Does Too Much Protein In Dog Food Cause Diarrhea?

Photo by Marco Vech on Flickr

As a dog owner it is inevitable that at some stage your dog will have a bad dose of diarrhea.

But along with the hassle of all of the time that it takes to clear the disgusting mess up, there is the hassle of trying to figure out why it happened.

If your dog has just had unsupervised access to your trash then the cause is fairly obvious but…

What about if nothing out of the ordinary has happened and yet there is still a pile of diarrhea when you come home from work?

This can leave you clutching at straws as the possible reasons that your dog might have an upset stomach ricochets around your brain.

And one of those straws is that the diet that they are on contains too much protein.

And that is the focus of my article today.

To begin with I want to look at what the main causes of diarrhea are. 

What Are The Main Causes Of Diarrhea In Dogs?

There are endless things that could be causing your dog to have diarrhea. 

From intestinal infections and viruses to worms and eating garbage, diarrhea can come from several sources. 

Stress is also a significant factor in stomach upset, so if your dog has recently travelled or had an ordeal at the vet’s, this could be the cause. 

Can Too Much Protein In Food Be A Cause?

Although the causes for diarrhea seem boundless, there is little link between a dog having too much protein and diarrhea for the majority of dogs. 

However, there are two exceptions to this.

Firstly some dogs are more sensitive to protein than others which may be causing them to have diarrhea and allergic reactions. 

This is called dietary protein intolerance and don’t worry as it is a very rare condition in dogs. 

Indications include an upset stomach, agitation, itchy or irritated skin, swollen tongue or throat, and bald spots. 

To determine if your dog has this issue, you can do food elimination trials with guidance from your vet. 

The second exception is when protein causes your dog  to have diarrhea because it is undercooked.

As we all know, meat is a great source of protein but some raw meats contain parasites and bacteria.

Chicken and pork are two of the most dangerous meats. 

Raw eggs are known to sometimes contain bacteria and parasites. 

And the only way of killing these is to cook the meat thoroughly .

Meat that is undercooked can cause diarrhea as well as vomiting. 

But dog owners can sometimes wrongly think that the diarrhea is caused by an overdose of protein, rather than it being caused by not cooking it enough. 

Why Does A Dog Need Protein In Their Diet?

While too much protein can be a cause of health issues like those listed above, it is essential for a dog’s diet. 

Protein is vital in allowing a dog’s body to function properly because it contains vital amino acids which helps hair, skin, muscle development. 

Dogs cannot store up protein in their body like they can with fats and so they must be provided with protein daily. 

This is especially true for those who work like assistance dogs, sheep dogs or police dogs. 

If you feed your dog too little protein it can lead to weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. 

How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Had Too Much Protein?

There are a few ways to tell if your dog is getting too much protein. 

Firstly, dogs only use a certain amount of protein that is absorbed by the body, and the rest is released through the urine. 

So, yellow spots from your dog doing their business on your lawn are a signifier. Secondly, your dog putting on a lot of weight is a very simple signifier of too much protein. 

Fortunately, it’s unlikely that your dog is receiving too much protein if they are on a diet of canned food or kibble made by a reputable company with quality ingredients. 

So, it’s best if you feed your dog the highest quality food you can afford to ensure they are not getting too much or too little protein. 

The Association of American Feed Control Officials has strict guidelines that these companies must follow. 

Regulations require dog food to contain a minimum amount of protein which should keep your dog in top condition. 

This is a minimum of 18 percent crude protein on a dry matter basis for the average adult dog, but this varies with age, breed, and activity level. 

So, it’s always best to check which feed is best with your vet to ensure that your dog isn’t getting too much protein. 

What Other Ingredients In Dog Food May Cause Diarrhea?

As well as protein level, there could be other ingredients in your dog’s food causing diarrhea. Allergies are a major source of stomach problems. 

Things like gluten and dairy can make your pup’s stomach off, so if you suspect an allergy, you should contact your vet to get your dog tested. 

Corn and rice are often used as filler ingredients in dog food. 

But, your dog should not have a high carb diet because dogs don’t need carbs to survive. These will merely lead to health issues like chronic issues like gas, bloating, and diarrhea. 

What Are The Other Dangers Of A Dog Eating Too Much Protein?

Although many people believe that dogs are carnivores, they are actually omnivores. 

Even their wolf ancestors relied on both plant and animal sources for food. So, a diet of just protein can be an issue because this is not what dogs are naturally meant to eat. 

If their diet becomes unbalanced, it can lead to various health conditions like kidney damage and bone problems.  

Is Wet Food More Likely Than Dry Food To Cause Diarrhea?

Pet owners who rely on processed foods for their dogs generally buy kibble and dry options. Wet food is available on a smaller scale for dogs, but it is much less popular. 

Although many people think that wet food causes diarrhea, it is generally fine for dogs to consume without becoming ill. 

Though it does contain more water than dry food, usually something else will be the trigger of stomach issues such as scavenging, or parasites. 

This is because wet food still has to meet the specific nutrition guidelines set out by the AAFCO. 

What Types Of Dog Need A Diet With Higher Levels Of Protein?

Most dogs don’t need very high levels of protein in their diet. 

But, certain dogs do need a lot of it to maintain themselves because of the physical activity they do or if they are in vulnerable stages of their life. 

This firstly includes working dogs like farm dogs or sheepdogs because they have to run for many hours a day. 

Dogs that are just extremely active with their owners will also need more protein for instance those who agility train or go on runs with their owners.

Secondly, dogs that are in extreme age categories need high protein foods. Puppy’s need high protein to sustain their development and growth. Lactating and pregnant dogs need high protein to support their puppy’s nourishment. Finally, senior dogs or frail dogs need high protein to make them strong and maintain their body weights. 

Wet vs Dry vs Raw: What Is The Average Amount Of Protein In Each Of These Types Of Food?

Whilst certain dogs do need high protein diets, it’s important to adapt the type of food you give to your dog based on their specific needs. 

The raw dog food diet is obviously extremely high in protein. This is not suitable for dogs in the late stages of kidney failure, liver failure, or inactive dogs. For instance, just one chicken breast contains over 54 grams of protein which, if given every day may lead your dog to become severely overweight. 

Most dogs require a minimum percentage of 18 to 29 percent protein in their diets. Dry food contains an average of 25 percent protein and wet contains around 9 percent. Yet, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA), a direct comparison between dry food and wet food is difficult because the ingredients are so different. Wet food is around 60-80 percent water and the dry elements (containing the nutrients your dog needs for survival) are a much smaller percentage.

Although these percentages seem that dry food is immediately superior to wet for your dog’s protein intake, you are actually meant to feed your dog a higher quantity of wet food which means that your pet will still receive the same amount of nutrients it needs on a solely wet diet. 

So, whether you choose to feed your dog wet food, kibble, or raw meat, you should always be wary of the nutritional value of the diet you are giving them. This will help to reduce risks of any serious health conditions down the line, as well as short-term problems like diarrhea or weight issues. This will hopefully save you any hefty vet bills and your pup will definitely benefit from your actions. 

In understanding your dog’s diet properly, you are giving them the best chances of a long and healthy life! So, why not speak to your vet to see if there are any changes you can make to improve your dog’s protein intake? 

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!