Best Grain-Free Dog Food

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To feed grain or not to feed grain — that is the question that many dog owners struggle with. But, grain-free dog food can be a wholesome and nutritious diet for many dogs.

As long as your vet gives the OK, your dog can thrive on food without gluten! But what is the best grain-free dog food to start with?

My favorite option is Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game Duck dry dog food

First, it’s free of beef — a common protein that causes food sensitivities with dogs. And, it’s also high in protein and nutrients like taurine, making it an easy switch from food with grains

And that’s not all. There are many other great grain-free options — including one recommended by vets for sensitive tummies! Here are our favorite grain-free dog foods. 

Our Best Grain-Free Dog Food

  1. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game Duck (Best Dry Food for Adults)
  2. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Puppies)
  3. Halo Holistic Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Seniors)
  4. Merrick Grain-Free Canned Dog Food (Best Wet Food)
  5. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Budget Food)
  6. Zignature Turkey Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Premium Food)
  7. CANIDAE PURE Petite Adult Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Small Breeds)
  8. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Large Breeds)
  9. ACANA Grasslands Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Weight Loss)
  10. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Sensitive Stomachs) 

10 Best Grain-Free Dog Food Reviewed 

The formulas below follow the AAFCO nutrient profile guidelines. Before switching your dog to grain-free food, please consult with your veterinarian. 


Best for Adults

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game Duck Dry Dog Food

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game Duck
  • First 5 Ingredients: Duck, Lamb Meal, Chickpeas, Chicken Meal, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 34% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 6% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 379 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-protein and grain-free dry dog food made with novel proteins 

When choosing grain-free food, you’ll want one with plenty of vitamins and nutrients that are usually found in grains. With that, a food with taurine, prebiotics, and fiber is essential. 

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game formula offers all of that and more. This recipe is loaded with premium proteins — duck, lamb meal, wild boar, and rabbit.

They provide taurine for heart health, glucosamine for healthy joints, and l-carnitine for a faster metabolism. And, they form up to 34% Crude Protein for even the most active adult dogs. 

Chicken fat and vitamin E oil provide omega fatty acids, which help keep your dog’s skin and coat shiny and itch-free. 

Instead of grains or gluten, this recipe also includes lentils and chickpeas. These are packed with iron and magnesium, which aid in energy production. 

This formula doesn’t include meat by-products, corn, soy, or wheat. And, it’s free of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.

Keep in mind that this food is grain-free but is manufactured in a facility that processes grains. So if your dog is severely allergic to grains, you may want to look at another option on this list. 

Dog parents love the change that this food has made for their dogs. Many note that they’ve noticed a difference in their dogs’ energy levels, coat health, and immune systems. 


Best for Puppies

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy
  • First 5 Ingredients: Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Egg Product, Pea Protein
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 28% Crude Protein, 17% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 415 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Grain-free and high-fat dry puppy food made in the US 

Puppies need highly-digestible energy and prebiotics for a healthy immune system. And, they also need healthy fats and protein to grow steadily and healthily. 

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy food follows the adult version, but with a few changes to fit growing pups.

It starts with water buffalo, lamb meal, and roasted bison. These novel proteins help your young dog grow and maintain muscle mass. And, they also include chondroitin to help build strong bones and stimulate collagen production. 

Salmon oil and chicken fat add omega-3 fatty acids for joint health and DHA for cognitive function.

Because this recipe is grain-free, Taste of the Wild adds sweet potatoes, potatoes, and flaxseed. Just like grains, they have prebiotic fiber for healthy digestion. But, they also include other vitamins, like copper, which aids in collagen production. 

Taste of the Wild is manufactured in the US by a family-owned brand. It’s free of grains, corn, wheat, artificial flavors, and artificial colors.

Puppy parents like that this food is free of fillers and additives. And, they also state that their puppies had less gas after switching to this formula.   


Best for Seniors

Halo Holistic Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Halo Holistic Senior Grain-Free Turkey
  • First 5 Ingredients: Turkey, Dried Chickpeas, Dried Lentils, Dried Peas, Dried Egg Product
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 23% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 387 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Non-GMO dry dog food with DHA for senior dogs 

Senior dogs can still be young at heart. But, their nutritional needs do change. Your older pup will need high-quality protein, fiber, and essential acids to aid in their brain, metabolism, and joint health. 

Halo Senior Dog Holistic Grain-Free dog food fits those needs and more. It starts with cage-free turkey and turkey liver.  The turkey liver provides flavor for even the pickiest dogs. It also offers extra iron for energy production.

Chicken fat and flaxseed supply omega fatty acids to keep your senior’s joints supple and flexible. And, they also have a natural source of DHA to boost cognitive function

For a source of fiber and additional vitamins, chickpeas, lentils, and peas are added. These also offer more protein, which is essential for older dogs and their waning muscles.  

