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Best Dog Food With Grains: Grain-Inclusive Dog Food

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Dog Food By Meg Marrs 18 min read April 20, 2021 15 Comments

best dog food with grains

Best Dog Food With Grains: Quick Picks

  • Whole Earth Farms [Best Value] This high-quality yet affordable grain-inclusive food has chicken and turkey meal as the first two ingredients, with oatmeal and pearled barley for grains.
  • Nature’s Logic Pork [Most Protein] This protein-packed recipe features 38% protein, one of the highest kibble’s we’ve seen! It uses pork meal as the #1 ingredient, with millet as the quality grain source.
  • Blue Buffalo Life Protection Fish & Brown Rice [Best Fish Recipe] This fish-based Blue Buffalo recipe uses brown rice, barley, and oatmeal for grain sources.
  • Honest Kitchen LID Chicken [Best Gluten-Free Recipe] This minimally-processed limited ingredient formula from Honest Kitchen contains just 6 ingredients and uses quinoa as the grain, for gluten-free grain option! It’s dehydrated too, so it’ll take up less space in your pantry (although requires you to add warm water before serving).
  • Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice [Most Affordable] This budget-friendly grain-inclusive recipe features beef meal as the #1 ingredient and uses white rice and rice bran for grains. It also provides a decent protein composition for the price.
  • Wellness Complete Turkey & Oatmeal [Best For Small Breeds] This small breed formula from Wellness packs a wallop of protein using turkey, chicken meal, and salmon meal as the core protein sources. Oatmeal, brown rice, and barley are the quality main grains.

Grain-free dog food has been all the rage in recent years, due in large part to humans’ increasing interest in grain-free diets for themselves (as demonstrated through the uptick in paleo and keto diets).

But are grain-free dog foods really a good idea? Certainly not for all dogs. In many cases, choosing a dog food with grains may be the best thing for your pooch.

We’ll discuss why dog food with grains should be considered by pet parents and suggest some top picks in this guide.

Grain-Free Diets and DCM in Dogs

Recently there has been an upsurge in reports of DCM in dogs, and while the verdict is still out on what exactly is causing the increase in DCM incidents, most researchers agree that it has something to do with BEG diets (Boutique brands, Exotic protein, Grain-free).

Unfortunately, outside of this scope, veterinarians still can’t say for sure what aspect of the BEG diet is causing issues. Many are asking:

  • Is it that these smaller manufacturers are doing something wrong in their production process?
  • Is it because of unusual proteins like kangaroo?
  • Is it the reliance on legumes, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas over more traditional carbohydrates?

Since we can’t say for sure, the safest route to take is to stick with non-BEG diets, which means:

  • Well-known, reputable manufacturers with experience in the dog food industry
  • Foods with more traditional meat proteins (such as chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, and fish).
  • Foods with grains rather than grain-substitutes (rice, oatmeal, oats, etc).

Best Dog Foods With Grains

1. Whole Earth Farms

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Whole Earth Farms

Whole Earth Farms

Non-grain free recipe with chicken & turkey proteins

Quality, grain-inclusive food that’s made in the USA without poultry by-products or artificial additives.

About: Whole Earth Farms is a high-quality non-grain-free dog food with a good protein composition and a mix of meat proteins.

This recipe includes chicken meal and turkey meal as the first two ingredients for a meat-based protein composition, with oatmeal and pearled barley as the main grain carbohydrate sources.

Features:

  • Chicken, turkey meal as first two ingredients
  • Oatmeal + pearled barley for grains
  • Includes salmon oil for omega-3 fatty acids
  • No corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-products, and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Made + cooked in USA
  • 26% Protein / 14% Fat / 41% Carbohydrates (Approx)

Ingredients List

Chicken meal, turkey meal, oatmeal, pearled barley, brown rice...,

chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), chicken, natural flavor, organic dried alfalfa meal, whitefish, dried yeast culture, salt, potassium chloride, choline chloride, minerals (zinc amino acid complex, iron amino acid complex, zinc sulfate, sodium selenite, manganese amino acid complex, copper amino acid complex, potassium iodide, cobalt amino acid complex), salmon oil, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin A acetate, d-calcium pantothenate, niacin, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate), mixed tocopherols (a preservative), Yucca schidigera extract, cinnamon, dried blueberries, rosemary, sage, thyme, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product

PROS

This recipe includes chicken meal and turkey meal as the first two ingredients, making for a solid protein composition. Ingredients are high-quality with oatmeal and pearled barley for grains.

