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Best grain-free dog food

Profile picture of Jessica Render
by Jessica Render ConsumerAffairs Research Team
dog in shopping cart at dog food aisle

As a dog owner, you want to look for foods that focus on quality ingredients that add value to your dog’s diet. Certain grains, like corn, can actually be difficult for your dog to digest, which has led to the popularization of grain-free diets for dogs who suffer from allergies.

The best grain-free dog food

LabelCompany nameLogoContactSummary
Best OverallRead Reviews
  • Formula: Under the Sun Grain Free
  • Type: Dry (kibble)
  • Feature: Single animal protein
LabelCompany nameLogoContactSummary
Runner-UpRead Reviews
  • Formula: Select Grain Free
  • Type: Roll or semi-moist
  • Feature: Farm-raised meat and veggies

What is grain-free dog food?

Dog food is commonly made with grains like barley, buckwheat, corn, oats and rice. Grain-free dog food is simply dog food made without these grains, instead focusing on protein-rich diets with vegetables, minerals and supplements crucial to the health and wellness of your dog. While a dog food that contains grain is not necessarily better or worse than a grain-free diet, some dog foods include grain as “filler” ingredients that provide little-to-no value to your dog’s overall health.

Pros and cons of grain-free dog food

Grain-free dog food benefits:

  • High protein content
  • No fillers like cornmeal or wheat gluten
  • Helps maintain healthy weight
  • Easier to digest
  • Reduced flatulence
  • Less simple carbohydrates (good for diabetic dogs)
  • May provide allergy relief (itchiness, hot spots, excessive hair loss, etc.)

Grain-free dog food disadvantages:

  • Tends to be more expensive
  • Not suitable for less active dogs
  • Could cause weight gain
  • Can be high in carbohydrates
  • Lack of omega 3 fatty acids
  • Not always recommended for puppies

What is the best grain-free dog food?

The best grain-free dog food dog foods will have high protein content and nutritional additives like omega-3 fatty acids to replace the nutrients typically found in grains. As with all dog food, you want to look for a protein to fat ratio of 2:1 for a balanced diet. As grain-free food becomes more popular for dogs, availability increases, but some more niche brands may still only be available at pet stores.

Compare grain-free dog food

 canidaetaste of the wildfreshpet selectnutro
AvailabilityPetco; select retail pet supply stores; major online retailersMajor pet store chains; major online retailersPetsmart; many grocery chainsPetco; select retail pet supply stores; major online retailers
Price*$39.99/12lb bag$29.99/15lb bag$15.99/5lb roll$38.99/25lb bag
Protein**32%32%9%Wet: 7%
Dry: 26%
Fat**18%18%6%Wet: 5%
Dry: 14%
Unique claimContains soy and potatoReplicates ancestral diet100% farm-raised meat and vegetablesNon-GMO ingredients; limited ingredient diet (LID)
Customer satisfactionRead reviewsRead reviewsRead reviewsRead reviews
 AvailabilityPrice*Protein**Fat**Unique claimCustomer satisfaction
canidaePetco; select retail pet supply stores; major online retailers$39.99/12lb bag32%18%Contains soy and potatoRead reviews
taste of the wildMajor pet store chains; major online retailers$29.99/15lb bag32%18%Replicates ancestral dietRead reviews
freshpet selectPetsmart; many grocery chains$15.99/5lb roll9%6%100% farm-raised meat and vegetablesRead reviews
nutroPetco; select retail pet supply stores; major online retailers$29.88/case of 12 12.5 oz cans (wet); $38.99/25lb bag (dry)Wet: 7%
Dry: 26%
Wet: 5%
Dry: 14%
Non-GMO ingredients; limited ingredient diet (LID)Read reviews

* Prices pulled from Chewy.com or brand’s website; valid as of 11/14/2018
** Because wet food is processed differently than dry kibble, protein and fat ratios will not be comparable

Best dry grain-free dog food
Taste of the Wild

Taste of the Wild focuses on novel proteins and limited ingredient diets and has a quite few grain-free formulas, including High Prairie (Buffalo), Pacific Stream (Salmon), Sierra Mountain (Lamb), Wetlands (Duck), Pine Forest (Venison) and Southwest Canyon (Beef). A small breed diet is also available with their Appalachian Valley (Venison) formula. Their salmon formula is a great choice for dogs who have allergies, as well.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Protein: 25%
  • Fat: 15%
  • Price: $29.99 for a 15lb bag

Best wet grain-free dog food
FreshPet Select

Wet dog foods are often fresher and more palatable for dogs. FreshPet offers a grain-free wet dog food diet made with chicken, potato and spinach for added fiber. FreshPet’s food is free of preservatives and does not include meat meals or by-product meals.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Protein: 9%
  • Fat: 6%
  • Price: $15.99/5lb roll

Note: Because fresh food is less dense than processed kibble, protein and fat ratios will not be comparable.

Best affordable grain-free dog food
Nutro Max

Nutro Max grain-free dog food averages $1.55/pound, while some top competitors come in closer to $2 or $3 per pound. Nutro’s grain-free recipes are available in a few different recipes, including farm-raised chicken (which contains no chicken by-product meal) and lamb.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Protein: 26%
  • Fat: 14%
  • Price: $37.04 for a 25lb bag

Best grain-free dog treats
Canidae

Grain-free organic dog treats are perfect for rewarding your furry friend without blowing their grain- free diet. Canidae offers grain-free chewy treats at just 26 calories apiece. And at only three calories per cookie, these treats compete with the best on the market.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Protein: 15%
  • Fat: 3.5%
  • Price: $6.45 for a 6oz bag

Bottom line: Should dogs eat grain free?

Many dogs do well on a grain-free diet. However, it’s important to note “grain-free” does not necessarily mean “healthy.” If you think grain-free is the right choice for your dog, it’s important to find a grain-free dog food that provides complete and balanced nutrition. While many traditional dog foods use grains as fillers, grain-free dog foods may use plant-based fillers. Look for a grain-free formula that provides plenty of omega 3 fatty acids, and be sure to consult with your vet to make sure removing grains from your dog’s diet is going to be beneficial for them, as some dogs, especially less active dogs, may do better on a diet that includes grains.

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Profile picture of Jessica Render
by Jessica Render ConsumerAffairs Research Team

As a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team, Jessica Render is dedicated to providing well-researched, valuable content designed to help consumers make informed purchase decisions they can feel confident making. She holds a degree in journalism from Oral Roberts University.