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13 Best Grain-Free Dog Food Diets For Feeding Fido!

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Dog Food By Ben Team 30 min read January 3, 2023

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The best grain-free dog foods

Over the last few years, grain-free foods have become popular with a number of dog owners.

Manufacturers have certainly noticed this trend, and many have begun including one or more grain-free options in their product lines. Some manufacturers have even eliminated grains from all of their formulas and recipes.

This means that you’ll have plenty of grain-free options to choose from. But while it is always nice to have plenty of options, it can make it difficult (even overwhelming) to sort through the available recipes and pick the best one for your pet.

We’ll try to help you do exactly that, as we recommend some of the best grain-free foods on the market, discuss the basics of grain-free diets, and explain when they may be a good choice for your dog below.

Quick Picks: Best Grain-Free Dog Foods

  • Nom Nom [Best Overall Grain-Free Food]: Customization and quality make this fresh food option a top choice with its assortment of grain-free, minimally-processed offerings.
  • Wellness Complete Health Grain-Free [Best Overall Grain-Free Kibble]: A well-rounded mix of ingredients including lean protein, vegetables, and probiotics elevate this grain-free dry food to the top of the pack.
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain [Most Affordable Grain-Free Food]: Real meat is always at the top of the ingredient list with this grain-free food that won’t empty your wallet.
  • Wellness Complete Health Canned Stew [Best Grain-Free Canned Food]: Give up grains without sacrificing flavor or satisfaction with this succulent stew-style wet food.

Do Dogs Need Grain-Free Diets?

grain-free dog food recipe

Let’s clear up a common misconception right off the bat: The vast majority of dogs can digest cooked grains without a problem.

In fact, their ability to digest cooked grains is part of the reason they became “dogs” (as opposed to wolves) in the first place. Early dogs evolved genes that allowed them to produce more amylase (a protein that allows starches to be digested in the intestines) than their wolf ancestors.

This turned out to be a critical step in the domestication of dogs. These adaptations helped them to survive alongside humans, as it allowed them to subsist, in part, on our leftovers and scraps.  

So, to answer our initial question: No, most dogs do not need a grain-free food.

Most dogs digest corn, wheat, and other grains just as well as they do potatoes or other carbohydrates often used to replace grains. These grains can even serve as valuable components of a dog’s diet.

However, this does not mean that grain-free food is necessarily a bad idea, and it may even prove helpful in a few specific circumstances.

13 Best Grain-Free Dog Foods

dog foods with glucosamine

The following 13 grain-free foods are among the best ones on the market. You’ll certainly want to review each one carefully before making a decision, but you can rest assured that all of them are very high-quality products.

1. Nom Nom

Best Overall Grain-Free Food
Nom Nom
A fresh, meat-forward food available in three pup-pleasing protein options without grains.
Special Discount: Good news -- new customers can get 50% off!
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About: Feed your floof grain-free greatness catered to his unique needs with Nom Nom, a fresh food option customized to your dog’s age, weight, activity level, and more. Available in three grain-free protein mixes delivered to your door, you can update your dog’s profile at any time to adjust his portions to suit his lifelong needs. 

Features:

  • Subscription-based, though samples are available online through Petsmart
  • All recipes crafted by Nom Nom’s board-certified veterinary nutritionists
  • Exceeds AAFCO standards for all life stages
  • Made in the USA with US-source ingredients

Options: Grain-free options include Beef Mash, Chicken Cuisine, and Pork Potluck. Turkey Fare is grain-inclusive. 

Ingredients List

Ground Beef, Russet Potatoes, Eggs, Carrots, Peas...,

Dicalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Taurine, Vinegar, Fish Oil, Sunflower Oil, Choline Bitartrate, Water Sufficient For Processing, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Gluconate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Gluconate, Niacin, Manganese Gluconate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Cholecalciferol, Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement

Guaranteed Analysis (Beef Mash):

  • Crude Protein: 8% Min
  • Crude Fat: 4% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 1% Max

Pros

  • Can’t top the quality or taste of fresh food options
  • Pre-portioned to meet your dog’s unique needs
  • Short ingredient list great for dogs with food sensitivities

Cons

  • Requires refrigerator space
  • Pricier than kibble options

2. Wellness Complete Health Grain-Free

Best Overall Grain-Free Kibble
Wellness Grain-Free Complete Health

A protein-rich, grain-free dry dog food made with real meat, vegetables, and gut-friendly probiotics.