CONS

Since this recipe features a mix of several meat proteins, it may not be a good choice for dogs with protein sensitivities.

2. Nature’s Logic Pork Meal Feast

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Nature

Nature’s Logic Pork Meal Feast

One of the highest-quality, highest-protein kibbles out there

Massive amounts of protein with no MSG, gluten, or synthetic ingredients. Plus it’s made in the USA!

About: Nature’s Logic Pork Meal Feast is a very high-quality, high-protein, grain-inclusive recipe. It’s a pork-based dog food recipe with the highest protein composition on this list!

If you’re looking for one of the highest-quality, highest-protein dog foods on the market, look no further!

Features:

  • 100% natural formula free of MSG, gluten, synthetic ingredients, and hydrolyzed proteins.
  • Pork meal is the #1 ingredient
  • Millet is the #2 ingredient – considered a high-quality grain source
  • Made in the USA with minimal processing
  • Includes no potatoes, peas, lentils, wheat, corn, rice, soy, potato or chemically synthesized vitamins, minerals, trace nutrients, carrageenan, guar gum or xanthan gum.
  • Includes other beneficial ingredients like pumpkin seeds, dried kelp, blueberries, spinach, carrot, broccoli, and cranberries.
  • Kibble is coated with digestive enzymes and plasma protein containing high levels of natural vitamins, minerals, and albumin and globulin proteins.
  • 38% Protein / 15% Fat / 30% Carbohydrates (Approx)

While we’re featuring Nature’s Logic Pork feast here, there are other Nature’s Logic recipes worth considering, including:

  • Beef Meal Feast
  • Lamb Meal Feast
  • Rabbit Meal Feast
  • Turkey Meal Feast
  • Sardine Meal Feast
  • Venison Meal Feast
  • Chicken Meal Feast
  • Duck and Salmon Meal Feast

Ingredients List

Pork Meal, Millet, Pork Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Pumpkin Seed, Yeast Culture...,

Spray Dried Pork Liver, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Montmorillonite Clay, Dried Kelp, Spray Dried Porcine Plasma, Dried Tomato, Almonds, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Carrot, Dried Apple, Menhaden Fish Meal, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Apricot, Dried Blueberry, Dried Spinach, Dried Broccoli, Dried Cranberry, Parsley, Dried Artichoke, Rosemary, Dried Mushroom, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Bifidium Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Dried Pineapple Extract, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Aspergillus Oryzae Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract.

PROS

Nature’s Logic boasts a very impressive ingredient list and a very high protein composition. The minimal processing and lack of questionable ingredients found in other foods makes this the highest-quality food on our list.

CONS

Due to the very high quality, this food is also quite expensive and may not be affordable for all owners.

3. Honest Kitchen Limited Ingredient Chicken

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Honest Kitchen Limited Ingredient Chicken

Honest Kitchen Limited Ingredient Chicken

Single-protein human-grade food with quinoa

Human-grade dog food with minimal ingredient list – ideal for digestion or allergy issues.

About: Honest Kitchen Limited Ingredient Chicken is a very high-quality, human-grade formula that relies on free-range chicken and gluten-free, organic quinoa for the main ingredients.

This limited ingredient formula boasts a very short ingredient list with entirely recognizable ingredients, making it a great choice for dogs with digestion or allergy issues.

