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Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food: Everything You Need to Know

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

Ivana Crnec,DVM

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Hydrolyzed proteins use in dog foods is novel but, so far, quite promising. In this article, we will talk about hydrolyzed protein dog food. 

The main concept of hydrolyzed proteins is to decrease their allergenic potential. Literature reviews show that between 1 and 2% of all dogs suffer from food allergies. The high incidence of food allergies accents the importance of hypoallergenic diets. 

Keep reading to find out more about the science behind hydrolyzed protein pet foods. Plus, to make things simpler, we will review the top five best dog foods featuring hydrolyzed proteins. 

Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food Review at a Glance

hydrolyzed protein dog food review

Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food – Best Overall

Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food for Small Breed – Best for Small Dogs

Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Original Skin/Food Sensitivities Dry Dog Food – Best for Dogs with Food Sensitivities

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Formula – Best for Dogs with Allergies

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP Canned Dog Food – Best Wet Dog Food

What is Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food?

Hydrolyzed protein dog foods are food formulas made exclusively for dogs using hydrolyzed instead of regular proteins. Hydrolyzed proteins are made with hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is a chemical process in which various enzymes are used to break the protein molecules into their smaller structural components – amino acids and peptides.  

Why is this important? Well, allergic food reactions develop when the dog’s immune system misidentifies a certain food protein as a potential threat. When the protein is broken down into smaller particles, it tricks the immune system. Simply put, the hydrolyzed protein flies under the immune system’s radar and goes by undetected. 

Finally, we should accent the difference between hydrolyzed protein foods, limited ingredient dog foods, and novel protein diets. Namely, limited ingredient foods contain only a small number of ingredients while novel protein diets refer to proteins the dog had never eaten before (for example, venison if it used to eat chicken and beef). 

Limited ingredient and novel protein diets are not made with hydrolysis and are sold over-the-counter. On the other hand, hydrolyzed protein foods require a veterinary prescription.  

Benefits of Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

With the concept of hydrolyzed foods explained, it is time we go through the benefits. Here are the dogs and conditions that could benefit from hydrolyzed protein diets. 

Hydrolyzed Proteins for Food Allergies. The main indication of hydrolyzed protein diets is in the elimination phase of food trials. In such cases, the hydrolyzed proteins are used to literally cleanse the organism from the existing food allergens and return the immune system’s agitation to baseline. In addition to food allergies, studies show that hydrolyzed protein foods are beneficial for dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis

Hydrolyzed Protein Foods for Sensitive Stomachs. Dogs with stomach issues have trouble digesting food. This is where hydrolyzed protein dog foods kick in. Hydrolyzed proteins are broken down into their smaller components (amino acids and peptides), meaning they are a pre-digested protein form. In simpler words, the hydrolyzed proteins are easily digestible and therefore have higher nutritional profiles than regular proteins.  

Hydrolyzed Protein Foods for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. Dogs with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) do not produce adequate amounts of pancreatic enzymes required for food breakdown leading to impaired digestion. Rising evidence suggests that the easy digestibility of hydrolyzed protein sources can be helpful for dogs with EPI in terms of initial managing and decreasing the condition’s signs and symptoms. 

Hydrolyzed Proteins for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Hydrolyzed dog foods are quite effective for managing dogs with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Studies show that feeding hydrolyzed proteins reduces the severity of the chronic signs (vomiting, diarrhea) associated with small bowel enteropathies in dogs. Plus, studies suggest that long-term use of hydrolyzed protein improves the integrity of the intestinal membrane.  

Best Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

 

best hydrolyzed protein dog food

Dog food shopping is hard enough even when you do not have to be looking for hydrolyzed protein or limited ingredient diets. To make the searching experience more pleasant, we have reviewed some of the best hydrolyzed protein pet foods available on the market. 

Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Summary: It comes with no surprise that the Royal Canine brand is at the top of our list. The science behind the formula is carefully crafted by veterinarians worldwide, thus making the diet ideal for dogs with food allergies and digestive issues.  

