High-Protein Dog Food for Retrievers

Retrievers can require more protein than many other dogs due to their energy level.
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The retriever group includes the most popular pet dog, the Labrador retriever, but it also contains goldens, Chesapeake Bay, flat-coated and curly-coated retrievers. When in working condition, your retriever should have a high-protein diet that consists of digestible proteins that are converted into valuable energy she'll use.

Why She Needs Protein

Like a human, your pooch needs several amino acids in her body, some of which she must consume. A protein's biological value is based on how many of the amino acids it contains. Protein is converted to energy, something that high-performance retrievers -- those that work in rescue, agility or the field -- must have if they are working. All of the retrieving breeds are soft-mouthed dogs bred for retrieving game, mostly fowl. The Labrador and golden retrievers are also commonly used as service dogs because of their temperament. Crosses between golden and Labrador retrievers are becoming increasingly common as service dogs; these mixes have the gentleness of the golden combined with the strength of a Labrador. While the service industry doesn't always require as much energy and isn't as labor-intensive as other forms of work, it can require her to have a better diet for functionality.

Crude Protein

All commercially available dog foods have a listing of the crude protein. For adult dogs, the minimum required protein is around 18 to 22 percent, while performance dogs should get a minimum of 25 percent. These numbers are general guidelines and vary with breed, activity level and age. Retrievers in working condition are considered performance dogs, but many that live in the home as family pets don't work as much as hunting retrievers and will fare fine with the minimum protein level for adult dogs. Just because the crude protein is listed in the right range doesn't mean it's quality, however.

Protein Quality

Not all proteins are created equally. Meat protein is better for a dog and has a higher biological value. Some proteins are easily digestible and therefore provide more energy to your pup. Highly digestible proteins include chicken and lamb, among others. A true, quality meat meal is also an ideal source of protein for dogs. By-product meals and corn, however, are not great sources of protein, nor are they easily digestible. The first ingredient of your dog's food should be meat or chicken, not a by-product or meal. Golden and Labrador retrievers are highly prone to allergies; according to 1800PetMeds.com, more than half of food allergies in dogs are caused by beef, wheat and dairy. Several dog foods on the market are now manufactured without wheat, corn or soy ingredients and have chicken or lamb as the main source of protein.


Most pooches will urinate out excess protein or convert it into fat, causing no damage to the kidneys, but some pups with known kidney problems might experience issues on a high-protein diet. Feeding your retriever a high-protein food, which is often more expensive than the standard variety, when she doesn't need it may end up in her peeing out your money with the unused protein. It can also lead to excess fat if she's not burning enough of the energy created by the protein. Since most retrievers yearn for strenuous play or work, getting a little chubby could affect her general health and disposition, even in a household setting.

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