10 Best Novel Protein Dog Foods

Novel protein is a term for any protein that your pet hasn’t eaten yet. Most common proteins (non-novel) found in dog foods are beef, chicken, turkey and lamb. These four are also the most common meat ingredients that dogs are allergic to (1, 2, 3).

Novel proteins today are more easily available due to an increase of food allergies in dogs and a growing popularity of novel protein dog foods. Some pet food formulas that often contain novel proteins are those that have labels of “Grain-free”, “Sensitive Stomach” or “Limited Ingredient”.

These not-so-common novel proteins are typically rabbit, herring, venison, bison, duck, and salmon. Even the best novel protein dog foods aren't “better” than regular meat kibble. However, you may choose a dog food with novel protein source over traditional meat sources when your pet develops an allergy or a food sensitivity.

Generally, dogs can develop food sensitivities after eating the same protein over a long period of time (4). Food allergies or stomach sensitivity in dogs can present itself in excessive itching and scratching, dry flaky skin, and gastrointestinal upset (5).

Choosing the Best Novel Protein Dog Food Brand

When it comes to food allergies in dogs, and choosing appropriate foods to deal with this issue, things can get complicated. You may think that you only need to pick a dog food brand that contains a novel protein as the first ingredient, but unfortunately, mislabeling and contamination is a common problem among pet food manufacturers.

For example, a 2018 study analyzed many dog food brands made for allergic dogs or to be used as part of the elimination diet, and found that contamination and inaccurate labels were far more common than originally believed. Pet foods that were supposed to contain one meat source actually contained small parts of other meat source that wasn't even mentioned on the label.

Unfortunately, there's little pet owners can do other than to pay attention to company's reputation and how well their “hypoallergenic dog food formulas” or “novel protein dog food formulas” work with allergic pets. Brands like Merrick, Taste of the Wild and Earthborn are slowly earning a good name among owners, and have been included in the below list of best novel protein dog foods.

Tips on Switching Your Dog to Novel Protein Dog Food

After you realize that previous dog food is the culprit of your pet's allergies, you may try a novel protein dog food brand (some of which are similar to hypoallergenic foods), but the switch must be done carefully to avoid GI issues.

1. Read the ingredient’s label on the new dog food bag (some companies use both traditional and novel proteins in the same recipe, but you want only novel protein).

2. Mix ¼ of your dog’s new food (daily intake) with the old food for two days.

3. After, mix ½ your dog’s old food with the new food for two days again.

4. On days five and six, use ¾ of the new food mixed in with the old kibble.

5. Day seven, feed your dog 100% of the new (novel protein) dog food brand.

Note: This feeding schedule is the optimal time-frame for dogs that aren’t showing any gastrointestinal upset from the new food brand. If your pup develops diarrhea, vomiting, itchiness, or other adverse effects from the new food, discontinue use immediately.

10 Best Novel Protein Dog Foods

1 Earthborn Holistic – Roasted Rabbit

This recipe starts with cage-free, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free roasted rabbit with 23% protein, and puts this brand at the top of best novel protein dog foods list. The kibble looks and smells delicious with the added goodness of ancient grains (buckwheat, quinoa, chia, flaxseed) for both protein and fiber. It's a relatively new formula, but more pet owners are finding success with it for dogs with food allergies.

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Earthborn Holistic also uses fresh butternut squash, blueberries, spinach, carrots, and cranberries to boost the antioxidants and to provide your dog with natural vitamins and minerals. Another great thing about Earthborn Holistic is they do not use any chicken, by-products, or fillers in their recipe, so if your dog has food allergies or sensitivities, this recipe is based purely on the “novel” foods.

PROS: Made from real rabbit, no additives, preservatives, or bad fillers, prepared in family-owned USA kitchens, Omega-fatty acids for good skin, coat, and GI-health, uses ancient grains for flavor and fiber.

CONS: Higher price-point


2 Taste of the Wild – Roasted Bison & Venison

Taste of the Wild is well-known and loved among pet owners, and they're also the second pick among the best novel protein dog foods that are still relatively affordable. Buffalo and pork are the first ingredients in Taste of the Wild with roasted venison for added flavor. Many owners were able to successfully treat food allergies in their dogs with this brand.

