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10 Best Novel Protein Dog Foods

Novel protein is a term for any protein that your pet hasn’t eaten yet. The 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 increased food allergies in dogs and the 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 a novel protein source over traditional meat sources when your pet develops allergies or 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 result 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, pet food manufacturers' mislabeling and contamination are common problems.

For example, a 2018 study analyzed many dog food brands made for allergic dogs or 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 another meat source that wasn't even mentioned on the label.

Unfortunately, there are little pet owners can do other than pay attention to the 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 best novel protein dog foods below.

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).

Still, you must do the switch carefully to avoid GI issues.

1. Read the ingredient’s label on the new dog food bag (some companies use traditional and novel proteins in the same recipe, but you only want 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 who aren’t getting 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 Venture Smoked Wild Boar

This recipe starts with fresh Wild Boar that is humanely hunted in the wild across wooded landscapes of Europe. Added to this food is handpicked, vine-ripened butternut squash from Central America.

Butternut squash is an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin E and a good source of fiber, antioxidants, Vitamin C, and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, and potassium.

Venture Smoked Wild Boar & Butternut Squash...
118 Reviews
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NO Grain, NO Gluten, NO Peas, NO Lentils, NO Legumes, NO Potato, NO Egg, NO Chicken, NO Colorants, NO Fillers, NO By-Products, NO Artificial Preservatives, and NO Genetically Modified Ingredients.

PROS: Made from real wild boar, no additives, preservatives, or bad fillers. Specially Formulated as a Grain & Gluten-Free Alternative Diet for Dogs with Sensitivities. Enriched with Added Taurine to Help Support Your Dog’s Heart Health

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 treat food allergies in their dogs with this brand successfully.

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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 Backcountry Alpine Rabbit Stew

Deboned rabbit is the first ingredient in the Merrick brand canned dog food. This highly rated company has also added Omegas for healthy skin and coat, removed all those bad grains, and replaced them with whole vegetables and a savory gravy for added flavor and moisture.

This recipe is also loaded with added vitamins and minerals.

Merrick Backcountry Alpine Rabbit Stew Grain Free...
560 Reviews
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This dog food provides high-quality protein that helps build and maintain healthy muscle tissue and energy levels in your dog.

PROS: Deboned rabbit is the first ingredient, whole vegetables & gravy, plenty of added vitamins and minerals, uses fresh ingredients, hand-crafted in small batches for better quality control, made in the USA from locally sourced farmers.

CONS: Contains 9% crude fat content 

 

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, containing 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 that 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. It deserves 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 contain 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 a 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

Fruitables Healthy Dog Treats Pumpkin & Blueberries

 

Fruitables dog treats are made from wholesome real pumpkin and blueberries. CalorieSmart by using pumpkin to help reduce calories so you can treat your pet guilt-free. These dog treats smell great. 

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Crunchy baked texture dogs love. Fruitables baked dog treats have a unique flower shape and a satisfying crunch that dogs love.

PROS: Low-calorie treat, no artificial preservatives, made in the USA in small batches, cookies are crunchy, reasonably priced.

CONS: Some report they are too crunchy, even hard

 

9 Blue Natural Veterinary Diet

Alligator is the novel protein found in this Blue Natural Veterinary dry food for dogs. This has been crafted with real alligators (and no other animal proteins), 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.

Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet NP Novel...
17 Reviews
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While this isn't the most popular among the 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 (corn, wheat, and soy), and it's rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and 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 extremely 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.

This 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 compared 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, 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, and softened in the microwave.

CONS: It May contain cow's milk.

Conclusion on Novel Protein Dog Foods

If your dog has food allergies or sensitivities, 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 digest well, then gradually mix in the new food with the old over a week to avoid tummy upsets.

Be sure to watch your pet for any adverse effects. If they experience vomiting or diarrhea, discontinue using 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