You’re probably familiar with the various benefits gluten-free or even grain-free diets offer humans, but what about pet food for your dog? Could Fido benefit from removing gluten and other grain ingredients from his food?
Why Go Grain-Free?
There are many reasons pet owners might choose to put their dogs on grain-free diet food.
One of the most common factors in pet parents choosing a grain-free dog food is food allergies. Whether mild or life-threatening, when a dog shows an allergic response to a food, the reaction most often comes down to one of three dog food ingredients — corn, soy or wheat. It just so happens that corn, soy and wheat are some of the most popular ingredients in many mainstream dog foods. However, most grain-free dog food avoids one or all of these, meaning grain-free food is often a safe pick for dogs with food allergies.
Additionally, while your dog might not have a food allergy, he or she may still have a sensitivity or intolerance — similar to how a human might be lactose intolerant. While the intolerance might not be dangerous to your pet, think of how much more comfortable they would be if they could avoid the symptoms of eating something they shouldn’t. Just as when a lactose intolerant human experiences fewer digestive issues when switching to a dairy-free diet, your dog can experience fewer digestive problems, too, when switching to grain-free diet food.
Just make sure to read the label before buying and new foods.
Some dogs need to be put on a grain-free diet due to weight issues. After all, even as a human, if you’re on a diet, you’re probably avoiding bread. Grains do little to help you shed the pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
One perk of switching to grain-free dog food is purely for appearances. Feeding your pup grain-free dog food often results in him or her having a shinier coat and shedding less, thanks to the healthy fats and oils found in grain-free dog food.
Other perks of putting your dog on a grain-free diet? You might find that he or she has more energy and better breath. It just makes sense when you think about it; if your dog isn’t eating something that makes them feel ill, they’ll enjoy a vast array of health benefits.
Best Grain Free Puppy Food
Jeff Carbridge with Dog Owner recommends to pay close attention to your dog’s age when choosing their food. “The age of your dog always matters when you are choosing food because their nutritional needs change with age. A puppy needs a diet that is higher in calories and nutrients.”
Want to start your puppy out on a grain-free diet? Make sure they’re still getting all the nutrients they need during this critical phase of growth. Here are five top grain-free dog food options we like.
The Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food blends complex carbs, like what you’ll find in sweet potatoes and beans, with high-quality meats, such as boar, buffalo, salmon and turkey, to give your puppy long-lasting energy and none of the filler that you find in other brands of puppy food.
When you can count the ingredients in a food product on two hands, you’re on the right track. Canidae Pure Puppy Food is made from just nine ingredients, including chicken, fish, eggs, lentils and peas.
Help your little guy grow strong and lean with American Journey Grain-Free Puppy Food for puppies. This food is made for sensitive stomachs with high-quality ingredients that help your puppy build muscle mass and a robust immune system while developing into an adolescent dog.
This high-protein and low-carb formula with turkey and sweet potato also contains probiotics to support healthy digestion, DHA to help with brain development, and calcium and phosphorous to promote the growth of the skeleton. It’s everything your pup needs to grow into a healthy dog.
The Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw Puppy Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food contains freeze-dried, raw-coated kibble and freeze-dried raw bites that your puppy will love. In addition, you’ll find meats such as deboned chicken and salmon partnered with omega fatty acids to promote healthy skin and glucosamine and chondroitin to support healthy hip and joint growth. If you want your pup to get the nutrients they need for a healthy future without having to worry about upsetting their digestive system, we recommend checking out this Merrick option.
Best Grain-Free Food for Adult Dogs
Now that he’s grown, you want to keep your best friend happy and healthy. Here are some great grain-free options for adult dogs.
Health Extension Grain-Free Chicken and Turkey is made with organic chicken, turkey and whole fruits and vegetables. The formula also contains a unique blend of supplements to boost your pet’s immune system, promote a healthy coat and support his joints and bones. What you won’t find are any artificial flavors or preservatives.
Halo is another company dedicated to a holistic approach to doggie nutrition. Halo Holistic Grain Free features cage-free turkey and a healthy blend of non-GMO vegetables. It’s also made with a special “Dreamcoat” supplement for healthy skin and a glowing coat.
As with all of their flavors, there are no rendered meat meals, hormones, antibiotics or artificial flavors or preservatives.
Diamond Naturals Beef and Sweet Potato is made with real beef, real lamb and real fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, kale and blueberries. It also has omega fatty acids for a healthy coat, a probiotic blend to keep your dog’s tummy happy as well as antioxidants.
Everything your pal needs for a balanced and holistic diet!
The Honest Kitchen makes its dog food in small batches, which is then cold-pressed, slow-roasted and lightly dehydrated. This process ensures that all nutrients and aromas are locked in.
