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What protein is best for dogs with pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a painful inflammation of the pancreas that can occur in dogs. It is often triggered by a high-fat diet or obesity. Pancreatitis prevents the pancreas from properly digesting food and producing the enzymes needed for digestion. This results in vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain in dogs with pancreatitis.

One of the keys to treating pancreatitis in dogs is to put them on a low-fat, highly-digestible diet. Dietary fat is hard for dogs with pancreatitis to digest, so limiting the amount of fat they consume allows the pancreas to rest and recover. An important part of a pancreatitis diet is choosing the right source of protein. The proper protein can help dogs maintain lean muscle mass despite the reduced calories from fat. However, not all proteins are easily tolerated when a dog has pancreatitis.

What Factors Determine the Best Protein Source?

There are several factors that determine the best protein source for dogs with pancreatitis:


Proteins that are highly digestible put less strain on the pancreas. Foods with protein digestibility of 87% or more are recommended for dogs with pancreatitis.

Fat Content

Dogs with pancreatitis require protein that is low in fat. The pancreas has trouble producing the enzymes needed to break down dietary fat. Total fat should make up no more than 10-15% of the diet.

High Quality Protein Sources

Proteins from high quality animal sources tend to be well-tolerated. Proteins sources to look for include:

– Chicken
– Turkey
– Lean beef
– White fish
– Whole eggs

Avoid Proteins High in Fat

Some high-fat protein sources should be avoided, such as:

– Organ meats like liver
– Fatty cuts of red meat
– Dark meat poultry with skin
– Fatty fish like salmon

Avoid Plant Proteins

Plant-based proteins like soy, corn, and wheat are more difficult for dogs to digest. They also increase stool volume, which is problematic when a dog has pancreatitis.

Avoid Alternative Proteins

Proteins like bison, venison, duck, lamb, and rabbit are not necessarily harmful, but there is less research showing how well dogs with pancreatitis can digest them. It is safest to stick with traditional low-fat proteins.

The 5 Best Proteins for Dogs with Pancreatitis

Based on digestibility, fat content, and research, the following 5 proteins rise to the top for dogs with pancreatitis:

1. Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is one of the most easily digested proteins for dogs. It is low in fat, highly digestible, and a good source of B vitamins. Look for skinless, boneless cuts to reduce the fat content. Lightly cooked or canned chicken breast is ideal.

2. Lean Ground Turkey

Extra lean ground turkey (at least 93% lean) is another excellent protein choice. Make sure to drain off any excess fat after cooking. The high digestibility and low fat makes ground turkey a great pancreatitis diet option.

3. Egg Whites

Egg whites provide high quality, highly digestible protein without excess fat. Cooked egg whites are often used in home-prepared pancreatitis diets. They can be scrambled, hard boiled, or lightly cooked.

4. Cod or Sole Fish

Cod and sole are examples of white fish that can work well for dogs with pancreatitis. Look for wild caught fish rather than farmed. The fish should be plain with no added oils or seasonings. Light cooking or canned white fish that is packed in water are good choices.

5. Lean Beef

Extra lean cuts of beef like top sirloin can make a good addition to a low-fat pancreatitis diet. Choose cuts with “loin” or “round” in the name, and trim off any visible fat before cooking. Lean beef provides high quality protein when properly prepared.

feeding Guidelines and Sample Meals

Here are some feeding guidelines and sample meals when preparing a homemade diet for a dog with pancreatitis:

General Feeding Guidelines

Nutrient Percentage for Pancreatitis Diet
Protein 20-25% total calories
Fat 8-12% total calories
Carbohydrates 45-55% total calories
Fiber 5% or less of total diet

Sample Meals

Chicken and Rice

  • 1⁄2 skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 1⁄2 cup cooked white rice
  • 1 tsp chicken broth
  • 1⁄4 cup low-sodium canned carrots

Turkey and Sweet Potato

  • 2 oz lean ground turkey
  • 1⁄2 small sweet potato, cooked
  • 1 tbsp canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp cranberry sauce

Fish and Potatoes

  • 1 oz cod filet, cooked
  • 2 small red potatoes, boiled
  • 1 tbsp green beans, low-sodium canned
  • 1 tsp olive oil

When transitioning to a homemade diet for pancreatitis, it is important to do so slowly over 3-5 days. Gradually decrease the old food while increasing the new food in small increments. This gives the digestive system time to adapt. Discuss any diet changes with your veterinarian.


The right protein is crucial to help dogs with pancreatitis maintain muscle mass while keeping fat to a minimum. Highly digestible, low-fat proteins like chicken breast, turkey, egg whites, cod, and lean beef are excellent choices. Following low-fat recipes and feeding guidelines tailored for pancreatitis support the dog’s recovery. Work closely with your vet to find a protein and diet plan that fits your individual dog’s needs. With the right nutritional support, many dogs can recover fully from pancreatitis.