Which grain-free dog foods are best?

If you’ve been following health trends, you’ve likely come across the paleo diet. It’s an excellent diet for many people and has led to questioning why it wouldn’t help improve their dog’s health as well. 

The fact remains that dogs absolutely thrive on high-quality food and need it to keep them happy and healthy. There’s a clear difference in health between a dog who eats cheesy burritos every day and one with a balanced nutrient-filled diet. 

However, it’s not the grain-free portion that makes these foods highly beneficial for dogs. Like the ones from Taste of The Wild Dog Food, the best grain-free dog foods all have whole proteins and are enriched with vital nutrients. 

What to know before you buy a grain-free dog food


Before making the rapid transition from traditional dry food to a grain-free diet, you must ensure that it’s right for your dog. It’s mistakenly believed that a dog’s ancestral diet was strictly carnivorous. 

The fact is that dogs can thrive on a plant and meat-based diet. However, a vegan diet isn’t entirely healthy either. 

Many dogs inherently know what nutrients their bodies are craving and will opt for a bowl of what they need. For example, if your dog has been on a diet full of meat for the last few years, they might actually prefer a bowl of steamed vegetables. 

A major deciding factor when determining if your dog needs a grain-free diet is when your vet can establish for certain a direct connection between allergy symptoms and certain grains. 

Allergic potential

If your pup starts to show allergy symptoms like excessive gas, rashes and itching, to name a few, it may very well stem from their diets. However, not all grains can cause allergic reactions. 

Even if your dog is on a grain-free diet, they can certainly eat wholesome grains like brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and oatmeal. 

Before purchasing grain-free dog food, it’s vital to take a few moments to read over the ingredients. It should expressly state which grains are excluded from its recipe. 

Typically, the grains that cause allergic reactions in dogs are gluten, corn, wheat or soy. The only way to know which grain is causing your dog pain and frustration is to work with your veterinarian. 

Consultation and transition

As stated earlier, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian before going on an entirely grain-free diet. That way, you can avoid specific grains that cause allergic reactions. Some grain-free dog foods include wholesome grains, so it’s recommended to know which ones your dog can handle. 

If you and your veterinarian decide a grain-free diet is best, you must gradually transition between the old food and the new to prevent upsets. The best transition method is to use a ratio of 90% of the old food to 10% of the new. Once your dog accepts the new food, gradually increase the ratio until it’s only the new food.

This gives your dog’s digestion system time to adjust to avoid getting diarrhea or suffering from constipation. If they show signs of reluctance in eating the new food, you could use grain-free dog food toppers to assist in the transition. 

What to look for in quality grain-free dog foods

Whole protein

The best grain-free dog foods are wholesome, and their primary ingredients should include whole animal proteins. An animal protein is preferable to a plant version because it’s simply easier for dogs to digest. 

Additionally, animal proteins other than chicken and beef have low allergenic potential. Some of the best grain-free dog foods will contain animal proteins from bison, venison, rabbit and other fairly uncommon protein sources. 

If the dog food you choose contains meat meals, like lamb meal, there must be another whole meat protein as its primary ingredient. 

Healthy vegetables

Technically, grain-free dog foods should contain a decent amount of wholesome grains like brown rice and quinoa. That way, they get exposure to essential amino acids for a complete diet. 

Healthy fruits and vegetables combined in the food only serve to benefit your dog. They’re packed with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that can help with their development and provide a prolonged and healthy life.

Natural flavor enhancers

You should also note that some manufacturers will include various flavor enhancers. If your grain-free dog food of choice has these flavor enhancers, look into them to ensure they’re certified and made from natural ingredients.  

Under no circumstances are artificially synthesized ingredients like additives and sweeteners acceptable for your dog’s diet. 

How much you can expect to spend on grain-free dog foods

You can expect to spend between $17-$180 for quality grain-free dog foods depending on the weight. 

grain-free dog foods FAQ

How can I tell if my dog needs grain-free dog food?

A. The best way to tell if your dog needs a grain-free diet is to consult with your veterinarian. However, allergy suspicions typically arise when your dog starts showing signs of stomach aches, vomiting and diarrhea while on a grain-inclusive diet. You can try specific grains to see which ones they’re allergic to or ask your vet to conduct an allergy test. 

Do veterinarians recommend grain-free dog food? 

A. Not every veterinarian agrees with a completely grain-free diet for dogs. In most cases, it’s recommended when they show signs of allergic reactions to specific grains. While some grains like soy and corn aren’t the healthiest options, wholesome grains combined with high-protein grain-free dog foods can provide a complete diet. 

What are the best grain-free dog foods to buy?

Top grain-free dog food

Taste of The Wild Dog Food

Taste of The Wild Dog Food

What you need to know: Taste of The Wild created a truly hypoallergenic diet for dogs that’s not only grain-free but free of potential allergies to chicken and beef. 

What you’ll love: This grain-free dog food is truly free of any potential allergenic foods, including gluten, corn, soy, beef and chicken. It only uses uncommon meats like lamb, boar, bison and venison, to name a few. It features a healthy essential fatty acid ratio and is filled with probiotics and a healthy nutritional profile. 

What you should consider: Some users reported that the quality may vary and it’s not recommended for every breed.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Chewy

Top grain-free dog food for the money

Ziwi Peak Beef Grain-Free Dog Food

Ziwi Peak Beef Grain-Free Dog Food

What you need to know: Hailing from New Zealand, this grain-free dog food provides one of the most calorie and nutrient-dense meals available compared to its cost. 

What you’ll love: This dog food contains free-range, grass-fed beef combined with other meat proteins, bones, organs and green mussels. That means, in addition to the nutrients from the meat, your dog also gets anti-inflammatory nutrients, including chondroitin and omega-3. The price is competitive with other grain-free dog foods, but its density means you can use less food per meal while giving your pup all its nutrients. 

What you should consider: It might take a while for some dogs to acclimate to the flavor. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Chewy

Worth checking out

The Farmer's Dog

The Farmer’s Dog

What you need to know: The Farmer’s Dog features human-grade dog food with a complete nutrient profile specific to your dog. 

What you’ll love: Sometimes, a dog won’t eat food unless it looks like it came from your plate. The Farmer’s Dog provides a solution that lets your friend get delicious, human-grade dog food that’s freshly cooked and specific to their nutrient profile. It takes out the hassle of cooking fresh food for your dog by delivering pre-portioned packs that you simply open and serve. It also gives your conscience a boost knowing they’re getting some of the best grain-free dog food on the market. 

What you should consider: It can get more expensive than a dry or wet kibble option from your local pet store. 

Where to buy: Sold by The Farmer’s Dog


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Christopher Lee writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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