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About: Skip corn, soy, and wheat in your canine’s kibble with Wellness Complete Health Grain-Free, a crunchy food made with joint-supporting glucosamine and antioxidant-rich produce for immune health. Quality proteins sit atop the ingredient list, while flaxseed packs omega fatty acids for your pup’s skin and coat.

Features:

  • Recipes designed by veterinarians and nutritionists
  • Added prebiotics and probiotics support healthy digestion
  • Doesn’t contain meat by-products or artificial flavors
  • Made in the USA with internationally sourced ingredients

Options: Available in Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal, Whitefish & Menhaden Fish Meal, Lamb & Lamb Meal, Puppy, Small Breed, and Large Breed.

Ingredients List

Deboned Chicken, Potatoes, Peas, Chicken Meal, Dried Ground Potatoes...,

Chickpeas, Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat, Ground Flaxseed, Tomatoes, Natural Chicken Flavor, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Spinach, Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Ascorbic Acid, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Chicory Root Extract, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Garlic Powder, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, 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

Guaranteed Analysis (Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal):

  • Crude Protein: 26% Min
  • Crude Fat: 12% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 5.25% Max

Pros

  • Made with high-quality, grain-free ingredients, including real meat, produce, and probiotics
  • Excellent variety of proteins to choose from
  • Most pet parents report that dogs love the taste

Cons

  • More expensive than most mainstream kibbles 
  • Can be too rich for some pups’ systems

3. Taste of the Wild High Prairie

Best Multi-Meat Grain-Free Dog Food
Taste of the Wild High Prairie

A combination of high-quality meats make this kibble a grain-free, protein-rich powerhouse.

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About: Tempt your terriers taste buds with Taste of the Wild High Prairie’s meat-rich, grain-free recipe containing seven scrumptious protein sources, including water buffalo, bison, and venison. Berries provide a punch of antioxidants, while potatoes offer additional nutrients and carbohydrates for energy and satiety. 

Features:

  • Real meat is the first ingredient
  • Probiotics support digestive health and regularity (80 million CFU per pound!)
  • Omega fatty acids nourish your dog’s skin and coat
  • Made in the USA with US and globally sourced ingredients

Options: High Prairie is available in Adult and Puppy recipes. 

Other multi-protein Taste of the Wild options include:

  • Appalachian Valley Small Breed (Venison & Lamb Meal)
  • Pacific Stream (Salmon & Ocean Fish Meal) 
  • Pine Forest (Venison & Lamb Meal)
  • Sierra Mountain (Lamb & Lamb Meal)
  • Southwest Canyon (Beef, Lamb Meal, Wild Boar & Ocean Fish Meal)
  • Wetlands (Duck, Duck Meal, Chicken Meal & Ocean Fish Meal)

Ingredients List

Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas...,

Potatoes, Chicken Fat, Egg Product, Roasted Bison, Roasted Venison, Beef, Natural Flavor, Tomato Pomace, Potato Protein, Pea Protein, Ocean Fish Meal, Salt, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Raspberries, 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, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid

Guaranteed Analysis (High Prairie Adult):

  • Crude Protein: 32% Min
  • Crude Fat: 18% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 4% Max

Pros

  • Contains an array of different proteins 
  • Most dogs go gaga for the flavor
  • Many pup parents report an improvement in energy and coat appearance

Cons

  • Kibble size may be too large for petite pups
  • Mixed proteins can be problematic for dogs with sensitivities
Taste of the Wild catch your eye?

Check out our in-depth look at Taste of the Wild to learn more about this brand and the recipes they offer.

4. Open Farm

Best Ingredient-Sourcing in a Grain-Free Dog Food
Open Farm Wild-Caught Salmon

Trace ingredients back to the source with this kibble suitable for all life stages.

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About: Open Farm offers unprecedented ingredient traceability, allowing you to research the origins of everything in your pup’s bag via lot code. Grain-free without corn, soy, or wheat, this dry food features locally sourced, non-GMO fruits and vegetables like pumpkin and carrot for added fiber and nutrients. 