Pros

  • One protein and one carbohydrate source 
  • Extremely easy to digest and gentle on the GI tract
  • Added EPA and DHA for a stronger skin barrier 
  • Palatable kibbles with a pleasant texture 
  • Strict manufacturing practices 

Cons

  • 19.5% protein (the AAFCO standard for growth is 22%)
  • Contains beet pulp which is a controversial ingredient

Get it on Chewy 

Ingredient Analysis: The first five ingredients are brewers rice, hydrolyzed soy protein, chicken fat, natural flavors, and dried plain beet pulp. It also contains dl-methionine, taurine, vitamins (l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate as a source of vitamin C, choline chloride, niacin, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid), minerals (d-calcium pantothenate, magnesium oxide, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, sodium selenite,  zinc oxide, manganese proteinate,  calcium iodate), fish oil, marigold, and rosemary extracts. 

Review: Customers are satisfied with the overall ingredient quality and fast improvement in their pet’s conditions. They say after switching to this food, there is “no more excess licking” and “saliva stains.” All in all, we rate this diet as the Best Overall. 

Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food for Small Breed

Summary: This Royal Canin dog food is designed to meet the unique needs of food-sensitive small dogs. The brand paid extra attention to kibble size and texture to ensure supreme oral hygiene with every bite. 

Pros

  • Hydrolyzed soy protein with low molecular weight peptides 
  • Easily digestible and GI-health promoting 
  • Supports healthy skin and a shiny coat 
  • Prevents the formation of urinary crystals 
  • Brushing-like effect of the kibble for dental health 

Cons

  • Brewers rice is a considered cheap filler
  • No specification of which veggies are used for the vegetable oil 

Get it on Chewy

 

Ingredient Analysis: The first five ingredients are brewers rice, hydrolyzed soy protein, chicken fat, natural flavors, and vegetable oil. It also contains dl-methionine, taurine, vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E, choline chloride, niacin, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid), minerals (d-calcium pantothenate, magnesium oxide, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, sodium selenite,  zinc oxide, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), fish oil, marigold, and rosemary extracts.

Review: Happy dog owners say that this food is excellent for keeping “skin issues under control” and dogs “love the taste.” Some customers say the food is a “lifesaver” and “worth the money.” All in all, we rate this food as the best food for small dogs.

Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Original Skin/Food Sensitivities Dry Dog Food

Summary: The Hills Science Diet Skin and Food Sensitivities diet is specifically formulated to combat the typical food sensitivity issues like itchy skin, inflamed ears, and stomach issues. The diet supports skin and immune health. 

Pros

  • Hydrolyzed protein and purified carbohydrate source
  • Vet-formulated and clinically tested 
  • Supports a healthy skin barrier 
  • Features added antioxidants 
  • Fast improvements after switching to this diet 

Cons

  • Soybean oil is not the best fatty acid source 
  • Some users complain about inconsistency in the kibble size and shape 

Get it on Chewy      Get it on Amazon

Ingredient Analysis: The main ingredients are corn starch, hydrolyzed chicken liver, powdered cellulose, and soybean oil. The added vitamins (thiamine mononitrate, vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, choline chloride, vitamin B12, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement), minerals (dicalcium phosphate, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium chloride, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), and antioxidants improve the overall nutritional profile of the diet. 

Review: Regular customers say “our lives got a lot better” after starting to use this dog food.  They also mention that the kibble “smells really good” and “stays fresh” inside the bag. All in all, we rate this diet as the best for dogs with food sensitivities. 

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Formula

Summary: The Purina Pro Plan hypoallergenic dog food is a digestible dog food that contains a single carbohydrate source and a single hydrolyzed protein source. The careful ingredient selection makes this diet ideal for dogs with allergies, pancreatitis, and IBD. 

