Best Grain-Free Dog Food - Comparison and Reviews

Becky - author

Author: Becky Roberts
Last Updated: November 2019​

Category: Best Dog Foods

Is your dog allergic to grains? You’ll be happy to know that grains aren’t necessary for a dog’s diet.

Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits to your dog eating grains, but if your dog is allergic to grains, the cons of having such in his diet far outweigh its benefits. Fortunately, with a grain-free diet, your dog can still live a healthy and happy life.

Unsure whether your dog has a grain allergy?

If your dog is allergic to certain grains, or all grains, you’ll notice one or more of the following symptoms after a meal containing grains:

dog eating food

  • Inflamed skin
  • Itchiness
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Ear infections
  • Hair loss or bald patches
  • Sores and scabs

Even if your dog isn’t allergic to grains, putting him on a grain-free diet won’t hurt. On a grain-free diet, your dog will experience higher energy levels, less flatulence and shedding, smaller stools, and a shinier coat. Plus, you get to worry less about your dog having a bad reaction to something he ate.

So, how can you tell which grain-free dog food is the best for your best friend?

There are a lot of dog foods out there with packaging claiming to be “grain-free.” Sadly, many of these foods aren’t as grain-free or as top-quality as they claim to be.

For the health and happiness of your best friend, we’ve put together a list of grain-free dog foods you can trust for quality, taste, and your dog’s wellbeing. Every single one is truly grain-free, pet-safe, and highly nutritious.

Best Grain-Free Dog Food 2019 - Reviews

1. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dog Food

The best grain-free dog foods contain not only zero grains, but also no ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction. Taste of the Wild High Prairie is a grain-free dry dog food that delivers on this without compromising on quality.

It’s a highly nutritious and easy to digest dog food that contains zero corn, wheat, artificial preservatives, fillers, colorings, or other elements that might lead to an allergic reaction. This makes it an ideal choice for dogs with grain or any other food allergy.

Its primary protein source is real roasted bison. It also contains wildfowl, venison, salmon, lamb, and boar for a rich flavor and protein profile.

Aside from its high-quality protein content, this grain-free dog food also contains a perfect balance of vegetables and fruits. These deliver a variety of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients to improve your dog’s muscle growth, immune system, skin, coat, and overall wellbeing.

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe High Prairie Premium Dry Dog Food

Pros

  • Prebiotics keep your dog’s digestive system in peak condition
  • Grain-free to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction, ensuring optimal health and vitality
  • No chicken or beef, both of which can be allergenic
  • Antioxidants to boost your dog’s immune system and overall health
  • Omega fatty acids to keep your dog’s skin and fur strong and healthy

Cons

  • You might not be a fan of the food’s strong aroma
  • Specially engineered for adult dogs, which makes it inappropriate for developing puppies
  • It’s a bit pricey

2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain-Free 

Here’s another dry grain-free dog food that’s specially engineered for adult dogs. Blue Buffalo Wilderness’ high protein formula will keep your mature dog healthy by providing him with a perfect balance of proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Blue Buffalo’s proprietary blend of LifeSource Bits provides your dog with all the vitamins and other essential nutrients he needs for a strong immune system. Veterinarians and animal nutritionists vouch for the nutritional value of the LifeSource Bits.

Even though this dog food is grain-free, it’s not carb-free. Its sweet potato and pea content deliver a healthy balance of carbs that keep your adult dog energized. It also contains omega-3 and -6 fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat.

