Best Grain Free Dog Foods

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Grain free dog foods have become popular for those wishing to mimic a dog’s natural ancestral diet.

Grains for Dog FoodAnd it’s easy to see why.

After all, compared to the typical kibble or wet food, the best grain free recipes contain more meat protein as well as easy-to-digest animal fats.

And fewer carbohydrates, too.

However, are grain free dog foods really better for your dog?

Are Grain Allergies
Common in Dogs?

Even though many insist cereal grains are the most frequent cause of allergies in dogs, published data may not support that belief.

According to Dr. Stephen White, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, cereal grains are not the only cause.1

Dr. White has found “the most common proven allergens in the dog are beef, chicken, milk, eggs, corn, wheat and soy.”

Are Grains
Hard to Digest?

Many dog owners favor grain-free dog foods because they believe grains are more difficult to digest.

That’s because unlike plant-eating animals (herbivores), dogs can be deficient in a natural digestive aid known as amylase.

Amylase is a special enzyme most herbivores and omnivores — like humans — produce in their saliva. It’s used to help break down starchy carbs2 into simple sugars before they enter the stomach.

However, although dogs don’t produce amylase in their saliva, the enzyme is added further down the digestive tract — in the small intestine.

So, as long as cereal grains are adequately cooked, they can still be digested.

Grain-Free Doesn’t
Mean Carb-Free

Compared to canned dog foods, kibbles cannot be made with just meat.

That’s because the process used for making kibble requires a notable amount of carbohydrates to create a dough-like binder to hold everything together.

Since there can be no cereal grains in such a recipe, other carbs must be used in their place to make grain-free kibbles possible.

So, vegetables — like potatoes or legumes — have become the most common source of carbohydrates found in non-grain recipes.

So, how can you find a quality grain-free dog food?

Best Grain Free Dog Foods

The products listed below were selected because they met the following two requirements. Each dog food:

  1. Must be rated 4 stars or higher
  2. Must be grain free

Click below to view our lists of best grain-free dog foods:

Footnotes

  1. White, S., Update on food allergy in the dog and cat, World Small Animal Veterinary Association, Vancouver, 2001
  2. Carbohydrates
  • Crazy4dogs

    The protein actually isn’t the problem, and is a bit of a myth that has been debunked. The origianl study was done on rats and flawed from the beginning. It’s the phosphorus that has to be monitored. The problem really is probably in the fact that dogs are eating dry kibble for their entire life making the kidneys work harder. Years ago a woman that was shopping @ a healthy pet store when I was told me I was dehydrating my dog. I had a premium dry food (one of the best rated) in my cart. She said dogs live in a state of chronic slight dehydration when on a diet of just kibble. I researched it and she was correct. That’s why I always include wet food and feed fresh or raw daily.

    Studies have found that dogs on low protein diets did not live any longer, but did suffer more quickly from muscle waste. Here are a couple of links:

    http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/04/26/make-this-mistake-with-your-pets-food-and-you-could-destroy-their-kidney-and-liver.aspx

    http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?A=2615

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3702209

    http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=0+1770&aid=1104

    http://nutrition.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/client_info_sheets/chronic_renal_disease.cfm

    My 14.25 year old boy had been in definitively diagnosed kidney failure for over 8 months and was probably in it longer than that as we noticed an increased thirst a few months prior so we ran the blood tests. I did a lot of research on kidney failure at that point. The final decision to send him to the rainbow bridge was not due to kidney failure, but myelopathy. He was diagnosed @ 12 and by 14.25 yo he was not longer able to stand.

  • theBCnut

    No, it isn’t for humans, unless there is ALREADY an underlying kidney problem. Protein does not cause the problem.

  • Sugar1221

    It is for humans, not sure about dogs

  • Bob K

    What dog food did you stop using and then move to grain free? Many people experience a significant change moving from 1 star rated kibble to a 4 or 5 star kibble. Perhaps your dogs improvement has nothing to do with a change to grain free? What did you feed your dog before the change?

  • Shannon Davis

    I think the best thing to do is try it if you want. I went grain free for my dogs about three weeks ago and now they’re shedding considerably less, their hair is shiny and super soft, they are eating far less, and they are pooing less. The biggest difference, however, is the smell. They haven’t been bathed since we switched but they don’t have the usual dog smell anymore. Even our 120 pound lab’s smell has went from smelly dog to just-bathed fresh. I’ve been amazed at the change. They just overall look better.

  • theBCnut

    No, it’s not. That’s a myth.

  • Janessa Leonski

    High protein is hard on kidneys.

