Ever wonder what dogs with multiple food allergies eat?
You know, doggos who have cycled through proteins like lamb, chicken, turkey, and more and still can’t find a good fit?
The answer may be hydrolyzed dog foods.
Veterinarians formulate these specialized dog foods for dogs suffering from severe food allergies and bowel disorders.
Think a hydrolyzed food may be helpful for your pooch? Read on to learn everything about them and see a few or our favorites!
What Is a Hydrolyzed Dog Food?
Hydrolyzed sounds super high-tech, right? Well, that’s because it kind of is.
Hydrolyzed dog foods are made from proteins that have been broken down by water into tiny pieces. This helps reduce the chances of them triggering an immune response that leads to unpleasant itching, inflammation, gastric reactions, and more in dogs with food allergies.
This process is called hydrolysis, giving the food its name.
Hydrolyzed dog foods still provide balanced nutrition to dogs, but they’re altered to suit the specific needs of certain dogs.
Want more info? Check out our whole guide explaining the ins and outs of what hydrolyzed protein actually is.
Hydrolyzed dog foods are carefully formulated for specific dogs’ medical needs and aren’t for every doggo. You’ll need a prescription from your vet to purchase all but one of the recipes below from retailers, as they’re only intended for canines with severe allergies or bowel disease.
The 7 Best Hydrolyzed Dog Foods
Now that we know more about hydrolyzed dog foods, we can dig into the best ones available. Check out today’s all-star hydrolyzed dog foods with us.
1. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP
About: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP is a high-quality kibble designed by animal nutritionists for dogs with food sensitivities to be easy to digest and less likely to trigger skin reactions. It can be fed on its own to adult dogs or paired with the matching canned option to entice pickier pups.
- Hydrolyzed soy is the main source of protein
- Blend of prebiotics and fiber promotes healthy digestion
- Contains the fatty acids EPA and DHA for skin, coat, brain, and eye health
- Made in the USA with ingredients from around the globe
Brewers Rice, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Chicken Fat, Natural Flavors...,
Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Monocalcium Phosphate, Vegetable Oil, Sodium Silico Aluminate, Fish Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharides, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Dl-Methionine, L-Tyrosine, Taurine, 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], Choline Chloride, Trace Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Copper Proteinate, Calcium Iodate], Marigold Extract (Tagetes Erecta L.), Magnesium Oxide, Rosemary Extract, Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid
- Premium choice for dogs with multiple food allergies or severe tummy troubles
- Kibble size suits pups big and small
- Most pet parents note an improvement in coat appearance and stools after switching to the food
- As with all hydrolyzed dog foods, this stuff is pricey
- Not every dog is a fan of the taste
2. Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d
About: Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d is a vet-formulated kibble that aims to bypass food allergies by using hydrolyzed chicken liver as the primary protein. It also features the patented S+OXSHIELD to prevent the formation of bladder stones in canines.
- Made with a hydrolyzed protein and a single carbohydrate source
- Omega fatty acids nourish skin and coat condition
- Antioxidants give taxed immune systems a boost of support
- Made in the USA with internationally sourced ingredients
Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver, 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, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene.
- Most pet parents report an improvement in skin and digestive issues
- Taste earns higher marks than most hydrolyzed dog food options
- Ideal for pups prone to bladder stones
- It’s a pretty pricey dog food
- Kibblet size too large for smaller breeds
3. Diamond Care Sensitive Skin Formula
A wallet-friendly kibble made with hydrolyzed salmon to avoid skin issues triggered by protein sensitivity.
About: Diamond Care Sensitive Skin Formula uses a limited-ingredient recipe with a single hydrolyzed protein source: salmon. Omega fatty acids give your dog’s skin a helping hand, promoting a thicker, healthier coat and soothing itchiness.
- Animal nutritionist-formulated recipe
- Probiotics included to support healthy digestion
- Suitable for adult dogs of all sizes
- Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients
Peas, Pea Flour, Hydrolyzed Salmon, Canola Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols)...,
Flaxseed, Natural Salmon Flavor, Tomato Pomace, Salmon Oil, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Dl-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium animalis Fermentation Product, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid
- About half the cost of other hydrolyzed dog foods
- Curiously, this one doesn’t require a vet authorization (though it’s recommended to ask your vet before switching to a hydrolyzed protein food)
- Many pawrents praise the food for improving canine skin and coat appearance
- Grain-free, pea-inclusive recipe may be an issue for pet parents concerned about DCM
- Some dogs aren’t fans of the taste
4. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA
A hydrolyzed dog food offered in three protein options to tempt picky palates of dogs with food sensitivities.
About: Each recipe of Purina Pro Plan’s Veterinary Diets HA features a single source of hydrolyzed protein and a single carbohydrate source to reduce the chances of an immune reaction in canines while offering three proteins to choose from to suit your dog’s tastes and needs. Formulated by a team of veterinarians and animal nutritionists, it’s a lightweight, crunchy kibble with a unique, light coloring and less odor than other foods.
