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10 Best Low Carb Dog Foods in 2021

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This is our review of the best low carb dog food in 2021

Dogs are omnivores with digestive systems optimized to thrive on high protein animal products.

Although carbohydrates can provide your active pup with usable energy, fats are usually the primary energy source in canine diets.

When dog foods have excess simple carbohydrates, these ingredients can contribute to weight gain and high blood sugar levels.

I’m a former vet tech who frequently advocates low carb diets for overweight dogs with diabetic concerns. I recommend Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dog Food as the best overall low carb dog food.

But every pup is different. So I researched the best low carb formulas in every category to help you make the best decision for your furry best friend.

Let’s get started!

Our Best Low Carb Dog Food

  1. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dog Food (Best Overall Low Carb Dog Food)
  2. Merrick Real Texas Beef Recipe Puppy Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Puppies)
  3. Nulo Freestyle Senior Trout & Sweet Potato Recipe (Best Low Carb Dog Food For Seniors)
  4. American Journey Salmon Grain-Free Dog Food (Best Budget Low Carb Dog Food)
  5. Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Premium Low Carb Dog Food)
  6. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Canned Dog Food (Best Low Carb Wet Dog Food)
  7. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Dog Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Small Breeds)
  8. Nature’s Recipe Large Breed Grain-Free Dog Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Large Breeds)
  9. Solid Gold Fit & Fabulous Weight Control Dog Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Weight Control)
  10. Canidae PURE Limited Ingredient Dog Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Sensitive Dogs)

10 Low Carb Dog Food Reviewed

All dog foods included on this list meet the recommended AAFCO nutrient profile guidelines for dogs. Always consult with your veterinarian before making changes to your dog’s diet.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Pea Protein, Tapioca
  • Key Feature: High protein recipe designed to replicate the ancestral canine diet
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 34%, Crude Fat: 15%, Crude Fiber: 6%, Moisture: 10%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 35%
  • Caloric Content: 409 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-Free, High-Protein, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Overall

This grain-free dog food formula features a high protein content to replicate your pup’s wolf ancestors’ natural diet.

The 34% protein from chicken helps maintain healthy lean muscle mass for dogs who lead an active lifestyle.

A low 35% estimated carbohydrate content comes from sources of complex carbohydrates like peas and sweet potatoes. These healthy carbohydrates provide readily available energy without the excess calories of refined grains.

The recipe excludes by-products, wheat, corn, soy, or artificial additives. Wholesome ingredients ensure that this dog food is suitable for sensitive pups.

These whole food ingredients also maximize the bioavailability of nutrients provided by this food. [1]

Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource bits contain a concentrated blend of the precise amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants required by your dog.

High levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids also help support immune function. 

Most dog owners notice improvements in overall health after switching to this dog food. But the high 406 kcal/cup caloric content may not be suitable for obese pups.




Merrick Real Texas Beef Recipe Puppy Food

Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Beef Sweet Potato Puppy
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Lamb Meal, Potatoes
  • Key Feature: Grain-free puppy food with high protein ingredients
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 28%, Crude Fat: 15%, Crude Fiber: 4.5%, Moisture: 11%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 41.5%
  • Caloric Content: 400 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free
  • Life Stage: Growth
  • Best For: Puppies

This low carbohydrate puppy food offers the concentrated nutrition that growing dogs need in a grain-free formula. Deboned beef is the first ingredient, providing a high-quality protein source that is also rich in vitamins and minerals.

The 41.5% estimated carbohydrate content boosts energy for playful pups without contributing to excessive weight gain.

There are no refined carbohydrates used in this grain-free recipe. Instead, the ingredient list is 55% proteins and 45% whole produce.

Whole fruits and vegetables act as bioavailable sources of complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Growing dogs need adequate nutrients to support healthy development.

Diets that are deficient in essential minerals like calcium or phosphorus can cause skeletal problems. [2]

Additional glucosamine and chondroitin provide advanced support for joint and bone development. DHA from salmon meal helps promote healthy brain development.

