Protein is an essential building block in a dog's healthy diet. A dog's lifestyle, age and activity level determines his daily protein requirements, which may come from meats or meat by-products. Understanding digestible protein percentages and ingredient labels can help dog owners find the best quality high-protein food for their canine companions.
Protein Needs of Dogs
Performance animals such as racing dogs, sled dogs, agility dogs and lactating dogs have a higher protein requirement, as do puppies. Though adult dogs that are moderately active may get by on a protein intake of 15 to 30 percent, canine athletes require more to build muscle and strength. Performance dogs need between 22 and 32 percent protein in their daily diet, while racing dogs should consume between 28 and 34 percent. Puppies require 22 to 32 percent for healthy growth, while lactating females need 25 to 35 percent for maintaining their health while nursing puppies, according to the website Drs. Foster and Smith.
Best Protein Sources
Experts at the website Drs. Foster and Smith indicate that the percentage of crude protein in dog food does not necessarily determine the food's quality. The source of the food's protein should from a true meat source, such as real lamb, fish, beef, venison or chicken. Other quality sources of protein include meat by-products, including blood and organ tissues. Meat meal, which is dehydrated meat with the fat removed, is an excellent protein source and is powdered or granulated for use in pet foods. Good quality foods list their meat sources first on the bag's label.
Dr. T.J. Dunn Jr. for the website Pet MD recommends that dog owners learn to read their pet's food labels. Dunn indicates that the best choice dog foods will have a guaranteed protein analysis of at least 30 percent. Fat percentages should be at least 18 percent, and preservatives should be Vitamin E or C based. Omega fatty acids should be found on the label. Higher quality foods may be more expensive; the website Drs. Foster and Smith recommend finding a high-protein food in the mid-to-upper price range.
What to Avoid
Dog food can be high in protein but biologically inappropriate, according to Dr. Karen Becker for Healthy Pets. Corn products such as corn germ meal are inexpensive and high in protein, but are known to cause allergies and other health problems in dogs. Fish meal that can be found in pet foods may not be graded for human consumption, which means that it likely contains ethoxyquin, a preservative known to cause liver failure in dogs. Animal digest and fat can be any unspecified animal parts from unknown sources, including slaughtered animals, rodents, roadkill or garbage. Food coloring is another ingredient that should be avoided, according to Dunn.