Over the past few years, there has been a lot of discussion about grain-free dog foods and the different health benefits they can provide to canines. The thinking which has shown a grain-free diet can be beneficial to humans has also been applied to dogs too. Some dogs suffer from allergies or digestive issues which can be triggered by grains and making the switch can help to alleviate these issues. Also, many grain-free foods contain a lot of high-quality ingredients such as protein from real meat.
However, if you have never bought grain-free dog food before, you are going to need a little help sifting through the different options which are available to you. We are here, as always, to help you make your mind up by offering a rundown of 10 of the top products on the market, as well as more information on each of their key features.
The Best Grain Free Dog Food
One of the core principals of Taste of the Wild is to provide food which is close to what ancient dogs would have enjoyed when they were hunters. This one is made from roasted bison meat which is rich in protein to promote lean, strong muscles. Other ingredients include fruit and vegetables which are packed with antioxidants.
Not only does the gluten free dog food not contain any grain, but it also doesn’t include any corn, wheat or filler. Also, there is no artificial, flavors, colors or preservatives. On top of being nutrient-rich, it is also highly digestible as well.
Protein blend for optimal amino acid profile
Packed with antioxidants
Contains superfoods packed with antioxidants
- BrandTaste of The Wild
- Weight30 pounds
Real meat is always the primary ingredient of this wheat free dog food. In this case, deboned chicken is used, which is full of protein to build and maintain strong muscles. As well as protein, it also includes plenty of carbohydrates to give your dog bags of energy.
The omega 3 fatty acids contained within the food promote healthier skin and give your dog’s coat a lush shine. There are no artificial flavors or preservatives, but there is a blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Deboned chicken is the number one ingredient
Contains essential proteins and carbohydrates
Full of omega 3 fatty acids
Full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
- BrandBlue Buffalo
- Weight11 pounds
This grain free dry dog food is highly focused on protein from turkey and chicken. And there are also plenty of vitamins and minerals which come from the real vegetables included.
You can also rest assured that there is no soy, wheat, corn, and meat by-products. It is also free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Other positive features include prebiotics, probiotics, and fiber to support healthy digestion.
80% more meat than traditional grain-based dog food
Real vegetables provide essential minerals and vitamins
No wheat, soy, corn, and meat by-products
Contains only premium, all-natural ingredients
- BrandWellness Core
- Weight26 pounds
Made using a special formula of sweet potato and venison, this no grain dog food contains limited ingredients, so you can be sure of what is going into your furry friend’s body.
As well as maintaining good digestive health, this corn free dog food supports the healthy skin and shiny coat of your pup. As you would expect, there are no artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives contained within, providing nutrition which is both complete and balanced.
Limited ingredients packed with protein and carbohydrates
Maintains digestive health
Without artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
Contains essential vitamins and minerals
- BrandNatural Balance
- Weight26.4 pounds
With real meat as the number one ingredient, this dog food without grain is made with protein-filled lamb, beef, and venison. As for antioxidants, there are plenty provided from the fruit and vegetables within. There are heaps of carbs too.
The exact blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants have been determined by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists.
Real meat is the primary ingredient
Plenty of antioxidants from fruit and vegetables
Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
Special blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
- BrandBlue Buffalo
- Weight1 pounds
A grain-free natural recipe dog food from popular brand Purina, the white meat chicken and egg recipe is protein-filled. It has also been accented with apple for added flavor and nutrients.
There is no corn, wheat or soy, and it has also been made without any poultry by-product meal. All the limited ingredients have been specially chosen to elongate the life of your dog and keep them healthy for years to come.
Simple recipe with added vitamins and minerals
Real chicken is primary ingredient
No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
No supplements necessary
- Weight23 pounds
The primary ingredient in this grain free dog food from Whole Earth Farms is meat, which provides your pooch with high-quality protein. Just like other grain-free dog foods, it offers easier digestion and makes it less likely that your pup will get an upset stomach.
Suitable for all breeds of dog in all different life stages, the recipe has been formulated to provide benefits such as supporting a shinier coat and healthier skin. If your dog has poultry sensitivities, you can rest assured that none of this is in the food.
Cooked with high-quality, natural ingredients
Supports improved digestion
High-quality protein is the first ingredient
Cooked in the USA
- BrandWhole Earth Farms
- Weight10.1 ounces
This grain-free dog food has been formulated in a way to help your canine friend maintain a healthy weight. The number one ingredient is real deboned beef, which ensures that there is plenty of protein within.
