you want to do is feed them a weight loss dog food that contains fewer calories. You would be starving your poor old dog to death. Unless your senior dog is specifically fat, look for a senior dog food that has a moderately high protein percentage from good quality ingredients, with higher calories, and easy-to-digest ingredients. Even if your old dog is fat, who cares? He’s an old dog. Let him enjoy his food and cherish every day you have with him. Unless your senior dog is so obese that it is endangering his life, you should probably let him enjoy his food. If he is really obese, you can try to find a food with fewer calories or reduce his portions. Try to get him to take some walks. But remember that he is old. You don’t want to do something that might cause a problem for him. Sometimes with older dogs it’s better to leave well enough alone.

It’s also a good idea to keep the protein percentage you feed your puppy in the mid-range instead of seeing how much protein you can give him. The quality of the protein should always be very good, however. With puppies you are not trying to feed them any excess. You want to give them the right amount.

Species and Growth Stage Recommended Protein Recommended Fat
Puppy 22-32% 10-25%
Adult Dog 15-35% 10-20%
Performance Dog 22-32% 15-40%
Racing Dog 28-34% Greater than 50%
Lactating Dog 25-35% Greater or equal to 35%

Chart reference:

So, when it comes to lower protein diets, dogs with serious kidney disease or chronic renal failure may need these foods. There could be a few other conditions where a dog might benefit from eating a lower protein diet. But most dogs will do better on a moderate to moderately-high protein diet.

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6 Best Low Protein Dog Food Recipes

As you can guess, low protein dog foods aren’t nearly as popular as high protein foods but if your dog needs a low protein diet, then you need to know which foods will meet his needs. Many of the best low protein dog foods are veterinary or prescription formulas so you will need to talk to your veterinarian about buying these foods. You can buy them online from sites like but your vet will need to give you a prescription first.

Other good quality low protein dog foods don’t require a prescription but if your dog has a health issue, you should examine the nutritional analysis for the food carefully to make sure it doesn’t contain too much or too little of any minerals or other ingredients that might affect your dog’s health. The guaranteed analysis will give you a general overview but for precise information you should contact the dog food company and request more precise percentages.

As for veterinary formulas, you may already be aware that many of these foods don’t contain the kind of holistic ingredients dog owners usually like to see in a dog food. There are a limited number of low protein dog foods available today so if you need a low protein food for your dog, you don’t always have a lot of choice. Many people report good results from feeding these foods, even when they don’t especially like the ingredients.

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support S

Royal Canin is one of the leaders in prescription diets for dogs. Their renal support diets, such as Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support S Dry Dog Food, are designed to help dogs with kidney disease. This food was previously labeled as Veterinary Diet Renal LP Modified Dry Dog Food. This is a new and improved formula to make the food more appetizing. However, many dog owners still probably won’t like some of the ingredients. According to Royal Canin, this food has a better aroma and texture to make it more palatable to dogs – something that’s important to any dog who may be experiencing health problems. It should help stimulate your dog’s appetite. This renal support diet comes in nine different feeding combinations (wet and dry). Royal Canin Renal Support Diets A, S, and F have varying protein levels but they are all considered to be low protein. Along with being low in protein, these foods are also low in phosphorus. B vitamins, EPA, and DHA are enhanced; and sodium has been restricted. These foods should slow the development of kidney problems and minimize uncomfortable symptoms. Note that these foods are intend for intermittent or supplement feeding only so they are not recommended as a long term diet for your dog. This food has between 10.5 and 14.5 percent crude protein and 16 percent crude fat. It has 0.39 percent phosphorus. And it has 365 kcal/cup. The first five ingredients are: corn, brewers rice, chicken fat, brown rice, and chicken by-product meal.

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Formula Dry Dog Food

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Formula comes in both dry and wet recipes. This dry formula has a restricted amount of protein; low phosphorus to support the kidneys; reduced sodium; and added B Complex vitamins. All of these features help reduce the workload of the kidneys. This formula has been developed to minimize the signs of kidney failure and slow the progression of the disease. Designed for dogs with chronic renal failure, hepatic disease associated with encephalopathy, or any condition that can benefit from restricted levels of sodium. This food has 12 percent crude protein, 13 percent crude fat, and 0.40 percent phosphorus. It has 459 kcal/cup. The first five ingredients are: whole grain corn, brewers rice, dried egg product, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, and sugar.