Pros

  • Single protein and carbohydrate source 
  • High digestibility for optimal nutrient absorption 
  • Medium-chain triglycerides for easy fat digestion 
  • Dog-friendly chicken flavor for palatability  
  • Suitable for dogs with various conditions

Cons

  • Canola oil has an unfavorable omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio 
  • Menadione sodium bisulfite complex is linked with adverse health effects 

Get it on Chewy      Get it on Amazon

Ingredient Analysis: The first five ingredients are corn starch, hydrolyzed soybean protein isolate, partially hydrogenated canola oil (preserved with TBHQ), coconut oil, and powdered cellulose. It should be noted that the diet contains three ingredients of questionable quality – canola oil, corn oil, and menadione sodium bisulfite complex (synthetic vitamin K version). 

Review: Customers say the food “costs more, but you get more” and describe it as a “game-changer.” They also like that “Purina has years of research behind their foods.” All in all, we rate this diet as the best dog food for allergies. 

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP Canned Dog Food

Summary: The Royal Canin brand is a symbol of quality. This hydrolyzed wet food ensures easy digestibility and high palatability, thus being the perfect choice for tummy-sensitive dogs with sophisticated palates. 

Pros

  • Hydrolyzed protein sources for allergy-free experience 
  • Rich in B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids for skin health 
  • Contains added fiber blends to prevent tummy issues 
  • Easily digestible and palatable blend 
  • Suitable for picky eaters that dislike kibble 

Cons

  • Not a budget-friendly dog food option 
  • Contains carrageenan, which is of questionable quality 

Get it on Chewy

Ingredient Analysis: In addition to water, the first five ingredients are pea starch, hydrolyzed chicken liver, hydrolyzed soybean protein, vegetable oil, and powdered cellulose. It also contains natural flavors and a healthy blend of fish oil, vitamins, and minerals. 

Review: Pet owners report the food is suitable even for a “picky eater with severe allergies.” They mention the diet is “quite expensive” and “smells gross, but dogs love it” and “can’t get enough of it.” All in all, we rate this diet as the best wet dog food

Types of Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Many different brands offer dry and canned Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food. Here is a list of the different formulas: 

Dry Dog Food

Canned Dog Food

Our Final Thoughts on Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Thoughts on Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Elimination food trials and initial IBD management used to be the mainstream indications of hydrolyzed protein foods. However, as this pre-digested protein version is growing in popularity in the pet food industry, emerging evidence suggests hydrolyzed protein has more uses. 

To ensure maximum efficacy and adequate intake of essential nutrients, it is imperative you choose a high-quality hydrolyzed protein pet food and use it following the veterinarian’s professional instructions. 

 

Sources

Frontiers | Treatment With Hydrolyzed Diet Supplemented With Prebiotics and Glycosaminoglycans Alters Lipid Metabolism in Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease | Veterinary Science (frontiersin.org) 

A Randomized, Open‐Label, Positively‐Controlled Field Trial of a Hydrolyzed Protein Diet in Dogs with Chronic Small Bowel Enteropathy – Mandigers – 2010 – Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine – Wiley Online Library 

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency and Adverse Reaction to Food in Dogs: A Positive Response to a High-Fat, Soy Isolate Hydrolysate–Based Diet | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Increasing pet food nutrition value with hydrolyzed proteins | PetfoodIndustry.com

SciELO – Brazil – Efficacy of hydrolyzed soy dog food and homemade food with original protein in the control of food-induced atopic dermatitis in dogs Efficacy of hydrolyzed soy dog food and homemade food with original protein in the control of food-induced atopic dermatitis in dogs

(PDF) Hydrolyzed Protein Diets for Dogs and Cats (researchgate.net) 

[Infographic] – 9 reasons why protein hydrolysates support pet health and add value to pet food – Appetizer – Diana Pet Food (appetizerblog.com)

Food allergy in dogs and cats: a review – PubMed (nih.gov)

Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (3): prevalence of cutaneous adverse food reactions in dogs and cats (nih.gov)