Pets and Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient for building and maintaining muscles, ligaments, claws and fur.

Created: 5/14/2018 Updated: 8/25/2021 - Shelley Audis-Riddell

diet, Diet & Nutrition, dogs, puppy, senior

Why do dogs need protein?

Protein is an energy giving nutrient found in different quantities in plants and animals. It varies in quality depending on the source it comes from.

Protein is an essential nutrient for building and maintaining muscles, ligaments, claws and fur. It is also involved in enzyme formation and hormone system function.

Protein is made-up of amino acids arranged in chains. There are 23 amino acids, and 10 of these acids are classed as essential for dogs. Amino acids are broken down quickly and can leave dogs susceptible to developing a deficiency if they do not get enough. Non-essential amino acids are still very important, but dogs can synthesise these for themselves.

Do dogs need different levels of protein at any point in their lives?

The amount of protein required by a dog throughout its life is dependent on age, lifestyle, life cycle and reproductive status. For this reason, dog foods are specially formulated to respond to their needs. Identifying your dog’s life stage and lifestyle is an important first step to choosing the right diet.


Puppies need specific puppy food. If their expected adult weight is under 25kg we offer Healthy Growth Puppy food. If their expected adult weight is over 25kg we recommend Puppy Large Breed food. Commercially prepared diets contain extremely digestible protein content from specially selected protein sources to ensure the correct nutrition is available at this vital stage of life.


Junior dogs need a specially formulated food. OSCAR Junior Complete Chicken & Rice is designed with slightly lower protein content than a puppy diet. As puppies grow and develop their requirement for protein reduces.

Tri coloured Border Collie sitting on the grass

Breeding bitches

From the 3rd trimester through to lactation, pregnant bitches require a higher protein and richer nutrient content in order to maintain their milk production and to support themselves and their puppies. These requirements can be met with a Puppy Complete diet or one that is specially formulated for nursing bitches.


Adult dogs have lower protein requirements when compared to puppies and juniors. Diets for the average adult dog usually hold a protein content of at least 18% dry matter. OSCAR Adult Complete diets range from 19.5% to 27.5% protein.


Seniors also have specific requirements for protein - to ensure muscle mass remains supported and to minimise strain upon the renal system. This can be achieved by feeding a better-quality protein at a lower percentage as opposed to increasing the total amount of protein in the diet. OSCAR Adult Care Complete (Senior) diets hold a protein content of 20% to 21%.

Working dogs - In work

Very active dogs, and those in work, have a higher requirement for protein. Specially formulated “Working Dog” and “Sporting Dog” diets contain a specially concentrated amount of protein to support this and include additional fat (a vitally important energy source) and carbohydrate (a source of storable energy) to ensure the calorie and protein intake is optimised. The benefit of having a concentrated diet is the key to ensuring these athletic animals get everything they need out of their diet without overloading their digestive systems. Creating an efficient process of digesting their food reduces the chance of fatigue and impaired performance. OSCAR Working Dog Chicken & Salmon is designed for such dogs and holds a 29% protein content.

Border Collier rounding up the sheep.

Working dogs - resting

When a Sporting or Working dog is not in their regular work pattern or their working season has come to an end, they will no longer have the same requirements they had whilst being so active. During this time, a standard Adult Maintenance food or a specially formulated Resting Working Dog food is ideal. OSCAR Working Dog Maintenance diet holds a content of 17% protein.

Is there a link between behaviour and protein?

First and foremost, if you are concerned about your dog's behaviour and notice changes in their mood or signs of aggression, you should always seek advice from your Vet before changing anything yourself. A behavioural change can happen for many reasons and your furry family member may have been showing small signs that you just didn't notice. We advise you to speak to your Vet for advice and consultation to rule out any medical reasons for their change in behaviour. There is little conclusive evidence that shows feeding a high protein diet causes hyperactivity or aggressive behavioural changes.


Choosing the correct food for life stage and activity level is vital to ensure a healthy happy hound! A healthy adult dog in an average exercise routine fed on a quality, well-balanced and complete adult dog food should not cause problems or issues. It is only when a dog is fed a diet designed for another life stage or lifestyle that issues can arise. One of the main problems arising from feeding this way is obesity. For example, feeding a working dog food to a dog that is not working or highly active introduces too much protein and too many calories into their diet. Feeding too much food results in weight gain, loose toilet and secondary health concerns such as joint issues, heart concerns and diabetes - there is plenty of evidence to show this.

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email