HI-TOR Veterinary Select Neo Diet Dry Dog Food

Hi-Tor is made by Triumph/Sunshine Mills, a well-known, respected pet food manufacturer. Their Select Neo Diet is formulated to provide reduced protein, phosphorus, and sodium. It’s highly palatable, with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. This food is also supposed to be easily digested. Provides plenty of essential fatty acids while still restricting fat content. The first five ingredients in this food are: ground brewer’s rice, ground yellow corn, poultry by product meal, chicken fat preserved with bha, and rice bran. It has 13 percent crude protein and 15 percent crude fat with 0.70 percent phosphorus. Hi-Tor costs less than some other prescription diets and many people like their formulas just as much.

Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care with Chicken Dry Dog Food

Hill’s is well-known for their prescription diets. They have a prescription diet for just about every pet health problem you can name. While pet lovers often complain about their ingredients and the cost of Hill’s Prescription Diets, plenty of owners agree that they seem to help pets. Their Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care with Chicken Dry Dog Food was formulated to support your dog’s kidney function and help sustain muscle mass. Dogs with kidney disease often experience loss of appetite, eating fewer calories and losing muscle mass. This special diet is designed to protect kidney and heart function and support your dog’s ability to build lean muscle. Hill’s formula is supposed to help increase your dog’s appetite and food intake. This food is also made with controlled phosphorus and low sodium, plus therapeutic levels of l-carnitine and omega-3 fatty acids. It also includes high levels of essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein. This formula has 15.5 percent protein (dry matter basis) and 23 percent fat (DMB); with 0.33 percent phosphorus (DMB). It has 402 kcal/cup. The first five ingredients in this food are: brown rice, brewers rice, pork fat, cracked pearled barley, and chicken. Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Dry Dog Food also comes in a lamb formula.

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Chicken & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Formula

While none of the Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Diets are specifically designed as low protein foods, most of them have much lower protein compared to other premium dog foods today. They are, as the name suggests, limited ingredient diets. They are formulated for dogs with sensitive digestion. For this reason they tend to be light on meat proteins. These foods can be considered alternative diets for dogs who can’t eat dog foods with ordinary meat proteins and other ingredients. Most of the Natural Balance LID foods are grain free. As an example, the L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Chicken & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Formula has 21 percent crude protein and 10 percent fat with 0.80 percent phosphorus. It has 365 kcal/cup. The first five ingredients in this food are: chicken, chicken meal, sweet potato, peas, and garbanzo beans. Natural Balance uses no artificial colors, preservatives, or other ingredients. As you can see, the protein percentage is quite a bit higher than the low protein percentages found in the prescription formulas but it’s much lower than the percentages usually found in most premium dog foods. This is an adult maintenance food so it’s not appropriate for puppies or pregnant dogs. Natural Balance has about 14 LID Limited Ingredient kibble formulas (excluding their new High Protein LID kibbles); and numerous wet/canned foods, rolls, and treats.

Holistic Select Adult Health Lamb Meal Recipe

Holistic Select makes a wide range of nutritious dog foods in both kibble and canned formulas. They don’t make foods that are specifically formulated as low protein dog foods but, compared to many premium dog foods today, some of the protein percentages in their foods are lower than those found in other premium dog foods. They use good quality ingredients and the brand emphasizes digestive support with active probiotics, fiber, and digestive enzymes. Their foods contain no meat or poultry by-products, no wheat or wheat gluten, no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, and no fillers. Along with making grain free foods, some of their foods are potato-free. The Holistic Select Adult Health Lamb Meal Recipe has live yogurt cultures and natural fiber. This is a lamb-based single protein-sourced food. Omega-3 fatty acids from salmon oil support healthy skin and coat. This potato-free recipes uses highly digestive carb sources for sustained energy. The first five ingredients in this food are: lamb meal, oatmeal, peas, rice, and chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols). It has 23 percent crude protein, 15 percent crude fat, and 1.10 percent phosphorus. It has 454 kcal/cup. This is a maintenance dog food so it’s not suitable for puppies or pregnant dogs. Holistic Select makes 16 kibbles for dogs of all different sizes and life stages. They also make six grain free wet/canned foods.


If your dog really needs a low protein dog food for health reasons, please talk to your veterinarian. Kidney disease is a serious issue, especially as it progresses. If you are looking for a low protein dog food for other reasons, be sure to check out more than just the protein percentage. Remember that the phosphorus and sodium levels in the food, as well as the ingredients, are also important.

We encourage you to take this information and check out these brands. And, remember, you can always check our reviews on for more suggestions!

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