There are too many brands of dog food on the shelves to truly keep up with all of them, and they all offer a range of different health benefits and nutrition for different ages. With the variety available, it’s no surprise that there are also several ways of catering to your dog’s food allergies.
Grain-free and limited-ingredient diets are among the most well-known, but there are other options. For some food allergies, your veterinarian might prescribe a hydrolyzed protein diet for your dog.
Hydrolyzed protein diets might not be as popular as some of the more common diets—and most formulas require vet approval—but they’re a useful way to avoid or test for food allergies. These reviews will introduce you to the most popular options to help you decide whether it’s the right choice for you.
A Quick Comparison of the Winners (2023)
|Best Overall||Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Chicken Flavor HA||
|Best Value||Diamond Care Sensitive Skin Formula Adult||
|Premium Choice||Hill's Prescription Diet z/d Dog Food||
|Best for Puppies||Hill's Prescription Diet z/d Wet Food||
|Royal Canin Veterinary Adult HP Dry Dog Food||
The 9 Best Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Foods
1. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Chicken Flavor HA Dog Food — Best Overall
|Main ingredients||Corn starch, hydrolyzed soy protein isolate, partially hydrogenated canola oil preserved with TBHQ, coconut oil, powdered cellulose|
The best overall hydrolyzed protein dog food is the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diet HA. The formula is created with the help of veterinarians and nutritionists to ensure that it meets the nutritional requirements of adult dogs without setting off food allergies.
Focused on providing protein and carbohydrates from as few sources as possible, the ingredients in the formula are chosen to be gentle on sensitive stomachs. Since it’s designed to avoid setting off allergic reactions, it can also help your dog’s sensitive skin.
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diet is a food brand that you need approval from a veterinarian to use. It’s also not the most budget-friendly option.
2. Diamond Care Sensitive Skin Formula Adult Dog Food — Best Value
|Main ingredients||Peas, pea flour, hydrolyzed salmon, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), flaxseed|
Formulated for adult dogs with sensitive skin, the Diamond Care Sensitive Skin Formula uses a single protein source to avoid food allergies. As the best hydrolyzed protein dog food for the money, it’s much cheaper than other hydrolyzed protein dog foods—although it’s still a bit pricey—and doesn’t require a prescription from your veterinarian.
Along with supporting your dog’s skin health, it also includes probiotics to support their immune and digestive health.
The main source of carbohydrates in this formula is peas. Legumes, along with grain-free diets, have been linked to dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs, which is still being investigated1. Some dogs also dislike the taste of this product and might refuse to eat it.
3. Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Food Sensitivities Dog Food – Premium Choice
|Main ingredients||Corn starch, hydrolyzed chicken liver, powdered cellulose, soybean oil, calcium carbonate|
Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Food Sensitivities Dry Dog Food is designed to improve digestion in dogs with food sensitivities. It reduces food allergy reactions and helps promote the health of your dog’s skin and coat, especially if they have sensitive skin due to their allergies. The recipe includes antioxidants to help support your dog’s immune health.
Although it’s one of the more expensive options, this Hill’s Prescription Diet food does enable you to purchase a smaller 8-pound bag if your dog is a picky eater. This way, you can see if your dog likes the formula before committing to a larger bag. You will need a prescription from your veterinarian before buying this food, though.
4. Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Food Sensitivities Wet Dog Food — Best for Puppies
|Main ingredients||Water, hydrolyzed chicken liver, corn starch, powdered cellulose, soybean oil|
If you have a young dog or one that has issues with their teeth, wet food like the Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Food Sensitivities Wet Dog Food is something to consider. The soft pâté texture is easy for dogs to chew and provides moisture to keep them hydrated.
Made by veterinarians and nutritionists, this wet food avoids common protein allergies and peas while boosting skin and coat health with added fatty acids. Your dog’s immune system is also supported by the included antioxidants.
Since this is a Hill’s Prescription Diet product, you’ll need approval from your veterinarian if you want to try this dog food. Unlike other wet dog food brands, this option doesn’t have easy open tabs on the cans.
5. Royal Canin Veterinary Adult HP Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients||Brewers rice, hydrolyzed soy protein, chicken fat, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp|
The Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult HP helps promote your dog’s digestive health through easy-to-digest protein, fiber, and prebiotics. Formulated for adult dogs with food sensitivities, it’s designed to be gentle on their stomach while still providing them with the nutrition that they need to stay healthy. It also contains omega oils to promote skin and coat health.
Although it’s one of the most expensive options on this list, it’s another great choice for the best hydrolyzed protein diet.
You’ll need a prescription from your veterinarian to get it, but it is available in three bag sizes to suit all sorts of dog breeds and picky eaters.
6. Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet HF Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients||Salmon hydrolysate, pea starch, potatoes, peas, pea protein|
Fortified with antioxidants, omega fatty acids, and vitamins E and C, this Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet HF Dry food supports your dog’s overall health and prevents food allergies. The essential vitamins and minerals are provided by real ingredients like hydrolyzed salmon, pumpkin, and kelp. The natural ingredients ensure that the formula and your dog benefit from a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet.