Features:

  • Always made with humanely and sustainably harvested proteins
  • Meets AAFCO standards for all life stages
  • All recipes are formulated by an animal nutritionist
  • Formulated in Canada and made in the USA with fully traceable ingredients 

Options: Open Farm offers a number of different recipes you can choose from, including:

  • Homestead Turkey & Chicken
  • Senior Recipe
  • Catch-of-the-Season Whitefish 
  • Grass-Fed Beef
  • Pasture-Raised Lamb
  • Pork & Root Vegetables
  • Puppy Recipe
  • New Zealand Venison
  • Wild-Caught Salmon

Ingredients List

Wild Caught Salmon, Garbanzo Beans, Ocean Caught Whitefish Meal...,

Field Peas, Herring Meal, Red Lentils, Coconut Oil, Green Lentils, Coconut Meal, Natural Flavour, Salmon Oil, Sunflower Oil, Pumpkin, Cranberries, Chicory Root, Apples, Choline Chloride, Salt, Dicalcium Phosphate, Turmeric, Rosemary Extract, Vitamin E Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Zinc Proteinate, Calcium Carbonate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Selenium Yeast, Calcium Iodate

Guaranteed Analysis (Wild-Caught Salmon):

  • Crude Protein:  30% Min
  • Crude Fat: 14% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 4.5% Max

Pros

  • Level of traceability is nearly unmatched in the dog food world
  • Top-notch range of protein options (including exotic offerings)
  • Kibble size ideal for dogs big and small

Cons

  • Pickier pups may need enticing to give it a try
  • One of the more expensive grain-free kibbles 

5. Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain

Most Affordable Grain-Free Dog Food
Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain

A zero-grain kibble featuring the quality ingredients your pup deserves without blowing a hole in your budget.

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About: Get the grain-free nutrition your pup needs for less with Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain, a budget-friendly kibble made without poultry by-product meal, artificial flavors, or colors. Potatoes provide fiber for healthy digestion, while natural sources of fatty acids like flaxseed support your pup’s skin and coat.

Features:

  • Real meat is always the first ingredient
  • Meets AAFCO standards for all life stages except for the growth of large breed dogs
  • Recipes formulated by Ainsworth Pet Nutrition®
  • Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients

Options: Nutrish is available in several different recipes, including:

  • Chicken & Sweet Potato
  • Turkey & Potato
  • Salmon & Sweet Potato
  • Beef, Potato & Bison

Ingredients List

Chicken, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Dried Peas, Whole Dried Potatoes...,

Pea Protein, Pea Starch, Tapioca, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Whole Flaxseed, Chicken Fat, Natural Flavor, Fish Meal, Salt, Dicalcium Phosphate, Turkey Meal, Dried Cranberries, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, Choline Chloride, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Biotin, Niacin, D-calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid

Guaranteed Analysis (Chicken & Sweet Potato):

  • Crude Protein: 26% Min
  • Crude Fat: 14% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 4% Max

Pros

  • Budget-friendly pricing compared to most grain-free kibbles
  • Most owners report that canines love the flavor
  • A portion of each sale goes to the Rachael Ray Foundation® to support pets in need

Cons

  • Study the ingredient list, as some recipes are multi-protein
  • Large kibblets can be difficult for smaller pups to eat

6. Merrick Grain-Free Puppy

Best Grain-Free Puppy Food
Merrick Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato

A grain-free kibble catered to growing pups with healthy fats, fiber, protein, and DHA for brain development.

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About: Support your four-footed youngster’s dietary needs with Merrick Grain-Free Puppy, a protein-rich kibble packed with must-have nutrients for healthy puppy development like DHA. Real fruits and vegetables offer up antioxidants for immune health and fiber for digestion, keeping your fur baby fueled for the next round of play.

Features:

  • Deboned meat is the first ingredient
  • Meets AAFCO for the growth of dogs, including large size puppies
  • Probiotics promote healthy digestion
  • Made in the USA with internationally sourced ingredients

Options: Offered in Grain-Free Beef and Grain-Free Chicken.

