Your Guide to Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Filed in Dog Health by on February 12, 2022

Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

For dogs with food allergies, finding the right food can be a challenge. Sensitivities to ingredients in common pet food can lead to irritated skin, gastrointestinal issues, and even ear conditions.

For many dogs, the food sensitivity comes from the protein in the food. Hydrolyzed protein dog food is made specifically for these hypersensitive dogs to minimize their allergic reactions and help them live happier lives.

In this article, I’ll give you an overview of what hydrolyzed protein dog food is, what the potential benefits and side effects are, and review 3 of the most popular brands so you can decide what’s right for your dog.

What is Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food?

Protein is a vital nutrient that every dog needs to keep their bodily functions running smoothly. Dogs take proteins from their food, and their bodies convert those proteins into forms that their bodies can use.

During this process, these proteins can trigger an abnormal immune response in some dogs, causing an allergic reaction. Hydrolyzed protein dog food breaks down the protein into smaller structural components, so they no longer trigger that allergic reaction in your dog.

Unlike other specialty foods like limited ingredient or novel protein foods, hydrolyzed protein dog food is only available with a prescription for your vet.

It’s typically prescribed by veterinarians for dogs with food allergies, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).

How Is It Made?

Hydrolyzed protein dog food is made through hydrolysis, a chemical process that breaks down protein molecules with water.

With the added water molecule, the protein molecules are broken down into their structural components: amino acids and peptides. In their smaller form, a dog’s immune system no longer detects them as proteins.

As a result, your dog is able to digest the proteins without triggering any adverse immune response.

Benefits of Hydrolysate Canine Meal

three dogs eating in one bowl of dog food

The major benefit of hydrolyzed protein dog food is its digestibility. Because the proteins are broken down into such smaller pieces, manufacturers are able to produce components with a minimum digestibility of 90%.

This makes it much easier for dogs with allergies and hypersensitivities to get all of the nutrients they need from their food without an allergic reaction.

Other benefits include:

  • Reduces symptoms of IBD such as diarrhea and vomiting
  • Long-term use potentially improves the integrity of the intestinal membrane, studies suggest
  • Helps eliminate food allergens in your dog’s system
  • Helps manage and potentially decrease the symptoms of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) according to recent studies

Potential Side Effects

Despite being a dog food option primarily for dogs with food allergies, hydrolyzed protein dog food doesn’t guarantee that it will be 100% allergen free.

Dogs may still experience reactions to the food, so it’s important to work with your veterinarian and monitor your dog’s reactions to any food you give them.

Through the use of elimination diets and hydrolyzed protein food, you can better understand what your dog is allergic to.

Other potential side effects include:

  • Decreased palatability than whole proteins
  • Potential reduced nutritional value
  • Hypoosmotic diarrhea

3 Best Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Foods

If you’re not sure which hydrolyzed protein dog food will be best for your dog, here are 3 common options to choose from.

Best All-Around Option: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolysate HP Dry Canine Meal

This hydrolyzed protein dog food is a palatable kibble diet for hypersensitive dogs of any breed and age.

It’s specially formulated with vitamin B and amino acids to reinforce your dog’s skin barrier, making it a great option for dogs with skin sensitivities or skin irritation from their allergies.

The special formula of fiber and probiotics also help ease digestion for dogs with Irritable Bowel Disorder or those prone to diarrhea and other digestive issues.

Royal Canin manufactures their hydrolyzed protein foods with strict standards to prevent any cross contamination of ingredients and any potential allergen risks for your dog.

Key Features:

  • One protein and one carbohydrate source to minimize allergen risk
  • Exclusive formula with added fiber and probiotics to aid digestion
  • Added EPA and DHA to promote a healthy skin and coat


  • Reduces skin and GI tract reactions
  • Supports healthy digestion
  • Palatable formula
  • Reinforces skin barrier for dogs with skin sensitivity
  • Strict manufacturing procedures


  • 19.5% crude protein, which is less than AAFCO standards of 22%

    Best Option for Small Breeds: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolysate Small Breed Dry Canine Meal

    If you have a small or toy breed under 22lbs, this hydrolyzed protein option is for you. This formula is specifically designed with small mouths in mind, with small kibble bites that promote tartar control.

    This formula also uses relative supersaturation (RSS) methodology to reduce your dog’s risk of bladder stones.

    The RSS methodology creates an environment in your dog’s bladder that reduces the chance of struvite and calcium oxalate crystal from forming.

    Just like other Royal Canin formulas, this formula is made with strict manufacturing procedures to prevent cross contamination. This minimizes the risk of immune reactions.

    Key Features:

    • Made specifically for dogs under 22lbs
    • Added EPA and DHA to promote a healthy skin and coat
    • RSS methodology to prevent bladder stones
    • Hydrolyzed soy proteins for improved digestion


    • Reduces risk of skin and GI tract reactions
    • Reinforces the skin barrier with vitamin B and amino acids
    • Supports healthy teeth with size and shape designs with small mouths in mind
    • Palatable formula
    • Strict manufacturing procedures


    • No specification of what vegetable is used in the vegetable oil

    Best Option for Canine’s with Skin Sensitivities: Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Skin/Meal Sensitivities Original Flavor Dry Canine Meal

    This hydrolyzed protein dog food is developed by pet nutritionists and veterinarians to support hypersensitive dogs with skin and food allergies. The formula is clinically tested and proven to help dogs avoid adverse reactions to food.

    The ingredients include a single carbohydrate source (cornstarch) which helps prevent potential food allergens, and the added antioxidants provide even more health benefits for your dog to enjoy.

    The kibble is also enriched with essential fatty acids to support your dog’s skin and coat health.

    For dogs with frequent bladder stone issues, this formula also has the S+OXSHIELD Seal of Confidence. This means that the food meets the nutritional standards to prevent struvite and calcium oxalate crystals from forming in your dog’s bladder.

    Key Features:

    • S+OXSHIELD Seal of Confidence for struvite and calcium oxalate crystal prevention
    • Single carbohydrate source
    • Added antioxidants for clinically proven health benefits


    • Clinically tested and proven to avoid adverse reactions to food
    • Improves dog’s digestion and stool quality
    • Enriched with essential fatty acids to strengthen your dog’s skin barrier
    • Vet and nutritionist developed
    • Visible improvement of the skin and coat


    • Some pet parents have mentioned an inconsistency in the size and shape of the kibble


    Every dog is different, and all dog’s sensitivities and needs will be different. There are specialized options for your type of dog, age, and specific sensitivity types, so keep these in mind as you look through options.

    Before you decide on which hydrolyzed protein dog food to choose for your dog, always consult with your veterinarian and, if possible, a pet nutritionist.

    They will give you a better sense of what your dog is allergic to and if hydrolyzed protein is the right solution.

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