The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Beef Recipe is free of by-products, rendered meals and artificial colors and flavors. It’s honest to good healthy food for your dog!
80% of the proteins in Tim’s Grain-Free Dog Food are derived from animal sources and are complemented with a balanced blend of carbs, fats and fiber. It’s also slow-cooked to aid digestion and contains DHA and EPA sourced from fish oil to help with inflammation, heart health and shedding.
Rachael Ray Nutrish PEAK is the best dog food for adult dogs who prefer beef meals over other meats in their dry food. The beef is farm-raised, and there are no poultry by-products, artificial flavors, colors or artificial preservatives, so you know your furry friend will be getting the hearty, healthy meal they need with every bowl.
In addition to being a healthy, nutrient-packed meal for your pup, a portion of your purchase will go to the Rachael Ray Foundation to support animals in need through medical supplies, food or treatments.
The VICTOR Purpose – Grain Free Hero Canine dog food is recommended for highly active adult dogs that have an increased chance of painful joint issues as they age. The Glucosamine and Chondroitin found in this food promote long-term joint health. The added vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, protein and amino acids also work together to keep your dog’s immune and digestive system functioning at their best.
If you’re looking to assist your dog’s muscle development and help sustain their energy levels, try Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Salmon, Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Recipe. The combination of salmon, sweet potato and pumpkin will taste delicious to your pup and protect their stomachs since they are easier to digest than grains and meats. There are also no artificial flavors or colors and no beef, grains, corn or wheat — ingredients that can cause food intolerances.
Intended for large dogs, the True Acre Foods Large Breed Chicken and Vegetables Recipes Grain-Free Dry Dog Food provides natural fiber to support their healthy digestion, glucosamine and chondroitin to protect their joints and taurine for heart health. This dry dog food is made in the USA with USA-raised chickens and farm-grown vegetables.
The Earthborn Holistic Coastal Catch Grain-Free Natural Dry Dog Food contains herring, salmon and whitefish to help develop and sustain energy and lean muscle mass for dogs who prefer fish flavors over meats and other high-protein sources. In addition to fish, there are fruit and vegetables such as peas, apples, blueberries, carrots, spinach and cranberries to provide natural antioxidants for your dog’s immune system.
If you’re trying to help your dog lose weight, the L-Carnitine within the food helps burn fat and increase their energy levels.
16. Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Salmon & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Dog Food
Want to make sure that you’re feeding your dog science-backed food? The Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Salmon & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Dog Food has been analyzed and tested in controlled environments by board-certified clinical veterinarians, animal nutritionists, research scientists, design engineers and pet feeding analysts. Salmon is the first ingredient added to this dry dog food, and sweet potatoes provide an easily digestible source of carbohydrates for any sensitive pup. Additionally, the entire production process is completed in the U.S.
Best High Protein Grain-Free Dog Food
Your dog will tap into his canine ancestry with these high protein grain-free dog foods fit for a true carnivore.
Wellness Core Grain Free Dog Food is nutrient-rich, filled with probiotics for prime digestive health, omega fatty acids for a healthier skin and coat. It is also loaded with glucosamine and chondroitin for strong joints.
Nulo high protein grain-free dog food is made up of more than 80 percent protein, with the first three to four ingredients in every mix being animal-sourced protein. Beyond the meat, the ingredients are still items you probably have in your own pantry — ingredients like chickpeas, lentils and sweet potatoes.
Orijen Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is what the brand calls “biologically appropriate.” It’s made from fresh, regional meats for a blend that matches your dog’s evolutionary diet.
This Wysong Starch-Free, Grain-Free Dog Food (an ultra-high protein dog food) is specially formulated with a unique patent-pending process to eliminate both grain and starch from your dog’s diet. Made with 63% protein, this recipe includes real organic chicken and superfood chia seeds.
Other beneficial ingredients for your pup include prebiotics, probiotics and antioxidants.
Best Grain-Free Dog Food for Special Diets
While soy, wheat and corn are some of the main culprits when it comes to food allergies, other dogs have sensitivities to chicken, beef, potatoes or legumes (which include peas, lentils and chickpeas found in many grain-free options).
If your pet has a sensitivity, these specialized recipes may be more suited for his tummy and skin.
This option from Farmina Grain-Free Pumpkin, Boar and Apple Dog Food is a low-glycemic and GMO-free formula featuring wild boar as the main ingredient and also contains omega fatty acids to promote a healthy coat and skin. And it contains no potatoes, lentils, pea protein or chickpeas.
Merrick Grain-Free Dog Food is a grain-free recipe made from real deboned beef and other whole ingredients like sweet potatoes, blueberries and apples. And to help keep your dog’s hips and joints healthy, it also has leading levels of glucosamine and chondroitin.