Other healthy fats from sunflower oil and flaxseed oil ensure that young pups consume enough energy.

Reviews share that pet parents often noticed improvements in the stools of puppies fed this formula. But some picky puppies may not like the taste.




Nulo Freestyle Senior Trout & Sweet Potato Recipe

Nulo Freestyle Senior Grain-Free Trout
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Trout, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Yellow Peas, Sweet Potato
  • Key Feature: Specialized nutritional support for seniors in a low carb formula
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 30%, Crude Fat: 12%, Crude Fiber: 5%, Moisture: 10%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 43%
  • Caloric Content: 396 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, High Protein, Low Glycemic
  • Life Stage: Senior
  • Best For: Seniors

Senior dogs often require advanced nutritional support for common health conditions. This grain-free formula is also low-glycemic to help manage the risk of diabetes in older pups.

The high 30% protein content comes from deboned trout, turkey meal, and salmon meal. These diverse animal protein sources work together to provide a comprehensive amino acid profile to limit muscle loss in seniors.

Added L-Carnitine also helps promote lean muscle development by supporting a healthy metabolism and fat burning. [3]

Therapeutic levels of glucosamine and chondroitin provide the building blocks necessary for healthy joint cartilage. These chondroprotective ingredients are vital for managing joint discomfort in older arthritic joints.

Pure probiotic strains help ensure that seniors’ sensitive digestive systems can easily digest and absorb the nutrients provided by this diet. Probiotics introduce good bacteria into the gastrointestinal tract that allow food breakdown.

Some pet parents report that this dog food helped improve their older dog’s energy and mobility. But the recipe may not be suitable for pups with the pickiest tastes.




American Journey Salmon Grain-Free Dog Food

American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Grain-Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes
  • Key Feature: Affordable formula with high-quality ingredients
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 32%, Crude Fat: 14%, Crude Fiber: 5%, Moisture: 10%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 39%
  • Caloric Content: 390 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Gluten-Free, High Protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Budget Low Carb Dog Food

This budget dog food formula offers low carb nutrition from high-quality ingredients at an affordable price. Many budget recipes use refined carbohydrates as the primary ingredient, but this formula features real meat as the first ingredient.

A high 32% protein content comes from deboned salmon. Chicken and turkey meals provide additional sources of animal protein. Meats like these should always be the foundation of the omnivorous diet of your dog.

Salmon, the first ingredient, is also an excellent source of healthy fats. Omega fatty acids from salmon and flaxseed help support skin and coat health. They also play a role in promoting healthy brain and eye function. [4]

The grain-free recipe uses fiber-rich sources of complex carbohydrates from ingredients like chickpeas and sweet potatoes. These starchy vegetables are ideal for low carbohydrate diets that require grain-free sources of energy.

Reviewers who feed this dog food mention improvements in the feel and texture of their pup’s coat. Pet parents frequently recommend this formula for other dog owners looking for a low carb dog food on a budget.




Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

ORIJEN Original
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Flounder, Eggs, Whole Atlantic Mackerel
  • Key Feature: High protein formula with multiple sources of animal protein
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 38%, Crude Fat: 18%, Crude Fiber: 4%, Moisture: 12%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 28%
  • Caloric Content: 449 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-Free, High-Protein, Raw, Gluten-Free, Natural, Sensitive Digestion
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Premium Low Carb Dog Food

This premium low carbohydrate dog food features an impressive ingredient list made of 85% meat ingredients.

The multiple animal protein sources maximize protein and fat content to offer a high energy formula without large volumes of carbohydrates.

The first five ingredients are all based on raw protein. The exceptionally high 38% protein content results from the combination of chicken, turkey, flounder, eggs, and mackerel.

Many of these ingredients use the entire animal to provide comprehensive nutritional support.

A high protein and fat content significantly reduces the estimated carbohydrate content of this grain-free formula below 29%. It is an ideal diet for active dogs with high energy needs that cannot eat traditional foods that increase blood sugar.