Depending on your dog’s preference, you can opt for the chicken, duck, or salmon recipe. We recommend the duck or salmon recipes because chicken can be allergenic.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Dry Dog Food, Chicken 24-lb

Pros

  • Rich protein content
  • Glucosamine, calcium, and phosphorus content supports senior dogs with joint or mobility issues
  • Omega fatty acids support healthy skin and fur
  • Proprietary LifeSource Bits ensure peak physical and mental health
  • Contains no corn, wheat, or soy
  • Available in different recipe variants so you can switch things up for your dog

Cons

  • Chicken is a possible allergen, avoid the chicken variation if your dog has allergies
  • Some dogs eat around or pick out the LifeSource bits

3. CANIDAE Meadow Senior Formula  

Canidae grain-free formula is ideal dog food for senior dogs with the right balance of nutrients in every bite. By restricting the ingredients to only real foods, CANIDAE ensures that there are no additives or other harmful or unnecessary elements in your dog’s food.

There’s a bag of Canidae PURE for pups, adults, or senior dogs, letting you get the perfect meal to match your dog’s life stage. All variations are grain-free, meaning they contain no corn, wheat, soy, or other grains, making it ideal for sensitive canine tummies.

Aside from being safe, a bowl of Canidae PURE is healthy, containing prebiotics to aid your dog’s digestive system, and antioxidants to boost his immune system. Each bite is also rich in Omega-6 and -3 fatty acids to keep your dog’s fur and skin healthy and beautiful.

Depending on your dog’s palate, you can get the salmon, lamb, duck, bison, boar, or chicken flavor.

CANIDAE PURE Limited Ingredient, Grain Free Premium Dry Dog Food

Pros

  • Uncomplicated whole-food recipes that let you know exactly what you are feeding your dog
  • There are different variations for senior dogs and puppies
  • Available in various recipes to suit your dog’s unique needs and palate
  • Made in the US
  • High nutrient content, including omega-3 fatty acids
  • Uses high-quality meats as its first three ingredients
  • Limited ingredients that protect sensitive canine stomachs

Cons

  • It’s a bit pricey
  • Chicken is a possible allergen, avoid the chicken variation if your dog has allergies

4. Merrick Grain-free Chicken Sweet Potato

This grain-free dog food has a rich protein content that consists of 70 percent meat proteins and 30percent fresh produce. The food’s primary ingredient is deboned chicken, which is good as long as your dog isn’t allergic to it.

Beyond its high protein content, a bowl of Merrick grain-free is also rich in Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Both are crucial for a healthy coat and improve the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of your dog’s immune system cells.

This grain-free dog food also contains a healthy dose of glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which support healthy bones and joints. The probiotic content ensures a healthy gut by keeping useful strains of stomach bacteria in play to combat typical canine tummy issues.

Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food Recipes, Chicken, 25 Pound

Pros

  • High protein content from real chicken, which is ideal as long as your dog isn’t allergic to chicken
  • Gut-friendly probiotics
  • Chondroitin and glucosamine that support healthy joints and bones
  • No allergenic grains or artificial ingredients
  • Made in the US
  • Suitable for small or large dogs

Cons

  • Ingredients are not necessarily sourced within the US
  • The chicken in the recipe is a possible allergen

5. Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog

Wellness Core dry dog food is made with strictly natural ingredients. Each one is added for its unique nutritional value, such as its flaxseed and fish omega blend that promotes a healthy coat and skin.

Its protein content consists of turkey and chicken, while its vitamins and mineral content come from salmon oil, fruits, and vegetables. All of these combine to boost your dog’s overall health, keeping him strong, active, and healthy.

This grain-free dog food is also fortified with probiotics for a healthy digestive system and DHA for eye and brain development. Phosphorus and calcium content also ensure healthy bones and teeth.

It contains no artificial preservatives or flavors, and you can rest easy knowing that your dog’s health is covered by Wellness Core Natural’s product guarantee.

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Small Breed, 4-Pound Bag

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Made in the US and backed by the Wellness Guarantee
  • Contains a high meat fiber count
  • The bite-sized kibbles are suitable for dogs of all sizes
  • Contains no artificial ingredients or meat by-products

Cons

  • Your dog may not like the taste due to the absence of sweeteners
  • Chicken is a possible allergen, and this dog food is only available with a chicken recipe

6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Natural Puppy Dry Dog Food

Looking for the perfect grain-free dog food for your pup? Blue Buffalo Wilderness Natural Puppy Food might be exactly what you need. It contains lots of real chicken that your pup won’t be able to resist. The high chicken content delivers loads of protein to ensure your pup grows up big and strong with a healthy muscle mass.

