What to Know About Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food.

Hydrolyzed protein dog food offers highly digestible protein to dogs with food sensitivities. Hydrolysis breaks down protein molecules, making them less likely to trigger allergic reactions.

This allows dogs prone to itching, ear infections, digestive upset, and other symptoms from normal proteins like beef or chicken to receive balanced, hypoallergenic nutrition. Read on to learn all about types of prescription and non-prescription hydrolyzed dog food, whether it can be fed long term, what health issues it addresses, and more to see if a hydrolyzed diet could help your pup.

What is Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food?

Hydrolyzed dog food features protein broken down into smaller components that are less prone to provoking an immune response. Intact proteins often cause issues for dogs with food allergies or intolerances. By using proteins like soy and chicken that have undergone hydrolysis, sensitive dogs can avoid reacting to more extensive antigenic amino acid sequences.

This allows them to get adequate protein nutrition without gastrointestinal, dermatological, or behavioral symptoms flaring up. There are both prescription and non-prescription hydrolyzed commercial dog foods on the market, with the former having smaller protein particles for maximum tolerability.

 When Might Vets Recommend Hydrolyzed Diets?

Veterinary nutrition specialists often recommend transitioning dogs onto a prescription hydrolyzed protein dog food to pinpoint food allergies or sensitivities exhibiting symptoms like:

* Itchy and Infected Skin or Ears
* Excessive Paw Licking/Chewing
* Chronic Diarrhea or Vomiting
* Constant Flatulence
* Weight Loss from Malabsorption

These discomforting issues associated with traditional proteins frequently improve dramatically once dogs eat properly hydrolyzed foods that their immune systems tolerate better. Most dogs show marked improvement within a month or two on the elimination diet. Hydrolyzed recipes exclude other common allergens like grain, dairy, and vegetables.

This reveals whether food plays a role before allergy testing or treatments. Owners should feed the food exclusively for 8-12 weeks under veterinary guidance to determine if food contributes to symptoms.

 Can Pets Eat Hydrolyzed Diets Long Term?

Many pets eat prescription hydrolyzed protein foods long-term with no side effects. Unlike medication, these foods pose little risk for staying on them indefinitely as they provide balanced plant- and mineral-based nutrition for long-term health maintenance. However, veterinary guidance is still recommended because, in some cases, dogs:

* Build tolerance over months/years needing increased protein hydrolysis
* Have symptoms resolved, allowing them to transition back to regular food eventually
* Require recipe changes/rotations based on changing needs

So, while most pets handle hydrolyzed recipes with no issues for years, regular wellness checks ensure the diet continues providing benefits without compensation issues over the long haul.

 Types of Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

There are a variety of commercial dog food formulas featuring hydrolyzed proteins, often based around a novel protein source like duck, rabbit, kangaroo, or fish, unlikely to trigger allergies. Common varieties include:

Prescription: Royal Canin Veterinary HP, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed, Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Ultra. Vets sometimes recommend these highly hydrolyzed prescription foods first for severe cases needing strict elimination.

Non-Prescription: Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Hydrolyzed, Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Recipe with Real Duck, Nutro Hydrolyzed Protein Adult Dog Food. These OTC formulas offer decent hydrolyzation for milder scenarios.

There are also wet food and treat options to add variety. Home-cooked recipes using extensively hydrolyzed soy as the protein can work too, but require balancing nutrients. Work with your veterinarian to choose the right level of hydrolysis to start.

Why Does a Dog Need Hydrolyzed Protein?

The right level of protein nutrition is crucial for dogs. However, allergic reactions and lack of tolerance for common meat and plant proteins cause deficiencies, hence the need for hydrolyzed proteins that can actually be assimilated without inflammation or illness. Quality hydrolyzed formulas allow sensitive pups to get calories, amino acids, enzymes, transport proteins, antibodies, hormones, nucleic acids, and other essential biological molecules proteins provide without sacrificing wellness. This ameliorates symptoms and provides balanced nutrition they would otherwise struggle to receive, letting them thrive.

How Long Should a Dog Eat Hydrolyzed Food?

There are no set rules on duration, only veterinary guidance based on symptomatic response. Some pets eat hydrolyzed protein recipes their whole lives. In contrast, others transition through them for 8-20 week elimination trials before potentially stepping back down to less hydrolyzed nutrition that had previously caused issues. Life stage factors like aging or pregnancy/lactation can also necessitate sticking with hydrolyzed food long-term. Overall duration depends on:

* Symptom alleviation time frame
* Ability to eventually handle other proteins again
* A dog’s evolving health issues and needs

Work closely with your vet and monitor your dog to determine if rotating or discontinuing hydrolyzed food could be trialed to identify the minimal protein modification needed while maintaining quality of life.

Is Hydrolyzed Dog Food Worth It?

The higher price point of prescription hydrolyzed dog foods often leaves owners wondering if the value matches the benefits. For dogs suffering disruptive symptoms that interfere with healthy functioning, though, the foods provide huge pros, including:

Alleviates Discomfort: Dogs no longer suffer relentless itching, infections, and diarrhea. Their daily life becomes more comfortable.

Avert Serious Illness: Left unchecked, allergies lead to ear/skin trauma, malnutrition, and bowel disease. These diseases risk longevity and quality of life without diet changes.

Provides Hypoallergenic Nutrition: The hydrolysis process lets dogs assimilate essential proteins without inflammatory/allergic reactions to get balanced nutrition that supports well-being.

Given these positives, most veterinarians view hydrolyzed diets as worthwhile for sensitive dogs if financially feasible for the owner. Lower-cost OTC options provide similar benefits for some pets, too.

 Alternatives to Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Before committing to hydrolyzed protein dog food, owners can trial a few alternatives in partnership with their vet, such as:

* Novel protein diets featuring unusual protein sources like kangaroo, duck, or rabbit that dogs are less likely to be allergic to
* Home-cooked dog food recipes with closer attention to ingredient exposures
* Antihistamines, antibiotics, antifungals, medicated shampoos, or other medications to see if symptoms can be controlled that route
* More extensive diagnostic allergy testing for environmental factors through skin tests or blood tests

Sometimes, combinations of diet changes plus medication successfully manage allergies. Other situations definitively determine food as the driving culprit, making hydrolyzed feed the ideal solution after exhausting alternative options. Maintain an open and discerning dialogue with your veterinary team when deciding how to tackle your dog’s issues.

 What Are Possible Long-Term Side Effects?

While most studies show hydrolyzed proteins cause no harm in the long term, some owners anecdotally report:

* Nutrient deficiencies if not properly formulated to meet all nutritional requirements
* Tolerance build-up necessitating increased hydrolysis after months/years
* Transition issues slowly adapting back to less heavily broken down proteins

This highlights the importance of both lab testing and veterinary guidance when feeding hydrolyzed food life-long. Overall, though, these foods pose minimal risk and provide enormous benefits for suitable candidates.

 The Takeaway

Hydrolyzed protein dog food helps transform the lives of pets struggling with disruptive allergic symptoms or tolerance issues. The exceptional digestibility and hypoallergenic nature offer game-changing nutrition and relief without medication side effects or elaborate specialty treatments.

Work with your vet to determine if your pup could benefit. Most sensitivities dogs on the proper hydrolyzed diet improve substantially within weeks, making them so worth considering!