This grain-free diet contains legumes and needs a veterinarian’s approval to use. Your vet will be able to discuss the pros and cons of grain-free diets with you and help you decide if Blue Buffalo is the right choice for your dog.
While this Blue Buffalo formula is slightly cheaper than other prescription foods, it’s only available in two bag sizes and isn’t resealable to retain freshness.
7. Royal Canin Veterinary Adult Hydrolyzed Protein Small Breed
|Main ingredients||Brewers rice, hydrolyzed soy protein, chicken fat, natural flavors, vegetable oil|
Small dog breeds have different nutritional requirements than large dogs, and the Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Small Breed Dog Food is tailored to their particular needs. Formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs under 22 pounds, Royal Canin is easy to digest and prevents urinary tract infections. The kibble itself is small in size to be easier for toy and other small breeds to eat, while still helping promote good dental hygiene.
Although this small-breed dog food is designed to avoid food allergies, it does contain chicken, which some dogs can be allergic to. It’s also incredibly expensive for what you get, especially if you have a fussy dog that doesn’t like the flavor.
8. Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Skin/Food Sensitivities Small Bites
|Main ingredients||Water, corn starch, egg product, chicken fat, pork liver|
Dogs with teeth issues or small mouths can benefit from kibble that’s small and easy for them to manage, like Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Skin/Food Sensitivities Small Bites. Similar to other Hill’s Prescription Diet foods, it doesn’t have common protein allergens and can improve skin and coat health. Along with being carefully formulated for small breeds—to meet their nutritional requirements and provide a bitesize kibble—it also promotes a healthy urinary tract.
Fussy dogs can find this option unappealing due to water and cornstarch being the major ingredients. It also contains chicken fat, which can set off allergies in some dogs.
The bag size enables you to make sure your dog enjoys the food before committing to the diet. However, if this becomes your dog’s regular food, it won’t last long and you’ll have to go to the store more frequently to buy more.
9. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Vegetarian Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients||Corn starch, hydrolyzed soy protein isolate, coconut oil, partially hydrogenated canola oil preserved with TBHQ, powdered cellulose|
If you’re worried about setting off your dog’s food allergies with meat proteins, the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Vegetarian Dry Dog Food skips out the meat entirely. To ensure that it meets AAFCO standards for canine nutrition and remains easy for sensitive stomachs to digest, it’s formulated by nutritionists and veterinarians.
Dogs that aren’t used to a vegetarian diet might dislike the non-meat flavor of this kibble. As one of the most expensive options on this list, it’s best if you check if your dog likes it before purchasing a large bag. The bags are also not resealable and will need to be stored properly to maintain freshness.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Pick the Best Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food
What Are Hydrolyzed Protein Diets?
While many people assume that their dogs with food sensitivities are allergic to grains, allergies to certain proteins are actually more common. Hydrolyzed protein foods are designed to cater to these protein allergies through the use of single protein sources that go through a careful processing procedure.
The manufacturing process uses water to break the protein into molecules that are too small for your dog’s immune system to recognize as allergens. This reduces the chances of your dog suffering from an allergic reaction to their food, especially if they have several food allergies that you need to cater to.
Most hydrolyzed protein foods require a prescription from a veterinarian and are expensive due to the complicated manufacturing process. Hydrolyzed protein diets are also often used as a way to help your veterinarian determine whether your dog has a food allergy.
What Are Food Allergies in Dogs?
An allergy is caused by the dog’s immune system overreacting to an allergen. Food allergies are often caused by the protein source in dog food. The symptoms can include itchy, irritated skin and stomach upset but can also manifest in aggression, fatigue, hyperactivity, and weight loss.
More often than not, dogs are allergic to the proteins in dog food. These can include but aren’t limited to:
How Are Food Allergies Diagnosed?
Dog food contains many different ingredients, both the formulas within a brand and recipes manufactured by other companies. This variety can make it difficult for you and your veterinarian to properly diagnose food allergies, which is why it’s important to discuss your options with your vet before settling on a new diet.
If your veterinarian suspects a food allergy, they’ll usually prescribe a strict, hypoallergenic diet for up to 12 weeks. These diets are designed to not contain any of the ingredients that your dog usually eats in order to see if their allergic reaction clears up—which means no cheating by sneaking your dog treats! If the symptoms do fade during the elimination trial, your veterinarian will slowly reintroduce the old food brand to test for a food allergy.
Although it’s not as effective as an elimination diet, blood tests—or serum IgE tests—are also used to diagnose food allergies.
These reviews introduced you to hydrolyzed protein diets to help you choose the right one for your dog. The overall best is the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diet, which uses protein and carbohydrates from single sources. Diamond Care provides an affordable option that doesn’t require a prescription. Both the dry and wet Hill’s Prescription Diet dog foods provide balanced nutrition, and the Royal Canin Veterinary Diet is another good choice for dog food.
We hope that these choices have helped you better discuss your options with your veterinarian and choose the right hydrolyzed food for your dog.