All About High Protein Dog Food

May 18, 2022

Yes, Bramble is a High Protein Dog Food!

Bramble is not only a high protein dog food, but Bramble contains more protein than many other animal protein dog foods.

Pet parents crave high protein dog food. But what do we mean by “high protein?” Does high protein necessarily mean high quality pet food? Is a high protein diet even good for dogs? What is the healthiest high protein dog food? Read on as we break this all down!

Since this is a long one packed with a lot of science, here are the important takeaways:

  • When we talk about protein, we’re really talking about amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein
  • Amino acids are crucial to building and maintaining muscle mass, organ function, and hormonal balance.
  • Kibble with a protein content over 25% is considered high protein dry dog food
  • Fresh food (non-dry dog food) with crude protein over 8-10% is considered high protein dog food
  • These numbers look different because of the moisture content
  • To compare apples to apples, you need to convert the protein content from “as is” to “dry matter basis”
  • It’s not just about protein quantity, but also about high quality protein!
  • High-quality protein means that it has a more complete amino acid profile and is more digestible
  • When looking for the best high protein dog food, look for minimally processed, gently cooked foods that are easier to digest than dry dog food and canned wet food


It’s no secret that pet food closely follows human food trends. Just like humans, dogs need protein, which provides amino acids that are crucial to building and maintaining muscle mass, organ function, and hormonal balance. Without enough protein, dogs could lose muscle mass, encounter skin and coat issues, and develop bone and joint problems. Protein also helps to maintain a healthy weight. Since we pay a lot of attention to protein content in our own diets, it makes sense that we look for high protein dog food. Although dogs are omnivores — like us — a dog’s diet requires slightly higher protein, thanks to their evolution from their wolf ancestors. This also makes us look for dog food brands that are high in protein.

What is High Protein Dog Food?

Let’s start with what makes a high protein dog food. According to the AAFCO nutritional requirements, adult dog food kibble must contain a minimum of 18% crude protein. A protein content over 25% could be considered a high protein dog food. For fresh food, depending on moisture content, crude protein above 8-10% could be considered high protein.

You can see that the nutritional values of the different pet food formats (dry dog food versus wet dog food) look very different. This is because the nutritional information on pet food labels are reported on an “as is” basis. Meaning, pet food labels show just how much protein, fat and fiber a dog actually gets from that pet food. However, because it is reported as is — and because wet dog food has a very different moisture content than dry dog food — it can be confusing when comparing dry versus wet products.

For example, kibble is usually around 90% dry matter, while a fresh food like Bramble contains only about 35% dry matter. That is a huge difference! And it affects the appearance of the quantity of nutrients on the label.

When comparing Bramble’s nutrition label to that of a dry kibble, people sometimes mistakenly believe that Bramble is low in protein. In fact, the opposite is true!

In order to compare apples to apples, we need to compare Bramble’s protein content with a kibble’s protein content on a dry matter basis (“DMB”). To turn Bramble’s “as is” nutrients into dry matter numbers, we need to know two pieces of information (You can find these numbers on Bramble’s “Guaranteed Analysis”):

1. the moisture content; and

2. the crude protein content.

First, Bramble’s Roost recipe has a moisture content of 65%, and a crude protein content of 12%. Since Bramble is 65% moisture, its dry matter proportion — not to be confused with dry matter basis — is 35% (100% – 65%). With these numbers, we need to do a little math to get the protein on a dry matter basis.

Here’s the formula:
crude protein content (12%) / dry matter proportion (35%) = protein DMB (34%)

This shows us that Bramble’s Roost is nearly 34% protein on a dry matter basis, which is a high protein diet!

Let’s look at a dry dog food kibble for comparison. We chose Purina Pro Plan “High Protein” Chicken and Rice from Chewy’s list of high protein dry dog foods. Purina Pro Plan reports a moisture content of 12% and a crude protein of 26% on it’s label. At first glance, that looks like it has way more protein than Bramble, which lists crude protein at 12% on its guaranteed analysis. However, when we apply the same math (26% / [100-12%]), we can see that Purina Pro Plan contains 29.5% protein on a dry matter basis – that’s actually less than Bramble’s Roost!

You can see how the numbers appear very different, but both would be considered a high protein dog food! And Bramble is actually higher protein!

