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Hydrolyzed protein in dog food

Hydrolyzed protein in dog food

Does your dog have the itchy scratchies? How about sneezing and runny eyes? An upset stomach and indigestion? Your dog may have allergies. Canine allergies are a complicated business and can be caused by a multitude of factors. If your dog has food allergies, it is likely that they will require a special diet. A hydrolyzed protein diet may be the key to solving your pooch’s sensitivities.

What is hydrolyzed protein?

Hydrolyzed protein diets are designed specifically to help dogs with food allergies and irritable bowel syndrome. It is a diet that is specially processed to remove the component of the food that causes irritation and inflammation. These diets are usually sold through your veterinarian or a special retailer. 

How is hydrolyzed protein made?

The idea behind making hydrolyzed protein for use in a hypoallergenic diet is that it removes the part of the protein that triggers an allergic reaction. Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids and peptides. It is not usually a whole protein that dogs are allergic to but specific amino acids and proteins. Hydrolyzed protein has these amino acids and peptides removed.

These components are removed from the protein by a process called hydrolysis, hence the name hydrolyzed protein. The process is achieved by ​​prolonged heating with hydrochloric acid or with an enzyme such as pancreatic protease to isolate the amino acids. Any type of protein can be hydrolyzed. This can be animal proteins like chicken or beef but also plant protein like soy or wheat gluten.

Allergies in dogs

Allergies are the result of the body reacting to a foreign substance or allergen. Once a dog is exposed to an allergen, its immune system freaks out towards the otherwise harmless molecule and expresses an antibody-immune reaction. This triggers an inflammatory reaction, resulting in histamine being produced and simulated. The inflammatory reaction results in what we observe as allergy symptoms, whether that’s as skin dermatitis, digestive issues or anaphylaxis.

Dogue de Bordeaux puppy, fleas attack Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff) puppy trying to get rid off fleas. dog itch stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

What are the most common food allergens that dogs react to?

If you suspect that your dog may have a food allergy, consider what it is about their food that is causing a reaction. It is usually specific ingredients or a combination of ingredients that dogs are allergic to. 

The most common food allergens in dogs are as follows:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish 
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Dairy products
  • Soy

Hydrolyzed protein for dogs with allergies

The most common allergen to dogs are actually proteins like chicken or beef. However, protein can’t simply be removed from your dog’s diet. Dogs need protein for normal body functions like growth, metabolism and to fight off disease. 

Hydrolyzed protein diets keep the protein in the diet but breaks it down into tiny pieces that your dog’s immune system won’t recognize or react to. These types of diets are great if you don’t know exactly what your dog is allergic to. This is because while your pup’s body may recognize that there is protein in their food, it does not recognize which exact protein it’s from. This means that ideally your dog could be allergic to any type of food and they will not react to the hydrolyzed protein.

The best types of hydrolyzed protein diets are ones that still use quality ingredients. Look for ones that use animal protein as the source of hydrolyzed protein rather than plant protein. This will provide your dog with a more digestible source of protein and in addition to nutrients like vitamins and minerals that your dog would not get from plant products. It is also beneficial to look for a hydrolyzed protein diet with limited ingredients and limited carbohydrates. Extra antioxidants like blueberries and flaxseed are also a bonus to help reduce inflammation.

Best hydrolyzed protein diets for dogs

There are not too many options for a hydrolyzed protein diet for dogs. Most are considered “prescription diets” even though a prescription is not required to purchase them. Hydrolyzed protein diets can be purchased from your veterinarian or through the manufacturer. See below for some of the most popular hydrolyzed protein diets for dogs.

Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food


Brewers rice, hydrolyzed soy protein, chicken fat, natural flavors, pork fat, dried plain beet pulp, vegetable oil, fish oil, fructooligosaccharides, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, potassium sorbate (a preservative), DL-methionine, monocalcium phosphate, vitamins[DL-alpha tocopherol acetate (source of vitamin E), niacin supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), D-calcium pantothenate, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin A acetate, folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement], potassium citrate, L-tyrosine, taurine, salt, choline chloride, borage oil, trace minerals[zinc oxide, manganese proteinate, ferrous sulfate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, calcium iodate], marigold meal, magnesium oxide, rosemary extract, preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid.

Guaranteed Analysis (as fed)

Crude Protein 22.5%

Crude Fat 14.5%

Crude Fiber 2.7%

Moisture 10.0%

A nutritionist’s perspective

Pros: This recipe has limited ingredients and contains fish oil which is a source of omega 3’s which are great for reducing inflammation and the severity of allergies. It also has a great protein-to-fat ratio for adult dogs (I would not recommend this diet for puppies).