The main ingredient in the Tender and True Salmon and Sweet Potato is wild-caught, sustainably sourced salmon. It also has no artificial preservatives, flavor, colors or by-products. And for those dogs with an allergy to chicken, the recipe contains no poultry.
For those pups with a sensitivity to chicken and potato, this Go! Sensitivities Turkey Grain-Free Dog Food with cage-free turkey as the single source of protein could be a great option. It’s also gluten-free and contains prebiotic fiber from chicory root to support sensitive tummies.
If you have an active dog on your hands, the Sport Dog Elite Buffalo and Sweet Potato (Legume-Free) will keep him energized with lean buffalo meat, a healthy blend of fats and carbs, and organic trace minerals that help promote better absorption.
It also has no legumes, no artificial flavors, fillers, by-products or preservatives.
If your furry friend is extra sensitive, this may be the food you’re looking for. The AvoDerm Advanced Sensitive Support features lamb as the only source of animal protein. It also has omega-rich avocado for a healthy coat and skin and a special blend of fiber for healthy digestion.
Acana Wild Atlantic Dog Food is made with whole, wild-caught mackerel, herring redfish, silver hake and yellowtail flounder. And it has no potato or tapioca, two major culprits of tummy troubles.
Blue Buffalo Carnivora Coastal Blend (No Peas or Potatoes) is made with wild-caught pollock, halibut, sole and cod. Unlike other grain-free recipes, this blend does not depend on vegetables for protein, and it contains no peas or potatoes.
Best-Grain Free Dog Food on a Budget
Of course, with all these fancier brands of grain-free dog food, you could easily start spending more on your pet’s meals than you do on your own. Even if you’re shopping on a budget, though, that doesn’t mean you can’t help your pup live their best grain-free life.
Purina Beneful Grain-Free, for example, goes for less than $20 for a 12-pound bag. The dry dog food is made from chicken, blueberries, pumpkin and spinach for a full-flavor kibble that comes with all the benefits of some of the pricer dog food options.
Nutro Grain Free dog food for large breeds is slightly more expensive, at around $50 for a 24-pound bag, but not by much when you consider the amount of pet food you’re buying at one time. The first ingredient is farm-raised chicken, and the formula is not only free from grain but also GMOs and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
Should I Buy my Dog Grain-Free Dog Food?
Grain-free dog food does come with a lot of benefits for a lot of dogs — better digestion, fewer sensitivities, healthier skin and coat.
While many dog owners are making the switch, some are concerned with the fairly recent FDA investigation into heart disease, specifically dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) among dogs eating an increased amount of peas and legumes, typically found in grain-free pet food. Dr. Sarah Wooten at Pumpkin Pet Insurance recommends to look on your dog food’s ingredient list to find a high quality choice that doesn’t pose a health risk to your beloved pet. She recommends avoiding foods that have risky carbohydrates (peas, lentils, and potatoes) as a main ingredient. (Main ingredients are listed first on the ingredient list.)
There are also different substitutes that can be used with ingredients like barley, oats, rye and legume seeds if your dog has an allergy or sensitivity.
Before you make any drastic changes to your dog’s diet, speak with your vet or animal nutritionist. They’ll be able to help you best address your dog’s individual needs and the right grain-free formula.
You might also be interested in: The 15 Best Dog Puzzle Toys [Idle Dogs Are Like Idle Hands]
The 30 Best Grain-Free Dog Foods:
- Taste of the Wild Puppy Food
- Canidae Pure Puppy Food
- American Journey Grain-Free Puppy Food
- Nulo Freestyle Puppy
- Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw Puppy Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- Health Extension Grain-Free Chicken and Turkey
- Halo Holistic Grain Free Dog Food
- Diamond Naturals Beef and Sweet Potato
- Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Beef Recipe
- Tim’s Grain-Free Dog Food
- Rachael Ray Nutrish PEAK
- VICTOR Purpose – Grain Free Hero Canine
- Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Salmon, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe
- True Acre Foods Large Breed Chicken & Vegetables Recipes Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- Earthborn Holistic Coastal Catch Grain-Free Natural Dry Dog Food
- Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Salmon & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Dog Food
- Wellness Core Grain Free Dog Food
- Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Dog Food
- Orijen Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- Wysong Starch-Free, Grain-Free Dog Food
- Farmina Grain-Free Pumpkin, Boar & Apple Dog Food
- Merrick Grain-Free Dog Food
- Tender and True Salmon and Sweet Potato
- Go! Sensitivities Turkey Grain-Free Dog Food
- Sport Dog Elite Buffalo and Sweet Potato
- AvoDerm Advanced Sensitive Support
- Acana Wild Atlantic Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Carnivora Coastal Blend
- Purina Beneful Grain-Free Dog Food
- Nutro Grain Free Dog Food