  • Georgiapeach

    Look at Back to Basics Hi-Protein Pork or Back to Basics Open Range. It’s available on Chewy.com if you can’t find it in your area. I have an allergy dog, too (with more allergies than your lab!), and this food is the only one I’ve found so far that she can eat.

  • Babslynne
  • DogFoodie

    There is a very helpful holistic / integrative vet, Dr. Tabitha, who posts in the forums on this site. She has a website with lots of highly useful information. Dr. Tabitha has written a great PDF article on how exactly to conduct a true elimination diet. If you shoot her an email, I’m quite certain she’d send you the document. I wouldn’t repost it here without her consent first. Here’s her website: http://naturalalternativesvet.com/

  • westieboy

    hi! Yep, we’ve been working at various elimination efforts since he came home with me in the fall. It gets tricky when several allergies are at play, as you know! I only became aware of his ear infection (he started acting noticeably bothered) in early December. The vet said 8 weeks on the drops, so we are still in that yet.
    No menhaden meal/oil, and I have currently started looking up the sources/origins of some otherwise innocent looking nutrients and pro-biotics that are in his foods. That’s what worries me too, because fishes can be a source for so many other ingredients! He is doing much better though! It’s really just getting him through this ear mischief now. He definitely can’t have potatoes, fish of any sort, including oil as yours, nor grains, especially rice. All I have to do is try something once anymore, and the reaction is pretty immediate, so it’s getting much easier to tell now, once the known 3 have all been eliminated. Tricky getting through the maze of allergies! Dairy is under suspicion, so perhaps I will try that. He loves cheese, but it wouldn’t hurt to see how he does without it for a while :) Thanks very much for your support, too. He’s such a sweet little guy, and had such a horrid life, I don’t want him to suffer anymore :) !!! Cheers

  • DogFoodie

    I have a fish intolerant pup also. In theory, fish oil should be fine, for mine it’s not. They sneak fish into a lot of foods. Are you certain that your dog isn’t still getting some fish in his current food?

    If not, how long have you been battling the ear infection? Depending on how long its been, it’s possible that he’s intolerant to more than just fish. Zymox is great, but it’s just treating the symptoms. I prefer the one without hydrocortisone.

    You need to get to the root of the problem. Figuring out food intolerances is tricky stuff. The only way to truly know what the intolerances are, is to do an elimination diet.

  • westieboy

    Thank you so much, I’ve written them down, and have them on my list for my corner store guy. (He may already have them in fact, I will see!) My little guy is still on his Rx till the end of the month, it just seems like he should be more obviously cured after 5 weeks of drops…Really a time of it. Vet said to give for 8 weeks, to be safe, then he will retest…I’ll definitely look for your super finds!

  • Babslynne

    My Pekingese used to have a lot of ear infections along with his skin problems, now I use probiotic pearls to control the yeast and I use Zymox with enzymes and hydrocortisone 1% in his ears and he hasn’t had a problem since.

  • westieboy

    Wow, I’m so glad you mentioned that, thank you!! They do have a turkey PULSAR formula too, as my little guy can’t handle any form of fish. And this is the thing…, I’m still battling a yeast infection in 1 of his ears, which as a rescue, the vet thinks was brewing along for some time. Nasty to get rid of, we’re not in the clear yet…Quite worrisome issue. The ingredients that bother the skin, bother the skin inside the ears as well, and tehre you go..Trouble! …and the poor little guys can only eat what we give them! I’ll be sure to try it, thanks so very much

