Best Grain-Free Dog Food | 5 Top Grain Free Dry Dog Foods

Dog sitting in grass

 

If you are looking for the best grain free dog food, this article is for you!

First off, what is grain-free dog food? As the name implies, grain-free dog food does not contain any grains, such as wheat, corn, or barley.

Grain-free dog food is often made with grain substitutes like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas, chickpeas, and carrots. In addition to vegetables, starches, and legumes, grain-free dog food often contains “exotic” protein sources that more closely resemble ancestral canine diets, such as bison, wild boar, and even kangaroo.

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Dry Dog Food High Prairie Adult - Venison & Bison 30lb
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Original Turkey & Chicken, 4-Pound Bag
Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food, Pork, Beef & Lamb, 25-Pound
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food Salmon 24-Lb
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, 28 lb.
Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Dry Dog Food High Prairie Adult - Venison & Bison 30lb
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Original Turkey & Chicken, 4-Pound Bag
Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food, Pork, Beef & Lamb, 25-Pound
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food Salmon 24-Lb
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, 28 lb.
Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Dry Dog Food High Prairie Adult - Venison & Bison 30lb
Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Dry Dog Food High Prairie Adult - Venison & Bison 30lb
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Original Turkey & Chicken, 4-Pound Bag
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Original Turkey & Chicken, 4-Pound Bag
Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food, Pork, Beef & Lamb, 25-Pound
Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food, Pork, Beef & Lamb, 25-Pound
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food Salmon 24-Lb
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food Salmon 24-Lb
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, 28 lb.
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, 28 lb.

The Rise of Grain-free Dog Food

Grain-free dog food has risen in popularity over the past decade, mirroring diet trends among humans. Increased demand for food free of chemicals, common allergens, and additives has spilled over into the pet food market, with marketers in both industries capitalizing on the health food craze.man holding grain

The melamine pet food recall of 2007 also prompted many pet owners to rethink their dog food decisions. After experiencing an uptick in reports of dogs and cats falling ill and dying from certain types of pet food, the FDA and USDA launched an investigation. They discovered that wheat proteins shipped to the U.S. from China for pet food manufacturing had been contaminated with toxic substances.

Due to the proliferation of health-consciousness among consumers and their fear of tainted ingredients shipped from overseas, the pet food industry has experienced a surge in grain-free dog food sales.

At the end of 2017, grain-free dog food accounted for 44% of sales in pet specialty stores in the U.S., up from a mere 15% in 2011.

Benefits of Grain-free Dog Food

Pet owners tend to choose grain-free dog food for three primary reasons.

One reason is that owners deem a grain-free food to be an all-around healthier option for their pet.

Two, owners may discover that their dog has an allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity to grain, causing serious gastrointestinal issues and other health complications when left untreated.

Third, pet owners mistakenly conclude that their dog is allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to grain.

Healthy dog food, isolated on whiteRegarding reason number one, grain-free dog food is often branded by marketers as healthier than other alternatives—though it’s not necessarily due to the absence of grains. Grain-free food often consists of higher quality ingredients and whole proteins rather than low-quality byproducts and harmful additives. Nevertheless, always beware of false or misleading advertising from brands trying to take advantage of consumer trends.

Regarding reasons two and three, some dogs are allergic or highly sensitive to grain. However, grain is one of the less common allergy-inducing foods among dogs, with beef and dairy ranking as the most allergenic foods.

Furthermore, food triggers just 10% of all allergies in dogs. Most allergies are caused by the environment and fleas.

Therefore, it’s probably best to work with your veterinarian to ensure your dog receives the correct diagnosis before making any dietary changes. Although, some owners may feel grain-free diets are a healthier option for their pet, always consult a professional to ensure that your dog has proper nutrition. A veterinarian can test your dog’s food sensitivity to help determine if a change in grain free food would be beneficial.

Potential Risks of Grain-free Dog Food

Grain-free dog food does offer some unique benefits, but is it actually superior to other types of dog food? Also, is it the right choice for your dog?

The best food for your dog is ultimately up to you and your veterinarian to decide. However, understanding the potential risks of grain-free food is a critical component in making an informed decision.

Grain-free dog food recently made headlines when the FDA issued a warning about its suspected link with dilated cardiomyopathy (D.C.M.), a potentially fatal disease most prominent among large breed dogs. With a recent swell in D.C.M. cases among smaller dogs, some veterinarians are ringing the alarm bells.

One common factor they have noticed in reported cases is that these dogs have diets heavily based in grain-replacement carbohydrates like peas, lentils, and potatoes.