The protein and fiber have been balanced without the extra calories or fat which make it more likely that your dog will pile on the pounds. Other positive ingredients include glucosamine and chondroitin which help joints and hips stay healthy.
Healthy weight recipe without extra calories or fat
Balanced protein and fiber content
Omega 6 and Omega 3 Fatty Acids help healthy skin and coat
Glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy hips and joints
- Weight27.1 pounds
The protein content from real lamb ensures that your dog gets plenty of energy, but there are also lots of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Plus, there are no unnecessary added preservatives or flavors.
The motto is that it provides simple, wholesome nutrition, which means that there are no unnecessary added extras to cause a negative reaction in your furry friend.
Contains natural ingredients
Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients included
No artificial flavors or preservatives
Real lamb provides protein and flavor
- Weight25 pounds
The final product on our list contains lean red bison meat, which helps your dog to get the energy they need. As for the other ingredients, there are plenty of nutrient-packed fruit and vegetables.
To support your dog’s healthy skin and coat, there is a blend of Omega-6 And Omega-3 fatty acids. There are also guaranteed levels of antioxidant nutrients, like Vitamin E and Vitamin C.
Lean red bison meat provides protein
Includes nutrient-rich fruit and vegetables
Balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids
- BrandEarthborn Holistic
- Weight28 pounds
Best Grain Free Dog Food Buying Guide
Important Features to Consider
While you may already think that you have a good idea which grain-free dog food is right for your furry friend, it is worth taking a step back to consider a few important features in more detail. This way, you can be even more confident that you are making the right decision.
- Total Nutrition
Since people tend to feed their dog the same food day in, day out, you should be looking for a recipe which covers all the nutritional bases and provides everything that your hound needs to function and live a healthy lifestyle. So, you need to know a little bit more about what ingredients and substances a dog needs the most. Protein should be a primary source of energy, but there needs to be ingredients providing all those essential vitamins and minerals. You could also look at grain free puppy food or grain free senior dog food if you have a younger or older pooch.
- Primary Ingredient
When you are choosing a grain-free dog food, a good rule of thumb is to select one which has a named meat product as the number one ingredient. It should say something like real chicken, beef, lamb etc. Avoid food which says something like by-products, chicken meal or something similarly unspecified. Dogs in the wild would always get their main source of protein from real meat, so it makes sense that you look for something similar for them. There is nothing wrong with giving them some energy from carbohydrates, but these should be secondary to the meat-based protein.
- Fruits and Vegetables
While ancestral dogs may not have consumed many fruits and vegetables in the wild, this doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from these ingredients. As you will have been able to tell from the product guide above, many supplement the protein-packed meat products with specially chosen fruits and vegetables to provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidant, and other positive substances.
- Healthy Additives
As well as the natural fruits and vegetables, there are also plenty of other additives which get added to dog food to offer health benefits. A few of the most common include probiotics and omega fatty acids. Some of the aspects of your dog’s body which these can improve include their skin, coat, and digestive system, so these are worth looking out for on the back of the packaging.
- Healthy Fats
While too many fats can lead to weight gain in your pup, this substance is still an essential part of their nutrition. As well as providing energy, they also promote vitamin absorption and improve the flavor of food. Healthy fats are often provided by oils such as salmon and flaxseed, as well as the obvious meat-based formulas. As a rule of thumb, fats should make up around 10-15% of your dog’s diet, but less may be necessary for overweight dogs, and more for overly thin pooches, or those with a particularly active lifestyle.
- Complex Carbohydrates
Dogs are omnivores, getting their energy from a wide variety of carb sources. Of course, since you are choosing a grain-free dog food, this takes out one of the carbohydrate options, but there are other places where this can be gained including fruits and vegetables. Also look out for legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans. Just because your dog is not eating grains, it doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on getting their full complement of healthy ingredients.
- Substances Not Included
You can also judge a dog food by what is not included on the ingredient list. For example, you want to avoid any flavors, colors or preservatives. As much as possible, you also want to avoid meat by-products and artificial ingredients. Other substances which your dog can react badly to include soy, wheat, and corn. And you should avoid filling up your pooch’s tum with unnecessary fillers, which is one of the main advantages of buying a grain-free dog food in the first place!
Who Should Buy Grain Free Dog Food?