  • westieboy

    A daunting pursuit, I know! Read the labels, and keep up the great effort.. ..Helps to check ingredients online too, and find your sources that way. My Westie rescue came with numerous known & unknowns (coming along very well, but a tough start!) ..To date, allergic to POTATOES, FISH, RICE, (so we’re just going with NO GRAINS all together). I am finding these foods to be a happy blessing so far, and he really loves them: ACANA dry kibble “Pork & Butternut Squash” ACANA Lamb & Apples (I think apples, it’s the Lamb one) ..
    (NO OTHER Acanas for my guy, they have potatoes or fish..but these 2 are great, and he devours them) Also, for a kibble..CANIDAE “GRAIN FREE PURE LAND” -“BISON” formula. (Again, no other Canidaes for him, fish or potatoes in his instance)
    WET FOODS:
    EARTHBORN GRAIN FREE “Toby’s” “Duke’s” or “LILY’S” are all great, he absolutely loves them, and no potatoes (unlike the other Grain-free varieties they offer)
    ANIMAL FARM “CHILLIN CHICKEN”, TURN_UP DA TURKEY” or “KICKEN’ CHICKEN” (stay away from their California recipes, they have potatoes)
    I also bought a small sort can of a Venison variety, he loved it and I have to get more. Sorry I forget the nae, but it was the size of half a normal can. And he likes WILD CALLING “HOPPY’S GF Rotational 96% Rabbit for a change of pace here and there. -But of course, that is lacking other things, but it helps to fill in occasionally when he gets bored!!
    I’ve had a time finding things without potatoes, fish, fish oils, grains. Hope my finds help a bit!! I didn’t mention others I’ve tried that he either couldn’t digest well, or for whatever reason, he refused to eat. The ones I have mentioned, are really working well for him, and I can get a couple meals out of those pricey cans by putting just a bit of his kibbles to one side..This reminds him ho much he likes the dry too, and he shifts to the other bowl of kibbles, eats both most happily! A caveat too…it’s really good to become a customer at your local corner pet store…If something costs a tiny bit more (Often, it doesn’t though) it’s worth it..you have a source on your side. My local fella ordered in the Acana trial size bags for me specially, just so we could try them out. (I’d found the product online, but it wasn’t available anywhere near me in his recipe blends) So now he makes sure to have a couple large bags on hand at all times, just in case someone else tries it, my guy won’t accidentally go hungry! ..Now, I’m going to have him order in Earthborn Dry Kibble in “Meadow”…so we’ll see if that is another option, too! Good Luck, Best wishes, and don’t forget, you probably can find more within these, as I had to keep fish out. (Oh yes, INNOVA dry kibbles were great too..until I realized that the fish oil was the culprit for his itching..so you may wish to try those too) Cheers

  • Denise

    Hi, i found your post interesting, i too have a pug 9 yr old female. How do you know if she has a urinary inf?? Mine has had all the typical pug issues, skin, eyes, ears etc… she is doing well w/ the grain free salmon so far. Also i though you should not be doing too high protein if they are not active ?

  • Dori

    I love Coton de Tulear’s. My friend has one and yes, absolutely, when she cuts him down in his Summer cut they look like twins. How funny. Glad you found THK and us.

  • Dori

    Yes. Sorry, I realize I said simply human. It is SimpleHuman. They really make good products. Expensive yes, but, darn they last forever. I’ll have to leave them in my will to someone. As I said, I’ve had the Bergan one for more years and physical moves than I can remember and still looks brand new.

  • Michelle

    My Rocky is a Coton de Tulear. When I cut his hair shorter, he looks like your Katie. Anyway, that Bob guy is a nut job. I’m thrilled to have found The Honest Kitchen, and I will recommend it to everyone I meet.

  • Hater & Molly’s Mom
  • Hater & Molly’s Mom

    I have two that i bought from my local pet boutique. They are clear but they have a very tight fitting lid. I keep them in the hall closet with the door shut so it’s always nice and dark in there. I don’t dump the kibble in the containers. I keep it in the bag closed with a clip.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Thanks, that’s another good idea.

  • Dori

    He’s not spewing facts. I honestly don’t know what his deal is but he is most definitely not spewing facts or he just thinks we’re all a bit infantile and don’t do our own due diligence into the foods we feed. He’s got some issues. I don’t know what they are and they certainly aren’t my problem or yours. I suggest we avoid him and start treating him like a troll. I think he’s gotten enough time on this site and a lot longer time and “benefit of the doubt” than a lot of other trolls that we have afforded them the time. I am no longer responding to him enough if I have to bite my tongue bloody.

  • theBCnut

    You can use any good quality container if you are putting it in the pantry with the lights out and door closed. Or you can put the container in a brown paper sack.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Thanks! Are you talking about SimpleHuman? I can’t find Simply Human. I will probably get the Bergan one, because it is way cheaper as you said and also available on Chewy.

  • DogFoodie

    Actually, Bob, The Honest Kitchen provided a pledge of quality and origin and an organic statement to Susan Thixton years ago. You can view both statements here: http://truthaboutpetfood.com/new-pledges/.

    Scroll down to The Honest Kitchen.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    I’m trying to understand why he feels this way, but I don’t even know if he is talking about THK or just kind of spewing “facts”. I don’t doubt the quality of feeding THK and I worry more about the kibble I feed then THK.

  • Dori

    The one I use is made by a company named Simply Human. You can find it at stores like The Container Store, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Amazon, of course. What doesn’t Amazon carry. I like it anyway because it’s big enough for me to put lots of other foods in their original bags and boxes too and it’s metal and airtight.

    The other one that I also have is by a company called Bergan. It’s soft plastic, also airtight, and a solid blue color. (I’ve had that one for years and still looks like new). Also much less expensive than the Simply Human one.

