The Lowdown on Protein in Raw Dog Food

The Lowdown on Protein in Raw Dog Food

You may have heard that raw diets are so high in protein they aren’t good for your dog. Let’s paws a minute and think about that. The argument goes that a high protein diet puts extra strain on a dog’s kidneys and can, therefore, lead to kidney disease.

How Do You Measure Protein?

Let’s have a closer look. First, how do you measure how much protein is in a food source? There are a couple of terms to know. First, as fed. Yep, you guessed it - you measure the percentage of protein in the food source in the format it’s fed to your dog. So, in the case of a 100 gram portion of raw ground beef, the percentage of protein is about 17%. That means there’s 17 grams of protein in that portion. Pretty straightforward.

What does AAFCO Recommend?

Another thing to know is that AAFCO recommends your adult dog’s diet should include about 22-25% protein. But, those recommendations are based on a calculation of dry matter, or the percentage of protein if all the water is removed. Because raw meat contains a lot of water, it makes sense that if you dehydrate it, the percentage of protein will increase. That 17 grams of protein in the ground beef portion doesn’t change, but with the water gone, it now becomes about 45%.


Comparing raw ground beef to kibble is like comparing Newfoundland dogs to hairless cats. It just doesn’t make sense.

What About the Research?

So, what about evidence to support the idea that a diet that’s high in protein is, in fact, harmful? Turns out, that may be an old wives’ tale. In a comprehensive review of the research by Kenneth C. Bovée, DVM, MMedSc (Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania - if you have some time, you can read the whole paper by following this link), Dr. Bovée concludes that not only is a high protein diet NOT harmful to dogs and won’t increase the chance of renal failure, a high protein diet may actually be beneficial.

Where Did We Go Wrong?

Why do so many veterinarians still believe that high protein consumption and renal failure are somehow linked? It turns out some of the studies on which these assumptions were based were done on rats. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know a rat and a dog are quite different. If you dig a bit deeper, canine physiology and digestive functions (and nutritional needs) are quite different to those of rats. Not only that, those early studies were just that - early. Dating back to the 1920s, 30s and 40s, scientists and physicians were only just beginning to understand the finer points of kidney function. More recent studies with dogs have failed to substantiate those earlier claims and, in fact, may show the opposite to be true: an increased protein intake may actually be beneficial.

Turns out it’s hard to shift beliefs when they’ve been around a while (consider the Flat Earth Society - yep, still a thing…)

Vets are Doing their Best

In the face of a tricky medical condition (kidney disease) where there aren’t that many viable treatment options, Dr. Bovée suggests vets offer what they can. A low protein diet is relatively cheap and probably doesn’t have a lot of negative side effects. Not only that, the vet feels like they have done something in the face of few options.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read!

In the case of dietary changes, though, you should be aware that someone with a product to sell will try to convince you, with clever marketing, that what they have to offer is what you need to buy. And before you throw up your hands and say, “Everyone’s a cynic” consider that classic ad-man line from the 1960’s, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.”


We know the world of pet food is full of questionable claims and fuzzy science, which makes it tough for you to understand what the best option is for your dog. We know your dilemma - we love our dogs, too, and just want the best for them.


That’s why, at Rawmate, we are always reading the latest studies (and sourcing 100% Natural Grass Fed Whey Protein for ourselves locally too, we don't only demand the best for our dogs, we also need to be fit and healthy) so we can formulate the best possible meals for your canine friend. But don’t take our word for it. Read the studies yourself. Ask questions. Investigate your options. We aren’t going to change our plan: making the best possible food for dogs. We aren’t happy to just keep your dog alive. We want to see your dog thriving. We assume you do, too. Let’s work together to make that happen.


Matt Joseph

Staff writer

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