Freeze-dried liver coats the kibble pieces to improve flavor and nutritional content. Dog owners highly recommend this recipe for the pickiest pups. But the high protein content may not be suitable for sedentary dogs.




Taste of the Wild High Prairie Canned Dog Food

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Canned Bison
  • First 5 Ingredients: Beef, Lamb Broth, Beef Broth, Vegetable Broth, Lamb Liver, Bison
  • Key Feature: Grain-free canned dog food with unique protein sources
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 8%, Crude Fat: 3.5%, Crude Fiber: 1%, Moisture: 82%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 5.5%
  • Caloric Content: 322 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-Free, Chicken-Free
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Carb Wet Dog Food

This canned dog food features high real meat concentrations while excluding any grain or other simple carbohydrate-rich ingredients. Instead, this low carbohydrate formula uses nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables as sources of highly-digestible energy.

Beef is the first ingredient, combining with bison, ocean fish, and lamb, to offer comprehensive essential amino acids for muscle health.

These animal proteins boost crude protein content to 8%. Crude percentages are lower in wet formulas due to the high moisture content.

The estimated carbohydrate content is only 5.5%, making this food ideal for dogs who need a limited carbohydrate diet. The primary sources of carbohydrates are starchy vegetables like peas and potatoes.

A simple recipe excludes grain, corn, wheat, fillers, and additives. So this canned food is also suitable for sensitive dogs who experience adverse reactions to common allergens. [5]

Wet food generally has a more appealing texture than dry dog food. If you have a fussy eater, this formula can help encourage a healthy appetite on a low carb diet.




Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Dog Food

Wellness Core Grain-Free Small Breed Dog Food Turkey
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Lentils, Peas
  • Key Feature: Low carbohydrate formula safe for small breeds with fast metabolisms
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 36%, Crude Fat: 16%, Crude Fiber: 5%, Moisture: 10%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 33%
  • Caloric Content: 412 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, High-Protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Carb Dog Food for Small Breeds

Most small breed dog foods use high levels of refined carbohydrates to meet the high-calorie needs of toy breeds. But not all small dogs do well on a high-carb diet.

So this dog food features alternative sources of complex carbohydrates and a high protein content instead.

Turkey is the primary source of the high 36% protein content. All dogs, no matter how small, need high levels of quality protein in their diets.

This higher protein content combines with a high 16% fat content to ensure that this food meets your tiny friend’s daily caloric requirements.

Lentils and peas act as alternative sources of complex carbohydrates to ensure small breeds still get adequate glycogen from a low 33% carbohydrate recipe. Dogs with smaller muscle mass can’t store significant amounts of glycogen and are susceptible to hypoglycemia. [6]

Additional protein from turkey and chicken meal offer natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin. These chondroprotective ingredients are essential for protecting the weak joints of tiny legs.

Small breeds also often have difficulty chewing and swallowing the kibble of most average dog food formulas. Reviews from parents of tiny pets highly recommend the small shape and size of this kibble exclusively designed for little mouths.




Nature’s Recipe Large Breed Grain-Free Dog Food

Nature's Recipe Large Breed Grain-Free Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Pea Starch
  • Key Feature: Large breed-specific formula rich in fiber and antioxidants
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 27%, Crude Fat: 12%, Crude Fiber: 4%, Moisture: 10%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 47%
  • Caloric Content: 365 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Carb Dog Food for Large Breeds

Large breeds have relatively slower metabolisms than their smaller cousins. They are also more predisposed to issues associated with obesity due to their already large body mass. This grain-free dog food helps manage their health risks with a lower carbohydrate content.

The 27% protein content from chicken is ideal for gentle giants. Chicken is a lean meat that offers high-quality animal protein without extra calories or fat. The lower 12% fat content also helps limit the caloric content of this recipe to 365 kcal/cup.

Although the 47% carbohydrate content is higher than others on this list, it consists primarily of complex carbohydrates. Starchy vegetables like peas and sweet potatoes are lower in calories than alternative refined carbohydrates from grains.