- Made to be highly digestible, ensuring your pup absorbs nutrients
- Antioxidants offer immune support
- Available in chicken, salmon, and vegetarian protein options
- Made in the USA with global ingredients
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. B-2627
- Multiple protein options are ideal for pickier pups needing variety
- Most doggos seem to like the taste compared to other hydrolyzed dog foods
- Small, round kibblets are the perfect size for most pooches
- Some pet parents find the light kibble color strange
- It’s a pricey kibble
5. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Small Dog
A hydrolyzed dry dog food made with tiny kibblets to suit the petite jaws of smaller dogs.
About: Hydrolyzed soy is the primary protein source of Royal Canin’s Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Small Dog, a kibble designed for smaller breeds with bite-sized, easier-to-chew food morsels. A balanced mix of B vitamins and amino acids promotes a healthy skin barrier, while a limited ingredient list avoids common allergy triggers.
- Formulated by veterinarians and animal nutritionists
- Suits dogs prone to developing bladder stones
- Single carbohydrate source to reduce triggering food sensitivities
- Made in the USA with international ingredients
Brewers Rice, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Chicken Fat, Natural Flavors...,
Vegetable Oil, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Sodium Silico Aluminate, Calcium Sulfate, Salt, Fish Oil, Monocalcium Phosphate, Fructooligosaccharides, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Dl-Methionine, Taurine, 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, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid], Choline Chloride, Trace Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Copper Proteinate, Calcium Iodate], Gla Safflower Oil, Marigold Extract (Tagetes Erecta L.), Magnesium Oxide, Rosemary Extract, Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid
- Kibble size engineered specifically for small breeds with food sensitivities who may struggle to chew larger morsels
- Many owners note an improvement in canine stools and skin condition
- Flavor is a win with most woofers
- Like most other hydrolyzed dog foods, it’s expensive
- Small bag sizes can be a drag
6. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein
A loaf-textured canned food made with hydrolyzed proteins for sensitive systems.
About: Give your floof the wet food goodness he loves with Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein, a loaf-form canned option containing hydrolyzed chicken liver and soy protein. Included EPA and DHA fatty acids promote skin, coat, eye, and brain health, while fiber and prebiotics aid digestion.
- Designed by animal nutrition experts to be easily digestible by sensitive systems
- Antioxidants boost canine immune health, an area of concern in pups with food sensitivities
- Can be served on its own or mixed into the matching dry recipe
- Made in the USA with ingredients from around the globe
Water Sufficient For Processing, Pea Starch, Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver...,
Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Vegetable Oil, Powdered Cellulose, Natural Flavors, Lecithin, Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose, Fish Oil, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Silico Aluminate, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Carrageenan, Taurine, Vitamins [Dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (Source Of Vitamin E), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source Of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement], Choline Chloride, Monocalcium Phosphate, Sodium Carbonate, Trace Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Copper Proteinate, Calcium Iodate], Magnesium Oxide, Marigold Extract (Tagetes Erecta L.)
- Pricing is high
- Loaf texture can be hard to mix into kibble
7. Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d
A meaty mashed option made with hydrolyzed chicken liver for less than other options.
About: Save your doggy dollars for funner things with Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d, a more budget-friendly canned option featuring a hydrolyzed protein. Its recipe is formulated by animal nutritionists and vets for balance and ease of digestion, making it a solid choice for pups with pesky food sensitivities.
- Hydrolyzed chicken liver is the primary source of protein
- Made with a single carbohydrate source
- Features fatty acids to nourish your pup’s skin and coat
- Made in the USA with global ingredients
Water, Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver, Corn Starch, Powdered Cellulose...,
Soybean Oil, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (source of Vitamin C), Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid), Potassium Citrate, minerals (Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate), Magnesium Oxide, L-Tryptophan, Taurine, Beta-Carotene
- While pricey, it’s more affordable than other hydrolyzed can options
- Most pups give the taste a paw’s up
- Several owners report an improvement in coat appearance and digestives woes
- Some dogs dislike the food’s texture
- A pull-tab can would be more convenient
Don’t trigger your dog’s food allergies with the wrong treats. Some hypoallergenic dog treats may work, but your best bet is to opt for dog treats using hydrolyzed proteins, like Hill’s Prescription Diet Hypo Treats.
Another option is to use your dog’s hydrolyzed kibble or chunks of a hydrolyzed canned loaf as rewards during training.
Which Dogs Need Hydrolyzed Dog Foods?
As we mentioned, while great for some sniffers, hydrolyzed dog foods aren’t for every four-footer.
They’re typically vet-prescribed for a reason, so you can’t (and shouldn’t) switch your dog to them for run-of-the-mill food intolerance.
The primary reasons canines need hydrolyzed dog foods are:
- Food allergies: Pups with multiple food allergies may need to turn to hydrolyzed dog food after exhausting other options, like fish, venison, lamb, and even exotic proteins like kangaroo. These allergies are difficult enough to control that you must go beyond sticking to a chicken-free dog food or off-the-shelf limited-ingredient dog food.
