The responsibility of being a pet parent should never be taken lightly, especially when it comes to what we should feed our fur-babies. You probably spend a large amount of time wondering what your pup should be eating and whether a grain-free diet is the right choice for her? What dog food flavors is he likely to enjoy? Which grain-free foods are best for young pups or those with a few more grey whiskers about their muzzle? And there are so many choices out there for you to narrow down your selection from–how do you know which is the best?
Well, fret no longer, to make your life easier, we reviewed dozens of grain-free dog foods, so you don’t have to, to identify the best of the best. We compiled our list of the top 25 grain-free dog foods based on Amazon reviews, the quality of ingredients, the cost of the grain-free dog food, as well as taking into account other features such as choice of flavor.
There was one grain-free dog food brand that stood out tails and whiskers above the rest: Merrick Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food. Available in 4lb bags, 12lb bags, and 25lb bags, this grain-free dog food is specially crafted to deliver it all. It contains real meat and whole foods such as sweet potatoes, blueberries, and peas, as well as Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids to ensure your pup has great looking healthy skin and coat. This one has all the best woofs: taste, quality, and nutrition.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Grain-Free Dog Foods
|Top Pick||Merrick Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food||4.0|
|Runner Up||Castor & Pollux Pristine Grain Free Dry Dog Food||4.4|
|Best Budget Buy||Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food||4.3|
|Best Grain-Free Puppy Food||Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Puppy Food||4.0|
|Best Grain-Free Senior Dog Food||WholeHearted Grain Free Senior Dry Dog Food||5.0|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Our Top Pick: Merrick Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food
Merrick Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food is an easy choice to make for our top pick, simply because it is an all-around winner for both you and your pup. Merrick is incredibly proud of their ingredients, so much so they list their pride right on the front of the dog food bags in bold print, for all to see.
With their first five ingredients being beef, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, peas, and potatoes, you know your pup is going to get a well-balanced, healthy, and nutritious meal– and best of all, it’s grain-free.
Not only is this grain-free dog food rich in recognizable ingredients that we ourselves would like to see on our plate, but each of their available 9 flavors also has a 70% protein and a 30% fruit and vegetable recipe. So, no matter which flavor your pup prefers, you know they are getting only the best dog food.
Merrick is proud to source its ingredients locally when possible, so you aren’t just making a great choice for your pup when you feed her this grain-feed dog food, you’re making a great choice for the environment. With over 2,000 reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.0, you are safe knowing that it’s not just us that are sold on this grain-free dog food.
Merrick Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- Wide variety of flavors including Buffalo, Chicken, Duck, Lamb, Rabbit, Salmon, Texas Beef, Turkey, and Venison
- Contains glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy hips and joints
- Encourages healthy skin & shiny coat due to the inclusion of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids
- As well as being grain-free, it is also free from corn, wheat, soy, and gluten
Our Runner Up Pick: Castor & Pollux Pristine Grain Free Dry Dog Food
With over 12 varieties in both dry and wet grain-free dog food, for all ages, from puppies to seniors, Castor & Pollux Pristine Grain Free Dry Dog Food was our clear runner up with its 4.4 stars. Castor & Pollux is exceedingly proud that the number one ingredient in its meat and poultry recipes, which come from animals that are reared responsibly, with access to fresh air, natural light, and space to roam around. We, humans, want to eat that, so why shouldn’t we feed our puppies that way?
Not only is this dog food grain-free, but it also features organic produce that is responsibly grown, without the use of synthetic fertilizers or any chemical pesticides, and on farms that care for the earth. As well as being organic, all of its grain-free recipes contain no corn, soy, wheat or gluten ingredients. Best of all? The meals are cooked with love in the USA.
Castor & Pollux Pristine Grain Free Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- The number one ingredient is free-range chicken
- Made in the USA
- Grain-free, corn, soy, wheat, and gluten-free
- Contains organic produce that’s responsibly grown without synthetic fertilizers or chemical pesticides
- No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors
Best Budget Pick: Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food
Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food in Salmon & Whitefish was an obvious choice for the best budget pick as it is budget friendly without compromising on quality or flavor. You can guarantee your pup will get the full nutritional meal they need, without having to worry about the cost. But best of all, Whole Earth Farms dog food recipes are all cooked in the USA, from high quality, natural ingredients that guarantee to deliver complete and balanced nutrition for your pooch, at an affordable price.
