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What are the Best High-Quality Proteins for My Dog?

“While it is technically possible to make a dog a vegetarian, it’s not optimal,” says Dr. Gary Richter, author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats, and a veterinarian at Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, CA. “Although everything in a dog’s food does not need to be meat-based, their protein sources should be.”

Nutritional claims on packages can be misleading, so carefully reading labels is of vital importance. Plant protein is inferior to meat protein for dogs. Make sure the protein with the highest rating on the label is chicken, fish, beef or another meat. If it doesn’t directly list a protein rating, try a different product. We’ve listed the benefits of various meat proteins below.

If you're not sure about the best high-quality protein source for your dog, Rachael Ray Nutrish Peak nutrient-dense foods are a good place to start. 

Poultry

Poultry is a healthy protein source for dogs and great for building lean muscle mass. It's also a good source of essential amino acids and glucosamine, which helps promote bone health. Opt for pasture-raised, cage-free chicken, duck and turkey.

Beef

Lean ground beef (or hamburger) is a protein commonly given to pets. Go for grass-fed beef, which unlike grain-fed beef doesn’t contain added hormones or antibiotics. It is also lower in calories, contains healthy omega-3 fats, more vitamins A and E, higher levels of antioxidants, and up to seven times the beta-carotene of grain-fed beef. In any high-quality meat product organic, which contains fewer pesticides and other contaminants, is always the better choice.

Salmon

Salmon, which contains omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation, strengthens the immune system and supports skin and coat health. Just make sure it’s cooked before serving—raw salmon carries bacteria that can make dogs sick.

Rabbit

Rabbit is a potent protein source, containing more per ounce than chicken, turkey, beef, lamb and pork. It is also a strong source of vitamin B12, which strengthens your pet’s nervous system and is a fantastic source of energy.

Eggs

Eggs are surprisingly easy for dogs to digest, and egg proteins help build muscle, strengthen hair and repair tissue. Look for eggs that contain omega-3, the same beneficial fatty acid as wild-caught salmon.

One meat protein source is not necessarily better than another. Feel free to rotate though different sources of protein, so long as your dog doesn’t have a poor reaction. Switching up protein sources is also a good way to prevent your dog from developing a reaction to a specific food over time.