Features:

  • Chicken is the sole meat protein source
  • Organic quinoa (gluten-free grain) and sweet potatoes are used for carbohydrates
  • Only 6 ingredients – great for dogs with allergies or sensitivities
  • Minimally processed, dehydrated formula
  • No corn, wheat, soy, by-products, preservatives or GMO ingredients
  • Whole-food ingredients made in the USA, no ingredients from China
  • 26% Protein / 16% Fat / 43% Carbohydrates (Approx)

Ingredients List

Chicken, organic quinoa, sweet potatoes, spinach, parsley...,

organic kelp, minerals [tricalcium phosphate, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, choline chloride, zinc amino acid chelate, iron amino acid chelate, potassium iodide, copper amino acid chelate, sodium selenite], vitamins [vitamin E supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin D3 supplement] EPA, DHA

PROS

Honest Kitchen features high-quality dog foods that are human-grade, which means you could eat them yourself if you wanted to! It has one of the shortest ingredient lists we’ve seen, so it’s great for dogs with intolerances or allergies.

CONS

This food is on the pricier side, and since it’s dehydrates it requires a bit of work to prepare (it’s still quite easy though – just add water!

4. Blue Buffalo Life Protection

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Blue Buffalo Life Protection

Blue Buffalo Life Protection

Affordable, grain-inclusive dog food

Fish-based formula with added glucosamine and chondroitin for improved joint health.

About: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Fish & Oatmeal is a mid-priced grain-inclusive dog food with a decent protein composition.

This formula relies on whitefish and fish meal for the meat protein sources. Fish is the only animal protein in this recipe, so it’s a good choice for owners looking to avoid mixed meat compositions (however, chicken fat is included in the ingredient list, so be aware of that).

Oatmeal, barley, and brown rice make up the majority of the carbohydrate composition, although more common grain-substitute starches like pea starch and potato starch also make an appearance in the ingredient list.

Features:

  • First ingredients are whitefish and menhaden fish meal.
  • No corn, wheat, soy or chicken/poultry by-product meals
  • Includes glucosamine and chondroitin for improved joint health – especially beneficial for larger dogs
  • 22% Protein / 13% Fat / 49% Carbohydrates (Approx)

PROS

This Blue Buffalo formula is a solid pick for fish-loving dogs, with whitefish and fishmeal as the first ingredients.

CONS

The protein composition is lower than we’d ideally like to see for most dogs.

Ingredients List

Whitefish, Menhaden Fish Meal (Source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal...,

Pea Starch, Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed (Source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Chicken Meal, Dried Tomato Pomace, Pea Protein, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Choline Chloride, Dl-Methionine, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Garlic, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice For Color, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.

5. Victor Classic High-Pro Plus

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Victor Classic High-Pro Plus

Victor Classic High-Pro Plus

High-protein formula for active dogs

88% meat protein with premium quality beef, chicken, pork and fish meal – ideal for sporting and athletic dogs.

About: Victor Classic High-Pro Plus is a high-protein diet that includes a mix of beef, chicken, pork, and fish meal and relies primarily on grain sorghum and whole grain millet for grains. It’s suited for all life stages, from puppies to adults!

  • 88% meat protein with chicken, beef, pork, and fish meal
  • Uses gluten-free grains
  • Designed specifically for sporting and athletic dogs
  • No corn, wheat, or soy
  • 30% Protein / 20% Fat / 33% Carbohydrates (Approx)

PROS

This Victor recipe features 88% meat protein with a high protein composition and gluten-free grains.

CONS

The mix of animal proteins may cause issues for dogs with protein sensitivities, but for most dogs, the meat combo will be beneficial!

Ingredients List

Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Pork Meal, Chicken Meal...,

Menhaden Fish Meal (source of DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Blood Meal, Whole Grain Millet, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Yeast Culture, Natural Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Carrot Powder, Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene), Taurine, Salt, Choline Chloride, Dried Seaweed Meal, Zinc Methionine Complex, Vitamin E Supplement, Hydrolyzed Yeast, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Calcium Carbonate, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Ferrous Sulfate, L-Carnitine, Selenium Yeast, Copper Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Biotin, Riboflavin Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Powdered Cellulose, Brewers Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Oryzae Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract, Silicon Dioxide, Tetra Sodium Pyrophosphate, Vegetable Oil, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract, Lecithin, Fructooligosaccharide, Folic Acid, Yucca Schidigera Extract.

6. Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Turkey & Oatmeal

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Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Turkey & Oatmeal

Wellness Complete Health Small Breed

Mini-sized kibble for smaller puppers

Smaller kibble size made with delicious turkey, chicken meal, salmon, and high-quality grains.

About: Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Turkey & Oatmeal is an extremely high-quality recipe designed with small dogs in mind.

It includes turkey, chicken meal, and salmon as the first three ingredients for a huge protein pack, followed in the ingredient list by oatmeal, ground brown rice, and ground barely for grains – all high-quality grain sources!

  • Turkey, chicken meal, and salmon meal as first three ingredient
  • Oatmeal, brown rice, and barley featured as main grains
  • Smaller kibble designed for small canines
  • No corn, wheat, or soy
  • 28% Protein / 15% Fat / 38% Carbohydrates (Approx)

Ingredients List

Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Brown Rice...,

Ground Barley, Rye Flour, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Menhaden Fish Meal, Tomato Pomace, Natural Chicken Flavor, Pea Fiber, Tomatoes, Salmon Oil, Ground Flaxseed, Carrots, Spinach, Potassium Chloride, Apples, Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Vitamin E Supplement, Mixed Tocopherols Added to Preserve Freshness, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Beta-Carotene, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Chicory Root Extract, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.

PROS

This Wellness Complete recipe offers a high protein composition with a fairly low carbohydrate count. It features a very nice mix of animal proteins, quality cabs, as well as fruits and veggies!

CONS

Not all Wellness Complete recipes have as good a composition as this one does.

7. Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice

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Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice

Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice

Budget-friendly grain-inclusive recipe

This dog food features real beef as the #1 ingredient, with white rice for carbohydrate source.

About: Diamond Naturals is a beef-based grain-inclusive dog food recipe featuring beef meal as the primary ingredient, along with peas, white rice, and egg.

It takes our pick when it comes to most affordable non-grain-free dog foods, making it an excellent choice for any budget. This recipe provides plenty of protein and quality for your dollar.

  • Ground white rice and rice bran as main grain sources. Also contains peas as another carbohydrate source.
  • Also includes fruits and veggies for antioxidants
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • No corn, wheat, filler, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
  • 25% Protein / 15% Fat / 42% Carbohydrates (Approx)

Ingredients List

Beef Meal, Peas, Ground White Rice, Egg Product, Dried Yeast...,

Rice Bran, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Flour, Dried Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salt, DL-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, Kale, Chia Seed, Pumpkin, Blueberries, Oranges, Quinoa, Dried Kelp, Coconut, Spinach, Carrots, Papaya, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Animalis Fermentation Product, Vitamin E Supplement, Beta Carotene, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D Supplement, Folic Acid. Contains A Source Of Live (Viable), Naturally Occurring Microorganisms.

PROS

Diamond Naturals is our winner for an affordable quality grain-inclusion food. It has good numbers and ingredients without breaking the bank, and is a great pick for those on a budget.

CONS

The inclusion of white rice and egg may be problematic for some dogs, and some owners are adamant about avoiding all Diamond products, but we think this food is a solid option.

Are Grains Bad For Dogs?

There’s a lot of debate about whether or not grains should be in your dog’s diet. Dogs have no dietary requirement for grains – they don’t need them in their diet. However, grains certainly won’t hurt your dog.

Dogs are not strict carnivores – their stomachs have evolved to process many of the foods we eat, like fruits, veggies, and yes- grains!

This actually has something to do with us. Wolves can’t digest grains well, but domesticated dogs evolved to digest starches so that they could take advantage of our leftovers.

wild wolf

The problem of course is the amount of grain in your dog’s diet. While dogs are not obligate carnivores like cats, most experts agree that a dog’s diet should still primarily consist of meat protein.

The issue is not so much the grains themselves, but that grain-inclusive foods tend to have a higher carbohydrate composition with less protein and fat. Ideally, your dog’s diet will be high protein, contain a moderate amount of fat, and be low in carbs.

Even grain-free diets are guilty of relying on a higher carbohydrate count than is ideal. Many companies just substitute grains for potatoes, peas, legumes, and tapioca. Dogs don’t nutritionally require starch in their diet either, so switching out grains for starch won’t necessarily result in a better diet for your dog.

