“Novel proteins” might sound fancy, but in the world of dog food, that term simply refers to a new protein your dog has likely never eaten before.
Common proteins include chicken and beef which are widely available from almost every dog food brand. Interestingly, beef and chicken are also among the top allergens for dogs, and are commonly associated with GI upset and poor digestion. While some dogs can thrive on common proteins, others need something a little less ordinary.
Here, I’m covering 13 novel proteins for dogs with allergies or GI issues, and sharing recommendations for dog food brands that offer recipes with novel proteins.
Why Would a Dog Need Novel Proteins?
So, how do you know if your dog needs to eat a novel protein diet? Are there signs? Will your vet tell you?
Allergies are the most common reason dog owners choose to put their dogs on a novel protein diet. Chicken and beef are both common allergens for dogs, and can cause itchy skin and paws, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and general inflammation.
If you notice your dog licking their paws, chewing on their skin, or getting sick after meals, they could be experiencing food allergies.
Some dogs simply have sensitive stomachs and struggle to digest proteins like beef and chicken. For these dogs, trying a few different novel proteins can be enormously beneficial, since they are likely to be able to digest one of these more easily.
If you notice that your dog is gassy, bloated, experiencing an upset or painful stomach, or having diarrhea, they could be having digestive issues.
Elimination diets are used to narrow down which allergens could potentially be causing the “dieter” problems. Elimination diets start by cutting out all possible irritating foods and narrowing the dog’s diet to a specific gentle, low-allergen protein. Slowly, under the supervision of a vet, you may begin to reintroduce certain foods while monitoring for possible allergic reactions.
Dogs on elimination diets are often fed novel proteins since these are less likely to produce an allergic reaction.
Novel Proteins for Dogs
Just a few decades ago, there were very limited options in the dog food aisle, but today, you can find tons of novel protein diet options for your pup, and at affordable prices! Let’s take a look at thirteen common and not so common, novel proteins and dog food recommendations that include them.
Venison is a lean novel protein that is positively packed with essential nutrients. High in B vitamins for energy and zinc for immunity and organ function, deer meat is one of the top novel protein choices amongst dog owners. Venison is also a more sustainable protein option, and you’ll find that most brands offering venison formulas source their meat ethically.
We Feed Raw’s Raw Venison Patty recipe is a great option for dogs who need a novel protein diet or are going on an elimination diet since it contains very limited ingredients. 80% venison, 10% organ meat, and 10% bone, the only other ingredients in this recipe are added vitamins and minerals.
Insects are eaten all over the world as an essential protein source, and guess what, dogs can eat them too! Insects like grubs and crickets are super high in protein and fatty acids, making them the perfect replacement for red meat and poultry. Insects are also more environmentally friendly to produce and are a generally more sustainable protein than poultry and beef.
Chippin makes a unique Dehydrated Cricket Dog Food that offers your pup all the essential nutrients they need in a surprisingly delicious package. This food needs to be reconstituted for your dog to enjoy it, but you’ll be amazed how quickly they gobble up their cricket dinner!
Goat is a lower-calorie novel protein that is sometimes recommended for dogs who need to lose weight but is also a good option for pups with allergies. High in essential nutrients like iron and potassium, goat is a good red meat alternative that is far leaner and less caloric.
Raw Paws Pet Food makes several goat dog food blends, but we recommend their Signature Blend Complete Goat for pups with sensitive stomachs, since it includes limited ingredients that will be gentle on their digestive system.
Technically considered red meat, elk is a good option for dogs with beef allergies who can still benefit from a high-protein, high-iron, red-meat diet. One of the most protein-rich novel proteins, Elk is a fabulous option for working dogs, highly active pups, or dogs who just prefer red meat.
Raw Wild’s signature blend starts with elk and includes venison, both raised sustainably in the Rocky Mountains. This raw formula is about as clean as it gets and is free from preservatives, additives, fillers, preservatives, and so on. 100% organic, this dog food may also be a good option for dogs who are sensitive to highly processed foods.
Fish, though widely available as a dog-food protein, is also considered a novel protein for dogs and has less potential for allergic reactions than chicken or beef. Fish is high in essential omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it a great protein choice for dogs with allergies since omega-3s can soothe itchy skin, improve coat health, and reduce inflammation. Most fish varieties are great for dogs, and you can even choose a blend of different fish when choosing a dog food.
We recommend Spot & Tango’s Cod & Salmon UnKibble, a healthy kibble that features other gentle ingredients in addition to the fish like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and spinach.
