Over the last few years, grain-free dog foods have taken the dog world by storm. For too long, pet food brands have used cheap carbohydrates and grains as cost-effective fillers; they betrayed all of us dog owners. These times have changed and this article will inform you of grain-free dog diets, as well as review the top 15 best grain-free dog foods.
Many pet owners may make the mistake of purely buying the dog food they always have done because that’s just the habit they’ve fallen into. Other dog owners do it because that’s the one product or brand they see advertised above all others. However many dog owners are now becoming far more aware of what it is they feed their pets and with this trend we’re now seeing a number of new healthier dog diets grow in popularity.
One of these popular trends is grain-free dog food and this guide will explore why it is this type of diet is increasing in popularity and hopefully help you to decide if it is something you should adopt for your dog.
15 Best Dog Foods Without Grains
Brands try to use their usual marketing tactics to entice you to buy their special grain-free dog food but don’t be fooled by false inflated claims.
Here are the 15 best grain-free dog foods reviewed fairly.
1. Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Grain-free dog foods always bring up a new problem: what carbohydrate source is the brand going to use to replace the grains they are removing? Taste of the Wild decides to use both sweet potatoes and peas to provide your dog with satiating, tasty, and wholesome carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes and peas are known to be highly digestible carbs making them a perfect replacement for premium grain-free pet food.
Besides the carbohydrates, this Taste of the Wild dry dog food contains real roasted meat and bison is the first ingredient on the list, making sure your dog received nutritious proteins with all essential amino acids. With roughly 370 kcal for a cup, this dry dog food is also providing a lot of micronutrients thanks to the delicious fruits and vegetables thrown in this recipe, including blueberries, raspberries, and tomatoes.
If your dog has some skin issues or keeps on scratching itself, try to switch to Taste of the Wild Canine Formula and see if there is a change. Many dog owners have noticed great improvements and a major diminution of skin conditions with such a switch.
- 32% protein content
- Packed with nutrients, vitamins, and healthy fatty acids
- It comes with K9 strain proprietary probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants
- Continuous price increase
- It might not work well for picky eaters
2. Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural
The name is explicit. Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain is a grain-free kibble for dogs with a sensitive stomach; on top of having zero grains, it is also gluten-free and is completely free of fillers. Each gram of this precious dog food is nutritious and beneficial to your dog. The drawback is the rather expensive price, at roughly $42 for a bag of 28lbs.
Also free of artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors, this premium dog is natural and stresses the importance of sourcing its ingredients. Indeed, the first ingredient on the list is U.S. farm-raised turkey which besides being a wonderful selling point is proof of their commitment to their quality, health, and safety standards.
Additionally, to great proteins (also available with U.S. farm-raised bison), Rachael Ray is throwing in some nutritious wholesome vegetables for dog food packed with vitamins and trace elements. To enhance the absorption of the minerals found in its formula, they have added chelated minerals which are known to facilitate the digestion of such minerals and trace elements.
- Authentic and high-quality main ingredient (turkey)
- It contains essential vitamins, elements, and minerals
- 100% free from any preservatives and artificial flavorings
- High price
- Not recommended for allergy-prone dogs
3. BLUE Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain
With its proprietary blend of premium antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins labeled as LifeSource Bits, BLUE Buffalo is again imposing itself as a leading dog food brand thanks to its great ingredients and delicious recipes. Quality has a cost but with its Wilderness range, BLUE Buffalo is going a little high, scaring a lot of readers along the way since there are good alternatives at a more affordable price.
BLUE Buffalo Wilderness says goodbye to soy, corn, and other grains, as well as artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. This formula also excludes poultry by-products so you can be reassured that the ingredients are of high quality:
- carbohydrates come from tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, blackberries, pomegranate
- proteins come from beef, bison, lamb, chicken, and venison
- fatty acids come from flaxseed and red meat
Not just that, the micronutrients are sourced from high-quality foods such as dried kelp, dried parsley, barley grass, spinach, chicory root, rosemary oil, and blueberries. The list of nutritious herbs, fruits, and vegetables are even bigger so you can be sure of feeding your dog one of the most complete and balanced grain-free dog food currently available in the marketplace.