Ultimately, you should be less concerned with grains vs starches decision and instead owners should simply be aiming for a diet that is high in protein and relatively low in carbohydrates.

Why Non-Grains Can Be Problematic (Or Even Dangerous)

Many folks look to grain-free diets because they’ve been hearing all the benefits of grain-free diets for themselves, and it’s a trendy topic these days. However, remember that when it comes to unknown elements, we’ve been feeding our dogs grains for much longer than we’ve been feeding them other carbohydrates like potatoes, legumes, chickpeas, etc.

legumes in dog food

What’s suddenly in fashion is also new and unknown. The effects of feeding grain-free alternatives to dogs are not fully understood. Why risk that with your do when you don’t have to?

The truth is that the dog food industry relies heavily on marketing to doting pet parents, and dog food manufacturers know that as grain-free diets become more popular with humans, owners will likely project that inclination into their dogs.

However, we all know that humans and animals have different nutritional needs. And yet, marketers seen a financial opportunity to take advantage of what is trendy in providing grain-free diets, pushing these diets due to dollar signs rather than any real nutritional advantages.

In short, grain-free is only better for dogs that have issues with grains – and most do not!

Benefits of Grains in Dog Food

While grains aren’t nutritionally required for your dog, they do provide some benefits, including:

  • Healthy Stools. Since grains are a rich source of fiber, they can help keep your dog’s stools regular and healthy.
  • Vitamins and Minerals. Whole grains contain plenty of vitamins and minerals that can benefit your pup, even if they may be nutritionally un-necessary.
  • More Affordable. Despite being just as nutritionally un-necessary as grain-free starches, grains tend to be less expensive than their trendy counterparts, so grain-inclusive dog food tends to be more affordable. This difference in cost may also give owners the opportunity to purchase a higher-end dog food that does include grains, rather than a lower-tier grain-free dog food.

Good vs Bad Grains For Dogs

Now of course, just because we’re saying grains aren’t bad for dogs doesn’t mean all grains are a good idea. There is a lot of variation when it comes to the quality of grains present in your dog’s diet.

For one, you want to avoid common fillers and grain by-products like:

  • Peanut hulls
  • Corn cobs
  • Oat hulls
  • Rice hulls
  • Soybean hulls
  • Cottonseed hulls
  • Brewer’s rice
  • Almond shells
  • Grain fragments
  • Powdered cellulose
  • Soy mill run
  • Wheat mill run
  • Wheat middlings
  • Fermentation waste

These ingredients should be avoided because they are really just leftover debris that result from processing cereal and other foods. They are not allowed for human food, considered unfit for human consumption, but are considered allowable for dog food.

Grains themselves aren’t bad, but these ingredients contain little to no nutritional value.

Instead, opt for better grains for dogs, like:

  • Rice (brown rice even better)
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Whole wheat
  • Millet (gluten-free)
  • Quinoa (gluten-free)
good grains for dogs

When Grain-Free is Still a Good Idea

While non-grain-free diets will be the best option for most dog owners, some pooches may still need to pass up grains for certain reasons, including:

  • Allergies. There are some dogs who have grain allergies, although the vast majority of dogs are not allergic to grains. Keep in mind that grain-related allergies like celiac disease are much more common in humans than dogs. Protein allergies are much more common for canines.
  • Gas and Digestion. Despite grain allergies being uncommon, some dogs still simply can’t digest grains well, leading to tummy troubles and excessive gas. If your dog seems gassier than normal, it may be worth trying a switch to a grain-free diet to see if that helps.

Want the Best For Your Dog? Watch Him!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about what kind of food to choose for your dog, you can keep it relatively simple – just try one and see how your dog reacts!

  • Does your dog seem to enjoy the food?
  • Do you seen an improvement in your dog’s skin and/or coat?
  • What do your dogs stools look like after eating the food for a couple weeks? Do the stools seem firm and healthy?
  • What is your dog’s energy level and behavior like?
  • Is your dog itching more or less than usual?

