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Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Choose It

If your dog suffers from food allergies or sensitivities, you may be familiar with hydrolyzed protein dog food. But what exactly is it and how does it work?

Is it effective and safe for your dog? What are the advantages and disadvantages of feeding hydrolyzed protein dog food to your pup?

And how do you choose the best one for your dog's specific preferences and needs?

In this article, BestForPets will address these and other questions. We will explain what hydrolyzed protein dog food is, how it works, who needs it, and how to choose the best one for your pup.

icon Vet Approved
icon Reviewed & Fact - Checked by

Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information provided is current and up-to-date, in line with the latest research conducted in the field of veterinary medicine.

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1. What Is Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food and How Does It Work?

Hydrolyzed protein dog food is a unique type of dog food that contains proteins that have been broken down into smaller molecules through the process of hydrolysis.

Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction that breaks the bonds between amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, using water.

Proteins are hydrolyzed to make them less likely to cause allergic reactions in canines. Dogs with food allergies or sensitivities have an immune system that overreacts to certain proteins in their diet.

This can lead to symptoms such as itching, scratching, licking, vomiting, diarrhea, ear infections, and skin infections.

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can reduce or prevent these symptoms by making the proteins less recognizable to the immune system.

Hydrolyzed protein dog food may contain different sources of hydrolyzed protein, including soy, poultry, salmon, or rice.

The size of the protein molecules is more important than the source of the protein. Smaller-sized molecules are less likely to trigger an allergic reaction.

2. Who Needs or Can Benefit from Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food?

Hydrolyzed protein dog food is formulated primarily for dogs with food sensitivities or allergies.

Dietary allergies or sensitivities are distinct from dietary intolerances, which are caused by a deficiency of digestive enzymes or other factors.

Food allergies and sensitivities involve the immune system and can result in more severe and persistent symptoms.

Depending on the severity and duration of the condition, the signs and symptoms of food allergies or sensitivities in dogs may vary. Examples of common symptoms include:

  • Itching, rubbing, licking, or biting their skin
  • Redness, inflammation, or a skin rash
  • Bald patches or hair loss on the skin
  • Otitis externa and inflammation
  • Discharge or inflammation of the eye
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Flatulence or bloating
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite

Beef, dairy, wheat, corn, soy, poultry, eggs, and fish are the most common allergens or triggers in commercial dog food.

However, any protein source may induce an allergic reaction in some dogs. The only way to diagnose a food allergy or sensitivity in a dog is with the assistance of a veterinarian and an elimination diet trial.

An elimination diet trial involves feeding a dog a novel protein diet or a hydrolyzed protein diet for at least 8 weeks and observing whether the symptoms improve.

If the symptoms resolve, owners can then progressively reintroduce foods one by one to determine if they cause a return of the symptoms.

This way, owners can determine the foods to which their dog is allergic or sensitive and avoid them in the future.

Benefit from Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can also be beneficial for dogs with conditions or situations that affect digestion or nutrient absorption, such as:

2.1. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and injury to the intestinal mucosa. Symptoms of IBD in dogs may include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, blood in the stool, and decreased appetite.

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can help dogs with IBD reduce inflammation and improve digestion.

2.2. Elimination diet trial

As mentioned earlier, an elimination diet trial is used to identify food allergies or sensitivities in dogs.

Owners can use hydrolyzed protein dog food as part of an elimination diet trial to rule out any potential allergens in their dog’s diet.

2.3. Postoperative recovery

Some dogs may have difficulty eating or digesting conventional dog food following surgery due to pain, nausea, or medication side effects.

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can be easier for them to consume and digest, as well as provide adequate nutrition for their recovery.

3. How to Choose the Best Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food for Your Dog?

Before transitioning your dog to dog food containing hydrolyzed protein, you should always consult your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian can help you determine if your dog requires or can benefit from hydrolyzed protein dog food, as well as recommend the appropriate brand or product.

When selecting a brand or product of hydrolyzed protein dog food for your pet, there are numerous factors to consider. Several of these elements include:

3.1. Quality

You should look for a brand or product that is made with high-quality ingredients and complies with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards and regulations.

You should also check the product’s expiration date and storage instructions to ensure its safety and freshness.

3.2. Ingredients

You should review the product’s ingredient list and guaranteed analysis to determinewhat it contains and in what quantities.

Look for a product with hydrolyzed proteins as the primary ingredient and avoid those with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and additives.

Check for ingredients to which your dog may be allergic or sensitive, including grains, gluten, and by-products.

