The Truth About Protein in Raw Pet Food Diets

November 24, 2017

There are too many misleading stories out there about feeding raw food to dogs and protein. Some stories say raw pet food diets are too low in protein, others say that raw diets are too high in protein, while others still suggest that raw diets don’t offer enough variety and are dangerous. These mistaken conclusions are made by many of the same companies that use sub-standard protein such as rendered meats, fillers, chemicals and additives to make your dog's food which is the real threat to your dog's health.

When it comes to a natural raw diet, it is all about the protein. Concerned owners have believed dry dog food companies who proclaim that protein can cause harm; however, too much protein is not necessarily the culprit when it comes to diet, it is the quality of protein in your dog’s food that matters the most and here’s why.

Analyzing With Dry Matter Basis

Commercial pet foods are always analyzed on the dry matter basis while raw pet food nutritional's are typically displayed on a wet matter basis. It’s important to recognize this difference because it provides a clear picture of the nutrient content of the food you’re feeding.

Comparing proteins on a percentage can be problematic because moisture, or the lack thereof, can skew the values you are seeing. We want to see the actual nutrient content of the food.

Our current menu shows the minimum protein values so, we’ve converted some of our best selling products to a dry matter basis for you to use as a reference and the formula that you can use to find the dry matter ingredient value when out looking for your dog’s next meal.

  • Original Beef: 48%
  • Original Chicken: 52%
  • Original Turkey: 60%
  • Original Pork: 56%


  1. Subtract moisture percentage from 100
  2. Divide the percentage protein by that number you got in step 1
  3. Multiply your result by 100

No maximum

As a general guide, there are two main recommendations for dogs when it comes to proteins. Adult dogs and growing puppies or breeding animals require different amounts of proteins based on their overall health. Canada’s guidelines closely mimic AAFCO when it comes to recommendations for your pets.

  • Adult Dogs: 18%
  • Puppies/Breeding Dogs: 22%

Despite there being these recommendations, there is no maximum protein allowance recommendation for dogs. This can seem confusing when discussing protein requirements and is used by some to create fear around raw food diets.

One common concern that research and pet food companies have found is that high protein diets cause kidney issues. Though there is a correlation between kidney disease and elevated protein levels in dogs there are considerations to factor in when looking at the research.

  • Most studies were done on rats, not dogs which have significant differentiation in their digestive enzymes, gut acidity and dietary needs
  • Multiple studies have shown no adverse effect on kidney function from unmodified protein
  • Dogs that have been previously diagnosed with kidney disease may be recommended to have a low protein diet, but it is not proven to slow the progression of the disease
  • Healthy kidney function relies on hydration which is provided naturally in a raw diet
  • Studies do not investigate rate of kidney disease in pets that have been raw fed exclusively
  • Studies focus on feeding modified protein rather than naturally digestible protein

Quality Protein

When looking at protein quality, we look for the biological value the protein will provide our dogs. A raw food diet will provide the highest biological value of animal proteins and be much easier for your dog to metabolize into amino acids, placing less stress on the kidneys and other organs as opposed to processed dog food.

Processed dog food can be an extremely harmful diet, as the quality of the protein deteriorates through the act of cooking, therefore requiring chemical and synthetic nutritional additives and fillers. The biological value of processed foods has diminished, and what’s left isn’t meant for your dog.

If you’re thinking of converting your dog to all natural raw dog food, look at where the protein is sourced, how it's handled, manufactured and stored. This allows you to choose your dog’s meals based on quality protein, not quantity. At Iron Will Raw, our focus is on quality products because ALL of your family members deserve products that help them live a longer, healthier life.