It’s grain-free, containing no wheat, soy, corn, or other grains that your pup may be allergic to, but it does contain a rich balance of DHA, ARA, and fatty acids found in mother’s milk. These premium quality nutrients will boost your pup’s immune system, cognitive development, and vision.

This dry puppy food also contains Blue Buffalo’s proprietary LifeSource Bits. The Bits contain all the veterinarian recommended antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals your pup needs to grow into a healthy adult.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Puppy Dry Dog Food, Chicken 24-lb

Pros

  • No artificial ingredients or meat by-products
  • No corn, wheat, soy, or other grains
  • Rich protein content
  • Its glucosamine, calcium, and phosphorus content support strong bones, teeth, and joints
  • Omega fatty acids ensure healthy skin and fur
  • Proprietary LifeSource Bits offer all the minerals and nutrients for a healthy and active pup

Cons

  • Only available the chicken recipe, which isn’t great if your pup is allergic to chicken
  • Your pup might not be a fan of the taste of the LifeSource Bits

7. “I and love and you” Grain-Free Canned Stew Dog Food

If your dog prefers canned food to dry food, “I and love and you” have a grain-free option. The “I and love and you” is a canned stew for dogs that’s devoid of all forms of grains. Instead, its nutrient-rich content consists of cranberries, pumpkin, and spinach. There are no by-products or artificial ingredients in this dog food to worry about, especially no carrageenan.

To get your dog drooling, this wet food contains real meat as its first ingredient. Depending on your dog’s palate, you can choose between the beef, turkey, chicken, lamb, or venison recipe. Regardless of which recipe you opt for, there will be chunks of real meat in every bite.

And to keep your dog’s skin healthy and coat shiny, the flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, and fish oil content will deliver all the essential Omega fatty acids.

I and love and you Naked Essentials Wet Dog Food - Grain Free and Canned, Turkey, 13-Ounce, Pack of 12 Cans

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Comes with a satisfaction guarantee
  • Delivers a balanced diet, making it suitable to serve as a full meal
  • Available in various recipes to suit your dog’s palate
  • Suitable for dogs of all ages and breeds
  • Real vegetables, fruits, and meat
  • No artificial flavors, fillers, by-products, preservatives, or dyes
  • Made in the US
  • Completely grain-free
  • Prebiotics and probiotics for a healthy gut

Cons

  • Might need multiple cans to feed a large dog

8. Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Easy to Digest Dry Dog Food

Nature’s grain-free dog food is designed for the enjoyment of dogs of all ages. It’s also an excellent option for dogs that experience grain allergies thanks to its zero soy, wheat, and corn content.

Even though it’s grain-free, Nature’s Recipe still provides a perfect carb balance by adding pumpkin and sweet potato to its recipe. This keeps your dog’s energy levels up and ensures he gets a balanced diet.

The primary protein source in the recipe is salmon. If you like, you can also get it in the chicken, sweet potato, and pumpkin recipe, or the lamb, sweet potato, and pumpkin recipe.

Nature's Recipe Grain Free Salmon, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe Dry Dog Food, 24 Pounds, Easy to Digest

Pros

  • Available in various recipe choices
  • Contains a rich balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
  • Made with all-natural dog food ingredients
  • No grains, meat by-product, artificial colors, or flavors
  • Affordable price
  • Healthy and safe carbohydrate sources— potatoes, oatmeal, and pumpkin
  • The salmon ingredient is rich in Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids
  • Suitable for dogs of all ages

Cons

  • Your dog might not like the taste of this food

9. Whole Earth Farms Dog Food

If your dog has an especially sensitive digestive system, Whole Earth Farms Dog Food will keep him healthy, happy, and full without complications. Every bite of this grain-free dog food contains high-quality proteins and other easy to digest ingredients—no more large or loose stools.