At this stage, you may still be asking why you would want to choose a grain-free dog food. There is a big buzz now about feeding a grain-free diet to your dog. While you may think that dogs in the wild only eat meat, it has been shown that they enjoy an omnivorous diet which included many plant substances. Certain prey animals learned how to adapt and get away from dogs, so they needed to get their energy from other places.
To help you work out whether you should buy a grain-free food for your furry friend, we will give you a little bit more information here.
- Cereal Grains Can Cause Food Allergies
While food allergies are not particularly common in dogs, there is a chance that your furry friend could be suffering from one. You may need to conduct an allergy test of your own to see if you can identify what is causing the issue. There are a few common symptoms of a grain allergy which are worth looking out for including itchy skin, hair loss, bumps and rashes, continual ear infections, and gastrointestinal issues. If you notice that your dog is suffering from one or more of these symptoms, try making the switch to a grain-free diet to see if there are any improvements. Of course, you should bear in mind that grains are not the only food substance which could be affecting them. Consult with your vet further to see if they are able to help you diagnose what is causing the problem.
- Continuous Digestive Issues
Just like humans, dogs are liable to suffer from upset stomachs from time to time. But some canine creatures have especially sensitive stomachs. If an issue keeps arising again and again, the issue may be that they are not able to digest grains particularly well. Some dogs can tolerate grains for years before developing a sensitivity to them, so don’t automatically assume that your pooch is immune from this issue. A few common signs of digestive problems caused by grain include bloating, diarrhoea, and stomach pain. You can try making the switch to a grain-free diet to see if this improves your furry friend’s condition.
- Inflamed Skin and Hair Loss
As we mentioned earlier, another possible indication that your pet is suffering from an intolerance to grains is that their skin starts to become itchy, red, and inflamed. A high level of coat shedding and bald patches may indicate the same thing. So, if you notice that these issues are occurring, you could try switching to grain-free food to see if this has a positive impact on your pup’s health. Many also contain ingredients which promote better skin and healthier coats, so these may also have a positive impact.
- Ear Infections and Bad Breath
Another possible side effect of a grain allergy is regular ear infections which seem to have no obvious cause. And while most dog’s breath isn’t the sweetest smelling thing in the world, if it seems to be especially bad, there is a chance that grains could be causing the issue.
As we discussed earlier, you should always bear in mind that there may be other dietary factors which are impacting your dog’s health, so consult with your vet to see if they can give you more information. Dogs can also suffer from environmental allergies which can have a negative impact on their health, so don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that food is causing the issue.
Ingredients to Avoid When Buying Grain Free Dog Food
Understanding more about the different ingredients which go into your dog’s food will go a long way towards helping you pick out the option which is best for their health. While avoiding grain can be beneficial to some pooches, it is not the only thing which you want to avoid. There are some synthetic additives which are designed to improve the flavor of the dog food, but they may end up being harmful to your four-legged friend. Generally, if the recipe is simple with fewer ingredients, it is easier to tell what is in the food and there is less of a chance that anything will cause a negative reaction in them.
The best way of protecting your dog’s health is by knowing more about what is going into their food. Look at the back of the packaging and familiarize yourself with the ingredients, as well as the possible effects which they can have on your dog’s body. Here are a few substances which you need to be wary of.
- Artificial Additives
If you have a dog who suffers from food allergies, you don’t want to risk aggravating their condition by giving them lots of artificial additives. Thankfully, many of the above options specifically indicate that they are free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. You are better off choosing a simple recipe which uses natural preservatives as this is less likely to result in health issues. Some additives are only included to enhance flavor, but they can be harmful to your dog’s long-term health. For example, corn syrup is often used to sweeten up their food, but too much sugar can lead to diabetes, weight gain, and hyperactivity.
- Unspecified Meats
As we talked about earlier, meat products should be properly labeled, whether it is deboned chicken, lamb, beef, salmon or something similar. However, if it is marked ‘meat by-products’, this is something which should be avoided. That’s not to say that these are bad for all canines, but since you are choosing a grain-free dog food, it is likely that your pup is suffering from an allergy or other sensitivity of some variety and you want as much information about what is going into their food as possible. When you choose real meat products, you are sure what your dog is eating.
- Unnecessary Fillers
You are already avoiding ingredients such as wheat and barley, so it makes sense that you avoid other gluten-containing substances like corn and rice. The main reason is that they are surplus to requirements when it comes to proper nutrition for your canine. Reduce the number of ingredients in your dog’s food and you are more likely to be able to identify what is causing an issue to them. Stick to the obvious protein sources along with nutritious extras like fruits and vegetables and you are less likely to flare up any of your dog’s issues.
