What Is A Novel Protein In Dog Food?

Novel protein dog food has become increasingly popular in the pet industry in recent years, as pet nutrition experts and pet parents alike seek more holistic ways of dealing with common pet-related ailments. A large number of pet health problems, ranging from skin and coat irritations, ear infections, and even chronic digestive problems can quite often be caused by an allergy or sensitivity to animal proteins.

What Is a Novel Protein in Dog Food?

In general terms, a novel protein refers to an animal protein a pet has not consumed before. Usually, a novel protein is a unique or uncommon protein that is not typically found in commercial dog or cat food recipes. Since the body is unlikely to have a negative allergic response to animal proteins they’ve never eaten before, novel proteins have become the go-to for pet owners seeking hypoallergenic solutions to combat allergic reactions, digestive issues, and more.

The most common proteins found in today’s pet foods include chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Next, less common but still popular proteins include lamb, turkey, duck, venison, and rabbit.

The most unique, or less common novel proteins in pet foods may include the following:

  • Bison
  • Elk
  • Alligator
  • Kangaroo
  • Ostrich
  • Camel
  • Black Soldier Flies
  • Beaver

Novel proteins are often more likely to be free from added growth hormones and antibiotics, wild-caught, and free-range compared to most common protein sources. This is largely because these unique proteins are less factory-farmed to the extent as more popular proteins like chicken and beef, for example.

Benefits of Feeding a Novel Protein Diet for Dogs

Feeding your dog or cat a diet with novel proteins can have many benefits, not only for their physical health but also for their mental wellbeing. 

Excitement and Enrichment

New proteins, especially those your dog has not had before, provide enticing new smells and tastes in their bowls. This adds extra excitement to mealtime, as new flavours can be stimulating and enriching. It is especially effective if you rotate your pet’s meals among various flavours. You can read more about feeding your pets a rotating diet here.

It is easy to imagine how boring eating the same meal every day, morning and night, would get. Pets eat instinctively when they are hungry, just as humans do, however given the choice most pets would certainly prefer to have some variety in their diet. Fussy dogs, or dogs that have lost their food motivation can benefit greatly from a rotation-based diet as it helps to sustain their piqued interest over a prolonged period of time without the need of added food toppers to enhance meals. 

Decreased Risk of Allergies

Secondly, feeding a rotation of novel proteins may decrease your pet’s chances of developing future allergies, food intolerances, and more. Overexposure to common proteins, such as chicken, is a leading cause of allergy symptoms in companion animals. It is important to remember that all dogs are exposed to different proteins; what is considered novel to one dog may be a common protein to another; it is all relative.

Increased Exposure To A Variety Of Vitamins and Nutrients

Feeding your pet unique proteins also increases their exposure to a variety of micronutrients, which is essential for optimal health and nutrition.

Is Your Pet’s Diet Making Them Sick?

Improper diet can result in a number of preventable ailments in pets, ranging broadly from mild skin irritations to more serious chronic conditions. Here are the most common diet-related health problems for dogs:

  • Allergic reactions, including skin and coat irritation, ear infections, and more.
  • Pancreatitis
  • Digestive problems such as constipation, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Obesity, heart disease, mobility problems
  • Chronic inflammation leading to hip and joint problems or pain
  • Deficiencies, most commonly zinc.

For dogs with severe allergies, a limited ingredient diet focusing on one novel protein is often the solution. If you suspect your pet is manifesting symptoms conducive to a dietary allergy, consider starting a limited ingredient diet right away. Focus on feeding only one unique animal protein that your dog has not had prior exposure to. And remember, when feeding a limited ingredient diet, be aware of all consumables, including treats, table scraps, and bones, as these can easily compromise a hypoallergenic food trial.

After starting a limited ingredient diet with your pooch, it may take upwards of six to eight weeks to see an improvement, so be consistent, patient, and when in doubt, simplify!

And while we are on the subject of limited ingredient diets, it is also wise to keep a food journal to keep record of the foods your dog has been exposed to. This will become an invaluable resource going forward as you conduct food trials to determine what proteins work best for your pooch.

