Health & Nutrition

The Surprising Value of Plant-Based Protein in Dog Food

Fresh Beef Chunks and Peas

The Conversation Around Plant-Based Protein and Dog Food

You've probably noticed that pea protein, potato protein, and other plant-based protein sources are included more often in dog food. You may be asking, “is plant protein as effective as animal-based protein? Is plant-based protein good for my dog?”

Plants as a Source of Protein

Even though it may seem a bit strange to think of plant-based ingredients as sources of protein, plant-based protein ingredients in dog food typically contain more than 20% protein. The concentrated pea protein in Just Right blends contains greater than 60% protein! Here's how we get the most out of a plant-based protein source:

Detailed chart showing the nutritional value of cornDetailed chart showing the nutritional value of corn

Plant-Based vs. Meat-Based Dog Food

Quality protein is vital in your dog's diet. Quality protein is vital in the dog food pyramid. In fact, protein supplies amino acids, which act as the building blocks of your dog's body. Amino acids build organs and tissues like tendons, muscles, skin, hair and blood. They also function as enzymes, hormones and antibodies.

When your dog consumes protein, their body doesn't absorb protein as a whole; it breaks it down into individual amino acids. This is because your dog doesn't have a protein requirement...instead, their body requires a checklist of essential amino acids to keep them fueled and functioning. As long as your dog is getting all the amino acids their body requires from their nutrition, there's no physiological difference between protein that comes from plant sources and protein that comes from animal sources.

Animals and vegetables contain the same amino acid proteinAnimals and vegetables contain the same amino acid protein


"Different types of protein contain different amino acid combinations, but as long as the pet eats, digests, and absorbs the right amount of each required amino acid, the source is not particularly important. In other words, arginine is arginine no matter if it comes from soybeans or turkey."

- Veterinarian Jennifer Coates of

The protein from one ingredient (e.g. chicken) will differ from the protein in another food source (e.g. corn gluten meal) based on the length of the protein, its structure, and the combination of amino acids that make up that protein. Or, to echo what Veterinarian Jennifer Coates says above, each individual amino acid – in this case, methionine – is exactly the same, regardless of whether it came from chicken or from corn gluten meal.

So why does dog food contain both animal-based protein sources and plant-based protein sources?

Very few ingredients actually contain all the amino acids your dog needs in a dog’s diet by themselves. When combined, however, animal-based protein and plant-based protein can complement each other to meet your dog's amino acid requirement. In other words, a healthy balance of protein sources works together and completes the checklist that your dog needs to thrive.

List of essential amino acids found in beef, pea protein, dried egg and potato proteinList of essential amino acids found in beef, pea protein, dried egg and potato protein

What Does This Mean for Me When Choosing the Best Food for My Dog?

At the end of the day, you just want what's best for your dog. And we do too. When it comes to looking at protein sources in your dog's food, our best advice is to always find a food that's complete and balanced, and to look for a good balance between both animal-based protein and plant-based protein. If you have any questions, contact our Customer Care Team. Create a unique blend balanced for your dog by starting a Just Right blend with us today.