  • Dori

    Since you’re the one with this issue why don’t you ask them? We trust them, you don’t! It’s as simple as that. Why do you keep going with this issue. Feed what you’d like to your dogs and we all will feel free to feed what we would like to ours. What’s the big deal here with you about THK? Do you work for Diamond? Is that why you’re trying to dissuade anyone from feeding any other foods? Or are you just amusing yourself at our expense? I bet that’s what it is. You’re trying to see how many people you can get riled up. I won’t take the bait any more. Have a nice evening. :-)

  • Dori

    Most everyone but Bob K feels as you do. They are an extremely trustworthy company.

  • Dori

    That’s why you must thoroughly research the company of the food you are buying. Choose companies that have some control over where they get their ingredients. Choose companies that have control over their quality control. Choose companies that do not outsource to various canning and processing companies. Lord Bob, there are many many ways to research foods and their ingredients and where they get their ingredients and whether they are synthetic or not, is there any GMO in the product. I could go on and on and on. OH, I already have. The fact that of all the foods on the market you choose to feed Diamond products leads me to believe that we are different type of animal guardians. Just as I would not feed myself any old thing off a shelf I would not do that with my dogs either. Is the food I feed my girls top of the line in quality and company and ingredients, and not just because I read it here or on any other blog? I research it all. Yes, absolutely. I would do no less for myself and my husband so why would I do that with them. I’m done with this particular conversation with you. Once again, have a lovely day, or is it evening now? :-)

  • Dog_Obsessed

    I understand this is your opinion, but I am wondering if you have anything against THK. In my opinion they are an extremely trustworthy company.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Thanks! The container I currently have is see-through, can you recommend a good non-see-though one?

  • Dog_Obsessed

    That’s cool! I also try to avoid shopping at big box stores as much as possible. I will NEVER shop at a store that gets animals from puppy mills, which most stores that sell pets do. Pet Smart and PetCo offer dog adoptions instead of selling dogs in my area, but have heard of a lot of people have gotten small animals from there that are sick, and I don’t know where they get their small animals, so I like to play it safe.

  • Bob K

    Ask them for proof of ingredients source of origin – I bet they will not supply it.

  • Bob K

    So if the ingredient is purchased from Canada – Where does Canada get it from? Mexico, China? I highly doubt they can provide that level of details and tracking and do not require that from their suppliers.

  • Bob K

    Its simple – 1.) Some people thing the US food supply is very safe – it isn’t. 2.) Also many people believe that because they buy ingredients ingredients or kibbles in the US that all the ingredients are farmed in the US – another fallacy. Companies repackage and bulk break all the time and thy also buy from multiple suppliers depending on price and availability. What country makes 90% of the worlds penicillin and 50% of the worlds aspirin? as well as the bulk of vitamins A, B12, C and E.

  • Dori

    WELL!!!!! That says it all doesn’t it???
    Jeesh!

  • Dori

    No, it’s not too long if you take some of the food out and keep it sealed in a container that is not see through (just the amount of food you think you’ll use up in maybe a month. The rest of the food keep tightly sealed in a dark container (again…not see through) that is put in a cool place like a pantry or something like that where you stash the rest of the food. The object is to not let any light or heat get to the food. Keep the food in it’s original bag and box. That helps keep the light out. Only ever take out enough to use up in no more than a month. The rest will last you a long time. Certainly it will stay just fine for more than three months. That’s what I do and I’ve never had an issue with THK when I store it that way. I feed rotation diet so 10 lbs lasts me a good long time. You could always rotate THK for one meal of the day and feed whatever else you feed for the other. I buy the 10 lb. box to save some of the cost. It gets a bit costly buying the 4 lb. boxes especially when I know I’ll be using it long term for the dogs.

  • Dori

    My local pet store that does the buy 10 (food) get 11th one free gives you a card that they punch every time you buy food. When you have the 10th stamp, next bag is free. You don’t have to buy all at the same time. It’s just when your card has been stamped ten times. Then you start over again. Keeps you buying locally and also smart marketing because you are also sure to show up at their store again. Their prices are also competitive to all the other local pet food stores around me. I don’t shop at the big box type stores because I don’t feed any of the foods they sell but mostly it’s because I don’t support stores that sell dogs and cats.

  • Dori

    Definitely have noticed that and most of the time I just ignore his replies and posts but for this reason this one just bugged me and felt the need to say something.

  • Hater & Molly’s Mom

    Well said!

  • Hater & Molly’s Mom

    Funny you posted that! I noticed that yesterday, lol.