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Is Too Much Protein Bad for Dogs & Common Symptoms

In the quest to provide the best nutrition for our canine companions, a common question that often arises is whether a dog can have too much protein. With a rising popularity in high-protein diets for dogs and the diverse dietary needs of various pups, it is a question that has become increasingly more relevant. 


Whilst protein is an important part of doggy diets, you can have too much of a good thing. Let’s explore how much protein is too much for a dog and what the symptoms are.

Key Summary

  • Dogs, being omnivores, need a balanced diet comprising proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Excess protein can be harmful, especially for dogs with certain medical conditions.


  • Consuming more protein than can be utilised can lead to kidney stress and potential damage. The quality of protein and maintaining nutritional balance, like the calcium-phosphorus ratio, is crucial for bone health and overall well-being.


  • Some of the symptoms include digestive issues, kidney strain, and nutritional imbalances affecting bone growth.


  • Consultation with a vet is critical if symptoms of protein overload arise.


  • To lower a dog's protein intake, choose dog food with lower protein percentages, ensuring overall nutritional needs are met. Incorporate carbohydrates and fats for balance, and transition gradually to the new diet under veterinary guidance.

Is Too Much Protein Bad for a Dog?

Dogs, as omnivores, require a balanced diet consisting of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. While protein is vital for their bodily functions, as the primary building blocks, an excess can lead to health issues. Particularly for dogs with specific medical conditions, an overly protein-rich diet can be more harmful than beneficial. The key lies in striking a balance – ensuring adequate protein intake without overdoing it.

What Happens When a Dog Has Too Much Protein?

As pet owners, understanding the impact of dietary choices on our dogs' health is crucial. Excessive protein intake in dogs, while often overlooked, can lead to significant health challenges. Let’s explore what happens to a dog when they have too much protein in their diet:

Protein Overload and Kidney Function

When dogs ingest more protein than their body can utilise or store, the kidneys are tasked with eliminating the excess. This process can be particularly taxing for the kidneys, potentially leading to strain, with studies showing it is a cause of kidney dysfunction, and even long-term damage, especially in dogs with pre-existing kidney conditions. 


The kidneys filter the surplus protein from the blood, a function that, when overworked, can impair their overall effectiveness and health. Regular monitoring of protein intake is thus crucial, especially for dogs with known kidney issues, to prevent undue stress on these vital organs.

Premium Protein

The quality of protein in a dog's diet is as important as the quantity. Proteins with high bioavailability, such as pork or boar, are more efficiently absorbed by the body, minimising the amount that needs to be excreted. This underscores the necessity of choosing premium protein sources for your dog's meals. 

Did you know? Protein plays an important role in hormone production for dogs as well as supplying amino acids to help build hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

Nutritional Balance and Bone Health

Another key factor is maintaining the proper nutritional balance in the diet, notably the calcium-phosphorus ratio. A disturbance in this ratio, often caused by excessive protein intake, can negatively impact bone development and health. This aspect is particularly critical for growing puppies and older dogs, whose bone structure demands careful nutritional support. 


Commercial dog foods are generally designed to maintain these nutritional balances, offering an appropriate mix of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. For those opting for homemade dog diets, it's vital to seek veterinary advice to ensure these critical nutritional ratios are met, thereby safeguarding the dog's skeletal health and overall well-being.

Signs Your Dog is Eating Too Much Protein

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Digestive Disturbances

Dogs consuming excess protein may experience digestive issues, such as diarrhoea or vomiting. This symptom can be an initial indicator of protein overload in your dog’s diet.

Kidney Strain in Dogs with Pre-existing Conditions

For dogs with existing kidney conditions, high protein intake can exacerbate these issues. This is due to the additional strain placed on the kidneys to process and eliminate the excess protein.

Nutrient Imbalances Affecting Bone Growth

Diets high in protein can sometimes neglect other crucial nutrients, leading to imbalances. An important consequence of this is the disruption of bone growth, especially if the diet disrupts the critical calcium-phosphorus ratio.

Obesity from High-Calorie Protein Diets

High-protein diets are often rich in calories. For dogs, particularly those not engaged in high levels of physical activity or those with pre-existing liver or kidney problems, this can lead to or worsen obesity, a common health concern in dogs.

Reduced Absorption of Essential Nutrients

While high-quality, bioavailable protein is beneficial, an excess can mean that other essential nutrients are overlooked. This leads to an overall nutritional imbalance, which can affect various aspects of your dog's health.

Changes in Urination Patterns

Increased protein levels can lead to more frequent urination or changes in the urine's appearance, as the kidneys work to eliminate excess protein.

Bad Breath or Changes in Saliva

An imbalance in diet, including too much protein, can sometimes result in bad breath or changes in the consistency or appearance of a dog's saliva.

Behavioural Changes

Nutritional imbalances, including excessive protein, can affect a dog's coat and skin health, potentially leading to issues like dull coat, excessive shedding, or skin irritation.

Coat and Skin Changes

While less directly linked, significant changes in diet or nutritional imbalances can sometimes manifest in behavioural changes in dogs, such as increased lethargy or, conversely, hyperactivity.