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This recipe also includes Ancient whole grains in the form of grain sorghum, millet, quinoa, and chia which have added protein and are also a good source of carbohydrates, and fiber. The total protein in Taste of the Wild is 32% which is great for active dogs. The food is made in the USA with highly digestible food sources. This recipe also includes added probiotics, vitamins, and minerals.

PROS: Pasture-raised real meat in the recipe, uses ancient grains, added vitamins, minerals, and probiotics, USA-made, no artificial colors or preservatives, has Omega fatty-acid blends

CONS: Higher price-point, still uses chicken meal.


3 Merrick Rabbit & Chickpea

Deboned rabbit is the first ingredient in the Merrick brand dry dog food. This highly rated company has also added Omegas for healthy skin and coat, as well as taken out all those bad grains and replaced them with chickpeas. This recipe is also loaded with added vitamins and minerals, and even fresh fruit like blueberries and apples for a boost of antioxidants and fiber.

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Another plus for the Merrick brand Rabbit & Chickpea formula is they have provided your pet with Glucosamine and Chondroitin for joint and hip-health. And with 30% protein, the recipe is great for all types of dogs.

PROS: Deboned rabbit is the first ingredient, chickpeas, and lentils for carbohydrates, plenty of added vitamins and minerals, uses fresh ingredients, hand-crafted in small batches for better quality control, average kibble size, made in the USA from locally sourced farmers.

CONS: Uses turkey meal and pork meal.


4 Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe

This recipe doesn't use chicken (or poultry) by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives, so it's good for dogs with food issues. The protein-rich formula uses bison meat as the novel source, with the added benefit of their LifeSource Bits which contain alfalfa, cranberries, flaxseed, blueberries, and parsley. Although these “bits” are loaded with healthy ingredients, they tend to sink to the bottom of the bag. It is recommended to shake or mix the contents of the bag before serving.

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Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain recipe is among the best novel protein dog foods out there also because it's been carefully balanced by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists, so you can feed your pet food backed by professionals. The kibble size is average, which should work for most canines.

PROS: Real meat as the first ingredient, no additives or preservatives, no cheap fillers (corn, wheat, soy), never uses chicken or by-products, has added Omega 3 & 6 vitamins, specially formulated LifeSource Bits.

CONS: Price-point is higher, LifeSource Bits tend to sink to the bottom of the bag.


5 Orijen – 6 Fish Formula

Finally, if your dog likes the taste of fish, then Orijen 6 Fish Formula may be a top fish option among these best novel protein dog foods as it contains a mix of six different fish. Here's the breakdown: Pacific Pilchard (18%), Mackerel (13%), Hake (12%), Flounder (5%), Rockfish (5%), and Sole (5%) along with other dehydrated fish sources like sardines, herring, and cod.

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Along with all this seafood, Orijen 6 Fish Formula is packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables like lentils, chickpeas, and pinto beans for added fiber and a good source of carbohydrates. Spinach, cranberries, and blueberries are also present which will give your dog added antioxidants for a strong immune system.

Although this Orijen recipe smells strong of fish, its overall recipe is a solid choice for protein, vitamins, and minerals including turmeric root, milk thistle, burdock root, lavender, marshmallow root, and rosehips.

PROS: Uses many different whole fish types in the recipe that have been processed either raw or flash-frozen, well-balanced with fresh fruits and veggies, added vitamins and minerals, no bad grains, great for all life-stages.

CONS: Higher price-point, smells very fishy.


Beyond the Novel Protein Dog Food…

6 Zignature Guinea Fowl Dog Food

The Zignature company is taking the novel meat idea to new levels with guinea fowl and deserves a mention on this list of best novel protein dog foods, particularly for owners who've already tried everything else with no success. This meat is high in lean protein and low in saturated fat. The recipe is also grain-free, so it’s great for dogs with insulin issues.

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The recipe is rounded out with the addition of alfalfa, chickpeas, flax, and green peas. The guinea fowl is sourced from Western France and is naturally high in protein and vitamin B6. Zignature’s tagline is “we never play chicken,” guaranteeing their blends are chicken, and egg-free.

