Novel Proteins. What are they? How can they help my dog? There are many benefits of sharing novel proteins with your dog. Here we dig into the top 5 reasons you should share them with your dog, and why you should be cautious of sharing too many different novel proteins.
Novel proteins are new or otherwise novel foods your dog has not eaten before. Some examples are venison, certain types of fish, kangaroo, bison, duck, rabbit, turkey, and even insects like crickets. Sadly, many dogs today have allergies and food sensitivities that may cause them to itch, lick their paws, easily get infections, or suffer from gastrointestinal distress.
Potential Causes of Protein Allergies
Sometimes these allergies stem from the animal byproducts in pet foods. According to BMC Veterinary Research, the most common food allergens are beef, chicken, dairy products like eggs, wheat, and lamb.
Most pet foods use rendered animal byproducts in their foods. These can be lower quality proteins and things not used in the human food chain. I personally don’t find that problematic, however pet food production is not regulated in the same way that human foods are. This means, things like 4-D meats (meat from already dead, dying, diseased, or disabled animals) are allowed in pet foods. This lack of quality protein, along with antibiotics and pesticides in the meats can cause many issues in our canine friends.
Benefits of Novel Proteins
1. Novel Proteins Can be Used in an Elimination Diet
An elimination diet may help with allergies caused by different foods. This is when you feed your dog a completely new diet for 6-8 weeks. This new diet should consist of a single novel protein and one type vegetable mixed in. No, elimination diets aren’t balanced, but for a short time they can be used to heal allergy problems.
It’s important not to feed anything else for the course of the 6-8 weeks, even treats and table scraps (unless, of course, they are the same novel proteins as the elimination diet). If the symptoms increase, try a different novel protein and keep revisiting the process until symptoms clear up.
We put our Golden mix, Oliver a on an elimination diet of venison to get to the bottom of itchiness and gastrointestinal issues that were making him sick. I made his food from locally sourced venison (from hunter friends) until I ran out. While his issues did clear up, we found that a good probiotic plus a raw and gently cooked diet took care of them best, and was not difficult or overly pricey to source.
If you’re trying an elimination diet, make sure to read your pet food labels carefully, as you only want the novel proteins in the ingredient list. Companies will often label a food as somthing like “Turkey Recipe” , but will contain other ingredients like chicken or chicken fat, a common allergen. GO makes a line of limited ingredient kibbles that are helpful for elimination diets.
2. Rotating Novel Proteins May Help Decrease Allergy Risk
Many dogs develop protein allergies after eating the same type of food for years. Longer exposure is often what triggers the allergies in the first place. Allergic reactions generally take a long time to develop, so rotating 1-2 novel proteins in the diet can help decrease that exposure, therefore lowering allergy risks.
3. Incorporating Novel Proteins May Help with Obesity
According to a 2018 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 60% of cats (56 million) and 56% of dogs (50 million) are overweight or obese. Since novel proteins are generally leaner than many industrially farmed proteins, they may be an ideal addition to overweight pets’ diets.
According to an article in Petfoodindustry.com, the average novel proteins contain about 50% fewer calories and 80% less fat than conventional proteins. Incorporating these leaner proteins into our pets’ diets may help support healthy weight loss.
4. Novel Proteins Just Might Help the Planet
Much of the conventional protein in pet foods (and the human food chain) comes from mammoth, industrialized farms. Being carnivores, our dogs and cats are responsible for close to 30% of the environmental impact that raising meat has on our planet.
After fossil fuels, industrial farms are the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, industrial farming puts a tremendous strain on precious water and land resources.
On the other hand, novel proteins such as crickets can be raised in a fraction of the space, with a fraction of the water needed to raise one cow. There is even a pet food company, Jiminy’s, who specialize in pet food made from cricket protein. While we may think, “Ewww, gross! I’m not eating cricket!”, we know our dogs enjoy many different flavor profiles. And most dogs will eat just about anything, including bugs.
If novel proteins like crickets can sustainably provide necessary protein for our Best Friends, I say, “Why not?”
5. Novel Proteins Can be Ideal for Sensitive Stomachs
Since many novel proteins are raised differently than conventional industrial-farmed meats, they may not be exposed to the antibiotics and pesticides that conventially raised meats are. This makes for cleaner proteins and therefore fewer digestive issues for sensitive guts.
Potential Cons of Novel Proteins
Higher Price Point: Since novel proteins are rarer, they will likely cost more. Unless, of course you are a hunter and can provide and cook your own meat. However, something to consider is that novel proteins may very be well worth the higher price if you factor in your dog’s long term health and a potential decrease in future veterinary bills.
Don’t Over-Do It! We’ve all heard of too much of a good thing. If your dog does indeed have a sensitive system or is prone to allergies, you want some of thesel proteins to remain novel. That means, don’t rotate through all of the novel proteins you can find. It’s best just to choose a few to rotate your dog’s diet with.
Diagnosing protein allergies in dogs can be boggling and frustrating. Novel proteins are one way to help support your dog’s overall health, clean up her diet, and maybe even do a small part in helping the planet. Even adding treats made from novel proteins are an easy way to support your dog’s health and provide lean, mean, and clean protein!