The Best Grain Free Dog Foods in 2021
- Our Top 8 List
- 1. Nature’s Recipe Small Breed Food
- 2. Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Boost Mixers
- 3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High-Protein Food
- 4. Purina Beyond Wet Food for Adult Dogs
- 5. Halo Dry Grainless Dog Food with Poultry
- 6. Iams Proactive Health Adult Recipe
- 7. Wellness Core Natural Nutrition
- 8. Merrick Salmon & Potato Dog Food
- Verdict & Review
- Nature's Recipe Small Breed Food
- Buying Guide
If your dog has allergies or sensitivities to their food, it can be challenging to ensure they get all of the necessary nutrients they need without upsetting their stomachs. Grain-free dog food can help, and we’ve picked out and reviewed the best grain-free dog foods available on the market!
We also put together a quick buyer’s guide at the bottom of this article to give you an idea of what you want to see in your dog’s food and why you’d go grain-free. Let’s get into it!
Our Top 8 List
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1. Nature’s Recipe Small Breed Food
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This grain-free dog food comes in two sizes with healthy carbohydrates from pumpkin and sweet potatoes, and real meat is the first ingredient on the label. There is no corn, soy, wheat, poultry by-products, artificial colors, or artificial flavors with this food, and the food comes in a smaller kibble size that is easy to eat.
- Carbohydrates – Pumpkin and sweet potato
- Protein – Chicken
- Size(s) – Two
- Features nutrient-dense carbohydrates
- Small kibble is great for smaller mouths
- Meat is the first ingredient
- Available in two sizes
- None, unless your dog happens to dislike it. Every dog has different tastes <3
2. Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Boost Mixers
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This is a dog food topper that you mix with your own grain-free dog food to make it tastier for your dog to eat, and these toppers come freeze dried to retain as much flavor as possible. You can choose from four sizes to customize your order, and this food topper helps to keep your dog’s skin, coat, and digestive system healthy.
- Carbohydrates – N/A
- Protein – Chicken, beef, or lamb
- Size(s) – Four
- omes in a soft chew form that is easy to eat
- Has apples, broccoli, and blueberries
- Freeze dried to retain nutrients
- 24 servings per bag
3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High-Protein Food
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This dog food comes packed with salmon, chicken, or duck as the first ingredient to increase the food’s protein content, and the carbohydrate source is peas and sweet potatoes for a healthier choice. The LifeSource Bits add an extra boost of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins to each meal. There is no chicken or poultry by-product meals in this formula.
Further reading: Check our Blue Buffalo review.
- Carbohydrates – Peas and sweet potatoes
- Protein – Chicken, salmon, or duck
- Size(s) – Three
- Has LifeSource Bits to add nutrients and antioxidants
- Comes in three flavors and three sizes
- Meat is the first ingredient on the package
- Has peas and sweet potatoes for the carbohydrates
- Comes with a strong smell
- Can leave a greasy residue
4. Purina Beyond Wet Food for Adult Dogs
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This wet dog food comes in 20 different flavors and combinations with four different size options, and the manufacturer enhances this dog food’s flavor by adding vegetable accents with gravy. Your dog will get soft chunks of food that are easy for them to eat, and this food is grain and gluten-free. They can trace every ingredient back to trusted sources to ensure quality.
- Carbohydrates – Sweet potato and pea
- Protein – Beef, chicken, lamb, or salmon
- Size(s) – Three
- Has over 20 different varieties
- Made with real ingredients from trusted sources
- No wheat, corn, or soy
- Comes in a can or pouch
- Has a strong smell
- Tends to dry out quickly once you open it
5. Halo Dry Grainless Dog Food with Poultry
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Halo’s dog food always contains whole meat sources over by-products or meals, and this food comes packed with bioavailable nutrients that are easy for your dog to digest. The formula uses non-GMO vegetables with whole turkey, duck, and turkey liver. Your dog will get higher fiber, lower calories, and higher protein to promote a healthy weight throughout their lives.
- Carbohydrates – Sweet potato and lentils
- Protein – Duck, turkey, and turkey liver
- Size(s) – Two
- Uses non-GMO fruits and vegetables
- Has protein from whole sources
- Packed with bioavailable nutrients for optimum digestibility
- Has smaller kibble sizes
- May be too bland for picky dogs
- Protein content can be too high for very inactive breeds
6. Iams Proactive Health Adult Recipe
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Available in chicken and salmon flavors, this dry dog food from Iams contains farm-raised chicken or salmon as the first ingredient on the label. There is a great blend of fiber and prebiotics to promote digestive health each time your dog eats it, and the balanced fatty acid content supports a healthy skin and coat. The kibble can help reduce plaque build up on your dog’s teeth.
- Carbohydrates – Peas and carrots
- Protein – Salmon or chicken
- Size(s) – Three
- Has beet pulp to promote healthy digestion
- Can help keep teeth clean
- Has a healthy amount of fatty acids
- Available in a few sizes
- Kibble may be too small for larger dogs
- Concerns about recent formula adjustments
7. Wellness Core Natural Nutrition
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This is a complete and balanced diet for your dog that helps to promote excellent digestion with a blend of fruits, vegetables, protein, minerals, and vitamins. Turkey and chicken combine to create lean protein sources, and there are no meat by-products or fillers in this dog food. The food comes from trusted sources and made in the United States to strict quality control standards.
