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Novel Proteins & Carbohydrates in Dog Foods


Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
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You may have noticed an expanding menu of ingredients in dog foods lately, some of which are quite exotic, like kangaroo and wild boar! Other dog foods read like a selection of farmer's market favorites. But did you know that all of these "novel" proteins and carbohydrates showing up in pet foods are inspired by veterinary science?

What are "Novel" Proteins & Carbohydrates?

Novel proteins are protein sources that have not been previously fed to the pet, as opposed to staple choices like beef, poultry, pork and tuna found in many over-the-counter pet foods. Examples include venison, bison, elk, quail, rabbit, ostrich, kangaroo and wild boar. In a similar vein, a novel carbohydrate source is one that has never been fed previously. Examples of novel carbohydrates include peas, potatoes, and oats. What may be novel, or new, to one pet, may not be novel to another.

Why Offer Novel Sources?

Novel proteins and carbohydrates are often used by veterinarians in elimination diets to determine if a pet has a food allergy or sensitivity. When a dog is taken off the old diet, he is often introduced to a new diet that contains a novel protein and carbohydrate he has never been exposed to, such as venison and potato or rabbit and green peas.

Dogs don't typically have allergic reactions right away to newly introduced proteins and carbohydrates. If the common signs of food allergies (including itchy ears and skin) start to decline on the new diet, a veterinarian may conclude that the old food was possibly the source of the allergen. Foods are then re-introduced slowly (and reactions monitored closely) to see if the offending ingredient can be pinpointed.

Is a Novel Protein Food Right for Your Pet?

We recommend discussing with your veterinarian whether a novel protein and carbohydrate diet is right for your pet. Your veterinarian may recommend one of the prescription foods available for your pet's elimination diet. It is important to remember that once a particular protein or carbohydrate has been fed to a pet, it can no longer be used in an elimination diet.

What's Available on the Market?

Pet food manufacturers have responded to the need for novel protein and carbohydrate diets to be more readily available to the pet parent. While over-the-counter novel protein and carbohydrate diets are now widely available, it is important to remember that these diets may not have just one novel protein and carbohydrate source (and they may not have a limited number of additional ingredients) as compared to the prescription foods available through your veterinarian. These factors make the over- the-counter formulas less ideal for performing true elimination diets and better suited for families who want to add an interesting variety to their pets' daily diet menu.

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