Ingredients List

Deboned Beef, Turkey Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Whitefish Meal...,

Tapioca, Peas, Pork Fat, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Sunflower Oil, Pea Protein, Potato Protein, Deboned Salmon, Salt, Organic Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Apples, Blueberries, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate, Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Mixed Tocopherols For Freshness, Citric Acid For Freshness, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product

Guaranteed Analysis (Grain-Free Beef):

  • Crude Protein: 28% Min
  • Crude Fat: 15% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 4.5% Max

Pros

  • Meets the AAFCO standard for the dietary needs of all pups, including large breeds
  • Added probiotics give delicate puppy digestion a boost
  • Small kibble size perfect for puppies of any size

Cons

  • Some puppies experienced gassiness
  • On the pricier side, especially for smaller bag sizes (Biggest is 22 pounds)

7. NUTRO Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Adult

Best LID Grain-Free Dog Food
Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet

A grain-free dry food made with with ten key ingredients or less, making it ideal for sensitive tummies.

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About: NUTRO Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Adult always features ten key ingredients or less, which makes avoiding problem ingredients a breeze. It also lacks common allergy triggers like beef and chicken. 

Features:

  • Proteins are always the first ingredient
  • Made with non-GMO ingredients
  • Chickpeas, potatoes, and lentils are rich in fiber
  • Made in the USA with ingredients sourced from around the world

Options: Available in Lamb, Salmon, Duck, Venison, Large Breed Lamb, and Small Bites Lamb.

Ingredients List

Deboned Lamb, Lamb Meal, Chickpeas, Dried Potatoes, Dried Sweet Potato...,

Lentils, Potato Starch, Sunflower Oil, Canola Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavor, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, Taurine, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Selenium Yeast, Riboflavin Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract

Guaranteed Analysis (Lamb):

  • Crude Protein: 20% Min
  • Crude Fat: 13% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 3.5% Max

Pros

  • Limited ingredients great for dogs with food 
  • Decent mix of protein options to choose from
  • Many pup parents report an improvement in skin and coat appearance

Cons

  • Pricing is steep
  • Some dogs aren’t fans of the taste

8. Merrick Grain-Free Healthy Weight

Best Healthy Weight Grain-Free Dog Food
Merrick Grain-Free Healthy Weight

A grain-free dry food designed to nourish your dog while remaining conscious of his waistline.

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About: Merrick Grain-Free Healthy Weight aims to keep your pup’s physique trim with a high-protein blend of wholesome ingredients. A delicious assortment of proteins provide plenty of flavor, while fiber-rich produce keeps hunger at bay and promotes healthy digestion. 

Features:

  • Deboned beef is the first ingredient
  • Calories and fat are balanced to curb weight gain
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin support joint health
  • Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients

Options: Offered in Grain-Free Healthy Weight and Healthy Weight With Grains.

Ingredients List

Deboned Beef, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes...,

Turkey Meal, Peas, Natural Flavor, Chicken Fat, Miscanthus Grass, Salmon Meal, Flaxseed, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Organic Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Choline Chloride, Sunflower Oil, Apples, Blueberries, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate, Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Mixed Tocopherols, Citric Acid, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product.

Guaranteed Analysis:

  • Crude Protein: 32% Min
  • Crude Fat: 10% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 5% Max

Pros

  • Protein-rich recipe is flavor-packed for pups yet still geared toward a healthy weight
  • Probiotics and fiber support healthy digestion
  • Additional of joint-boosting glucosamine and chondroitin is always a win

Cons

  • Some dogs weren’t fans of the taste
  • A single protein option would be ideal

9. Blue Wilderness

Best High-Protein Grain-Free Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe

A protein-packed dry food featuring glucosamine, probiotics, and core nutrients.

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About: Meet your dog’s high-protein needs with Blue Wilderness, a meat-dense kibble containing Blue’s signature LifeSource Bits that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Sweet potatoes and peas round things out to provide fiber and energy, keeping your canine fueled for his next adventure. 

Features:

  • Deboned meat or fish is the top ingredient
  • Doesn’t contain chicken or poultry by-product meals, corn, soy, or wheat
  • High protein supports lean muscle development
  • Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients

Options: Offered in Grain-Free Salmon, Grain-Free Duck, and Grain-Free Chicken.