Its tasty recipe consists of pork, beef, and lamb. There’s no poultry or grain, making it an ideal alternative for dogs with gluten allergies.

Dogs of all ages and breeds can enjoy this food thanks to its bite-size kibbles and healthy blend of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Depending on your budget and your dog’s appetite, you can get it in a 4-, 12-, or 25-pound bag.

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food, Pork, Beef & Lamb, 25-Pound

Pros

  • Ideal for dogs with even the most sensitive digestive systems
  • Comes with a warranty
  • High-quality protein that promotes lean muscle growth and overall good health
  • Helps your dog experience less shedding and a healthier skin
  • Completely grain-free
  • Made in the USA
  • Available in different recipes, like chicken and turkey, pork, beef and lamb, salmon and whitefish, and turkey and duck
  • Reasonable price

Cons

  • You might not like the strong aroma of this dog food

10. Crave Grain-Free Dog Food

Crave’s grain-free dog food’s unique combination of ingredients will help your dog reconnect with his wolf ancestry. It accomplishes this with a recipe that consists of ingredients wolves feast on in the wild, such as salmon and ocean fish, or venison and lamb.

The food’s high protein content comes from real salmon, which is supported by more proteins from wild venison. With each bite, your dog gets a chunk of protein-rich fish and omega fatty acids that boost muscle growth, skin, fur, and overall health.

Even though the food is grain-free, it contains enough carbs to fuel your dog’s active lifestyle. Depending on your budget or your dog’s appetite, you can get this dry dog food in a 4-, 12-, or 22-pound bag.

 

Crave Grain Free With Protein From Salmon And Ocean Fish Dry Adult Dog Food, 22 Pound Bag

Pros

  • Contains real salmon as its primary ingredient
  • You can get it in various recipes, including venison and lamb, beef, or chicken
  • Inspired by the diet of wolves in their natural environment
  • No meat or chicken by-product
  • No grains, artificial additives, or preservatives
  • Very rich protein diet
  • Reasonable price

Cons

  • Only suitable for adult dogs

How to Choose Best Grain-Free Food for Dogs

The first and most important step in choosing the best grain-free food for your dog is verifying that the food is actually grain-free.

Grain-free dog food is dog food that doesn’t contain any wheat, corn, or other grains. Grains are added to dog food as a source of carbohydrates, which are crucial for energy. Grain-free dog foods use other nutritious carb sources, such as potatoes and pea flour, as a substitute for grains.

They are available as wet and dry dog foods, and typically have a high protein content. If your dog shows allergy symptoms, such as diarrhea, puking, flatulence, or skin irritation, after eating a meal containing grains, talk to your vet to determine the exact cause of the allergic reaction.

Your dog can also benefit from a grain-free diet even if he isn’t allergic to grains, but to get grain-free dog food that offers all of the benefits and none of the downsides of switching to such a diet, look out for the following features.

dog eating from a bowl

What Things to Consider When Buying Grain-Free Dog Food

100% Grain-Free Labelled

Your regular dog food will contain grains as a source of carbohydrates. Such types of dog food are easier to find and typically cost less than grain-free dog foods. If you check the labels of such dog foods, you’ll see that their ingredients consist of one or more of the following grains:

  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Soy

If your dog is allergic to grains, you’ll want a dog food with a label that contains none of these grains. Instead of these grains, a 100 percent grain-free dog food will use potatoes, pumpkin, or pea flour as its carb source.

Having a source of carbohydrates in your dog’s diet is important because it will provide the calories needed for an active lifestyle. It also provides fiber for a healthy digestive system. So, look out for a dog food that’s 100 percent grain-free but provides an alternative carb source.