If you can afford it, go ahead and transition to this remarkable BLUE Buffalo Rocky Mountain formula.
- Packed with real and premium beef
- Complete and balanced nutritious content
- Rich in protein
- It might cause stomach-related concerns among dogs with extreme food sensitivities
- Some owners find the price too expensive
4. Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dog Food
Prepared and put together in the United States, this grain-free Wellness CORE formula is completely made from premium natural ingredients. Deliciously nutritious chicken is used along with wholesome vegetables, aiming at providing a lot of proteins while also focusing on the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.)
There is a long list of ingredients the Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free is not including and it’s awesome for our dogs’ health:
- absence of fillers and meat by-products
- completely free of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors
- and obviously soy-free!
On the other hand, Wellness CORE is making sure most of the chicken and turkey meat used is deboned so your dog actually gets more meat and less bone. This recipe is a great all-around kibble for those dogs with a sensitive stomach, it’s obviously loaded with Omega 3 and 6, probiotics, and antioxidants all sourced from complex and tasty foods.
- Premium ingredients
- Rich in protein and other micronutrients
- It comes with essential vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals
- Loaded with healthy omega fatty acids
- Free from food fillers and by-products
- Slight formula changes
- Take with extra-caution when feeding allergy-prone dogs
5. Purina Beyond Natural Grain-Free Wet Dog Food
Because moist dog food exists too and is absolutely loved by dogs, we had to include the best grain-free wet dog food currently available. Purina is a household name and they have managed to maneuver towards a more responsible ingredients list in their premium dog food ranges.
Moreover, real salmon is the first ingredient in this delicious wet formula but this is not it—chicken the second, turkey the fourth, and the liver the fifth! This grain-free wet dog food is indeed full of high-quality proteins with a complete amino-acid profile thanks to its multiple animal sources.
The delicious carbohydrates have to come from somewhere and sweet potatoes are the choice made from Purina in this recipe but there are other options available: chicken, lamb, carrots, peas, green beans, and spinach. Additionally, you could order a nice selection to keep your pooch always curious and excited about its food bowl.
This Purina BEYOND Natural range leans towards a much healthier alternative to regular wet dog food. In addition, to be a grain-free wet food, it’s also free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives and they make sure their wet food is free of meat by-products.
- The authentic and premium main ingredient
- No meat by-products
- Loaded with needed protein, vitamins, and minerals
- Free from any artificial flavorings and preservatives
- Shipping and packaging (reviews about mismatched orders and damaged products)
- It might not be suitable for picky eaters
6. American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
This amazing grain-free dog food from American Journey is also free from corn, wheat, soy, and other food fillers that might cause food sensitivities among dogs. This product also contains essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for a stronger immune system.
Furthermore, its source of protein comes from authentic, premium, and deboned beef – this helps maintain a lean muscle mass. In addition, this product also contains the needed fatty acids for healthier skin and coats.
- Real and premium beef as the main ingredient
- 100% free from common allergens like corn, wheat, soy, and fillers
- It comes with essential antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients
- Some buyers complain about kibble crumbs in the bag
- It might have a subtle unpleasant smell
7. Orijen Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Orijen’s Dry Dog Food is proud of its 100% high-quality animal ingredients and natural preservatives. To substitute grains, Orijen used carbs from beans, peas, and lentils – ingredients that are easier to digest compared to grains. This product is also said to be suitable for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Loaded with essential nutrients from wholesome fruits and vegetables, this product ensures to help maintain your dog’s overall wellness. Aside from its healthy ingredients, this dog food with its freeze-dried liver kibble coating is also rich in flavor and taste.
- All animal ingredients are raw and fresh.