Ingredients List

Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch...,

Fish Meal, Dried Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat, Flaxseed, Pea Starch, Natural Flavor, Dried Egg Product, Direct Dehydrated Alfalfa Pellets, DL-Methionine, Dried Chicory Root, Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, 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, Calcium Pantothenate, L-Carnitine, Copper Sulfate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, L-Lysine, Biotin, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, 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, Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary

Guaranteed Analysis (Grain-Free Chicken):

  • Crude Protein: 34% Min
  • Crude Fat: 15% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 6% Max

Pros

  • Every recipe contains more than 30% protein
  • Taste earns rave reviews from most doggos
  • Kibble size and shape suitable for most dog breeds

Cons

  • Some pups dislike Blue’s LifeSource Bits
  • Mixed protein recipes won’t sit well with every dog

10. Wellness Complete Health Canned Stew

Best Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
Wellness Chicken Stew with Peas & Carrots

An assortment of proteins and versatility in use make this grain-free wet food an all-star choice.

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About: Serve your sniffer a hearty bowl of grain-free goodness with Wellness Complete Health Canned Stew, a wet food containing lean protein, organ meat, and vegetables. Made to mimic your favorite Sunday stew, this meaty option meets the AAFCO standards for all life stages. 

Features:

  • Blends real chunked meat, veggies, and broth for a tasty, nutritious meal
  • Doesn’t contain corn, soy, or wheat
  • Balanced to be fed on its own or added to your dog’s dry diet
  • Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients

Options: Available in Chicken Stew, Beef Stew, Lamb & Beef Stew, and Venison & Salmon Stew.

Ingredients List

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Water Sufficient For Processing, Chicken Liver...,

Peas, Carrots, Dried Egg Whites, Potatoes, Potato Starch, Dried Egg Product, Guar Gum, Red Peppers, Celery, Natural Flavor, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Proteinate, Potassium Iodide, Salmon Oil, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

Guaranteed Analysis (Chicken Stew):

  • Crude Protein: 8% Min
  • Crude Fat: 4% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 1% Max

Pros

  • Quality gets a thumbs-up from most pawrents
  • Rich gravy entices picky pupper palates (and mixes well into kibble)
  • Good selection of single-protein and mixed-protein recipes available

Cons

  • Pricing is on the higher side
  • Stew texture isn’t a hit with every dog

11. Merrick Classic Grain-Free Puppy Plate

Best Grain-Free Canned Puppy Food
Merrick Puppy Plate Chicken Recipe

A wet food option for puppies combining meat and veggies in grain-free, hound-pleasing harmony.

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About: Merrick Classic Grain-Free Puppy Plate is a meat-centric mash of proteins and vegetables you can see. Containing DHA for brain development, this canned option skips by-products and grain to create a balanced meal that can be fed on its own or added to your baby barker’s kibble.

Features:

  • Real deboned meat is always the first ingredient
  • Meets the AAFCO standards for all life stages, including for the growth of large-breed puppies
  • Doesn’t include any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Made in the USA

Options: Available in Chicken, Beef, and Classic Recipe (with turkey, chicken, and duck.)

Ingredients List

Deboned Chicken, Chicken Broth, Deboned Turkey, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots...,

Apples, Peas, Dried Egg Product, Flaxseed Oil, Potato Starch, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite, Natural Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Potato Protein, Sodium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Salmon Oil, Xanthan Gum, Gum Ghatti, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Biotin, Salt, Cassia Gum, Choline Chloride, Agar-Agar, Flaxseed, Locust Bean Gum, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Yucca Schidigera Extract

Guaranteed Analysis (Chicken):

  • Crude Protein: 9% Min
  • Crude Fat: 5% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 1.8% Max

Pros

  • Pet parents are gaga about the quality you can see, including real meat chunks and produce
  • Texture mixes great into kibble and spreads onto licky matts
  • Pricing isn’t bad for such a top-notch food

Cons

  • Limited proteins to choose from
  • Mixed protein recipes can be a concern for dogs with food limitations

12. CANIDAE PURE Limited Ingredient Diet

Best Grain-Free LID Canned Dog Food
CANIDAE PURE Limited Ingredient Duck & Turkey

A meat-forward canned option made with a short, easy-to-scan ingredient list.

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About: Avoid surprise ingredients with CANIDAE PURE Limited Ingredient Diet, a simple canned food option that contains seven key ingredients or less, depending on the recipe. Made without common allergy triggers like corn, soy, or wheat, this balanced wet food option features lean proteins in a tasty broth for added palatability.