The all-natural ingredients help support easier digestion, and some reviews support the claim that feeding pups on this grain free dog food have resulted in less shedding, a shinier coat, boundless energy, stronger nails and healthier skin.
Plus, with salmon meal listed as the first ingredient in this fish dish, you know your pup is only going to eat the best. But, with 9 flavors to choose from, suitable for small breeds to puppies and healthy weight adults, you can mix up your pup’s meals.
Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- High-quality protein is the first ingredient
- Aids digestion
- Supports a shinier coat, encourages less shedding, and results in healthier skin
- No poultry by-products, no corn, soy, wheat, no artificial flavors, and no colors or preservatives
- All recipes are made in the USA
Best Grain-Free Puppy Food: Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Puppy Food
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Puppy Food was the natural choice for the best grain-free puppy food. Its unique puppy formula provides a complete and balanced everyday nutrition for your growing puppy. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food Puppy has the right amount of calories and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) that all puppies need for a healthy brain, bones, and muscle development.
The Wellness CORE recipes have been created out of the philosophy that man’s best friend used to thrive on a natural diet made up mainly of meat. As such, the puppy food is rich in protein, packed with nutrient-dense superfoods and all the nutritional supplements a growing pup needs to become an adult dog.
This puppy food is also a clear winner for budget. Depending on the size and flavor of puppy food you opt for, expect to pay from $33.99 for a 12lb bag. And with a 4-star rating, we think the pups will agree with us.
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Puppy Food Key Features:
- 100% naturally grain-free puppy food made with chicken, turkey, salmon oil and fruits and vegetables
- Made with smaller kibble bites especially for small puppy mouths
- Fortified with antioxidants, probiotics, vitamins, and minerals
- No fillers, meat by-products, soy, corn, wheat gluten, or grains
- Does not contain any artificial colors, preservatives or flavorings
- Made in the USA
Best Grain-Free Senior Dog Food: WholeHearted Grain Free Senior Dry Dog Food
WholeHearted Grain Free Senior Dry Dog Food is the best dog food for your aging pup. Suitable for those with a growing collection of grey whiskers, this senior dog food is designed to keep your pup operating at optimum health. It takes care of your furry friend from their nose through to their tail, with its advanced nutritional levels that are specifically created to support your pup’s aging process.
Packed full of omega-3 fatty acids that work wonders to support healthy skin and coat, with the addition of special canine probiotics to help maintain a healthy digestive system and containing an antioxidant formula to ensure a healthy immunity, WholeHearted is the dog food your senior pup would choose if they could.
Created by a family of pet lovers, this grain-free senior recipe dry dog food from WholeHearted, makes sure that real chicken, not meat derivatives, is the first ingredient on its ingredients list. The WholeHearted philosophy is that a balanced diet is one of the best ways you can give your beloved fur baby a wonderfully long and happy life.
WholeHearted Grain Free Senior Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- No corn, wheat, or grains of any kind
- Does not contain any artificial colors, preservatives or flavorings
- Specially designed for aging digestive systems
- Additional vitamins and minerals for balanced nutrition especially created for senior dogs
Who Should Buy Grain-Free Dog Food
If you have ever had digestive issues from eating grains, you’ll appreciate how pups with sensitivity to grain feel. Since WW2 and the advent of mass-produced kibble to feed dogs, manufacturers have been looking for ways to increase their profit margins by bulking out what we feed to our pups. This bulk has typically come from inexpensive grain fillers such as corn or wheat–foods that dogs aren’t accustomed to eating. Even today, the majority of commercial dog food lists grains as one of their main ingredients.
A long time before we used to scoop kibble out of enormous bags to feed our pups at meal times, our canine companions would roam the wilds in search of food. This food typically included raw, high protein components–when was the last time you saw a wolf grazing in a field of clover?
Grain-free dog foods are the closest types of dog food we can give our furry friends, that best resembles their ‘natural’ (ancestral) diet. Because dogs may have evolved to enjoy the finer things in life such as goose down-filled duvets and sheepskin rugs in front of a roaring fire to lay their heads, their digestive tract is still firmly primitive. Dogs just don’t have the digestive support capable of breaking down and metabolizing the complex carbs that make up grains.