These are the easiest clues to use when trying to decide if a diet is working for your dog! Trial and error will be best when it comes to finding your dog’s perfect recipe.

FAQ About Dog Food With Grains

What is the best dry dog food with grain?

There is a wide array of high-quality dry dog foods with grains, but our top pick would be Nature’s Logic, with packs tremendous protein and sources quality grains like millet.

What’s wrong with grain-free dog food?

Recent findings from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) suggest that there is a correlation between grain-free dog food and DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy). While the exact nature of this correlation is still unknown, many vets are going with a “better safe than sorry approach” and generally are recommending grain-inclusive dog food over grain-free varieties.

What is better for dogs – grain or grain-free?

Due to the recent FDA research findings, most vets suggest feeding your dog a grain-inclusive food rather than a grain-free food. However, if your dog has a grain allergy or intolerance, grain-free might still be a better option.

Should dogs avoid grain free food?

While the exact nature of the correlation between grain-free food and DCM is still unknown, most vets now suggest avoiding grain-free food when possible.

Do dogs need grain in their diet?

No, dogs do not need grains in their diet. However, most dogs can digest grains just fine, so they aren’t bad for a dog, despite being non-essential to their diet. They also are a good source of fiber and vitamins.

Do you feed your dog a grain-inclusive diet? Why or why not? Does your dog have a favorite kibble listed here or someplace else? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Written by

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Director of Marketing at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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Brian

From what I have seen, it may not be the fact that there are legume proteins in so many grain free products, but more that they are higher in protein than some animals require. Which may affect the kidneys and pancreas.

1 out of my 3 dogs appears allergic to soy, corn, and wheat, and I would not feed that crap to any of them anyway. 2 of 3 are allergic to any type of poultry, and that is a problem since chicken and especially chicken fat must have gotten real cheap in the last couple of years since formally decent brands of dog food now include it, and it is a real pain to find ones that don’t. Pretty amazing considering the number of dogs that are allergic to it. BTW, if your dog chews his paws a lot, that is the most likely reason. Change to a good food that does not include it in every formula, like almost all the ones recommended above.

All that said, I actually don’t think most grains are bad for dogs. Sure, wolves do not eat them, but domestic dogs are far removed from wolves. We’ve pretty much bred dogs that can live off a high percent of grains in their diet in the last hundred years since that’s what we fed them.

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Stefani

I cant seem to find exactly what I am looking for. Im looking for a primarily fish protein dog food with quinoa, brown rice or millett grain composition. Both of my rescues seem to be highly allergic to chicken and turkey proteins I have done well with Salmon base but am looking for more dry kibble options with fish as primary, limited ingredients and limited grains without going completely grain free and without breaking the bank Any suggestions??

Reply
Ben Team

Hey, Stefani.
That’s a tough one — most of the recipes we’ve looked at either have chicken-based ingredients (such as the Blue Buffalo recipe discussed above), or they lack grains.
You could ask your vet about choosing one of the fish-based, grain-free recipes and then simply mixing in a little rice.
Best of luck!

Reply
Laura

We have a new 12 week old puppy who’s been on Hills Science Food and now I’m hearing about grain free vs. inclusive and I’m utterly overwhelmed….how do you decide and if we stick to grain-inclusive, which one?? Our pup seems fine with what she’s eating now. But, is is the best one available?

Reply
Ben Team

Hey, Laura. Unfortunately, there is very little certainty surrounding the correlation between grain-free foods and DCM. Accordingly, we’d recommend speaking to your vet about your dog’s food before making any changes.
That said, we generally think it is a good idea to stick to grain-inclusive recipes, unless your dog has a specific allergy or intolerance to grains.
Best of luck!

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Carolyn

Just found your site and like it. I’ve had my 4 yr old labradoodle on Wellness Core brand since she was 8 weeks old. Had to change to fish ingredients when she became allergic to chicken at 1 yr old. Now undecided about adding grain to her diet. Can’t find a quality dog food w/o chicken but with meat, veggies, grain & fruit. Seems everything has some sort of chicken in it. She’s doing great on Wellness Core Ocean Fish which I mix with a 1/6 of a can of Natural Balance Lamb plus cooked carrots. I’m thinking of mixing in a small amount of cooked brown rice instead of trying to find a commercial dog food. Any comments would be appreciated.