Features:

  • Real meat or fish at the top of the ingredient list
  • Soft, pate texture mixes easily into kibble or can be served on its own
  • Meets AAFCO standards for all life stages
  • Made in the USA

Options: CANIDAE canned diets are available in your choice of several recipes, including:

  • Salmon & Sweet Potato
  • Puppy Chicken
  • Lamb, Turkey & Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Duck & Turkey

Ingredients List

Duck, Duck Broth, Turkey Broth, Turkey, Turkey Liver...,

Peas, Pea Protein, Salmon Oil, Sunflower Oil, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, Agar-agar, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Copper Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Proteinate, Potassium Iodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Cobalt Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Rosemary Extract

Guaranteed Analysis (Duck & Turkey):

  • Crude Protein: 9% Min
  • Crude Fat: 7% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 1% Max

Pros

  • Limited ingredient list ideal for spotting and avoiding sensitivity triggers
  • Doesn’t contain carrageenan, a somewhat controversial ingredient found in many wet dog foods
  • Several single protein and multi-protein recipes are available

Cons

  • Smell can be a tad strong (though your dog probably won’t mind)
  • Texture isn’t a favorite for every dog

13. Blue Wilderness Senior

Best Grain-Free Canned Dog Food for Seniors
Blue Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill

A meat mash of lean proteins and digestion-friendly carbohydrates formulated for aging canines.

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About: Nourish your mature mutt with Blue Wilderness Senior, a delicious blend of lean proteins and nutrient-dense organ meat. Also containing flaxseed and potatoes for fiber and energy, this meaty mixture is formulated to meet AAFCO standards for maintenance.

Features:

  • Omega fatty acids help keep your canine’s coat and skin looking and feeling great
  • Can be fed on its own, used as an occasional treat, or mixed into your pup’s kibble 
  • Doesn’t contain grain, gluten, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial flavors and preservatives
  • Made in the USA

Options: Available in Turkey & Chicken Grill or Red Meat Dinner.

Ingredients List

Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver...,

Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Carrageenan, Cassia Gum, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Flaxseed, Choline Chloride, Salt, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate, Cobalt Amino Acid Chelate, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid

Guaranteed Analysis (Turkey & Chicken Grill):

  • Crude Protein: 8% Min
  • Crude Fat: 6% Min
  • Crude Fiber: 1.5% Max

Pros

  • Specially formulated to meet the needs of mature canines aged 7+
  • Excellent choice for upping or maintaining your hound’s hydration
  • Taste earns tail wags from doggy diners 

Cons

  • More protein options would be ideal
  • Some owners aren’t a fan of carrageenan in dog food

Are There Any Problems with Grain-Free Foods?

dog food without corn

For the most part, grain-free foods are regarded as safe and healthy. However, it is important to note that the grain-free dog food phenomenon is relatively new – people haven’t been feeding grain-free diets to their dogs for very long.

Accordingly, scientists have yet to accumulate a lot of empirical data about grain-free foods for dogs.

However, at least one 2018 study by the FDA has demonstrated a link between foods based on potatoes and legumes and heart problems in dogs. More research is needed (a single study doesn’t really establish much), but this is an important area of inquiry that grain-free food proponents should monitor.

Aside from that, the only other obvious problem grain-free diets present is that they are often a bit more expensive than foods made with corn or wheat.

When Are Grain-Free Dog Food Diets a Good Idea?

when to select a grain-free dog food

Many people like to limit the number of carbs in their diet, and some try to avoid grains entirely. Some people do this to lose weight, while others simply do it because it makes them feel better. But just because a diet works for you, that doesn’t mean the same grain-free approach is a good idea for your dog.

Owners often become very emotionally connected to their dogs, which makes it easy to anthropomorphize them. This can cause problems during food selection, as people often pick foods based on their own desires and needs, rather than their dog’s.

Remember: Dogs are not humans — their biology is very different from our own. Trying to instill your own dietary ethos on your pooch is unfair, and, in some cases, it can even lead to nutritional problems.  

Nevertheless, there are a few cases in which grain-free dog foods may be a good choice for your dog. Some of the most notable circumstances include:

Anytime Your Vet Recommends Going Grain-Free

We always encourage our readers to work closely with their veterinarian to help ensure your dog stays as healthy and happy as possible.

vet-recommended grain-free dog foods

This includes any time you are making dietary choices.