 

Border Collie running in a field

 

Although these findings are a cause for concern, pet food manufacturers have not yet initiated any recalls.  The sample size of recent D.C.M. cases is still too small to draw any conclusions. Also, it is presently unclear whether it is the lack of grains, the overconsumption of legumes, or something else entirely, that is causing the unusual increase in D.C.M.

We recommend you stay on top of the issue as more research develops.

Additionally, diets including grain are not necessarily harmful to pets. Unless your dog has an allergy or sensitivity, there are many health and balanced dog food options that contain grains. Before you buy any type of dog food, make sure to read the label and check for high-quality ingredients. If you are still unsure about what is right for your dog, consult a veterinarian or nutrition expert.

If I Buy Grain-free Dog Food is it Gluten-Free?

What may not be so obvious though is how grain-free dog food differs from gluten-free dog food, another popular type of pet food.

Like human food, dog food labeled “gluten-free” does not contain gluten, a protein found in certain grains like wheat and barley. Not all grains contain gluten though, which is important to understand if you discover that your dog is allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to grains and/or gluten.

Keep in mind that while grain-free food will always be gluten-free, gluten-free food may not always be grain-free.

How to Figure Out If Your Dog Is Allergic to Grain

Although grain allergies are relatively rare in dogs, it is critical to dogs’ health and safety to know their status. Yet with so many ingredients in dog food, it can be a daunting task to figure out if a grain is an allergy-causing culprit, or if food is responsible at all.

Fortunately, there are some helpful ways to ease the process.

    1. One recommendation for determining food allergies is to feed your dog food made with limited ingredients.
    2. Also, ensure the food only contains a single grain so you can figure out which particular grain may or may not be the problem. With fewer ingredients to consider, it is much simpler to rule in and out specific foods.
    3. Consult a veterinarian. Vets can give helpful advice on how to properly test out new foods and transition dogs onto a new diet. Additionally, they can also provide allergy testing for your pet.

Generally, allergic reactions to food will affect your dog’s skin while food sensitivities and intolerances will affect your dog’s digestive system. Symptoms can take up to 12 weeks to change though once you adjust your dog’s diet, so the process does require considerable patience and discipline as well as assistance from your veterinarian.

drawing of dog scratching

Dog Food Allergy Symptoms

If you suspect your dog is allergic to grain, look out for the following:

  • Itchiness
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Bald patches
  • Skin inflammation
  • Sore and scabs
  • Sore and scabs
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms can be warning signs of others issues.  So, make sure to consult your veterinarian for a professional diagnosis.

What to Look for When Purchasing Grain Free Dog Food

Although the FDA regulates commercial dog food, ensuring that the ingredients are safe for canine consumption, it is best to know some facts in order to be a conscientious consumer. Here are some things to look for in any dog food, grain free or not.

  1. The first thing to look for is the AAFCO label on the bag. This indicates that the food provides complete balanced nutrition according to the Association of American Food Control Officials (AAFCO).
  2. The main ingredient should also be some kind of protein like lamb, beef, chicken, or salmon. It is harder for dogs to get complete nutrition on a purely vegetarian diet, so meatless products may not be the best grain free dog food for them. If you are choosing a meatless, grain-free option, make sure it provides the right balance of carbohydrates, fats, protein, and nutrients.
  3. If you are serving your pup homemade food, it can sometimes be difficult to ensure a balanced diet. The best dog food might be a commercial product to ensure proper nutrition.
  4. Crunchy dry dog food is great for helping to keep your canine’s teeth clean. Yet, wet dog food is sometimes a better option for dogs that have trouble chewing or often don’t drink enough water. The best grain free dog food should meet your best friend’s particular needs.
  5. Always opt for a food that suits your dog’s breed, age, and size. Consult your veterinarian for guidance. Read labels, and do your research before deciding on a brand.

Making the Switch to Grain Free Dog Food

If you have decided to make the switch and you have found the best dry grain free dog food, here are some tips for making the transition.

  • Mix your dog’s new grain free food with their old food. This can help prevent them from getting a tummy ache.
  • It can take up to 12 weeks for your dog to adjust to their new diet. This means that allergy symptoms could persist through the adjustment period. Avoid changing brands, flavors, and formulas too often.
  • When switching foods, avoid giving your dog treats or people food while they transition to their new diet. This is especially important if you are looking to ease problematic symptoms. This will give you a more accurate picture of whether their new diet is helpful.
  • There is no one type of dog food that works for all dogs. Finding a diet that suits your dog’s needs may take some experimentation.
  • Always choose a brand that is AFFCO approved.
 