- Carbohydrates – Peas, potatoes, and lentils
- Protein – Chicken and turkey
- Size(s) – Three
- Has fatty acids to support hip and joint health
- Infused with broccoli, spinach, and kale
- Comes with lower calories and better nutrition
- Supports lean muscle growth
- Protein content might be too high for some dogs
- Can dry out and become crumbly
8. Merrick Salmon & Potato Dog Food
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This dog food’s first ingredient is deboned poultry, meat, or fish as the first ingredient on the label, and this food promotes healthy joints, skin, coat, and muscle growth. Your dog will get a serving of blueberries, apples, peas, and sweet potatoes each time you feed them, and there are no grains, gluten, soy, corn, wheat, or artificial colors. When you buy this dog food, you’ll get a 100% satisfaction guarantee that promises you your money back if your dog doesn’t like it.
- Carbohydrates – Peas and sweet potatoes, and potatoes
- Protein – Salmon
- Size(s) – Six
- Has a higher amount of fiber
- Salmon comes loaded with fatty acids
- Food is available for all life stages
- Ingredients sourced from trusted areas
- Kibble is slightly larger
- May not be suitable for dogs with very sensitive stomachs
Verdict & Review
Nature's Recipe Small Breed Food
Our top pick is the Nature’s Recipe food because it contains nutrient-dense carbohydrates from sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Real meat is the first ingredient listed, and the kibble size is excellent for small, medium, and large dogs.
If you’re shopping for grain-free dog food for your pet, we suggest you compare our eight short reviews to see which one will suit your dog’s needs the best. We also have a comprehensive buyer’s guide available that outlines exactly what you want to see in your dog’s food to keep them happy and healthy.
Dogs thrive on having high-quality food that supports them both internally and externally, but sensitivities to grain or gluten can make it challenging. This is why many pet parents start looking for alternative options to traditional dog foods that contain these fillers.
Who Should Buy a Grain-Free Dog Food
Wheat grains can trigger allergic reactions in dogs, and this reaction can lead to unpleasant side effects like digestive upset, gas, bloating, diarrhea, throwing up, dull coat, flaky skin, and itching. If your dog has these reactions after they eat, it may be a good idea to consider switching their food out to a grain-free option.
Grain-free dog foods use other carbohydrates like lentils, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and pumpkin to add nutrients and round out the formula. These healthier carbohydrates replace traditional corn, soy, and wheat sources in the dog food, and these replacements should curb your dog’s reaction or sensitivity. You should look at the labels before you buy, and most labels will say there are no grains.
Why Dogs Develop Allergies or Sensitivities to Grains
Dogs don’t eat grains naturally as they descend from wolves that ate a carnivore diet. You need the enzyme amylase in your saliva to effectively break down grains, and dogs don’t have this enzyme in their saliva. This means that it’s more difficult for their bodies to break them down to extract the nutrients.
Your veterinarian can perform tests to find out if your dog has allergies or sensitives to grain, dairy, or meat sources in their food. The vet can also advise you on the best course of action to take to ensure your dog doesn’t fall behind with their nutrients while you’re swapping out their food to a new grain-free diet.
What to Look For in Grain-Free Dog Food
There are several important things you want to see in your dog’s grain-free food. You may not see all of them, but having the majority of the following can help ensure your dog has a balanced and nutritious diet.
Your dog food will have a carbohydrate source or two to help fill in the formula and give your dog their necessary nutrients and vitamins. You should see carbohydrate sources like pumpkin, sweet potato, potato, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, or Amaranth.
Fruits and Vegetables
Accents of fruits and vegetables give your dog’s food tasty elements that can make them more willing to eat it, and this fruit and vegetable content packs in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Look for things like carrots, blueberries, broccoli, kale, spinach, apples, or sweet peas on the label.
Whole Meat Sources
Your protein source should be one of the first five ingredients on the label, and you want the protein in your dog’s food to come from whole sources like salmon, beef, chicken, or lamb. Avoid foods that have meat by-products or meat meals over whole protein because these aren’t as healthy for your dog.
Whatever food you choose should come with natural ingredients instead of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Instead, your dog’s food should have healthy fruits and vegetables to add flavor and color to the dish while enhancing the overall flavor to entice your dog to eat it.
Supplements in your dog’s food mean things like fatty acids, chondroitin, and glucosamine. Fatty acids are present in high amounts in fish like salmon and work to create healthy skin and coat, and chondroitin and glucosamine work to support your dog’s joints and skeletal system. Most dog food labels will list all of the supplements they have in their formula, and you can look and see how these supplements will improve your dog’s health.
We are the Pet Dog Pals, a group of avid pet owners, bloggers, product testers, and writers for all your canine needs! We own a collective 16 dogs and 21 cats to help us test and review pet products. Our top lists and tips come from experience to help you be the best dog owner you can be!