Bulldog eating from a red bowl

Should My Dog Be on a Low-Protein Diet?

Just like you, your beloved dog requires a healthy and balanced diet in order to live a full and long life. Most experts deem protein as the most vital macronutrient in your dog’s diet. However, if your dog suffers from certain chronic conditions, excess protein can be harmful to his health. In this case, your veterinarian might recommend a low-protein diet for your dog to ease his symptoms and manage his condition. But what really is a low-protein diet?

What is a low-protein diet?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) states that the diet of an adult dog must contain a minimum of 18% protein. When discussing low-protein dog food, it is recommended that you discuss it on a dry matter basis since water reduces the protein content. This means that when measuring protein content in a container of dry dog food, it is significantly higher than when measuring it in a container of wet dog food. Thus, you need to make sure that you do not include water content when evaluating the protein content. Majority of commercial dog food contains about 25% protein or more. With a low-protein diet, however, the recommended protein content should be around half of that. But the question is…

Does your dog need to be on a low-protein diet?

Pet metal bowls on the floorThere are certain chronic health conditions that require you to put your beloved pooch on a low-protein diet. These include liver disease, kidney disease, and certain types of bladder stones. If your pet has liver or kidney disease, putting him on a diet that is low in protein will help minimize the workload of his liver or kidney. One of the main functions of these organs is to metabolize proteins, so when you minimize the protein content in your dog’s diet, his liver or kidney will not need to work as hard. Additionally, while liver and kidney disease are usually the most common conditions that require dogs to go on a low-protein diet, some less common conditions such as urate bladder stones also require a diet low in protein. Urate bladder stones account for roughly 6% of bladder stones in canines and can be managed properly with a low-protein diet.

What else is a low-protein diet good for?

A low-protein diet can likewise help your dog retain the protein he is already consuming. Plenty of dogs that are on a low-protein diet due to kidney disease also suffer from protein-losing nephropathy (PLN), which is a disease that is related to progressive kidney failure. Fortunately, select studies have shown that restricting the protein content in the diets of dogs that have PLN also restricts the protein content that their kidney loses.

Put simply, if your dog suffers from liver or kidney disease, or another condition that keeps his body from properly digesting protein, it might be best that you put him on a low-protein diet. This is considering that your vet has accurately diagnosed your dog and has given you the go-signal to do so.