- It comes with needed protein, nutrients, and vitamins
- Less allergy-prone ingredients
- Rich in taste and flavor
- Some dogs might be allergic to peas
- High price
8. Canidae Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food
This Canidae Dry Dog Food has complete and balanced nutrition with its eight real food ingredients. It is also free from potential allergic ingredients like food fillers, grains, wheat, corn, and soy. Plus, it only contains natural ingredients – no preservatives and artificial flavorings. Lastly, this Canidae dog food also comes with healthy omega-fatty acid for healthier skin and coats.
On the downside, according to several reviews, this product had a reformulation, causing some dogs to react poorly.
- 100% free from allergens like wheat, corn, soy, and other fillers
- All ingredients are natural
- It comes with healthy fatty acids, probiotics, and antioxidants
- It might not work well for picky eaters
- It contains more ingredients compared to other limited ingredient dog foods
9. Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Beef & Freeze-Dried Raw Pieces Dry Dog Food
Instinct’s dry dog food is boosted with essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. The USA-raised beef is its number one ingredient and main protein source. Aside from that, this dog food also contains needed probiotics for a healthier digestive system and healthy omega-fatty acids for shinier coats and skin.
In addition, this Instinct product is crafted without using any ingredients like corn, soy, wheat, by-product meals, preservatives, and artificial flavorings. And lastly, to guarantee complete and balanced nutrition for all dogs, only raw and authentic ingredients are involved in the process.
- Real and premium USA-raised beef as the main ingredient
- Free from additives, preservatives, and artificial flavorings
- Loaded with high protein, antioxidants, vitamins, probiotics, and fatty acids
- Only uses raw and fresh ingredients
- Change in formula
- There are buyer complaints about inconsistent quality
10. Nulo Freestyle Beef Recipe with Apples Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
Formulated with raw protein, vegetables, and fruits, this Nulo dog food provides your dog with a high-protein and fat-balanced diet. It contains 83% beef, broccoli, parsley, apple, and organs and bones. In addition, its probiotic ingredients help support healthier digestion and immune system among dogs.
Moreover, this Nulo product has no wheat, corn, soy, flavorings, or preservatives. And lastly, this dog food is processed and developed in a USDA-inspected facility – to guarantee a safe and well-processed treat for your dogs.
- High-protein and fat-balanced diet
- Packed with essential vitamins, probiotics, protein, and minerals
- All ingredients used are natural and high-quality
- Easy-to-consume kibbles
- It can be too pricey
- Some pet owners complain about this product’s size (too small)
11. Farmina N&D Prime Chicken & Pomegranate Medium & Maxi Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
This adult dry dog food manufactured by Farmina is a grain-free and high-protein product. 98% of Farmina’s protein is also sourced from premium-quality animals. Moreover, their special coating system ensures that the product’s freshness and vitamins are preserved. This dry dog food also claims to have limited carbohydrates and low fiber to attain a more balanced diet.
In addition, this product guarantees to support your dog in maintaining a healthier and shinier skin and coat with its healthy omega-fatty acids. Plus, the added pomegranate and berries are the source of your dog’s needed antioxidants.
- 100% free from allergy-prone ingredients
- Loaded with omega fatty acids, vitamins, nutrients, and minerals
- Rich in protein from premium animal sources
- There are reviews about subtle unpleasant smell
- Despite good stool quality, some pet owners complain about horrible gas release among their dogs
12. Merrick Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Chicken
The grain-free dog food from Merrick is known for its authentic and premier deboned beef as the main ingredient. This product is also good for dogs not fond of chickens and other poultry products. Additionally, Merrick dog food has outstanding statistics of 65% protein and 35% fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other essential natural ingredients.
Aside from those things, this high in protein product also contains healthy omega fatty acids needed to maintain healthy skin and coat. It also comes with glucosamine and chondroitin, which help develop stronger joints and hips.