3.3. Nutrition

Look for a product that provides complete and balanced nutrition for your dog’s life stage and level of activity.

Compare the calorie content and percentages of protein, fat, fiber, and other nutrients in the product to your dog’s daily nutritional needs.

Also, look for a product that provides essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids to promote the health and well-being of your dog.

3.4. Palatability

Find a product that your dog enjoys eating. Hydrolyzed protein dog food may have a different flavor or texture than regular dog food, so some dogs may be hesitant or selective when it comes to eating it.

Experiment with various flavors and textures of hydrolyzed protein dog food, such as dried kibble, moist canned food, and treats, to determine which your dog prefers.

You can also enhance the flavor and moisture of the food by adding water, bouillon, or sauce.

3.5. Price

Look for a product that fits your budget and provides excellent value.

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can be more expensive than conventional dog food because it requires a prescription from a veterinarian and a unique manufacturing process.

You can save money by purchasing in bulk, using coupons or discounts, and shopping online.

  • Check out the article ‘Best Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Foods‘ to learn about the top hydrolyzed protein dog food products on the market if you’re looking for a solution to your beloved friend’s food allergy problem.

Choose Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

To introduce and feed your dog hydrolyzed protein dog food, follow these guidelines:

  • Transition your dog’s current diet to one containing hydrolyzed protein over the course of 7 to 10 days. Start by incorporating a small amount of hydrolyzed protein dog food with your dog’s current food, and then gradually increase the amount of hydrolyzed protein dog food while decreasing the amount of their current food until you are feeding only hydrolyzed protein dog food.
  • Follow the feeding instructions on the product label or your veterinarian’s advice. Adjust the amount of food to your dog’s age, weight, activity level, and health status. Avoid overfeeding or underfeeding your pet.
  • Feed your dog at regular intervals and times. Avoid giving your dog unrestricted access to food or leaving it out for them to eat whenever they please. This can help prevent overeating, obesity, and digestive problems.
  • Provide your dog with fresh water at all times. Do not feed your dog any additional foods or treats that may contain allergens or interfere with their diet. Before giving your dog any supplements or medications, consult your veterinarian.

4. What Are the Pros and Cons of Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food?

Before deciding if hydrolyzed protein dog food is suitable for your dog, you should consider its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some examples:

Pros

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can help reduce or prevent symptoms of adverse food reactions in dogs with food allergies or sensitivities

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can aid digestion and nutrient assimilation in dogs with inflammatory bowel disease or other digestive conditions

Hydrolyzed protein dog food promotes skin and coat health and reduces inflammation and irritation in dogs with skin conditions

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can provide a balanced and complete diet for dogs with special dietary requirements or preferences

Cons

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can be more expensive than regular dog food because it requires a prescription from a veterinarian and a unique manufacturing process

As a niche product that caters to a specific market, hydrolyzed protein dog food may not be widely accessible or available in some areas or stores

Hydrolyzed protein dog food may not be suitable for all dogs, as some dogs may dislike the flavor or texture of hydrolyzed proteins or have other food allergies or sensitivities

If not provided adequately or monitored by a veterinarian, hydrolyzed protein dog food may pose certain side effects or risks, such as weight gain, kidney problems, or nutritional deficiencies

Conclusion

Dogs with food allergies or sensitivities can benefit from hydrolyzed protein dog food. It contains proteins that have been broken down into smaller molecules, reducing their ability to provoke allergic reactions.

Hydrolyzed protein dog food can also benefit dogs with other conditions or situations that affect their digestion or absorption of nutrients, such as inflammatory bowel disease, an elimination diet trial, or recovery from surgery.

However, hydrolyzed protein dog food is not suitable for all dogs. It can be more expensive, less available, less palatable, or less appropriate for some dogs.

If not fed properly or monitored by a veterinarian, it can also cause unwanted side effects or pose risks.

Before transitioning your dog to a diet containing hydrolyzed protein, you should always consult your veterinarian and follow his or her instructions and recommendations.

BestForPets hope that this article has helped you understand what hydrolyzed protein dog food is, why it is important, and how to select it.

If you believe that your dog requires or can benefit from hydrolyzed protein dog food, you can check out some of the brands and products that we have compared in this article.

However, keep in mind that each dog is unique and what works for one may not work for another. Working with your veterinarian and your dog to determine the best hydrolyzed protein dog food for your dog is the optimal approach.

If you have any questions or comments about dog food with hydrolyzed protein, please post them below. We would greatly appreciate hearing from you and your companion. Thank you for reading, and enjoy your meal!

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Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler

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