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What Is Crude Protein in Dog Food? Vet Approved Facts & Advice

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

dogs eating

What Is Crude Protein in Dog Food? Vet Approved Facts & Advice


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Nutritional labels can be confusing, and that goes for those on bags of dog food, too. If you’ve looked at the nutritional labeling on dog food before, you’ve seen the words “crude protein” followed by a percentage. But what exactly is crude protein Is it just the amount of protein total in the food, or how much of the recommended daily allowance the protein meets?

Below, you’ll find out precisely what “crude protein” means and what you should look for in dog food. You’ll also learn how much protein your pup needs each day and how to ensure they get high-quality protein in their meals. Here’s everything you need to know!

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What Is Crude Protein?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the entity responsible for regulating animal feed. They require that all dog food manufacturers include a guaranteed analysis on foods—or a guarantee of the minimum percentages of crude fat and crude protein found in a food. This percentage comes from a chemical analysis measuring how much nitrogen is in the food. The amount of nitrogen detected is then used to estimate how much protein is in the dog food. That is what “crude protein” means.

However, this estimate isn’t always accurate because nitrogen can come from animal and non-animal proteins (such as grains). It also doesn’t tell you about the quality of the protein. So, it’s good to look at, but it isn’t the only thing you need to consider when choosing dog food.

wet and dry dog food
Image Credit: Sharaf Maksumov, Shutterstock

How Much Protein Do Dogs Need?

Protein is essential to your pup’s diet. Your dog’s digestive system breaks protein into amino acids to create energy and maintain body mass. This includes muscle, hair, cartilage, and blood to help the dog stay in optimal health. A dog’s body can produce some amino acids, but there are 10 amino acids that dogs cannot produce and must ingest from food sources. So, how much does your pet need?

The AAFCO recommends that dogs’ crude protein be at least 18%–22% for a healthy diet. However, the protein amount for dogs is also a topic that is much debated. Some think protein should make up most of a dog’s diet, but others believe high-protein diets can be dangerous.

Essentially, it boils down to talking to your vet and deciding whether you want to provide your pup with lots of protein or the minimal recommendations stated by the AAFCO.

When it comes to keeping any dog or puppy fit and healthy, diet and high-quality protein sources are key. Spot & Tango uses excellent ingredients to provide your fur baby with the best possible nutrition.

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How Do I Ensure My Dog’s Food Contains High-Quality Protein?

Since the amount of crude protein in dog food doesn’t tell you whether you’re feeding your pet a high-quality protein, you’re likely wondering how to take steps to ensure you are. Here’s how to do it.

  • Read the ingredient list and make sure whole meat is the first ingredient. Whether it’s chicken, fish, beef, lamb, or something else, whole meat being the first ingredient on the list means your pet will be getting quality protein.
  • Look for higher-quality ingredients in general. High-quality ingredients such as fruits and veggies improve the digestibility of your dog’s food and mean there aren’t many filler ingredients that could be adding to the amount of crude protein.
  • If you’ve read the ingredients and nutritional label and still aren’t sure about the protein’s quality, reach out to the dog food company and ask questions.
  • Look for a “complete and balanced” statement on the food label. This means that the food contains all the nutrients a dog requires and has a good ratio of amino acids.

Just doing these four things will make it easier to find a high-quality dog food with high-quality protein for your furry pal!

man buying pet food
Image Credit: LADO-Shutterstock



Crude protein is simply a chemical analysis of how much nitrogen is found in a particular dog food and an estimation of how much protein there is. It doesn’t always tell you how much protein is in your pet’s food or anything about the quality of the protein used. To ensure you’re getting food with a high-quality protein source, read the ingredient list and look for whole ingredients (and contact the company if you have questions).

Your dog needs protein to live a healthy, active life, so make sure you’re feeding them the best quality dog food you can!

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Featured Image Credit: Phuttharak, Shutterstock

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