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What Meat Is Best for Dogs? Top Types Explained

Written by: Brooke Billingsley

Last Updated on June 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

owner feeding shih tzu with dog food

What Meat Is Best for Dogs? Top Types Explained


Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo


Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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If you’ve spent time looking at dog foods in the pet store recently, then you know just how many protein options there are on the market these days. It can be overwhelming to know what protein to pick for your dog, though. Is there a best option available for our furry friends?

The good news is that there often isn’t any one protein that’s right or wrong for your dog. There are benefits and concerns with many types of meat, including the more common, such as chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, fish, and pork, and the novel proteins, like kangaroo, bison, venison, and goat. Read on to learn more about the potential meat sources for your pup.

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Do Dogs Need Meat?

Unlike cats, dogs are not obligate carnivores. They are true omnivores, which means they can survive on a diet of both animal and plant sources. While dogs can technically survive without meat, vegetarian diets aren’t generally advised for dogs because they can be hard to properly balance to ensure your dog receives appropriate nutrition.

On the other side of things, dogs need more than just meat. Because of their complex nutritional needs, it can be extremely difficult to balance a homemade diet for your dog without the assistance of a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.

Cute Samoyed dog eating from bowl at home
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

What Are the Best Meats for Dogs?

Each individual dog is different and each individual meat source is different. With this in mind, there’s no way to recommend a “best meat” for dogs as a whole. Instead, we’ll focus on the top sources of meat for dogs so that you can speak to your veterinarian about your dog’s specific needs.

Keep in mind that though rare, food allergies can occur in dogs. The most common sources of food allergies include beef, dairy, chicken, lamb, and wheat 1. So, if your dog struggles with a food allergy, you’ll want to avoid that ingredient.

Here is a list of the best, most common, meats for dogs in general:
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Salmon
  • Whitefish
  • Turkey
  • Lamb
  • Organ meats
You may also find novel protein diets that include these other good sources of protein:
  • Bison
  • Duck
  • Goat
  • Rabbit

While all of these are potential protein options for your pet, let’s discuss some of the top ones.

Top Meats for Dogs Analyzed

Chicken and beef are two of the most popular options when it comes to dog food. This is because chicken is affordable, high in protein, and low in saturated fat, while beef is high in protein and healthy fats, although you should expect to pay a bit more for it, and the quality of the beef can widely vary. Turkey is another common protein source that is incredibly lean but may be harder to find as a standalone protein source.

Pork is fairly common in dog food, and you’ll find about as much protein in it as you will with chicken or beef. However, it must be cooked properly because it can contain parasites and it can be higher in fat.

When it comes to fish, salmon is another popular option that is low in fat and high in protein, all while being packed with essential omega fatty acids that benefit brain, skin, and coat health. On the other hand, whitefish may be a better option for your pooch. Whitefish is a term used to encompass less-oily fish and includes things like cod and haddock. However, your kibble options may be more limited.

We also wanted to touch on some of the “rarer” protein sources. While the options are more limited, you can still find plenty of bison, lamb, and duck options for dogs, although they might come with a heftier price tag. Plus, they might be paired with other protein sources.

Shredded chicken breast bowl
Image Credit: stephyleyva, Shutterstock

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Frequent Asked Questions

Should I Add Meat to My Dog’s Diet?

Most vets will recommend that you feed your dog an AAFCO-compliant commercial dog food. Raw diets are often not recommended because they can contain dangerous bacteria, and homemade diets can be extremely difficult to manage without professional help. If you are feeding your dog a commercial dog food, then they are likely receiving an appropriately balanced diet. By adding extra meat to their diet, you may be increasing their caloric intake and may unintentionally unbalance their diet. It’s best to talk to your vet before adding meat to your dog’s existing diet.

If you’d like to add small amounts of meat as a treat for your dog, then make sure to stick to lean cuts of meat. You also need to ensure all meat you feed to your dog is fully cooked and free of oil, salt, and other seasonings. Raw meats carry a risk of food-borne illnesses for both your dog and the people around your dog.

Can My Dog Eat Meat Bones?

Pet stores and butchers alike often sell meaty bones for dogs. It’s best to talk to your vet before offering any type of bone to your dog, though. Most vets will recommend that you never give bones to your dog. Cooked bones can splinter when chewed on, which can lead to sharp pieces of bone that may cause an intestinal obstruction or rupture in your dog’s digestive system. Raw bones can also be broken apart and may contain bacteria. Raw bones are usually much harder than cooked bones, so they can lead to broken teeth as well.

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In Conclusion

Ideally, you should feed your dog a high-quality commercial dog food that is balanced for their needs. Your vet can help you select an appropriate food for your dog if you’re unsure where to start. While your dog should get the protein they need from their commercial diet, you may still be able to offer small amounts of lean meat as an occasional treat to your dog. If you have any questions about this, speak to your veterinarian first.

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Featured Image Credit: chaossart, Shutterstock

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