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Ben Team

Hey, Carolyn. Glad you have enjoyed the site!
We’d recommend speaking with your vet about the issue before making any big changes to your dog’s diet. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot to be learned about the connection between DCM and grain-free diets.
That said, there is probably nothing wrong with adding a bit of cooked brown rice to your pooch’s dish.
Best of luck!

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Claudia B

Hello ! I have a 1 year old chihuahua who is a picky eater. I started w Royal canin and didn’t hear good things. I did orijen and with the heart grain free issue I was told by my vet to switch. We switched to wellness for small
Breed and he would eat it. So then I tried Instinct complete and I mix his kibbles with toppers or boil chicken with chicken broth and he does okay. However is that food food for my chihuahua mix? Just want the best for him.

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Edward Smail

I dont know what to feed my dogs anymore, i read the FDA report and now im scared for my pets one which is a Doberman pincher and they are a breed thats prone to DCM. I do give my dogs a multi vitamin which has Taurine in it. So now i got to figure out what dog food to feed my fur baby`s, and its not easy to lose a pet so i want whats best for my dogs.

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Ben Team

Hey, Edward.
It certainly can be frustrating picking the best food for our pups.
There are scads of foods available with grains (such as those discussed above), so just try to pick one that addresses your pup’s specific needs. And, as always, discuss your choice with your vet.
Best of luck!

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Lindsay

I am SO happy I found your page!! Since hearing about all this FDA grain-free stuff and then my vet touching on the subject, I have been scouring the web trying to figure out if this is an actual concern or just a warning that will pass. My dog has been on Taste of the Wild, #3 on the list, and they don’t make a grain option with their food. I am debating whether to try to switch my pup to Natures Logic but it is quite expensive and I see the first ingredient is pork “meal.” I read on your previous post to look for a food where real meat is the #1 ingredient (as opposed to meal) Is this still ok? If you have any expertise to share I would greatly appreciate it!

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Meg Marrs

Hey Lindsay, we’re happy to help – it’s all definitely confusing. Animal-specific meals is fine – in fact, as long as the meal is identified (pork meal, as opposed to “meat meal”), meals actually contain even more protein than whole meat sources, due to the water content!

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Kathleen Kells

My holistic vet has stated that there will be multiple lawsuits due to FDA’s unsubstantiated claims from top of the line trusted dog food companies such as Merrick and Champion Foods. There has been no direct cause-effect relationship between consuming grain free dog foods and dilated cardio myopathy. Furthermore, she stated that a lack of sufficient taurine in dog’s diet is the cause of this condition. The solution is to vary the food you serve the dog or give taurine supplements. Many grain free dog foods include taurine already. Only 600 dogs have been affected by supposed link between grain free foods and DCM. I will not be taking my GSD off Acana or Origen, both high quality foods with meat ingredients listed first on labels. I feed dry in the am and raw in the pm. I also mix a bit of Tripett Green Lamb or Green Beef Tripe with the food. She also gets Purebites beef liver as treats and training rewards. Her coat is gorgeous and she is extremely healthy. The FDA’s call on this matter is seriously flawed and they should not be alarming the public unless they have clear scientific evidence that grain free foods cause DCM. In many dogs this is a genetic condition especially in certain breeds and has nothing to do with the food they consume.

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Jane Price-Ekbatani

I read your articles and am looking for a dog food that is low in fat and carbohydrates for our newly diagnosed Bichon with diabetes. She has turned up her nose at the Vet prescribed Royal Canin G/I low fat diet. It is important for her to eat on a regular schedule so she can get her insulin injections twice a day. Any suggestions? I ordered the Ketogenic dog food but it has not arrived yet.

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Meg Marrs

Hi Jane – we actually have a full article on low glycemic dog foods specifically for diabetic dogs! Check it out here: https://www.k9ofmine.com/best-foods-for-diabetic-dogs/

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