Excluding grain-based products and other common causes of food intolerances also helps manage larger pups’ sensitive systems.

Giant breeds often experience a higher risk of bloat or gastric upset. Lower carb diets can help reduce the inflammatory response.

The alternative sources of carbohydrates included in this recipe are also rich in fiber. Fiber does not provide extra energy, but it is a valuable prebiotic that helps support the good bacteria in the gut responsible for breaking food down and reducing bloat risks. [7]

Owners of gentle giants recommend this dog food for pups with digestive issues and often notice improvements in stool frequency and consistency.




Solid Gold Fit & Fabulous Weight Control Dog Food

Solid Gold Fit & Fabulous Weight Control Grain-Free Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Potatoes
  • Key Feature: Weight control formula with reduced carbohydrates and calories
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 26%, Crude Fat: 6.5%, Crude Fiber: 10%, Moisture: 10%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 47.5%
  • Caloric Content: 320 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Weight Control, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, High-Protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Carb Dog Food for Weight Control

Weight control is the most common reason dog owners choose to transition their dogs to a low carb diet. This weight management formula limits carbohydrates and fats to control the caloric content of this dog food.

The moderate 26% protein content of this food is ideal for dogs on weight control diets. Chicken provides adequate levels of amino acids without drastically increasing the caloric amounts. Higher levels of protein could also be too much for dogs with sedentary lifestyles.

An exceptionally low 6.5% fat content is essential for dogs who need to lose weight. Your dog needs fat for energy but will store it as excess pounds when he does not use it.

This crude percentage works together with the lower 47.5% carbohydrate content to manage weight gain.

Despite the low-fat content, ocean fish meal ensures that your dog still gets the healthy omega fatty acids he needs. These fats are especially vital for overweight dogs as they help reduce inflammation in stressed joints. [8]

The recipe is also free from grains, gluten, wheat, corn, and soy. These ingredients can irritate the digestive systems of sensitive pups. And unlike some low-fat formulas, most dog owner reviews recommend the natural flavor for picky pets.




Canidae PURE Limited Ingredient Dog Food

Canidae Pure Grain Free Salmon
  • First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Salmon Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas
  • Key Feature: High protein limited ingredient diet that excludes grains
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein: 32%, Crude Fat: 18%, Crude Fiber: 4%, Moisture: 10%
  • Estimated Carbohydrate: 36%
  • Caloric Content: 496 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Sensitive Digestion, Grain-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Gluten Free, Limited Ingredient Diet, Chicken-Free
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Carb Dog Food For Sensitive Dogs

This grain-free limited ingredient diet features a base of only eight whole foods that provide balanced nutrition while eliminating common allergens. The low carbohydrate content also helps prevent inflammation in sensitive digestive systems. [9]

Salmon is the single source of the high 32% protein content in this dog food. Single source proteins are vital for limited ingredient formulas because they limit exposure to other proteins that may cause allergic reactions.

This fish is an ideal animal protein for sensitive dogs because of its high levels of healthy fats. The high 18% crude fat content contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. This fat helps boost immune function and reduce inflammation.

There are no fillers included in this recipe. Artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives often trigger adverse reactions in sensitive dogs. The formula is also chicken-free and excludes any grains that may cause a gluten allergy.

Fortification with Canidae’s proprietary blend of antioxidants, probiotics, and chelated minerals allows this simple recipe to meet your dog’s daily nutritional needs. Dog owners often report improvements in skin health on this diet.




english bulldog fat

Low Carbohydrate Dog Food Buying Guide

Although carbohydrates can be a safe component of a healthy canine diet, some pups need low carb dog foods to thrive due to health concerns.

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients that your dog’s body uses to obtain energy.

Sugars, starches, and fiber from grains, fruits, and vegetables are all carbohydrates. These sugars are easily digested but may contribute to excessive weight gain in some dogs.

Do Dogs Need Carbohydrates?

Dogs are omnivores who depend primarily on protein and fat from their diet. They do not need significant amounts of carbohydrates to stay healthy.