The Best Novel Protein Dog Foods In Canada

Dry Dog & Cat Foods

Pure Vita Kangaroo is one of Canada’s most popular novel protein kibbles for dogs. This limited ingredient diet is grain-free, as grains can also be problem ingredients for many pets. Pure Vita uses the least amount of ingredients needed to offer a nutritionally complete and balanced diet, reducing the risk of your dog having a negative reaction.

The primary ingredient, and only animal protein in this formulation is kangaroo. Kangaroo is a very unique protein that very few dogs react negatively to. It includes nutrient dense lentils and beans, chia seeds, salmon oil, cranberries, blueberries, and more. Plus, probiotics to boost gut health make this recipe easy to digest.

For cats, we recommend Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain Free Rabbit. This is among our most popular hypoallergenic diets for cats suffering from excessive licking and scratching, as well as dry, itchy patches of skin. Instinct also boosts a high meat inclusion, so it is sure to be picky-feline approved!

Canned Dog & Cat Foods

Zignature’s Guineafowl recipe offers a unique but easy to digest wet food for canines, with a very limited ingredient recipe. It’s fortified to be complete and balanced, using only guineafowl, peas, and chickpeas as the wholefoods ingredients. This is one of the most limited ingredient diets on the market. Guineafowl is similar to chicken, but is more gamey and leaner.

For cats, Farmina Quinoa and Quail recipe offers superior nutrition with very limited ingredients, as does Instinct Limited Ingredient Rabbit. Both of these recipes focus on high nutrient density while avoiding popular allergens. Plus, they both have impressive water content, which is especially important for optimal urinary health in obligate carnivores.

Raw Pet Foods with Novel Proteins

Due to it’s versatility as well as ease of use, dehydrated raw has quickly become the most sought after form of raw food for pets. For dogs, one of the most popular novel protein formulas is Nulo Lamb & Raspberries. This recipe uses high quality, human-grade meats, and includes lamb liver, ground bone, and also kidneys. 

This impressive formulation is loaded with nutrient-dense plant-based ingredients like raspberries, broccoli, apples, butternut squash, and more. This is an easy to digest formula that is also extremely palatable. 

Using the best quality lamb in the world, New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co offers an exceptional quality Lamb & Hoki recipe for cats. It also includes organ meats, which are loaded with zinc, iron, and other essential minerals and vitamins.

Novel Protein Pet Treats

Shades of Gray Indigenous Pet Treats, based in Guelph, Ontario, makes some of the world’s best quality meat-based pet treats. They use 100% premium meats that are often organic or wild caught, without any fillers or additives. Beaver, bison, and elk are among their recipes, in the form of treats or dehydrated food topper crumbles. This is a unique way to offer your pet exciting new flavours with a low risk of negative allergic reactions.

Do I Need To Feed My Dog or Cat A Novel Protein?

Not all pets need novel proteins in their diet. For the majority of pets, common proteins like chicken or beef are perfectly fine to feed with no adverse reactions. However, if you suspect your pet is displaying signs of a dietary allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity, switching to a protein they haven’t had prior exposure to will be a huge asset in figuring out what food ingredients are safe for your pet going forward.

When it comes to price, common proteins are typically far more cost effective compared to novel alternatives. A novel protein, like kangaroo, for example, could cost twice as much (or more) than a nutritionally equivalent chicken-based pet food. 

While many pet owners choose novel proteins to solve dietary ailments, others choose them to provide greater variety and increased interest at meal time.

As the demand for unique proteins grows, so will the offerings from pet food manufacturers. Whether you choose to feed kibble, wet (canned), or raw, rest assured, there are plenty of protein options to consider. Figuring out which proteins your pet performs best on may require a little trial and error. Speak with your trusted pet health provider, as they can help you walk you through the entire process.

About Brandon Forder

Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition and canine psychology. He has more than twenty-five years experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon has a lifelong passion for helping people become great pet parents. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, web, and radio.

2 Responses

  1. I am bringing my 8 week old golden retriever/cocker spaniel mix female home in a few weeks. She is currently eating TLC dry kibble. Can you recommend a well balanced grain inclusive kibble please?

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