- Harmful Preservatives
A couple of examples of harmful preservatives which you should steer clear of include BHT and BHA. The former is the most potent and has been linked to cancer in both humans and dogs. As for the latter, it has been linked to kidney damage. Another one which is commonly found in many dog foods is ethoxyquin. This was initially developed as a herbicide, and there is a growing awareness amongst vets and dog nutritionists that this can result in a host of issues such as kidney and liver damage, immune deficiency syndrome, leukaemia, and blindness.
Best Grain Free Dog Food FAQ:
Q: Is it really healthier for a dog to eat grain free?
A: The short answer is that it depends on the dog and the type of food you choose. Certain pooches who suffer from allergies or have digestive issues can benefit from the switch to grain-free food. Also, many grain-free foods contain better-quality ingredients including real meats, fish, eggs, and other protein sources. Generally, these are better than the by-products contained in other dog food as the protein is much more concentrated. For some dogs, it is the quality of the food rather than the absence of grain which makes a big difference to their health.
Many dogs have adapted to grain in their diet thanks to hundreds of years of domestication, but many lower-quality brands of dog food rely on too much starch as fillers or genetically modify the corn or wheat. The best dog food should have protein from real meat as the number one ingredient, which is the case with the brands that we have selected above. However, there is plenty of low-quality grain-free dog food out there, so don’t automatically assume that this factor alone makes it healthy. You need to look at the food closely to work out how beneficial it will be to your furry friend, whether it will help them to maintain a healthy weight etc.
For dogs who suffer from a specific wheat or corn allergy, grain-free food is a great option for them. However, you should bear in mind that the majority of dog allergies are related to environmental conditions and less than 10 percent are triggered by food. As we mentioned earlier, giving your dog limited ingredient food is a good way of working out if there is a specific ingredient which is causing an issue to them.
Q: Does grain free dog food contain a high percentage of carbohydrates?
A: Grain-free dog food doesn’t generally contain more carbohydrates than other types of dog chow. Many contain carbs from sources such as sweet potatoes, potatoes or peas. It is worth bearing in mind that dogs don’t specifically require carbohydrates in their diets. They can get everything they need nutritionally from a diet which centers on protein and fat. There are a couple of main reasons why many dog foods contain carbohydrates. Firstly, dogs have versatile digestive tracts and can metabolize a lot of what we give them. Secondly, carbs are generally much cheaper to put in food than protein and fat, and they are used in a lot of dog foods for this reason. Carbohydrates also provide the structure and texture to dry dog foods, and some canned food also contains a carb source of some variety.
Q: Can I give raw meat to my dog?
A: This is a decision which is up to each individual pet owner. A raw food diet is one which has been promoted by some people over the past few years, based on dog’s ancestral heritage and what they would have traditionally eaten in the wild. Some of the benefits which raw meat diet advocates boast about include shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, and higher energy levels. However, there are also plenty of drawbacks as well.
While dogs are able to digest raw meat, there is always the risk that they will ingest bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. Another issue is that raw meat alone doesn’t provide the type of balanced nutrition which your dog needs to maintain their health. You have to bear in mind that in the wild, dogs would often eat plants for additional nutrients, so a raw food diet will have to involve giving your pooch other food substances including vegetables, fruit, eggs, and some dairy. A prolonged unbalanced diet can end up damaging your dog’s health. Another potential risk is that whole bones pose a choking risk, as well as the possibility of breaking teeth or causing an internal puncture. Finally, a raw food diet will end up being significantly more expensive.
Q: Is rice good for my dog?
A: If your dog is suffering from a bad stomach and needs a simple meal, rice is a good option. Brown and white rice each have their own individual properties and benefits. Brown rice has a higher protein content and is lower in fat compared to white rice. However, white rice is more easily digestible and is a good source of energy if you want to feed your dog something bland or if you are feeding an older hound.
Our Top Pick
Made with roasted bison, this dry dog food is packed with protein to give your four-legged friend plenty of energy. There are also plenty of vitamins and minerals from the fruits and vegetables also used in the manufacture. The fatty acid blend has been carefully balanced for the benefit of their skin and coat.
As well as being grain-free, there is also no corn, wheat, or fillers; as well as no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives added. The food is highly digestible, which makes it great for pooches suffering from stomach issues.
For all these reasons, it ranks right at the top of our list of the best grain free dog foods.