Dog foods with higher levels of carbohydrates may damage your pup’s metabolism and contribute to GI inflammation.

Although fats and protein are easier to digest, carbohydrates appear in canine diets for extra energy.

Very active dogs or toy breeds with fast metabolisms may benefit from consistent dietary carbohydrates. But high-fat ingredients can also supply adequate power.

Benefits of Low Carb Diet

The primary benefits of low carb dog food relate to feeding your dog a diet that he can digest efficiently based on his evolution. Reducing carbohydrate content can also help overweight dogs lose fat by reducing excessive calories in their daily meals.

Diabetic dogs often require low carbohydrate diets to prevent dangerous blood sugar spikes. And the higher protein content of some low carb formulas may help meet the extra amino acids necessary for healing processes in unhealthy pups.

Excessive carbohydrates can also contribute to inflammation in the digestive tract. Low carb diets can help offer relief and soothe their bowels. Plus, carbohydrates can trigger some allergic reactions. Low carb dog food can help manage these reactions in sensitive dogs.

Additional benefits of managing your dog’s weight with low carb dog food include reducing the risk of heart and kidney issues associated with canine obesity.

feeding hungry dog

What to Look for When Buying Low Carb Dog Food

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. And without carbohydrate content explicitly included on the dog food label, it can be challenging to determine the best low carb diet for your dog.

Simple vs. Complex Carbs

Even low carb dog foods will generally contain some sources of carbohydrates. The healthiest carbohydrates for dogs are complex carbohydrates found in whole grains and grain-alternatives.

Simple carbohydrates from refined grains are high in sugar but low in fiber and nutrients. Whole grains include the fibrous parts of the plant that are generally richer in vitamins and minerals.

Dogs who require a low carb diet generally do best on grain-free formulas that use starchy vegetables as alternative sources of complex carbohydrates. These ingredients take longer to break down and will not cause sharp blood sugar spikes.

Protein Source

If a dog food contains less carbs, the recipe generally has to make up for the lost energy with a higher protein content.

Protein is the most critical macronutrient in any canine diet, providing the amino acids necessary for growth and body functions.

Dogs have digestive systems designed for real meat. Look for a formula that uses animal protein instead of plant protein. Real meat should always be the first ingredient, as animal protein is much more bioavailable to dogs than plant protein.

Healthy Fats

Although carbohydrates can be an excellent source of digestible energy, fat is the primary energy source of canine diets. Dogs can quickly use the calories from fat to support a healthy metabolism and active lifestyle.

Omega fatty acids can further promote overall well-being in your dog by supporting a healthy skin, coat, and immune system. These healthy fats have anti-inflammatory effects and can help stimulate natural skin oil production.

Vitamins and Minerals

Every canine diet needs a balanced amount of vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are critical for ensuring your pup stays happy and healthy.

The best bioavailable sources of vitamins and minerals in low carb dog food are whole fruits and vegetables.

How to Calculate Carbs in Dog Food

The label of most dog foods does not contain the carbohydrate content of the formula. Instead, you can use the guaranteed analysis of your dog food to calculate the estimated carbohydrate content yourself.

Simply add together the total moisture, protein, fiber, and fat content of the food before subtracting the result from 100. The remaining percentage represents the estimated total carbohydrate content in the dog food.

Our Verdict

Feeding your dog a low carb diet can help manage the health conditions associated with canine obesity.

Carbohydrates can be an excellent source of quickly digestible energy for active dogs. But excessive amounts of carbs can cause unwanted weight gain and contribute to the risks associated with high blood sugar in sedentary pups.

Dogs thrive on high protein diets that use fats as the primary source of energy. They do not necessarily need the high levels of carbohydrates frequently found in commercial dog foods today.

I recommend Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dog Food as the best low carb dog food overall. This high-protein, grain-free formula provides concentrated nutrition without high levels of carbohydrates.

Talk to your veterinarian today to determine if your four-legged friend may benefit from transitioning to a low-carb diet.

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