- 60% of its protein content comes from animal sources
- Packed with needed vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and antioxidants
- Best for dogs with chicken and other poultry products allergies
- Has glucosamine and chondroitin for joints and hips
- Packaging (the bag is not resealable)
- Smaller bag sizes – but the same prize
- Some buyers complained about effects like diarrhea and vomiting
13. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Chicken & Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food
The Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Chicken & Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food is proud of its high-quality and high-protein main ingredients: a combination of turkey and chicken. This treat doesn’t also have any potential allergens like soy, wheat, and corn. Additionally, its healthy fatty acids and antioxidants assist in developing a stronger immune system.
Moreover, they formulated together with nutritionists and veterinarians, this dog food guarantees to meet the vitamins and nutrients your dog needs. And lastly, another plus point for this product is that the vegetables used are field-grown. The fiber from vegetables helps have healthier digestion.
- Premium and rich in main protein ingredients
- Developed along with veterinarians and nutritionists
- Loaded with needed vitamins and nutrients
- No potential allergens in its ingredients
- There are reviews about a decrease in product quality
- It might not be the best choice for picky eaters
14. Wysong Epigen Starch-Free Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog & Cat Food
This grain-free dry dog food from Wysong claims to have the natural flavor and taste that your dog surely loves and enjoys. In addition, Wysong is also proud to be the first dry kibble to be starch-free. Aside from that, this product contains essential ingredients like vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes, and nutraceuticals.
To add more, this Wysong dog food can be a dog’s protein booster – just ensure to introduce it slowly to avoid stomach and digestion issues. Plus, this product is manufactured in adherence to the strict protocols given.
- Free from potential allergens like grain and starch
- Rich in protein and other essential nutrients
- It can also serve as a protein booster and meal supplement
- Change in formula
- It might cause gas issues and diarrhea
15. Dr. Tim’s Grain-Free Kinesis Formula Dry Dog Food
Dr. Tim’s grain-free recipe is proud of its complete and balanced formula with nearly 87% animal-sourced proteins and the right amount of carbohydrates, fat, and fiber. In addition, this product is also applicable for dogs with sedentary to more physically active lifestyles.
Moreover, with omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA, Dr. Tim’s dog food helps develop healthy cognitive function and joints. Lastly, this product also helps keep skin allergies and concerns at bay.
- Complete and balanced formula
- High in protein
- Applicable for dogs with passive to more active lifestyles
- Fatty acids for healthier cognitive function and joints
- Some picky eaters might not like this product
- Some pet owners do not like the sudden price increase
Pros & Cons of Grain-Free Diets For Dogs
Before we dive into the benefits or drawbacks of grain-free dog foods it is first best to examine exactly what it is and how it differs from traditional and low-fat dog foods currently found on the market.
What’s a Grain-Free Dog Food?
Quite simply, grain-free dog foods remove any grain-based ingredient from their recipe. A grain-free diet for dogs aims to move more in line with what dogs would have eaten before humans stepped in and began to mass-produce the type of dog food we are now so used to seeing stacked on our shelves. By removing grain, compared to typical dog food, a grain-free diet will attempt to insert more meat protein and digestible animal fats into your dog’s diet.
Now you hopefully have a better understanding of what grain-free dog food is, it is time to try and clear up some of the myths attached to this type of dog diet. There is still some divide as to how beneficial grain-free dog foods are but this guide will attempt to answer your questions and leave you feeling far more confident about what you’re feeding your pet.
Benefits of Grain-Free Diet for Your Dog
With grain-free pet foods growing in popularity you may be asking the question of why. What is it that is making a huge number of pet owners switch to a grain-free diet and what exactly are the core benefits of making the change?
Ultimately we all want what is best for our pup and below we have outlined the four main reasons why switching to a grain-free diet could be advantageous for your dog — a grain-free dog food helps with:
- reducing the risk of allergic reactions to wheat, corn, or other grains typically found in dog food
- getting closer to a meat-based diet that dogs would have evolved within the wild
- avoiding cheap carbohydrate-based fillers and low-quality alternative dog foods
- improving your dog’s digestion thanks to healthy fats and quality proteins
These benefits are very much centered on improving the overall health of your dog by moving to a more natural and holistic approach to their food. As with human diets that avoid processed or ‘fad’ foods that we would have had no exposure to in the wild, you can view your dog’s diet is very much the same way.