Cons: This is a carbohydrate heavy recipe that uses hydrolyzed plant protein as its primary protein source. It also has added animal fat including chicken and pork fat, which may still trigger an allergic reaction.

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

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


Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver, Hydrolyzed Chicken, Powdered Cellulose, Soybean Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Glyceryl Monostearate, Choline Chloride, Iodized Salt, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), DL-Methionine, Magnesium Oxide, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene.

Guaranteed Analysis (dry matter)

Crude Protein 19.8 %

Crude Fat 14.4 %

Crude Fiber 4.7 %

A nutritionist’s perspective

Pros: This recipe uses animal meat as the main source of hydrolyzed protein. 

Cons: Another high carbohydrate diet with fillers like powdered cellulose. There are a number of chemical additives in this diet including lactic acid and glyceryl monostearate. This recipe also cannot be fed to puppies.

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Formula

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Formula


Corn starch, hydrolyzed soy protein isolate, partially hydrogenated canola oil preserved with TBHQ, coconut oil, powdered cellulose, tricalcium phosphate, corn oil, dicalcium phosphate, hydrolyzed chicken liver, hydrolyzed chicken, potassium chloride, guar gum, salt, choline chloride, magnesium oxide, DL-Methionine, taurine, zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin (Vitamin B-3), copper sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), thiamine mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), riboflavin supplement (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin B-12 supplement, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), folic acid (Vitamin B-9), Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin (Vitamin B-7), menadione sodium bisulfite complex (Vitamin K), sodium selenite.

Guaranteed Analysis (as fed)

Crude Protein 18.0%

Crude Fat 9.5%

Crude Fibre 4.0%

Moisture 11.0%

A nutritionist’s perspective

Pros: While hydrolyzed soy is the primary source of protein in this diet, it also contains hydrolyzed chicken liver as well. 

Cons: Like the previous two diets, this one is also high in carbohydrates and contains powdered cellulose as a filler. This diet is also not suitable for puppies.

Problems with hydrolyzed protein and prescription diets

It comes as a surprise to many pet owners that the prescription pet food market is largely controlled and monopolized by 3 major companies. Royal Canin, a subsidiary of Mars INC (the same company that makes Iams and Pedigree dog food), is the dominant brand in the prescription diet space, followed closely by Nestle Purina’s Pro Plan Veterinary Diets and Hill’s Prescription Diets. In the past, these companies have been criticized for their multiple product recalls and questioned for their lack of quality in certain recipes. So why are companies like this making food for sick pets? It’s quite simple, they have the capital and resources to distribute and market their products wherever they want.

Unlike medications, you do not need an actual veterinary prescription to purchase a prescription diet. There are no AAFCO or FDA regulations surrounding the production or nutritional requirements of prescription pet food for specific diseases, only general veterinary suggestions around target nutrients.

If your vet has suggested a prescription diet, there is a good chance it is because it is the food that they regularly sell in their clinic and has been marketed to them by the sales department of a large company. Question your vet about why they suggested the specific food and ask if there are any other commercially available foods that would be suitable for your dog’s health condition. It may end up saving you money and your dog may also get a better quality meal as well as improving their health status. In terms of allergies, this is definitely the case.

After taking a closer look at prescription hydrolyzed dog food, we were rather underwhelmed. Even though the cost of prescription pet food was significantly higher than run-of-the-mill kibble, it wasn’t much better in terms of quality and healthy ingredients.

Alternatives to hydrolyzed protein diets

If you have a puppy or just want a diet for your dog that has better ingredients than what are found in commercial prescription diets, then a hypoallergenic diet may be the one for you. 

Hypoallergenic diets contain limited ingredients, are usually grain free. Instead of hydrolyzed protein, commercial hypoallergenic diets utilize alternative protein sources like duck, fish, bison, or venison as the main protein source. When exposed to these ingredients, an allergic dog’s immune system is less likely to recognize the diet as a threat and is less likely to attack it.

Kabo hypoallergenic recipes

At Kabo we have our own in house hypoallergenic diets in both kibble and fresh cooked forms. As a result of our research into prescription pet food and the lack of healthy food options for sick dogs, it inspired us to create a healthier, hypoallergenic food alternative for both adult dogs and puppies. Allergies are an extremely prevalent health condition in dogs. It is estimated that approximately 15% of dogs are diagnosed with allergies. With such a high number of dogs suffering from this health problem, we wanted to make it a priority in our pursuit of fresh dog food.

