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What Is A Hydrolyzed Protein Diet? 

Protein is one of the most important nutrients for your health, playing a key role in the development and repair of your muscles, organs, skin, hair, nails, and immune system. It also provides energy and helps you feel satisfied and full.

However, not all proteins are equal. Some can cause allergic reactions or digestive problems in certain people and animals. That's where a hydrolyzed protein diet comes in.

A hydrolyzed protein diet contains proteins that have been broken down into smaller fragments through a chemical or enzymatic process, making them easier to digest and less likely to trigger an immune response.

In this article, BestForPets will explain what a hydrolyzed protein diet is, how it works, why it's used for both humans and pets, and the benefits, risks, and alternatives to consider. We'll also offer tips on how to choose and use a hydrolyzed protein diet for yourself or your furry friend.

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Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)


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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What are the benefits of a hydrolyzed protein diet?

Both dogs and humans who have food allergies or intolerances, or who want to improve their protein digestion and absorption, may benefit from incorporating a hydrolyzed protein diet into their nutrition. Here are some of the primary advantages of such a diet:

1. Reducing allergic reactions and inflammation:

Some dogs and humans are allergic or intolerant to proteins like beef, poultry, soy, gluten, and dairy, which can trigger an immune response and cause symptoms such as itching, rashes, hives, swelling, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, or anaphylaxis.

A hydrolyzed protein diet provides proteins that have been broken down into smaller fragments, which are less likely to be recognized by the immune system, reducing these reactions and inflammation. This can improve the skin and coat condition of dogs and humans with food allergies or intolerances.

2. Improving digestion and nutrient absorption:

Some dogs and humans have difficulty digesting specific proteins due to a lack of digestive enzymes or a damaged intestinal lining, which can lead to bloating, flatulence, indigestion, malabsorption, and nutritional deficiencies.

A hydrolyzed protein diet improves digestion and nutrient absorption by providing partially digested proteins that are easily absorbed by intestinal cells. This can enhance the digestive health and well-being of dogs and humans with digestive issues.

3. Enhancing muscle growth and recovery:

Protein is crucial for building and repairing muscle tissue, especially after exercise or injury. A diet rich in hydrolyzed protein delivers amino acids that are quickly absorbed and stimulate protein synthesis while inhibiting muscle degradation.

This can enhance muscle growth and recovery, improving the strength, endurance, and performance of dogs and humans who exercise regularly or are recovering from muscle injury.

4. Supporting immune system function:

Protein is also necessary for immune system support, as it’s involved in the production of antibodies and immune cells that fight infections and diseases. A hydrolyzed protein diet provides essential amino acids required for these processes, supporting immune system function, and increasing the immunity and resistance of dogs and humans to infections and illnesses.

What are the risks of a hydrolyzed protein diet?

A diet of hydrolyzed protein has some drawbacks. Before choosing or eating a hydrolyzed protein diet for yourself or your dog, you should know about the possible problems involved. Here are some of the dangers of a diet rich in hydrolyzed protein:

What are the risks of a hydrolyzed protein diet

1. Causing adverse effects in some dogs and humans:

A hydrolyzed protein diet aims to reduce allergic reactions and intolerances, but some dogs and humans who are very allergic or intolerant to certain protein sources or additives may still have negative effects. Some dogs may be allergic to the hydrochloric acid or enzymes used to hydrolyze the proteins, while some humans may be allergic to the artificial sweeteners or flavorings added to some hydrolyzed protein products.

Before starting a hydrolyzed protein regimen for yourself or your dog, it is important to read the labels carefully and consult with your veterinarian or doctor.

2. Increasing the risk of kidney damage or dehydration:

The liver processes protein and the kidneys remove it as urea. A high protein intake can increase the nitrogen load on these organs, making them work harder than usual. This can increase the risk of kidney damage in dogs and humans with preexisting kidney disease.

