What Is Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food?

Have you ever noticed ingredients such as hydrolyzed proteins on any packaging of products intended for dog food? Do you know what it is and what it works for? Curious? In this article, we will talk about the use of hydrolyzed proteins in dog food and everything you need to know about this type of ingredient that is increasingly being used in the pet food market, both in complete foods and in specific foods (treats).

What Is Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food?

First of all, to understand what hydrolyzed ingredients are, we need to understand what the hydrolysis process is and what it is for. The hydrolysis process consists of breaking the structure of proteins through the action of chemical reagents, which are acids, bases or biological reagents, which occur through the use of enzymes. These reagents can modify the structure of the protein molecule, making it smaller, as it “breaks” into small structures, called peptides and free amino acids. Did you get confused? Calm down, and we’ll explain better. In other words, the process consists of breaking the protein molecule into small pieces, as if it were a “pre-digestion”, releasing peptides and amino acids, facilitating digestion and absorption in the digestive tract of animals. This process increases the digestible portion of the food, which will provide more nutrients due to this “pre-digestion” made by the hydrolyzation of the ingredient.

But after all, how does this “breaking” of the protein occur? Is this process safe?

The breakdown of the protein occurs through what we call cleavage, normally carried out by biological reagents. In the hydrolyzed process, it’s used enzymes called proteases, that break the structure of proteins into small portions. There are different types of proteases, such as pepsin, trypsin, and plasmin, the type of protease used in the hydrolysis process depends on the type of protein that will be used in the process and the specific degradation of the allergenic potential. The process is highly safe and poses no risk to your dog’s health.

Why This Type Of Ingredient It’s Used?

The main advantage of using this type of ingredient is the increased digestibility of the diet. But what is digestibility? Digestibility is the ability of the animal to take advantage of the nutrients in the food. In the case of hydrolyzed proteins, dogs can take advantage of the nutrients of the hydrolyzed protein source. But every process also has a disadvantage, in this case, the palatability of the food can be compromised. This happens because, with the breaking of the protein into small particles, the taste of the food tends to become more bitter, which can affect the consumption of the food by the animals which can decrease consumption. Although some studies report increased palatability in diets with hydrolyzed proteins when compared to diets with whole protein. However, most products intended for dog food use synthetic palatalizes and flavorings that make the food more attractive to dogs, both are technological additives that mask the bitter taste. So usually, the use of hydrolyzed protein does not result in a decrease in consumption.

Any type of protein can go through the hydrolysis process. At the end of this process a protein powder product is obtained, similar to whey protein, widely used in human nutrition, especially in athlete diets, which you certainly know or have heard of. Now that you understand what hydrolyzed proteins are and how the production process works, it will be easier to understand why these ingredients are used so often in dog food formulation and why they are so important.

Why Is Hydrolyzed Protein Better For Dogs?

It is increasingly common to find products intended for feeding dogs with hydrolyzed proteins in the ingredients, and this is mainly due to the increase in the digestibility of the diets. But there is also another very important reason that justifies the use of this product, which is hypoallergenic diets. Ever heard of it?

Currently, many dogs are diagnosed with food allergies, mainly allergies derived from the consumption of products that contain bovine or chicken protein. In dog diets, mainly complete dry foods, the use of hydrolyzed proteins serves to obtain hypoallergenic products, that is, foods that will not have the potential to cause food allergy in animals. Protein allergenicity is related to the particle size of the protein, when the hydrolysis process occurs, the size of the protein is reduced, causing the food to become hypoallergenic due to its low molecular weight.

The main symptom of food allergy is what we call pruritus, an itching throughout the body that does not go away even with the use of steroid medications that may or may not be accompanied by skin lesions. If your dog has a food allergy, it is recommended to diagnose with a trained professional which protein source (beef, chicken, fish, pork, among others) that your dog has hypersensitivity to and stop providing it, in this case, the use of products made only with hydrolyzed proteins is highly recommended due to its hypoallergenic property.

In addition to reducing the allergenic potential of proteins, the hydrolysis process can increase the antioxidant power of the food, that is, it increases the fight against cell aging, prevents the onset of degenerative diseases, and collaborates with the cardiovascular system, reducing cholesterol and high pressure.

How Long Can A Dog Eat Hydrolyzed Protein? Can Any Dog Eat Hydrolyzed Protein?

Despite being more used in hypoallergenic diets, any dog ​​can eat products with this ingredient in their composition, there is no restriction, and he will also benefit from the food, taking better advantage of the nutrients. As hydrolyzed proteins are nothing more than proteins broken down into small pieces, there is no restriction on how long these animals can ingest foods that contain these ingredients in their formulation, given that there is no nutritional harm.

Therefore, using hydrolyzed proteins in products intended for dog food, whether complete foods or specific foods (treats), contributes to a better quality of life and well-being, ensuring the integrity of allergic dogs and increasing food quality. Of all dog diets, they improve the physical, chemical, and functional aspects of food.


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HOU, Yongqing et al. Protein hydrolysates in animal nutrition: Industrial production, bioactive peptides, and functional significance. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, v. 8, n. 1, p. 1-13, 2017.

Lehrer SB, Horner WE, Reese G. Why are some proteins allergenic? Implications for biotechnology. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1996;36(6):553–6.

OLIVRY, Thierry; BIZIKOVA, Petra. A systematic review of the evidence of reduced allergenicity and clinical benefit of food hydrolysates in dogs with cutaneous adverse food reactions. Veterinary dermatology, v. 21, n. 1, p. 32-41, 2010.

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