Whole Proteins as Primary Ingredient

The best quality grain-free dog foods have a rich whole protein source as their first ingredient. The whole protein can be poultry, fish, or meat, such as beef or pork. Chicken and venison are common choices, but what counts as the right one for your dog will depend on his palate and his allergies.

For instance, your dog may be allergic to poultry, which means a grain-free recipe containing venison or fish will make for a better choice.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential for a balanced diet that will keep your dog healthy and active. The vitamins and minerals, including vital fatty acids, will boost your dog’s immune system, bone and muscle strength, mental performance, skin and fur quality, and more.

Natural Ingredients

Artificial additives and preservatives in your dog’s food can be injurious to his health. Always go for a dog food that uses strictly natural ingredients, such as actual meat, real fruits, and vegetables, instead of by-products or thickeners.

Fruits and Vegetables

The presence of fruits and vegetables in your dog’s food is a good sign that it contains natural ingredients and a healthy dose of essential vitamins and minerals.

FAQs

What is the FDA warning about grain-free dog food?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that a constant diet of off-the-shelf grain-free dog foods can cause canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. DCM is a condition that impedes your dog’s heart’s ability to pump blood.

It is caused by an enlarged and weakened left ventricle that prevents the heart from relaxing and filling with blood.

After reviewing over 500 cases of DCM, the FDA warns that the risk of developing such an ailment is more likely in dogs that eat grain-free dog foods from the following brands:

  • Blue Buffalo
  • California Natural
  • 4Health
  • Acana
  • Merrick
  • Natural Balance
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Nutro
  • Orijen
  • Nature’s Variety
  • NutriSource
  • Taste of the Wild
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish
  • Zignature

Unfortunately, many of these are well-known and trusted brands—some of which we even still recommend. It’s up to you to do the research and weigh the pros and cons of any one food.

Does my dog need a grain-free diet?

There are a number of benefits your dog stands to gain from switching to a grain-free diet, but whether or not switching diets is the right choice for you and your bud will depend on various factors. If your dog isn’t allergic to grains, there’s no pressing need to switch to a grain-free diet. Very few dogs are actually allergic to grains and can thrive on a grain diet.

To figure out whether your dog requires a grain-free diet, talk to your vet. He/she will take into consideration the age and health of your dog to determine if switching to a grain-free diet is in your dog’s best interest.

You can also consider switching your dog’s diet if he exhibits the following symptoms after eating meals that contain grains:

  • Inflamed skin
  • Itchiness
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Hair loss or bald patches
  • Sores and scabs

If switching to a grain-free diet, be sure to do so gradually by mixing in higher protein dog food with regular dog food, gradually increasing the amount over time. This will give your dog’s digestive system time to acclimate and prevent a negative reaction, such as diarrhea or constipation.

This rule actually applies to any dog food switch. A sudden complete change-over is never recommended, even when switching a puppy to an adult formula of the same brand and product line.

Is it really healthier for a dog to eat grain-free foods?

While dogs have evolved to be able to digest grains, most vets still recommend that grains only make up a small part of your dog’s diet. A good ratio for a balanced doggy diet is 10 percent grains, 40 percent proteins, and 50 percent vegetables.

Dogs have an easier time digesting a grain-free meal, especially those with fewer carbs and more protein and animal fats. By switching your dog’s diet from grain to grain-free, your best friend will experience the following health benefits:

  • Stay fuller for longer after each meal
  • Reduced risk of canine food allergies
  • Healthier skin and coat
  • Smaller stools
  • Reduced flatulence

What is the difference between grain-free and gluten-free?

Grain-free dog foods are pet foods that contain no grains and use other foods as a carbohydrate source. On the other hand, gluten-free foods contain ingredients that have no gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, barley, and so on. Gluten-free dog food won’t contain such proteins. Because gluten is available in only some grains, all 100 percent grain-free dog foods will contain no gluten, while a gluten-free dog food may or may not be grain-free.

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