So, if your vet recommends going with a grain-free food, it’s probably in your dog’s best interest to do so. And this means you may want to consider making a dietary switch.

However, you don’t have to simply accept your vet’s advice blindly.

Ask questions about the recommendation and try to understand the reasons your vet is recommending a grain-free food.

If you don’t find the reasoning compelling, you may want to get a second opinion from another vet.

But if more than one vet is recommending your dog switch to a grain-free diet, it’s almost certainly a good idea to do so.

 Dogs Who Are Allergic to Corn, Wheat, or Other Grains

itchy dog skin

While corn, wheat, and other grains do not cause food allergies as often as many other ingredients (such as beef, pork, and dairy products), a small number of dogs do suffer from itchy skin when they eat grains.

Just be sure that you’ve worked with your vet to figure out the actual allergic trigger at work – don’t just assume that grains are the problematic ingredients.

This will normally require you to switch your dog to a limited-ingredient dog food diet or a hypoallergenic dog food to get rid of the symptoms, and then employ an elimination-challenge diet to positively identify the allergen.

 Dogs Who Don’t Like the Taste of Grains

some dogs don't like grains

While grains are high-quality ingredients, they certainly don’t offer any type of irreplaceable value. So, if your dog simply doesn’t like the taste or texture of foods made with corn, wheat, or other grains, you needn’t force him to choke them down. Instead, you could just pick a grain-free dog food to keep Fido happy.

Having said that, there are many healthy grains for dogs, such as wheat, corn, barley, oats, and other grains, that dogs find delicious, so this is probably not a very common problem.   

 Dogs Who Don’t Digest Grains Well

dog vomit

Some dogs may not be allergic to grains, but they may have trouble digesting them properly. Grains may make your dog gassy (which can be pretty problematic for the rest of your household), or they may give him frequent diarrhea.

This is typically referred to as a food intolerance, and it can make your dog pretty miserable.

If your dog suffers from these types of problems, you’ll want to discuss the issue with your vet. If he or she agrees that grains are the likely cause of your dog’s digestive difficulties, you’ll want to switch to a grain-free food option or a dog food designed for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

What Do Grain-Free Dog Food Recipes Use for Carbohydrates Instead of Grains?

Good grain-free dog foods

Although most dogs digest them easily enough, your pup doesn’t need very many carbohydrates. In fact, if your dog had his choice, he’d probably prefer a diet that is mostly comprised of delicious proteins and fats.

However, this type of diet would end up being pretty expensive. This is why most dog foods feature grains – they’re an affordable way to boost the calorie content of a food.

So, if you want to make affordable dog food that doesn’t contain grains, you’ll have to replace the calories normally provided by grains by incorporating other carbohydrate-rich ingredients. Some of the most common healthy carbs used in grain-free dog foods include:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas

What Types of Things Should You Look for in a Grain-Free Dog Food?

best dry dog food

It isn’t enough to simply look for the first grain-free food you find – you must still select a high-quality product capable of providing your dog with the nutrition he needs. You can narrow down your choices by looking for a food that satisfies the criteria explained below.

Look for a Food with a Whole Protein at the Top of the Ingredient List

chicken for dogs

It is incredibly important to ensure that your dog’s food includes one or more high-quality animal protein sources. And while identified meat meals and even identified meat byproducts can be valuable supplemental proteins, it is always preferable to see a whole protein at the top of the ingredient list (and, ideally, several meat sources topping the ingredient list).

The only exception to this rule involves canned wet dog foods, as many will feature water or broth as the first listed ingredient. This is not a problem as long as a whole protein is the second listed ingredient.

 Avoid Foods with Artificial Colors, Flavors, or Preservatives

avoid artificial colors

Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives occasionally cause dogs to suffer from food allergies, and they represent an unnecessary addition to most foods.

As long as your dog’s food is made with premium ingredients, artificial flavors are unnecessary. In all likelihood, your dog doesn’t care what color his food is.

Dog foods do typically require preservatives to ensure they have a reasonable shelf life, but most high-quality foods are preserved with naturally occurring vitamins and tocopherols.

