Protein & Hyperactivity in Dogs

by Penny Eims

    Image by, courtesy of Pedro Simões

    Many dog owners have heard that there is an association between hyperactivity and high-protein diets. This misconception has lingered in the dog world for too many years despite a lack of evidence to support it.

    Origin of the High-Protein Diet Myth

    The high-protein diet myth originated with early studies on the effects of a high-protein diet on rats, rather than dogs. Unlike dogs, rats are not meat eaters, so the behavioral outcome of a high-protein diet for rats is significantly different from the outcome for dogs.

    Definition of Hyperactivity

    While you may believe that your dog is hyperactive, he most likely is not, in the technical sense of the term. Dogs with true hyperactivity--a rare medical condition--are unnaturally frantic, pace incessantly and pant excessively. As in children with ADHD, their symptoms respond to stimulant medications.

    Causes of Hyperactivity

    True hyperactivity results from a genetic predisposition. Dogs who appear hyperactive but do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis may simply be high-energy, overly reactive or descended from high-drive, working line dogs.

    Help for the Hyper Dog

    If your dog is diagnosed with hyperactivity, she will benefit from certain stimulant medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall, which help to control abnormal, frantic behavior. Dogs who are simply high-energy will benefit from daily exercise, obedience, structured households and sufficient time to decompress in a quiet crate environment.


    In 1996, the American Veterinary Medical Association studied the behavior of dogs who consumed varied amounts of protein. The results revealed that decreasing protein consumption does not alter behavior, except in dogs with territorial aggression caused by fear.

    Photo Credits

    • Image by, courtesy of Pedro Simões

    About the Author

    Penny Eims is a freelance writer for She has provided web content for the Northwest German Shepherd Rescue and has written numerous biographies for the Washington German Shepherd Rescue and the Northwest German Shepherd Rescue. Eims holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Western Washington University.