High-Quality vs. Low-Quality Protein

Of course, the best high protein dog food is not just about quantity, but also quality. High protein does not necessarily mean high quality.

When we talk about protein, we are really talking about amino acids — the building blocks of protein. There are 20 amino acids combined in different combinations in each protein. Of these 20 amino acids, 10 are essential, meaning dogs cannot synthesize these amino acids so they must be gotten through a dog’s diet. Since every protein has a different sequence of amino acids, different proteins provide varying amounts of each amino acid. As such, protein-rich ingredients can be combined to provide a balance of essential amino acids to create what is termed a complete protein – one which provides all of the essential amino acids in the required amounts for the animal eating it.

A High-quality protein means that it has a more complete amino acid profile and is more digestible. This means that for every gram of protein eaten, more crucial amino acids are actually absorbed and utilized.

Many dog food brands claim that animal protein is a better protein source. While lean animal protein could, indeed, be a very beneficial source of high quality protein for dogs, the main sources of animal protein in the vast majority of commercial pet food do not actually come from chicken, for example, but rather from chicken meal or by-product ingredients. Even when chicken is listed as the first ingredient, there are abundant loopholes enabling kibble companies to say this even if the main ingredients are actually chicken meal and other low quality fillers.

And, no matter how high quality the animal protein in kibble may be, the intense processing actually destroys the nutritional value of those ingredients. Studies show that extreme heat processing in dry dog food reduces protein digestibility and availability of amino acids. Whereas fresh cooked foods — like Bramble — have higher digestibility than kibble or canned wet food. Take a high protein dry dog food with a protein content of 37% on a dry matter basis. It would look like this dog food not only contains a higher protein content than Bramble, but also from animal protein sources, which people might favor as high quality. It makes sense that pet owners would choose this food, especially for active dogs. But, when you consider the extreme heat processing of the kibble, it is likely that dogs do not actually digest, absorb and benefit from the high protein quantity as much as dogs would benefit from Bramble’s high protein dog food quantity and high quality ingredients and gentle cooking method.

At the end of the day, the best high protein dog food is the one that actually delivers the full range of amino acids to your pup!

Is High Protein Dog Food Good For Dogs?

A high protein diet can be very good for dogs … and also not so good. For most healthy adult dogs, a high protein diet provides an abundance of amino acids, which maintains muscle mass, organ function, and hormonal balance. But there are some health conditions, such as advanced kidney disease, that require lower protein diets. If your dog has any sort of health condition we recommend speaking with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate level of protein for them as an individual.

Keep in mind that It is actually possible to feed dogs too much protein. In dogs fed an excessively high protein diet — typically from raw animal protein diets — blood urea nitrogen levels, which affect kidney function, have appeared higher. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the excessive protein is damaging the kidneys, but it is generally recommended that dog foods for healthy adult dogs do not contain more than 40% protein on a dry matter basis.

On the other hand, we have focused on healthy adult dogs. This is because puppies have much higher calorie and protein requirements. Puppy food is specifically formulated to meet these unique requirements and provide a balanced diet.

How To Buy High Quality, High Protein Dog Food

When looking for a high protein dog food, here are a few things to watch for:

  1. It’s important to consider your dog’s unique requirements — such as life stage, health condition and activity level — and the protein level that would be appropriate for them.
  2. Next, ask yourself whether the protein comes from quality ingredients, or by-product and filler ingredients.
  3. Look at the processing done to those ingredients, in order to determine whether you’re really getting the full nutritional benefit of a high protein diet. Dry dog food undergoes intensive processing that strips even high quality ingredients of their full nutritional benefit. It also contains preservatives and other worrisome ingredients.

Bramble’s protein ranges from 11-12.5% on an “as is” basis — and 31-36% on a “dry matter basis.” Indeed, Bramble is not only a high protein dog food, but Bramble contains more protein than many other animal protein dog foods. Unlike dry dog food and canned wet food, Bramble’s protein is highly digestible, thanks to the gentle cooking and minimal processing the diets undergo before being delivered to your dog’s bowl. This makes it easier for dogs’ digestive systems, especially for dogs with sensitive stomachs. The gentle cooking also results in increased protein absorption compared to heat-processed kibbles and canned food. In other words, Bramble is an excellent high-protein diet your dog will thank you for!

You can order Bramble’s fresh, high protein dog food here!