Muscle and Joint Discomfort

In extreme cases, especially where the calcium-phosphorus balance is disrupted, dogs might experience discomfort or issues related to muscle and joint health.

What to do if My Dog Shows Signs of Too Much Protein?

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When you notice signs that your dog might be consuming too much protein, such as digestive problems or changes in urine output, it's essential to take appropriate actions. Addressing these symptoms early can prevent more serious health issues. Let’s look at the best courses of action: 

Consult a Vet

The first and most crucial step is to consult with a vet. Symptoms like changes in digestion or urine can indicate various health issues, not just excessive protein intake. A vet can conduct necessary tests to confirm if the symptoms are due to high protein levels or other underlying health conditions. They can also provide specific advice based on your dog's age, breed, health status, and dietary history.

Dietary Adjustments

If excessive protein intake is confirmed, the next step is to adjust your dog's diet. 


This involves choosing a dog food with a lower protein content while ensuring it still meets all other nutritional requirements. The diet should be balanced with appropriate proportions of carbohydrates, fats, and other nutrients. It's not just about lowering protein but ensuring the overall diet supports your dog's health and activity level.

Nutritional Balance

Ensuring your dog's diet is well-rounded is key. This means not only focusing on the protein content but also on the quality and variety of other nutrients. Incorporating different food sources, such as vegetables and healthy fats, can provide a more balanced spectrum of nutrition. This approach supports not just the dietary needs but also the general well-being of your dog.

Monitor Health and Behaviour

After making dietary changes, closely monitor your dog's health and behaviour for improvements or further issues. Watch for changes in energy levels, coat condition, weight, and overall demeanour. Regular check-ups with the vet are important to ensure that the dietary adjustments are having the desired effect and to make further changes if necessary.

Special Considerations for Pre-existing Conditions

In dogs with pre-existing kidney or liver issues, the dietary approach may need to be more specific. These conditions can be exacerbated by high protein levels, so a tailored diet plan, often involving prescription diets, may be necessary. These diets are formulated to reduce strain on the kidneys or liver while providing all the essential nutrients your dog needs. Regular vet consultations are vital to manage these conditions effectively.

How do I Lower my Dog’s Protein?

Adjusting a dog's protein intake is an important aspect of managing their overall health and dietary needs. This section provides a comprehensive guide on how to lower your dog’s protein intake effectively, ensuring their diet remains balanced and nutritionally adequate.

Choosing the Right Dog Food

To effectively lower your dog's protein intake, the first step is to evaluate and select a dog food that has a lower percentage of protein, whitefish such as cod is a great choice for dogs on a lower protein diet. 

It's important to scrutinise the nutritional labels and choose a product that, while lower in protein, still meets all the other essential nutritional requirements of your dog. This often involves finding a balance between protein, carbohydrates, and fats, tailored to your dog's age, breed, activity level, and any specific health concerns. The goal is to reduce protein without compromising on the overall nutritional value of the food.

Maintaining Nutritional Balance

An effective way to balance out the protein in your dog's diet is by incorporating a suitable proportion of carbohydrates and fats. Carbohydrates provide energy and can aid in digestion, while fats are essential for the absorption of certain vitamins and also provide energy. Opt for high-quality sources of these nutrients to ensure your dog's diet remains healthy and balanced. It's not just about reducing protein but replacing it with equally beneficial nutrients.

Gradual Transition and Veterinary Guidance

When making any changes to your dog's diet, a gradual transition is key to preventing digestive upset. Slowly introduce the new, lower-protein food over a period of several days, gradually increasing the proportion of the new food while decreasing the old food. This method helps your dog's digestive system adjust without causing stress or discomfort. 


Additionally, consulting with a veterinarian is crucial to ensure the dietary changes align with your dog's specific health needs. A veterinarian can provide tailored advice based on your dog’s health status, age, and lifestyle, ensuring the dietary adjustment is safe and beneficial.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can too much protein in dog food cause allergies?

Excessive protein can sometimes exacerbate existing allergies in dogs, although it's not a common cause of new allergies.

How much protein is too much for a dog?

The threshold for excessive protein varies based on the dog's individual needs. Generally, diets with more than 30% crude protein might be excessive for some dogs but it is possible but 30% protein is too much for some dogs. Consult with your dog’s vet to be sure. 

Can too much protein in dog food cause hyperactivity?

While protein itself is not directly linked to hyperactivity, imbalances in the diet can affect a dog's behaviour. A balanced diet is crucial.

What happens if a dog has high protein levels in their urine?

High protein levels in urine can indicate kidney problems and should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Balanced Bites

Protein is vital in a dog's diet, but too much can cause health issues like digestive problems and kidney strain. Identifying symptoms of excess protein and adjusting the diet for nutritional balance are essential for your dog's health. It's crucial to consult a veterinarian, particularly for dogs with existing health conditions, to ensure a diet that supports their long-term wellbeing.


Shop our range of nutritionally balanced dog food here.

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