Protein in Dog Food: Common Non-Meat Sources

Share Button

We have already looked at some of the more common named and unnamed meat based proteins in dog food. Today we will look at other protein sources in dog food, namely plant (or vegetable), legume, and grain sources.


Besides meat and fish, there are other dog food ingredients that can increase the protein in dog food, such as peas, soy, flax, and corn, to name a few. Non-meat based proteins are not optimal for most healthy dogs. The primary reason for this is that a dog’s body is not meant to efficiently digest and utilize the proteins from these sources and thus, their bodies are not able to benefit from that protein when compared to animal protein sources.


We analyzed our food database to determine the most commonly used non-meat based proteins sources and the results are displayed in the graph below.


non-meat dog food proteins


We chose a list of about 20 ingredients and searched for those most commonly used. Our criteria for inclusion in the list was that it must be a vegetable legume, or grain and it must provide a reasonable amount of protein (for a non-meat based source). At the top of the list are flax (a plant that is sometime classified as a grain) and eggs. Filling out the top 10 are a handful of grains. Soy and pea protein (derived from the legume peas) also made the list.


Many of these ingredients are not necessarily bad for your dog, and some can provide vitamins and minerals that help with their overall diet. However, they can sometimes be used to inflate the protein amount that is reported on the label, a practice that we are against. Beware of just scanning the protein part of the label. Some foods might have adequate amounts of protein but inadequate amounts of useful protein.


Soy, a somewhat controversial pet food ingredient, is pretty high on the list (we will write about soy in more detail in a future post).


We also checked to see the average food rating (according to the SlimDoggy approach) for foods that included these more commonly used non-meat sources. Not surprisingly, the average rating for foods that include any corn, wheat, or soy were 1.8, 1.9, and 2.0 stars respectively, all lower than our average dog food rating of just over 3 stars.   And this is despite the fact that our model doesn’t necessarily directly penalize a food for inclusion of these ingredients in the recipe.


The bottom line is that most healthy dogs require a diet that is high in protein, moderately high in fat, and low in carbohydrates. Dogs were meant to be meat eaters and a proper diet will include protein that is derived primarily from meat and fish, not from plants, grains, and legumes.


How does your dog food stack up?

Share Button

image We're joining the Tasty Tuesday Blog Hop sponsored by Sugar, the Golden Retriever and Kolchak from Kol's Notes:


  1. we noticed that soy has a bad influence on Easy’s “exhaust gas system” so we better avoid food what contents soy. we currently have a diet food what contains puffed rice, I never thought that it works so well :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog SPECIAL SATURDAYMy Profile

  2. Good information.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Dogs Don’t UnderstandMy Profile

  3. Great post. I look forward to reading more about soy in the future.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Autumn huskies – Adoptable husky OTWMy Profile

  4. I have always wanted to make my own dog food but there is so much conflicting information online. Do you have any suggestions on what percentage of meat, carbs, and possibly kale for greens to put into food? I have vitamin and mineral supplements (purchased at a dog show), but I do not understand what to combine…. TY!

    • We can’t tell you what to combine into the recipe– you should check with a pet nutritionist in consult with your vet to make sure that your food meets minimum nutritional requirements and is appropriate for any known health issues or allergies your dogs might have.

      But we can tell you that your dog’s food should be low in carbs. Preferably no more than around 30% carbs. The canine ancestral diet suggests much less, but we are trying to be pragmatic about it. The foods we use will sometimes have higher carb values than the target 30%, but we use a rotational strategy and make sure their carb intake varies lower as part of the rotation.
      steve recently posted…Protein in Dog Food: Common Non-Meat SourcesMy Profile

  5. We love the food database. It has helped us out with finding the right food and sure makes the search easier and helps answer questions we had.
    Emma recently posted…Oktoberfest 2014 – We partied like animals!My Profile

  6. Thanks for another great post with information we can use. ☺
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof Channel 7 NewsMy Profile

  7. I find that flax seed helps Chewy\’s number 2\’s. The first time I baked him a cake, he got constipated. Now I always add some ground flax seed, and everything flows through nicely!
    Chewy the Golden recently posted…Chewy Goes Apple PickingMy Profile

  8. Topic that we had with our vet recently … it was very educational. Something was not right on Sugar’s x-ray and decided to change Sugar’s food again … seems to be working. Golden Woofs

  9. I’m very surprised that corn is not the most common protein-boosting grain in dog food. I would never have expected flax.

    But I am not surprised to find the ratings of food with corn and soy as being less nutritious. That seems to jibe with the fact that corn and soy and very cheap products.
    Pamela recently posted…Do You Look Like Your Dog? The ExperimentMy Profile

Comments are now closed on this post.