This formula is free of rendered meat meal. And, there are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Halo Holistic is made in the US with sustainably sourced ingredients and non-GMO produce.

Dog owners say that this formula is dry and crunchy. But, many comment that their dogs still love munching away on it. 


Best Wet Food

Merrick Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

Merrick Grain-Free Real Beef Canned
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Beef Broth, Beef Liver, Deboned Lamb, Deboned Bison
  • Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 9% Crude Protein, 5% Crude Fat, 1.4% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 399 kcal/12.7-oz can
  • Key Feature: Grain-free and pea-free wet dog food made in the US

Do you have a picky eater? Or, maybe you’re looking for moist food for a dog who needs a little chew support.

Whatever your reason for choosing wet food, you’ll want the best option.

Merrick Grain-Free canned dog food doesn’t include any grains and gluten like the other options on this list. And, it comes conveniently packed for easy mealtimes. 

It starts with real deboned beef, deboned lamb, and deboned bison. And, it also includes beef liver. These real meats offer almost 40% of Crude Protein (if measured on a dry matter basis). So they’re perfect for feeding a highly active dog or pup that needs to build up muscle. 

Salmon oil provides omega-3 essential acids. These offer the building blocks for healthy joints, muscles, and even bones. And, it also nourishes your dog from the inside out, giving them healthy skin and a shiny coat. 

There are no other ingredients outside of the meats and salmon oil. However, since grains aren’t included, Merrick supplements vitamins and minerals that all dogs need. This contains taurine for heart health, vitamin D for bone support, and vitamin C for a healthy immune system. 

This is pate-style dog food, so it’s easy to measure out. It doesn’t include any poultry, peas, or potatoes. It’s also free of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It’s crafted in Hereford, Texas. 

Pet parents admit that this food stinks. But, they also say that their picky eaters lick their bowls clean, so it’s worth the stink. 


Best Budget Food

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Salmon & Whitefish
  • First 5 Ingredients: Salmon Meal, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Meal, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 27% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 4.5% Crude Fiber
  • Caloric Content: 381 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Budget-friendly and grain-free dry dog food with antioxidants for immune support

Because they don’t include inexpensive fillers, grain-free dog foods can add up over time. But, it is possible to find high-value grain-free food on a budget — without sacrificing quality. 

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Salmon & Whitefish is developed by veterinarians and nutrition experts. They ensure that your dog will get the quality vitamins and minerals they need, without anything they don’t.  

This formula starts with salmon meal, chicken meal, and real deboned salmon and whitefish. These are essential in your dog’s diet — since they help support your dog’s strong muscles.

And, they also provide them with extra energy. And, the fish contains plenty of omega fatty acids for skin and coat health, as well as joint support. 

Field-grown veggies follow the proteins. Apples, sweet potatoes, and peas offer fiber-filled and easily digestible carbohydrates. They also have vitamins and minerals like zinc for immune support and potassium for strong bones. 

Whole Earth Farms is 100% free from corn, wheat, soy, and animal by-product meals. It also doesn’t include artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. 

Pet owners believe that the kibble size may not suit smaller dogs. But, many who switched from premium foods to Whole Earth Farms love the high-quality ingredients at a budget-friendly rate.


Best Premium Food

Zignature Turkey Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Zignature Turkey LID Formula
  • First 5 Ingredients: Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chickpeas, Peas, Sunflower Oil
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Crude Protein, 15% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 394 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Grain-free and low-glycemic premium dry dog food without extra ingredients

Are you a dog owner that wants to spoil their pup? If you’re looking for digestible premium food with high quality and all natural ingredients, Zignature Turkey Limited Ingredient dry dog food is the perfect option. 

This formula starts with farm-raised turkey and turkey meal from the American Midwest. This is the only animal protein in the food, so it’s perfect for dogs that may be allergic to chicken or beef. And, turkey is filled with glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints and bones. 

Grain substitutes chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) and peas provide fiber. And, because they’re low-glycemic carbohydrates, they’re easy for your dog to digest, even if they have tummy issues. 

Sunflower oil and flaxseed offer healthy fats and linoleic acid. These are essential for a strong heart and reduce inflammation in the joints and muscles. 

This delicious grain-free diet doesn’t include chicken, corn, wheat, soy, or potatoes.

Dog moms and dads love the kibble size and shape and say it makes it easier for their dogs to chew. And many note that their dogs no longer have loose stools, gas, or itchiness. 


Best for Small Breeds

CANIDAE PURE Petite Adult Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

CANIDAE PURE Petite Adult Lamb
  • First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Meal, Peas, Lentils, Tapioca
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 23% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 4.5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 525 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Grain-free dry dog food with a small kibble size for small breeds

Yes, small breeds need food formulated specifically for them. They need more calories per pound (unlike larger dogs) and protein-rich diets. And, they also need smaller kibble to keep them from choking or cracking a tooth. 