Editor’s Choice – Best Grain-Free Dog Food in 2018

Now that you understand more about feeding your pup grain free food, we’ve compiled a list of the best grain-free dog food options with their pros and cons. Here’s our pick of some of the best brands in the market.

1. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Food has several different options in their natural grain free dry dog food category:

Wellness Grain Free Dog Food

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What We Like

  • This is both 100% grain free and completely balanced. Not all grain-free dry dog food brands can make that claim.
  • Protein is the top focus for this brand. Turkey, chicken, and veggies are top ingredients for all of their formulas.
  • Does not contain meat byproduct, wheat, corn, or soy.
  • Made in the USA.

What We Don’t Like

  • Most pet owners understand that they’re going to pay more for grain-free dry dog food compared to traditional brands, but this one is considerably more expensive.
  • Once again, this grain-free dry dog food has quite a bit of potato in it, which can be upsetting to some dog’s digestive tracts.
  • No food is right for every dog, but Wellness has a fairly significant number of pet owners complaining that their pooches had negative allergic reactions to it.

2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Adult Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Adult Dog Food is available in 8 different grain free formulas:

Blue Buffalo Grain Free Dog Food

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What We Like

  • This company provides many flavor and size options for your pet.
  • Made in the United States
  • All formulas are very high in protein.
  • The kibble size is relatively small so even smaller dogs can generally chew it.

What We Don’t Like

  • This brand promotes itself as based off of a wolf’s diet. While this might be an interesting marketing idea, the reality is that the needs of dogs are not the same as the needs of wolves –, especially domesticated dogs.
  • Once again, this grain-free dry dog food has quite a bit of potato in it, which can be upsetting to some dog’s digestive tracts.
  • This food is higher in calories than most dog foods on the market.

3. Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food

All six of the Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food formulas are grain free:

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food with Roasted Bison & Venison 30lb

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What We Like

  • This food is made from all-natural roasted meat.
  • The proteins and antioxidants included are very easy to digest.
  • Fruits and veggies are included in the food.

What We Don’t Like

  • Formulas are separated only by the type of protein. While Taste of the Wild swears that each of their formulas is appropriate for dogs in every life cycle, most vets agree that puppies need different foods than senior dogs.
  • Their formulas are not categorized by the size of the dog. Most dog owners wouldn’t feed their eight-pound dog the same food they’d feed their 100+ pound dog.
  • The kibble is relatively large and would likely be difficult for smaller dogs to chew comfortably.

4. Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is only available in one option but it’s a good one.

Earthborn Holistic Dog Food

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What We Like

  • The main proteins are turkey, chicken, and whitefish – all of which provide above-average protein and nutrients.
  • This is one of the few grain-free dry dog foods that offers a 100% guarantee. Consumers can try it, and if it does not meet with their dog’s approval, they can get a full refund.
  • Their food is produced in the United States.
  • It is fairly affordable for a grain-free, all-natural dog food.

What We Don’t Like

  • This dog food does not come in different formulas so it may not meet the needs of puppies or senior dogs.
  • The protein amount is high, which is good for most dogs, but not ideal for some.

5. Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Chicken and Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Chicken and Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food are one of the most affordable options on the market.

Whole Earth Farms Dog Food

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What We Like

  • Affordable! Considerably less expensive than other top brands.
  • Manufactured in the USA.
  • It is made of multiple protein sources.

What We Don’t Like

  • This is an all-purpose formula that’s not right for all sizes or ages of dogs.

The Final Choice

In the end, all of these brands are top rated. The most affordable option is Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Chicken and Turkey Recipe.

However, the one brand that many consumers love is  Taste of the Wild. The ingredients are from sustainable sources from around the world. It is made with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and is highly digestible. Plus, it is very tasty and dogs just love it.

Final Thoughts

Your dog is your best friend, and you want him to live a happy and healthy life. This might mean switching to a grain free diet.

If your dog seems to have food-related allergies, consult your veterinarian about a possible change in diet. Most vets like to run allergy tests to help pinpoint the issue before testing out possible solutions.

Grain-free dog food does not have to be expensive. Read labels to ensure you are providing your dog with a balanced diet.

If you decide to make the switch to grain-free though, make sure to transition gradually. Pay attention to changes in your dog’s behavior, skin, and gastrointestinal functioning.

Also, be sure to stay up to date on current research regarding the potential risks associated with grain-free diets.

Lastly, don’t forget to consult your veterinarian about any questions or concerns you have along the way!

 


Image Credits:

Black Dog with a scarf- Photo by Yuki Dog on Unsplash

Border Collie- Photo on Pixabay
Man holding Grain- Photo by icon0.com from Pexels

Dog looking at mountains- Pexels

Dog Scratching- Pexels