Monday, April 22, 2024

The Pet Expert: What is a Novel Protein?

Does your dog constantly lick and chew his legs, scratch incessantly, or have chronic ear problems? Odds are your pooch may be reacting to one of the proteins in his diet. Switching to a less common, or ‘novel’, protein may just be the solution, and here’s why.

The term “novel protein” has become increasingly popular in recent years, as health conscious pet parents try to help their best furry friends cope with common dietary-related ailments like allergies, sensitivities, and more.

A large number of pet health problems, including itchy skin and dry coat, ear infections, and even chronic digestive problems can often be caused by the body’s reaction to specific animal proteins.

According to PetsWebMD, ten percent of all allergy cases in dogs are related to diet.

An allergy is the immune system’s reaction, or overreaction, to substances it would otherwise tolerate normally. In dietary allergies, antibodies are produced against proteins and complex carbohydrates. Essentially, this is the body’s way of protecting against a potential threat, resulting in an array of physiological responses.

A novel protein is a unique protein that is not typically found in common pet food recipes. The most common protein sources in today’s pet foods are chicken, beef, pork, and also fish. Next, less common but still moderately popular proteins include lamb, turkey, duck, venison, and rabbit. Granted, all dogs are exposed to different ingredients, so what is a common protein to one dog may be considered novel to another.

The most unique, or least common proteins in pet foods may include bison, elk, alligator, kangaroo, ostrich, camel, black soldier flies, and even beaver.

When it comes to dietary allergies, the body needs to have prior exposure to a protein before the immune system can elicit a negative response. This is the primary reason why pet owners are flocking to novel protein diets; the lower the exposure to any given protein, the less likely a pet is to have an allergic reaction.

Novel protein diets are not only ideal for allergy problem solving, they have many additional benefits, too.

For starters, less common proteins provide added excitement at mealtime, as new, unique smells and tastes are stimulating and enriching. Whether they are considered novel or not, rotating among various proteins is an ideal way to entice a fussy pet, and sustain that interest over a prolonged period of time.

Feeding a rotation of proteins also increases their exposure to a broader variety of micro-nutrients, which is essential for optimal health and nutrition.

Next, including novel proteins in your dog’s food rotation may decrease your pet’s chances of developing certain long-term health problems. Overexposure of certain food ingredients may lead to an increased risk of diet-related issues such as allergies, intolerances, decreased urinary health, and more. The higher the level of individual exposure to any given ingredient, the greater the risk of the body developing an adverse reaction.

That’s not to say every pet owner should be feeding novel proteins.

Not all dogs develop dietary allergies and intolerances. For the majority of pets, most common proteins are perfectly fine and will never present any issues.

Due to their rarer nature, novel proteins are also more expensive than common proteins. Pet owners on a budget may find the higher price tag to be cost prohibitive.

If you have been struggling with your pet’s non-stop scratching, ear problems, chronic digestive issues, and more, give some thought to trying a novel protein diet for a period of time. It may be just the solution your dog needs to live his best, most comfortable life.

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit

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