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Do Dogs Need Meat Variety? Which Proteins Are Best For Dogs?

Dogs, like humans, thrive on a rotational diet — including their protein sources. For example, while chicken is a healthy, lean meat, eating it exclusively for your entire life would limit the vitamins you’re getting — such as the iron you could get from beef or vitamin B12 from salmon — and this is true for your dog as well! (Not to mention that you’d probably get bored of eating chicken every day!) That’s why it’s important to ensure you mix up your dog’s protein every once in a while. 

In this blog, we’ll dive into the health benefits of different meat sources for dogs and how to tell if a pet food contains high-quality protein sources. Of course, it’s important to note that not all dogs handle every protein source well, whether due to allergies or specific nutritional needs. Be sure to connect with your veterinarian to make sure your dog’s needs are being met! 

Chicken 

When perusing the dog food aisle, you’ll notice that chicken is one of the most common protein sources available. That’s because chicken is a healthy, lean meat and is a great option for dogs on a low fat diet, as it doesn’t have as many calories as other proteins. Let’s dive into the health benefits of chicken: 

  • Vitamin B12: Supports red blood cells and the assimilation of fats, carbs, and proteins to prevent fatigue and impaired neurological function. 
  • Potassium: Maintains fluid balance for energy and cellular health. 
  • Chromium: Needed to metabolize glucose. 
  • Amino acids: Contains cancer-fighting properties. 

When trying to determine if a brand contains high-quality chicken, we’d recommend finding a brand that uses terms such as human-grade, natural, or organic. Avoid any products that use poultry by-products, as this means they use every part of the chicken except the meat, such as kidneys, feet, etc. Another term to avoid when looking for chicken products is “meat meal,” which is classified as the rendered part from mammal tissues — meaning that it could be one or a combination of farm animals, roadkill, etc. If you must, at least look for a named animal meal, like “chicken meal,” so you’ll at least know it came from one type of animal! 

Salmon 

Being a less common protein, you may be wondering if salmon is good for dogs. The answer is yes — cooked salmon is a great protein for dogs and provides a range of benefits! In fact, salmon is the healthiest of all fish that dogs can eat. Here are some of the health benefits of salmon for dogs: 

  • Vitamin B12: Supports red blood cells and the assimilation of fats, carbs, and proteins to prevent fatigue and impaired neurological function. 
  • Selenium: Slows down cellular aging, preserves tissue elasticity, and maintains thyroid hormone levels. 
  • Omega-fatty acids: Help promote a shinier coat.

When looking at a salmon pet product, we’d recommend finding a company that sources wild-caught salmon, as farmed salmon runs the risk of containing harmful chemicals. 

Beef

Beef is a delicious option for dogs and provides them with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, such as: 

  • Potassium, sodium, and magnesium: Maintains fluid balance and aids in nerve function. 
  • B vitamins: Help with circulation and the utilization of fatty acids. B vitamins also boost dogs’ metabolism and fight anemia by producing red blood cells. 
  • Calcium and phosphorus: Supports healthy teeth and bones. 
  • Sulfur: Aids in promoting a healthy skin, nails, and coat by fighting against allergies. 
  • Iron: Boosts the immune system and supports healthy red blood cells. 

Before purchasing your dog a beef-filled dog food, take a look to ensure the ingredient list doesn’t include the term “rendered beef.” Rendered meat comes from animals that may have been USDA-raised, but were euthanized and deemed not suitable for human consumption. While this meat is cooked at a high enough temperature to kill any harmful bacteria, the cooking process also kills off most of the healthy nutrients that beef provides. 

Pork 

Lean pork provides all nine essential amino acids that dogs need in an easily-digestible form. In fact, even just a small amount of pork provides over half of the recommended daily allowances for different nutrients that dogs need! Here’s what pork is high in: 

  • Magnesium: Helps maintain fluid balance and aids in nerve function. 
  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12: Boosts circulation, metabolism, nerve function, digestion, natural steroid production, and electrolyte balance. These B vitamins also help prevent fatigue and promote a healthy coat!
  • Zinc: Really important for a dog’s immune system. 
  • Iron: Promotes healthy red blood cells and boosts the immune system. 

Similar to when looking for a beef dog food product, make sure that you’re not buying a food with “rendered pork.” Additionally, we’d recommend prioritizing brands that use lean pork, as certain cuts of pork can be fatty, which may be difficult to digest and lead to inflammation. 

Turkey 

Is turkey good for dogs? Absolutely! Turkey is a great option for dogs who struggle with obesity, as it is a healthy, lean meat! It also provides a handful of nutritious vitamins and minerals, such as: 

  • Choline: Helps emulsify fats and improves nerve function.
  • Pantothenic acid: Regulates blood sugar. 
  • Selenium: An antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.
  • Zinc: Promotes a healthy coat and good digestion. 

When looking for a turkey dog food product, follow the same best practices as chicken — avoid poultry by-products, otherwise known as every part of the turkey except the meat! 

While chicken, salmon, beef, pork, and turkey aren’t the only protein options you’ll find when perusing the dog food aisle, they are certainly the most common. All five meats provide a range of vitamins and minerals, and by rotating your dog’s food every now and then, you’re ensuring that they are getting a diverse range of benefits! Just remember, when switching your dog’s food, follow a slow transition to ensure they’re adapted to the new ingredients. 

At Portland Pet Food Company we source the healthiest, most sustainable ingredients possible — including fully USDA-approved, human-grade cuts of meat. We offer five nutritious meal toppers: 

  • Wally’s Salmon N’ Rice
  • Hopkins’ Pork N’ Potato
  • Rosie’s Beef N’ Rice
  • Tuxedo’s Chicken & Yams
  • Grandma Ada’s Turkey & Yams

  • To ensure your dog is getting a range of minerals and vitamins, order our dog meal variety pack — perfect for rotating every few days! Once you know that your dog loves PPFC (which they will), sign up for our subscription service and save on every order!