If there is one staple in your dog’s diet that’s more important than anything, it’s protein. Even though dogs are omnivores—meaning they eat meat and plants—protein is an essential part of their diet. It feeds your dog’s muscles, improves their coat, strengthens their bones, and replenishes their body.
So, if you’re looking for some terrific protein sources for your dog, or you just want to mix it up, here are some excellent choices to consider.
Protein Sources in Dog Food
When it comes to dry kibble or wet food, offering a whole animal protein as the number one ingredient is the best way to go. It means that there is more of this protein than anything else in the bag, so you know your dog is getting adequate doses. At a minimum, your dog food should offer 18% or more crude protein.
Chicken is a common main ingredient in many commercial dog foods. Chicken is protein-rich, full of amino acids, and even reduces risks of heart disease. It’s also leaner than red meat like beef, which decreases fat content.
Chicken has a chance of carrying salmonella, so try not to feed it to your dog raw. While the chance is low, given that a dog’s body can process raw meat differently, it can still adversely affect them.
Beef is another frequently-used protein in many commercial dog foods. It gives your dog a healthy helping of much-needed vitamins, minerals, and protein while being a very affordable choice.
There is some controversy on whether dogs can eat raw beef since there is a lot of unwanted bacteria and potential irritants. So, throwing your dog a piece of raw burger might not be worth the risk. Always make sure to consult with your vet and weigh your pros and cons.
You might find salmon in recipes where dogs have skin sensitivities. Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which improve the immune system, skin health, and coat texture.
Just be sure to never feed your dog raw salmon since salmon poisoning is a potential threat. This issue is potentially fatal, so always make sure salmon is in pre-made dog food or offered after you have fully cooked it.
Turkey is another commonly-used poultry that you might see in the ingredients of your favorite dog food. Turkey is lean, offering tons of nutritional benefits that give your dog full doses of riboflavin and phosphorus. It’s a go-to ingredient in many homemade dog food recipes if you thought of getting into meal planning for your pooch.
If you offer cooked turkey, the breast’s white portions are the healthiest for your pup. Fatty areas of the turkey are not as good because it is more difficult for your dog to digest.
Duck is a darker meat and is a nutrient-rich selection for your dog. It’s also an extremely healthy protein source that works well for dogs with sensitivities to a more common protein like chicken or beef.
Duck is also a perfect selection for extremely active dogs because it’s higher in fat content. This fact helps to replenish the output from regular use of muscles and high burning of calories. It has a nice helping of B vitamins, too, which protect against common cancers.
Venison is another great alternative to traditional meat used in commercial dog food. Deer meat contains an extremely high amount of vitamins B6 and B12, niacin, riboflavin, and zinc. This combination supports your dog’s overall immunity and organ health.
Venison tends to be much lower in fat and cholesterol than other red meat. Most venison in dog food is in the form of a concentrated meal, but you can also offer deer meat from wild deer if you prepare it properly.
Even though bison has been used to feed people and animals for quite a while, it’s just recently catching on in the dog food world. Bison is much leaner than beef, chicken, pork, and salmon. So, it’s incredibly healthy for your dog.
Bison is full of essential amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. It is all-around a wholesome meat choice, even if your dog isn’t sensitive to other proteins.
Lamb is another protein used in moderately common dog food, so it isn’t considered a novel protein—but it is less used in dog food than chicken, beef, or fish. Not only is it a great source of protein, it’s also perfectly balanced in terms of fat, which works well for your dog’s energy levels.
Lamb is less likely to trigger allergies or sensitivities in dogs. Lamb is also particularly good for your dog’s coat and skin because it contains fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that aid in skin and muscle development.
Protein Sources in Treats
You can give your dog an extra kick of protein by giving them select snacks. It would help if you always offered treats as a form of reward for good behavior, so your dog has an incentive.
9. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a protein-rich snack for your pup, but always offer it sparingly. When you pick out the peanut butter, remember to select an all-natural kind with no extra sugar. The peanuts themselves are fantastic since they are full of natural oils and nutritional goodies like oleic acid. But too much sugar isn’t good for their teeth, weight, or heart.
10. Dehydrated Meat
You can make your dog their very own jerky strips in your oven or dehydrated. Pick the meat of your choice, slice it into thin strips, and prepare as needed. You can make several at a time, and they last quite a while if you offer them on occasion.
11. Cooked Meat
You can offer cooked meat as a food topper or a stand-alone snack. You don’t have to season the meat or add any salt. Simply boiling the meat and cutting it into bite-sized portions is plenty. You won’t have to do this for every meal, but it’s a great idea if you’re trying to give them an extra boost once in a while.
12. Commercial Snacks
There are plenty of protein-packed pre-made snacks on the market that you can buy. Just be sure that the other ingredients are safe and necessary, avoiding any excessive preservatives or artificial dyes.
Dogs and Protein: Final Thoughts
Between meat found in the supermarket and snacks on the shelf, you can give your dog a lot of variety. After all, they deserve to have things mixed up every once in a while in order to keep their food tasty and interesting. Your dog will likely have their fair share of favorites from the lot!
Featured image credit: demanescale, Shutterstock