Shiba Inu eating fresh Kabo food at the table

As a Canadian company, we pride ourselves on being one of the only fresh food companies here in the great, white north. All of our food is made in the greater Toronto area and distributed to dogs across the country. Not to mention all of our ingredients are from right here in North America.

We work with a team of companion animal nutritionists to formulate our recipes and make sure that they are balanced and meet the needs of dogs in all life stages and any health status. We also have two veterinary and companion animal nutrition experts on staff, Andrea Geiger (BSc, MSc) - Kabo Companion Animal Nutritionist and Dr. Suzee Camelleri (BSc, MSc, DVM, DVMSc) - Kabo Veterinarian and Pet Expert.

Kabo Hypoallergenic Salmon Recipe

Some vets suggest owners make their dogs food at home. However, the majority of pet parents lack the time, funds and nutrition knowledge to make their dog’s food from scratch everyday.

The good news is that there is now the option for dog owners to purchase freshly cooked food for their dogs. Fresh cooked dog food has been growing in popularity in recent years and with good reason. It is essentially the same as food you would make for your dog at home but is instead formulated by vets and nutritionists, gently cooked, packaged and shipped straight to your door!

Kabo uses only whole, human grade ingredients in our fresh food. We strive to make the best possible food for our pupstomers and see no value in sacrificing the quality of our ingredients just to save a few dollars. With Kabo recipes, meat is always the first ingredient on the list. Furthermore, there are no added fillers, food colouring, artificial flavours, preservatives or other unnecessary ingredients here! We truly believe that good food helps dogs live longer which is why you will never find any ingredients in our recipes that you wouldn’t eat yourself.

Our pride and joy is our Hypoallergenic Salmon Recipe. The first of its kind, our salmon recipe is the only hypoallergenic fresh recipe available in Canada. It boasts premium salmon filets as the star of the recipe. Furthermore, we’ve removed all other allergens from this recipe to make it soy, wheat/grain and dairy free. Instead of bulking up the diet with fillers and additives, we’ve chosen to instead include anti-inflammatory ingredients like blueberries, flaxseed, rosemary, and spinach!

Flat lay of Kabo tender chicken cooked dog food with fresh human grade ingredients displayed around


Salmon, Potatoes, Sweet potato, Butternut squash, Green beans, Blueberries, Spinach, Nutrient mix, Dicalcium phosphate, Flaxseed, Sunflower oil, Sea salt, Rosemary

Guaranteed analysis (as fed)

Crude Protein 9.2%

Crude Fat 5.6%

Crude Fibre 1.8%

Moisture 73%

Kabo Delicious Duck Kibble

We understand that fresh cooked dog food may not be for every dog, so we’ve also created a hypoallergenic kibble option. Designed for dogs with food sensitivities, Kabo’s Delicious Duck Kibble uses duck as a tasty novel protein, swaps lentils and chickpeas in place of grains and soy and contains only whole, fresh ingredients with no additives.

Kabo delicious duck flat lay in navy blue ceramic bowl with fresh human grade ingredients displayed around


Duck meal, Green peas, Red lentils, Pea starch, Faba beans, Citrus pulp, Flaxseed, Sunflower oil, Chickpeas, Monosodium phosphate, Brewer's dried yeast, Calcium propionate, Potassium chloride, Choline chloride, DL methionine, Taurine, Glucosamine hydrochloride, Chondroitin sulfate, Yucca Schidigera, Carnitine, Choline chloride, L-lysine hydrochloride, Inactivated yeast, Zinc sulfate, Ferrous sulfate, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Biotin, Vitamin A, Zinc methionine, Manganese sulfate, Copper sulfate, Selenium yeast, Manganese methionine, Vitamin B-12, Riboflavin, Calcium iodate, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Cobalt sulfate, Vitamin D3, folic acid, Bacillus licheniformis, Bacillus subtilis, Blueberries, Cranberries, Kale, Chicory root, Pumpkin, Spinach, Ginger, Peppermint, Turmeric, Dried rosemary

Guaranteed Analysis (as fed)

Crude Protein 28%

Crude Fat 15%

Crude Fibre 4%

Moisture 10%

Take home message

If you find your dog has food allergies, consider either a hydrolyzed protein diet or hypoallergenic diet for them. Hydrolyzed protein removes the component of protein that dogs are allergic to through a process called hydrolysis. As a result dogs are less likely to have an allergic reaction to their food. A potentially healthier alternative to hydrolyzed protein diets are commercially available hypoallergenic diets.These diets use novel protein to help reduce the risk of allergies. Ask your veterinarian what is best for your pup and what they recommend to help relieve their itch or sensitive tummy!

labrador looking at kibble in a bowl
labrador looking at kibble in a bowl

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