Luckily, CANIDAE PURE Petite Adult dog food offers the perfect grain-free and hypoallergenic recipe for dogs under 45 pounds.

It’s chicken-free and instead starts with lamb and freeze-dried lamb. This is helpful for small dogs who are allergic to specific proteins. And, the freeze-dried lamb also offers extra flavor to entice even the pickiest pups. 

There are only eight ingredients in total, with peas and lentils replacing grains. These offer prebiotics for digestive health and beta-carotene for eye health and immune support. 

This formula is made without corn, wheat, or soy. It’s also free of artificial colors and preservatives. The small kibble size is specially designed for petite adult dogs.

Pet parents with small dogs say that even their tiniest dog (less than 10 pounds) can comfortably eat this kibble.


Best for Large Breeds

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Salmon
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Peas, Tapioca Starch
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 6% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 386 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-protein and grain-free dog food with glucosamine for healthy joints in large breeds

Unlike most small breeds, large dogs need lots of healthy fats and protein to keep up with their big bodies, their muscles and to protect their joints. But, they also need slightly fewer calories per pound, so they don’t gain too much weight. 

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed dry dog food provides 32% of high-quality protein and 14% of Crude Fat to keep your large dog healthy. And, it’s also grain-free, so your big boy can enjoy it without possible adverse reactions. 

It starts with deboned salmon and chicken meal. These help promote muscle conditioning and include glucosamine for limber and robust joints. And, chicken meal offers iron and zinc for stronger bones and extra energy. 

Pea protein, peas, and potatoes offer gluten-free carbohydrates and fiber. These aid in healthy digestion and include vitamins like B vitamins to boost your dog’s cognitive function. 

This high-quality food is free of soy, wheat, and corn. And, it doesn’t have artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

Large dog owners recommend switching up flavors to keep your dog getting bored. They love the added vitamins and antioxidants to keep their breeds healthy.


Best for Weight Loss

ACANA Grasslands Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

ACANA Grasslands Grain-Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Lamb, Deboned Duck, Eggs, Lamb Meal, Goat Meal
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 33% Crude Protein, 17% Crude Fat, 6% Crude Fiber, 12% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 388 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-protein dry dog food with fewer calories made with raw meats for weight loss

While there are plenty of dog foods with reduced calories and fat, not all are created equally. And, when the “diet” label is slapped on food, it can be less flavorful and filled with empty nutrition to keep calories low.

Instead of buying a diet food to help your dog lose weight, choose a high-quality formula that is naturally lower in calories. 

ACANA Grasslands Grain-Free dry dog food is made with 70% animal proteins and 30% fruits, vegetables, and probiotics. And, it helps your dog maintain a healthy weight while giving them the vitamins and minerals they need. 

It starts with raw grass-fed lamb, duck, cage-free eggs, and rainbow trout. With the animal ingredients, ACANA uses raw proteins that are frozen at their peak freshness.

These offer plenty of protein, chondroitin, and essential amino acids to support healthy joints and encourage lean muscle mass. 

Fresh vegetables and fruit like whole pumpkin, collard greens, and butternut squash are high in fiber and nutrients like vitamin C. These aid in eye health, immune support, and even brain function. 

Every batch of ACANA food is made in the manufacturer’s Kentucky kitchen. It doesn’t include added corn, soy, wheat, or tapioca.

Pet owners love that this food is made in the US. And, many noticed a difference in their dogs’ skin health, along with the weight loss. 


Best for Sensitive Stomachs

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Hill's Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach Skin Grain Free Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Yellow Peas, Potatoes, Potato Starch, Chicken Meal
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 20.5% Crude Protein, 13% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric content: 405 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Grain-free formulation recommended by veterinarians for dogs with sensitive stomachs

For dogs with sensitive stomachs, it’s essential to avoid ingredients that can cause flare-ups, gas, and even loose stools. That’s why dog food that reduces inflammation and provides prebiotics and probiotics for gut health is essential. 

Veterinarians recommend Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach dog food as a gentle and nourishing dog food for even the most sensitive tummies. 

It starts with real chicken — offering glucosamine, copper, and choline. These nutrients help keep joints supple and help to detoxify the gut naturally. This aids in easier digestion and keeps your dog’s tummy from causing issues. 

Yellow peas and potatoes provide easy-to-digest carbohydrates. But, they also coat the digestive tract, making it easier for your dog to absorb the nutrients in their food. 

This formula also includes apples, cranberries, and broccoli. These ingredients offer potent antioxidants to help boost your canine’s immune system. 

This high quality dog food is made right in the US and Hill’s Science’s Topeka, KS facility.  

Pet parents list this food as a “miracle.” Many noticed a massive difference in their dogs’ eating habits, gas, and even bloat. And, many note that their dogs love the taste too, so it’s a win-win! 


dog eating

Buying Guide for Grain-Free Dog Food

Ready to switch to grain-free dog food? Here’s what you need to know.