Another risk factor is ingesting too much protein without enough water. This can cause dehydration in dogs and humans. When following a hydrolyzed protein diet, it is important to monitor the protein intake and hydration level of yourself or your pup.

3. Reducing the intake of other nutrients and phytochemicals:

Protein is not the only nutrient that contributes to health and wellness. You also need carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals that are present in whole foods.

These nutrients and phytochemicals can help regulate your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress levels, which can support your immune system, digestion, skin health, and mood. Therefore, it is important to balance your consumption of hydrolyzed protein with other nutritious foods that provide these nutrients and phytochemicals.

4. Increasing the cost and environmental impacts of producing and consuming hydrolyzed proteins:

Hydrolyzing proteins is not cheap or eco-friendly. It requires a lot of energy, water, chemicals, and enzymes to break down the proteins. It also produces a lot of effluent and emissions that are harmful to the environment.

In addition, hydrolyzed protein products are usually more expensive than regular protein products because of extra processing and packaging costs. Before choosing or using hydrolyzed proteins, it is important to consider their cost and environmental impacts.

What are some alternatives to a hydrolyzed protein diet?

If you or your dog have food allergies or intolerances, or want to increase your protein absorption and utilization, you can try some alternatives to hydrolyzed protein diets. You can use these alternatives along with or instead of hydrolyzed protein diets. Here are some of the most popular alternatives:

1. Choosing novel or limited ingredient diets:

A novel or limited ingredient diet has protein sources that are less allergenic for humans and dogs, such as duck, lamb, or pea protein. These protein sources are rare in dog or human food, so the immune system is less likely to see them as harmful.

They also have fewer ingredients than regular diets, lowering the chance of exposure to allergens or irritants. A novel or limited ingredient diet can help dogs and humans with food sensitivities or intolerances relieve itching, swelling, and digestive discomfort.

If you’re interested in learning more about hydrolyzed protein diets for dogs, BestForPets has a helpful article that covers the basics and provides recommendations for top-rated hydrolyzed dog foods.

2. Supplementing with digestive enzymes or probiotics:

Digestive enzymes help break down proteins and other nutrients. Probiotics are intestinal microbiota that help with digestion, vitamin production, and the removal of harmful microbes.

Supplementing with digestive enzymes or probiotics can improve digestion and nutrient absorption in dogs and humans who have trouble digesting certain proteins because of an enzyme deficiency or a damaged intestinal lining. Digestive enzymes and probiotics can also prevent diarrhea, constipation, infections, and inflammation in the gut.

What are some alternatives to a hydrolyzed protein diet

3. Consuming high-quality whey or casein proteins:

Casein and whey are two types of proteins from milk. High biological value means they have all essential amino acids. They also have different speeds of digestion, with whey being fast and casein being slow.

Consuming high-quality whey or casein proteins can promote muscle growth and repair in humans and dogs who exercise regularly or have muscle injuries. They can also boost the immune system of dogs and humans who are recovering from illness or injury.

4. Eating a balanced and varied diet:

Eating a balanced and varied diet that provides protein from different sources, such as meat, eggs, dairy, soy, almonds, seeds, and legumes, is the best way to get enough protein and other nutrients for health and wellness. These sources offer different types of proteins with varying effects on digestion, metabolism, satiety, and health.

A balanced and varied diet can help you optimize your protein intake without depending too much on hydrolyzed proteins or other single sources.


Protein is an essential nutrient for health and well-being, but not all proteins are suitable for everyone. Some dogs and humans may experience allergic reactions or digestive issues with certain proteins, while others may seek to improve their protein uptake and utilization.

A hydrolyzed protein diet consists of proteins that have been broken down through chemical or enzymatic processes, making them easier to absorb and less likely to trigger an immune response.

BestForPets hope this article has provided a comprehensive understanding of hydrolyzed protein diets, including how they work, their uses, benefits, drawbacks, and alternative options. If you have any questions or comments on this topic, please do not hesitate to share them with us.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.

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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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