 Avoid Foods Containing Unlabeled (or Poorly Labeled) Meat Meals or Meat Byproducts

Meats Dogs Like

As mentioned earlier, meat meals and meat by-products are valuable proteins that are included in many dog foods. Although they don’t often sound appetizing to people, most dogs find them delicious. However, it is important to prevent your dog from eating any meat meals or meat byproducts that may contain unhealthy or unsavory ingredients.

One of the best ways to do this is to avoid improperly or incompletely labeled versions of these ingredients. For example, “duck meal,” “chicken byproducts,” and “beef meal” are all fine; but you’ll want to avoid “poultry meal” or “meat by-products,” as they may contain just about anything.

 Try to Select Foods with Probiotics

dog food probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help dogs digest their food more efficiently. They can also help protect your dog from stomach ailments and prevent diarrhea and excessive gas. Many of the best grain-free dog food diets are already fortified with probiotics, but they are rarely included in wet foods.

If you like, you can always use standalone probiotic supplements, so you don’t necessarily need to seek out a dog food with probiotics in the formula.

 Look for Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

salmon for dogs

Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in your dog’s body and promote a healthy, lustrous coat. They’re also important for brain development, particularly in young puppies. Some of the foods most commonly used to provide omega-3 fatty acids include plant oils, salmon oil, fish meals, and flaxseed.

Like probiotics, there are standalone omega-3 fatty acid fish oil supplements on the market, so you may still go with a food that doesn’t provide many omega-3 fatty acids if it is ideal in every other way.

 Select a Food with Plenty of Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables

antioxidant-rich fruits

Most of the best grain-free dog food diets contain tons of things called antioxidants, which may help to promote proper immune function in four-footers.

Many colorful fruits and vegetables are rich in substances called antioxidants. These provide protection against the damage caused by free radicals and support your dog’s immune system, so that he can remain healthy.

Some foods that are rich in antioxidants include:

  • Pumpkin
  • Pomegranate
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Spinach
  • Parsley
  • Kale
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes

Grain-Free Dog Foods FAQ

Best grain-free foods for dogs

Understanding the ins and outs of the grain-free dog food discussion can be tricky. Let’s check on some potential questions and see if we can help clear the air.

Do vets recommend grain-free dog food?

Your vet may recommend a grain-free food if they suspect your dog has allergies or sensitivities to grain, but for dogs without these issues, most vets find the switch unnecessary. The FDA’s investigation into the potential link between grain-free diets and DCM further complicates the issue, especially if you have a breed prone to heart issues like a Doberman or boxer. 

If you’re considering switching your dog to a grain-free diet, discuss it with your vet. They’ll help you select the best dog food for your canine’s unique needs. They’ll can also determine if your dog is sensitive to grains or if his protein source is to blame, as proteins are most often the culprit in these situations. 

What is the most popular grain-free dog food?

With an ever-changing market landscape, it’s hard to determine which grain-free dog food brand is the most popular. However, we can narrow it down to the most likely contenders, including Wellness, Blue Buffalo, Taste of the Wild, Nutro, and Merrick.

Do dogs really need grain-free food?

Not every dog needs a grain-free diet. In fact, most dogs will thrive perfectly well on a grain-inclusive diet. Grains provide vital nutrients like iron and magnesium along with fiber for healthy digestion.

Your vet may want to try a grain-free diet if a grain allergy or intolerance is suspected. These sensitivities are the main reason why a dog would need to eat a grain-free food.

Are grain-free foods dangerous?

Maybe. Grain-free diets may be linked to an increased risk of a fatal heart issue called dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. The FDA is investigating the possible link. They’re also not ideal for older or less active dogs who may pack on pounds, as grain-free diets tend to be higher in calories.

Are grain-free dog foods expensive?

Grain-free foods are pricier than their grain-inclusive counterparts. They usually contain a higher protein content by volume and feature alternative carbohydrates like chickpeas or sweet potatoes, which are more expensive to source than rice or barley.

Grain-free dog food diets aren’t necessary for all dogs, but they are certainly helpful for some. If you think that your dog may benefit from a grain-free diet, look over the products recommended above and tried to pick the best one for your pet.

Do you already feed your dog a grain-free dog food? We’d love to hear about it! Tell us which food you use, why you decided to go grain-free, and what types of health improvements you’ve seen since making the switch.

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Written by

Ben Team

Ben is the senior content editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

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