- Irritable bowel disease: This chronic irritation causes ongoing issues with diarrhea, vomiting, pain, and malabsorption. The condition usually affects older dogs but can strike any breed at any age. Hydrolyzed dog food is easier to digest, potentially preventing gastric upset in these pups.
Many canine products are marketed as being hypoallergenic dog foods, but this isn’t always the case. Like humans, every dog is unique and can experience a reaction to any ingredient. If you suspect a hydrolyzed dog food is necessary for your pup after trying multiple foods, consult your vet for the best course of action, as the problem may not even be food-based at all.
It’s important to note that not every skin problem means your dog has allergies. Your dog can have a skin infection, mange, flea allergy, or a million and one other problems, which is why seeing your vet for a proper diagnosis is a must. The fix can be as simple as a food for dogs with sensitive skin, a far more cost-friendly option than hydrolyzed dog food.
How to Pick the Best Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food
Picking the best hydrolyzed dog food for your four-footer is similar to selecting the healthiest food for any dog. But because of the medical issues involved, the food-selection process has a few differences, most notably that your vet makes the decision with you in nearly every case.
When considering a hydrolyzed dog food:
- The decision is made with your vet. Since almost all hydrolyzed dog foods are prescription-based, deciding on the best hydrolyzed food for your dog means meeting with your vet and discussing which prescription option would work best for your pooch. This is where things like taste or texture are discussed if you’re concerned about your dog’s picky palate or the kibble size if your pup is petite.
- The food addresses any specific health conditions your dog has. This ties into point one, as you and your vet need to ensure the food is best-suited for your dog’s needs. That may mean a low-protein dog food for a dog with kidney issues or a low-carb, high-fiber diabetic dog food.
- The food meets AAFCO standards for your dog’s life stage. You and your vet will make sure the product is suitable for your sniffer’s nutrient needs at his life stage. Most hydrolyzed dog foods meet the needs for adult dog maintenance, but some also work for puppies too.
Other factors like a food’s country of origin and formula creation are also important, but for veterinary diets like the specific hydrolyzed dog foods we discussed, these are typically a non-issue, as they’re made in the USA, designed by experts like vets and animal nutritionists.
Still, if you have any lingering concerns, ask your vet. There’s no harm in asking questions.
How Are Food Allergies Diagnosed?
Diagnosing a canine food allergy takes time, but it’s well-worth the effort if your pooch has ongoing issues. It should always be done under your vet’s guidance, as you want to be sure the problem isn’t something else like an illness or skin infection.
The most common approach involves an elimination trial or elimination diet, in which your dog eats a super bland diet (usually of so-called hypoallergenic foods) for a number of weeks. Once your dog’s symptoms of allergies subside, you’ll begin slowly reintroducing ingredients commonly found in his old food to identify the problem one(s).
In some cases, your vet may opt to do a blood test to detect allergen-specific IgE antibodies, but these are hit-or-miss. Some vets find them worthwhile, while others find elimination diets more effective.
Food Allergies vs Food Intolerances
Food allergies are often confused with food intolerances in dogs, which can lead to you switching to a mega-expensive food that isn’t really necessary.
But both types of problems manifest in different ways, which can aid in distinguishing between the two.
Signs of food allergies in dogs include:
- Itchy, irritated skin (Especially around paws, ears, rump, and inner thighs)
- Red, inflamed ears (Often worsening to chronic ear infections)
- Watery eyes
- Hair loss
The biggest takeaway is the skin component, as an allergy triggers an immune response that goes beyond digestive upset. This isn’t seen in food intolerances, which typically involve gassiness or diarrhea.
Fortunately, most canines with a protein allergy can eat a single-protein dog food without issue, and never need a hydrolyzed option.
With food intolerances, one or more ingredients simply don’t sit well in your dog’s tummy and cause gas and diarrhea. This is similar to the lactose found in milk or cheese upsets a lactose intolerant person’s stomach but won’t trigger head-to-toe hives.
Another common cause of an upset stomach in dogs is switching your dog’s food to a new one too fast.
What Are Some Common Dog Food Allergy Triggers
Any protein in dog food can trigger an allergic reaction, but some are more commonly problematic than others.
Grain (technically, the proteins in grains) is often labeled a canine allergy trigger and a reason many owners switch to grain-free dog food. But grains are rarely behind allergic reactions – the vast majority of dogs can digest grains without issue.
The most common dog food allergens include:
Are Dog Food Allergies Common in Some Breeds?
Although all dogs are individuals, and any four-footer can suffer from allergies, some breeds appear more prone to allergies than others.
A few of the most common food-allergy sufferers include:
- Pit bulls
- Bull dogs
- Golden retrievers
- Labrador retrievers
- Lhasa apsos
- Shih tzus
- Scottish terriers
- West highland white terriers
If you suspect a food allergy in your floof, make a vet appointment to rule out other potential causes, such as parasites, environmental allergies, or skin diseases.
Does your doggo dine on hydrolyzed dog food? Is it any of the ones we’ve listed above or another awesome choice? Tell us in the comments. We’d love to hear!