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8 Protein Bars That Will Have Your Dog in Better Shape Than Jason Momoa

The meal supplements are no longer reserved for gym rats — active canines can also indulge in the quick treats.

by Sean Zucker
November 8, 2022
A black dog on the beach taking a bite out of a seafood bar dog treat.
Photo: @ryokeninstinct

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There are few things more vital to a dog’s health than protein. Unlike the dudes pumping creatine shakes at lunch, canines need as much of these nutrients as they can get. “It’s important for a dog to have sufficient protein in their diet as it provides essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own and non-essential amino acids that will be used in the body to make other proteins, enzymes, hormones, and DNA,” veterinary nutritionist Dr. Becca Leung says.

In fact, The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines recommend nearly one-fifth of any adult dog’s diet should be compromised of protein — a number that rises for growing pups. While most standard kibble will contain close to these percentages, some specialists warn this is essentially the bare minimum and most dogs will require even more. One of whom is Dr. Bradley Quest, a veterinarian who confirms there are plenty of reasons to abide beyond the guidelines.

“If dogs do not get enough protein containing essential amino acids in their diet, they may have problems. For example, young dogs may not grow like they should. Additionally, dogs that do not get enough protein can have poor hair coats, skin problems, and possibly weight loss,” Dr. Quest explains before adding that issues with other organ groups in the digestive, immune, and nervous systems are also a risk. 

Thankfully, a recent trend aims to remedy this concern — especially for busy pet parents. Just as you might grab a protein bar as a quick snack on your way to the gym — or the couch — your dog can, too. Not to mention, experts agree with the sentiment. “A benefit of a protein bar or supplement is that it may be convenient for pet parents to take with them on the go, especially for active pets. They are even handy for the occasional long walk for the average pet that may need a little more energy on the way,” Dr. Quest says. 

At the same time, he warns not all protein bars for dogs are created equal and suggests inspecting the ingredients before buying. While both animal and plant-based sources of protein are acceptable and useful, Dr. Quest notes that if a product is not labeled as complete and balanced, pet nutritionists advise that they do not make up more than 10 percent of the dog’s daily caloric intake.

Dr. Leung also points to a few other factors worth considering, namely where the protein is coming from and the lifestyle of whom it’s going to. “How much a dog needs ultimately depends on the quality of the protein source and animal factors such as the dog’s activity level, its life stage — growing, adult, reproduction or senior — or if the diet is intended for weight loss,” she says.

Dr. Leung’s final counsel before aimlessly browsing the treat aisle: Don’t be greedy. Just as regular overindulgence doesn’t do our minds, hearts, or livers any good, the same is true for our dogs’ health and fellow humans. “It’s also important to remember that protein is not stored in the body, so any eaten above what is truly required is metabolized as energy in the body. This is fine except that the amount of protein available in this world is limited and is becoming scarcer for everyone, humans and pets alike, so it is important to consider this when making choices about what we should be feeding our pets,” she explains.

Given all that information and instruction, your interest in canine protein bars may be waning, but don’t be discouraged — there are plenty of nutritious and helpful bars for your pup to munch on. Below, eight options for whether you’re on the go or just want to introduce a bit more protein into your dog’s diet.

Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)

Best Dog Power Bars

dog treats in yellow bag

Over the past couple of decades, Clif Bars have become one of the most popular snacks for outdoorsy folks, so naturally, they created an option for our favorite trail buddies. This entirely plant-based bar only includes seven natural ingredients, mostly blueberries and sweet potatoes, and no preservatives or artificial flavors. Plus, Dr. Leung notes that plant-based foods can have wide-reaching benefits for dogs. “There is some interesting evidence that the phytonutrients in plant-based ingredients — not only thinking about the protein content — are associated with markers of health in dogs and positive outcomes during various diseases,” she says.

$9 at Clif Bar & Company
the protein bar in white and green package

If you’re one of those people who argues duck tastes better than turkey, these bars will ensure your dog never has to endure that kind of discourse because they include both poultries. Besides, Dr. Leung confirms the source of protein is far less important than the quality. “The quality of a protein ingredient is based on its digestibility and its amino acid profile. Animal proteins generally have a higher digestibility than plant proteins, but some plant proteins can be comparable or even higher in digestibility than animal proteins,” she says.

$60 at Natural Pet Warehouse
the ruku bars in lavender packaging

While hitting the halal truck for dinner is not an option for your dog, Dr. Leung says: “The overarching principles of what makes a good quality protein is the same no matter the source.” So, maybe your dog will never get to experience a lamb gyro and its delicious tzatziki sauce, but they can still enjoy the benefits of the meat. With ethically sourced grass-fed lamb, Ruku Bars pack a whopping 26 grams of protein.

$8 at Ryōken Instinct
adventure bars in red packaging

Dr. Leung has a simple rule: the more activity, the more protein. “Protein bars can be useful in cases where maybe a dog’s main diet is a bit lower in protein — which is totally fine for their lifestyle normally — but when the dog starts to do some training or more extensive exercising, they could benefit from a protein boost,” she says. Well, if the supplements listed are meant to be used for the most active of dogs, Adventure Bars certainly understood the assignment with their focus on hiking and outdoor travel.

$7 at Chewy
the on the go bars in red

Dr. Leung likes when brands have simple and clearly stated ingredients that highlight the components dogs love, rather than than focusing on the ingredients products don’t have in them. “I’m cautious when I see a product that markets itself as a ‘no’ brand, so those that tout no ‘x’ or ‘x-free’. I would rather know what’s in the product that makes it good,” she says. Plato On The Go is all about highlighting what makes it good: It’s air-dried, made with real chicken and mango, and is perfect for dogs who need a little pick-me-up or energy boost.

$3 at Plato Pet Treats

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Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and has behavioral issues rival his own.