Is Grain-Free Dog Food Healthy?

It can be. Some dogs are allergic to grains and gluten, so avoiding them will make them feel better. However, some dogs shouldn’t be fed grain-free formulas. 

Some dogs are prone to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) if they don’t eat grains. This affects their cardiac muscle and makes it hard for their heart to pump blood through their body.

While the cause of canine DCM is unknown, factors like a lack of taurine and grains in food have been studied

DCM occurs higher in specific breeds — like Great Danes, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, and Cocker Spaniels. These dogs typically need grains. However, always check with your veterinarian to see if a grain-free or grain-inclusive diet is better for your dog. 

Why Do Dogs Need a Grain-Free Diet?

A grain-free diet is helpful for dogs who have food allergies or sensitivities to grains. If you notice your pup has itchiness, excessive hair loss, inflamed skin, and “hot spots,” they may need to avoid grains. 

Benefits of Grain-Free Food Options

There are quite a few benefits of grain-free food. If you’ve found that your dog can’t properly digest grains, you may be ready to switch. Here’s what to look forward to: 

  • Reduced inflammation in joints (since the body is no longer fighting off allergies or intolerances)
  • Improved digestion and firmer stool (because grains can irritate sensitive tummies in certain dogs)
  • Higher cognitive function (since grain allergies can also affect thinking and cause “brain fog”)
  • Clearer skin and a shinier coat (because grain allergies can cause itchiness, small bumps, and a dull coat in certain dogs)

And there may be even more benefits. Of course, these will vary from dog to dog. 

What to Look For When Buying Grain-Free Dog Food

What should you look for when buying grain-free dog food? Here’s what to keep an eye on.  

Meat Protein as the First Ingredient

Whether they’re eating grain-free or not, dogs need high-quality protein. It’s essential to focus on real animal meat as the first ingredient — including (but not limited to) pork, chicken, fish, lamb, and beef. 

Healthy Fats

Fats are super crucial, especially in grain-free dog food. This is because fats are your dog’s #1 source for energy production and heart health (with omega fatty acids).

So, focus on top sources like fish oil, coconut oil, and meat fats (like chicken, lamb, and beef). 

Vitamins and Minerals 

Commercial dog foods already offer the correct percentages of vitamins and minerals for dogs as per AAFCO recommendations.

But, supplemented vitamins and minerals like glucosamine, l-carnitine, taurine, and calcium can be extra beneficial for dogs, especially when they aren’t eating grains. 

No Fillers and Additives

Additives and fillers are used to cut costs for manufacturers. But, they usually don’t offer many additional benefits to your dog.

Luckily, it’s harder for them to include these ingredients with grain-free foods. But, you should still avoid artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and by-products that aren’t disclosed as what they are.

In worst-case scenarios, these additives have caused severe health issues. 

Our Verdict

Now that you’re ready to make the leap into grain-free foods, you can feel confident in choosing the best option for your pup. 

My top choice is Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game Duck dry dog food

It’s suitable for most adult dogs, includes novel proteins to keep gut health in tip-top shape, and is free of fillers. 

But even if you choose one of the other grain-free options on this list, your dog will be in good hands. And, each one is tasty and healthy, giving you both peace of mind. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to talk to your vet. 

FAQ

Want to know more about buying Grain-Free dog food? Here are a few common questions and their answers.

Is grain-free food a better option for my dog?

That depends. Your dog needs carbohydrates to produce energy. But they eat grain too often, it can cause obesity, lack of gut health, and decreased energy. If your veterinarian approves a grain-free diet, it can be a great way to get in more wholesome ingredients — like animal proteins and healthy fats. 

Just remember that any grain-free option that you choose still has ample fiber, taurine, and vitamins like zinc. These are essential nutrients found in grains that need to be supplemented in grain-free diets.

Should puppies be fed grain-free food?

Puppies can eat grain free dog food. A grain-free diet can benefit puppies who have grain allergies and food sensitivities. However, you should check with your veterinarian first. 

Can my dog digest grains if he has a sensitive digestive system?

Sometimes. The most common intolerances are specific proteins, soy, and corn. But many dogs can still digest grains like rice and oatmeal. However, if your dog can’t, a grain-free diet is a great choice. 

Do vets recommend grain-free food?

Vets recommend grain-free dog food for certain dogs, especially if they have grain allergies. But, it’s important to discuss any diet changes with your veterinarian before switching your dog’s food. They will be able to tell you whether it’s suitable for your dog’s blood sugar, allergies, and overall health. 

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AUTHOR
Kim Studdard is a freelance writer for many websites in the pet universe. When she isn't spending time with her family and pets, or saying "Look a dog" everytime she sees one, you'll find her reading a book or traveling the U.S.

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