However, even with the popularity of grain-free dog food continuing to grow, it is extremely important to make the decision based on your own dog’s needs — simply because what might be the right approach to dieting for one dog may not necessarily be true for the next one.
For example, if you own a specific breed with unique needs such as a bully breed, try to have a diet adapted to them, with for example the best dog food for Pitbulls: higher in proteins and fat, much lower in carbs.
Are Grains Bad for All Dogs?
Although you may have read the above section and decided emphatically that making the switch to a grain-free diet is the right thing to do, it is important to consider both sides of the debate. To help you make a well-rounded decision here, we will consider a number of drawbacks to grain-free dog foods and why you need to make the decision based on the entire corpus of information, and not just what is the hypest dog diet currently.
Many of the cons associated with switching to a grain-free diet for your dog relate to the many misconceptions people have in regards to whether or not pets should be eating grains, or more loosely, carbohydrates.
As already mentioned, one of the benefits associated with grain-free dog food will mean less chance of an allergic reaction taking place, however, while food allergies do affect dogs, grain and corn intolerance only represents 10% of all allergies diagnosed by vets. This means that adopting a grain-free diet makes perfect sense if your does is allergic, but if your pet isn’t affected, there is no reason to rush to avoid these ingredients.
If you are worrying about an allergy affecting your dog then it is well worth looking into the issue further, itchiness and hair loss can both be common symptoms but as research has shown, beef and dairy cause far more reactions in dogs than grains.
Another benefit for some dogs to avoid grains is how they can also ease digestion issues. However, if your dog doesn’t currently have any negative health issues with their digestion, then their current grain-based diet may not be a problem whatsoever. Transitioning to a new diet when there is no visible need may cause more problems than it can solve.
Studies have even shown that domesticated dogs have had to adapt to how their stomachs digest starch and other food types. This means that although as wolves this is not something they would have done regularly, with the genetic mutations that happened for centuries, domesticated dogs are now able to digest traditional dog food quite comfortably. This is proven by the overall low number of issues related to typical diets dogs have become used to, even though some experts tout the negative effects of such high carbohydrate/low protein intake.
How To Choose a Grain-Free Dog Food
So you’ve now weighed up the pros and cons and come to the conclusion that a grain-free diet is a right approach for your pet? With such an array of choices, it is now time to focus on what to be on the lookout for when buying the best grain-free dog food — this is so you don’t give in to the hype but actually buy the best product out there!
As with more traditional dog foods, you’re given the choice of both wet and dry grain-free dog foods. With both variants, make sure you are paying attention to the below points:
- the first ingredient must be a quality protein and not another carbohydrate (e.g. potato)
- wholesome fruits and vegetables providing great micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and trace elements)
- use of nutritious pieces of meat while avoiding the use of meat by-products
- healthy fatty acids to provide enough omega 3 and 6
Other factors to look out for are how grain-free dog food is what additives are in the recipe. Some brands use probiotics, while others use a number of study-proven antioxidants without any additional artificial colors or flavors which can have a beneficial impact on your dog’s health.
Here is a long eight-minute video about the benefits of low-carb dog food:
Ensuring your dog receives a well-balanced and healthy diet should be one of the main priorities of any dog owner. Just as regular walks and frequent grooming mean your dog can live a happy and healthy life, it is important that you know exactly what you’re feeding your pet to make sure their nutritional needs are met. When it comes to feeding your dog, you must focus on both quantity and quality.
Grain-free diets are hype and they mimic the diet of early dogs: more meat, more fat, and fewer grains such as wheat, rice, barley, quinoa, etc. Just like low-fat dog foods, this grain-free diet is a healthy alternative to the regular kibble most dog owners feed their dogs.
Now, because grain-free dog foods are praised and clearly growing in popularity, dog manufacturers are trying (as usual) to use tricks to get you to buy their particular recipe. This is why we’ve listed the best grain-free dog foods in this article so you know what to buy!