Zignature also makes a kangaroo recipe with the meat sourced from Australia.

PROS: Truly a novel blend, no bad grains, uses the latest advancements in nutritional science for superior recipes, grain-free, uses low-glycemic ingredients such as chickpeas and green peas, quality assurance.

CONS: Higher price-point


7 Ostrich Burger Treats

If you're switching to novel protein dog foods, then you may need to switch your treats, too. Ostrich meat is higher in protein and is leaner meat for dogs with both food sensitivities and weight issues, and it's rare enough to introduce something new. These jerky treats are grain-free (no wheat, soy, or gluten) and also contains pumpkin and chia seeds.

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Another important quality is all the ingredients are sourced in the USA from grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and growth-hormone-free birds. Plus, the burger-shaped treats are designed for all sizes of dogs and provide good chewy texture.

PROS: Food sourced in the USA, no growth hormones, or antibiotics used in the birds, grain-free, low in fat, chewy texture.

CONS: Turkey is the second ingredient.


8 EntoBento Pumpkin Blueberry Dog Treats

They may appear to be raisin cookies, but the EntoBento dog treats are made from wholesome pumpkin and wild hand-picked blueberries. The surprising ingredient in these treats is the ground crickets which are high in protein, and are considered novel protein. If your dog has food allergies and you're looking for alternative treats, this may just be the best choice.

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Instead of traditional flour, this company uses coconut and garbanzo flour to help lessen the likelihood of sensitivity, as well as flax instead of eggs. These human-grade dog treats are made in the USA in small batches to ensure quality control and freshness.

PROS: Cricket powder replaces a meat-source (completely novel), grain-free, no artificial preservatives, made in the USA in small batches, cookies are crunchy, reasonably priced.

CONS: Company is still relatively new.


9 Blue Natural Veterinary Diet

Alligator is the novel protein found in this Blue Natural Veterinary wet food for dogs. This pate has been crafted with real alligator (and no other animal proteins), which is rarely associated with sensitivity issues. The recipe also includes omega-3 fatty acids sourced from fish oil and flaxseed for good skin and coat health.

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While this isn't the most popular among best novel protein dog foods, this recipe is balanced well for dogs with food allergies. They have also left out most of the grains to which dogs generally are allergic to (corn, wheat, and soy) and it's rich in antioxidants and vitamins, minerals to support a healthy immune system.

PROS: Made from real alligator meat, grain-free, added omegas/vitamins/minerals, rich in antioxidants, smooth pate for picky pooches.

CONS: Alligator is an extreme novel protein, so some dogs may not eat it.


10 Vet Recommended Yak Chews

As the last option among the best novel protein dog foods, these long-lasting chews are made from Yak milk, salt, and lime juice. These vet recommended dog chews don't contain any gluten, preservatives, chemicals, or grains, so your sensitive dog can chew to his heart's content. The hard texture of the Vet Recommended Yak Chews brand will help reduce plaque and tartar buildup on your dog's teeth and work well for aggressive chewers.

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When you open the package you will notice these chews are low in odor in comparison to some brands and one chew will last your dog for hours or even days (depending on the breed and amount chewed on). Once the package is opened, you will want to keep these treats in a cool dry place to prevent them from getting moldy.

Another benefit of the Vet Recommended Yak Chew is once it has gotten too small, simply pop it into the microwave for 45 seconds to soften it (let cool for two minutes before serving) your dog will love it to the last morsel.

PROS: Made from simple ingredients with Yak milk as the novel source, no chemicals, preservatives, hormones, or coloring added, super-hard texture, low odor, great for aggressive chewers, can be softened in the microwave.

CONS: May contain cow's milk.


If your dog has food allergies or sensitivities, then switching them over to one of these best novel protein dog foods (and novel protein dog treats) is often the right answer.

Choose a food that your dog likes and will digest well, then gradually mix in the new food with the old over a week's period to avoid tummy upsets. Be sure to watch your pet for any adverse effects. If they do experience vomiting or diarrhea, discontinue the use of the new food and try a different novel protein dog food brand.

READ NEXT: The Vet’s Guide on Shopping for Hypoallergenic Dog Foods

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Top 10 Best Novel Protein Dog Foods


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