Alligator is low in fat, cholesterol, and allergen potential, making it a fabulous option for dogs with sensitive stomachs or allergies, and a good option for dogs who need a lean diet. Sometimes recommended for dogs trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, alligator is most frequently recommended for dogs with poultry and red meat allergies.
Blue Buffalo’s Natural Veterinary Diet Novel Protein Alligator recipe is the top-selling alligator dog food on the market and includes other wholesome ingredients like fish oil, flax seed, and pumpkin.
Bison is a good alternative to beef thanks to nutritional similarities, but bison isn’t as likely to trigger an allergic reaction. Dog food with novel proteins should still be fully nutritionally balanced, and bison has everything your pup needs to thrive. High in protein, B vitamins, niacin, and nutrients known to reduce inflammation, bison dog food is also readily available in most pet stores.
Taste of the Wild’s High Prairie Roasted Bison & Roasted Venison recipe is a great option for dogs with allergies since it not only contains novel proteins but also includes anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients like fruits and vegetables.
One of the more widely available novel proteins for dogs, Duck is rich in iron, making it a good alternative to beef dog foods. Leaner than most red meat, duck can also be helpful for dogs with sensitive stomachs and difficulties with fattier proteins.
We Feed Raw’s Duck recipe is a popular dog food with novel protein, and is grain-inclusive without wheat, corn, or soy.
9. Guinea Fowl
Guinea fowl is another novel protein that is low in fat, but high in iron and other essential nutrients that make it a good alternative to beef. A more expensive protein option, very few dog food companies offer Guinea fowl protein, also helping to increase the cost of this particular protein. What is a guinea fowl you may be asking? It’s a type of bird that is a relative of the chicken but has darker meat than either.
Zignature–-known for creating unique dog food blends with novel proteins—makes a Guinea Fowl Formula that uses low-glycemic carbohydrates so dogs who are watching their weight or glucose can enjoy it too.
Kangaroo is often recommended for dogs whose allergies are extensive, and who have struggled with more accessible novel proteins. Often a last resort option, kangaroo has extremely low incidents of allergic reaction and may be beneficial for dogs who have few options left. Kangaroo is also nearly twice as rich in B12 vitamins, which can help to reduce symptoms of allergies.
Zignature’s Kangaroo Formula is the most popular and reliable kangaroo dog food on the market and has gained a loyal following of dog owners with highly allergic dogs.
Easy to digest, high in iron, and low in calories, ostrich has become an increasingly popular novel protein for dogs with allergies and sensitive digestive systems. Sometimes recommended for dogs on weight management programs, ostrich is also known to reduce the amount of “waste” your dog produces, which can be helpful for those who have dealt with lots of upset tummies in the past.
Few reliable pre-made ostrich dog foods exist but dog owners interested in this protein can purchase it in bulk from distributors to make their own dog food. Note that this should only be done under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Rabbit is packed with vitamin B12, a key nutrient for fighting allergy symptoms, reducing inflammation, and combating oxidative stress. Low in saturated fats but high in amino acids, protein, and vital nutrients, rabbit is becoming increasingly more common as a novel protein for dogs.
Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit Freeze-Dried Raw dog food formula comes in easy-to-serve patties, and can quickly be reconstituted with a little bit of warm water. Made from 90% rabbit meat, organ, and bones, this formula is also fortified with added minerals, vitamins, probiotics, and antioxidants.
13. Wild Boar
Wild boar is remarkably high in vital nutrients like zinc, iron, niacin, and B vitamins, making it a fantastic novel protein dog food option. Good for helping dogs build and maintain lean muscle, and known to be beneficial for everything from metabolic to cognitive function, wild boar may soon become one of the most popular novel proteins for dogs.
Earthborn Holistic’s Smoked Wild Boar & Butternut Squash recipe is made from humanely hunted wild boar and a blend of gentle ingredients like squash, flaxseed, and pumpkin.
Novel Proteins FAQ
Looking for more answers to your questions about the best novel protein dog foods? Here’s what other dog owners like you are wondering.
No. Turkey is considered a common protein and is similar enough to chicken that most veterinarians recommend not feeding dogs with chicken allergies turkey.
Sort of. Lamb used to be considered a novel protein for dogs, but because it is so widely available today, it has now been reclassified as a common protein. Despite this, some dogs with allergies can still thrive on a lamb-based diet, and lamb is considered a low-allergen food.
Sort of. Some people consider pork a novel protein for dogs, and it does have a lower incidence of allergic reactions than chicken or beef. However, due to the wide availability of pork products, it has now become more common for dogs to be allergic to it. This said some dogs who are allergic to chicken and beef may benefit from a pork-based diet.