These hard-to-digest fibers remain intact and instead ferment in your pup’s bowels. Over time, this damages their digestive system and results in bowel disorders, sensitivities to food, allergies, and obesity.
Important Features to Consider
Grain-free dog foods aren’t all created equal, and some brands may not be the healthiest choice for your pup. Here’s what you should consider when searching for the best grain-free dog food for your pet:
- Grain-free and gluten-free. It is really important to remember that gluten-free is not the same as grain-free. If a dog food is marketed as gluten-free, this means it doesn’t contain any gluten, not that it doesn’t contain any grain. Gluten-free dog food does not contain gluten, a protein found in certain types of grain, predominantly wheat, barley, and rye. The important point to note here is that not all grains contain gluten. There are gluten-free grains such as quinoa, amaranth or buckwheat. So if you suspect your pup has a sensitivity to grain, or you want to reduce the ‘fillers’ in his food, cut out all grains, not just the grains containing gluten, and always search for grain-free dog food. Essentially gluten-free dog food is not always grain-free, whereas grain-free dog food will always be gluten-free.
- Dogs and food allergies. Dogs, just like us humans, suffer from food allergies. For pups, their allergies present themselves in usual and unusual ways: excessive wind, diarrhea, skin issues, tummy troubles, vomiting, weight gain, weight loss, and regular ear infections. If you suspect your pup has a food allergy, have them checked out by your vet, and consider switching their diet to a grain-free one. Dogs’ digestive systems just aren’t designed to process complex carbs.
- Grain-free ingredients list. Always read the ingredients list of your pet’s dog food. Look for grain-free dog foods that include wholesome ingredients that we ourselves would want to eat, such as real chicken, salmon, tuna, eggs, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and so on. And, avoid the ones that substitute a grain filler for high carbohydrates–read for high sugar content, instead. That will only lead to your pup gaining excess pounds.
- Determine the carb content. Sadly, whilst human food is required to have the nutritional content printed on it, dog food doesn’t. And most pet food manufacturers will definitely leave off the carb content from the list if they do have the nutritional analysis on the bag. You see, experts estimate ancestral dogs required roughly 14% carbs in their daily diet; today’s sedentary pups do not need that much. But modern dry dog foods can contain anywhere from 30-70% carbs – which means your pup’s food is essentially made up of sugar. Simple math can help you figure out the carb % of your dog’s dry food: 100 – % protein – % fat – % moisture – % ash (if not listed, assume 6%) = % carbs. The lower, the better, and opt for grain-free dog foods that are rich in meat-based protein.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is grain-free dog food?
Grain-free dog food is dog food, wet or dry, that does not contain any grains, such as wheat and corn, ingredients that some dogs are sensitive or allergic to.
What are the benefits of a grain-free diet for dogs?
The benefits of a grain-free diet for dogs are innumerable. Some vets recommend a dog’s diet is made up of a small % of grains: 50% vegetables, 40% meat protein, and 10% grains, but these grains will remain largely undigested in your dog’s digestive tract, potentially causing health issues.
By choosing to feed your dog on a grain-free diet, you will be eliminating all grains. And the plus of this is that most grain-free dog foods include more protein and animal fats than the grain-filled ones (just watch out for the carb levels) and are therefore more easily digestible by your furry friend.
Other benefits of a grain-free diet include:
- Reduction in food allergies
- Increased energy levels
- Fewer stools and smaller in size
- Healthier skin and fur
- Less shedding
- Less wind and better breath
Is grain-free food best for dogs?
Whilst all canine digestive tracts are not designed to process grains, not all pups have health ailments if they do consume grains. Eating scraps leftover from human meals, for millennia, has accustomed the domestic dog’s digestive tract to grains, but that doesn’t mean that is all they should eat.
Essentially, if your furry friend is happy in themselves, are healthy and content, then you may not need to change their diet. If you do decide to continue feeding your pet regular dog food, check the ingredients list and if grains such as corn, wheat or soy are listed first, consider switching your pet food brand at least to dog food that has protein predominantly, such as chicken or fish.
Does grain-free food cause heart problems in dogs?
In a nutshell, no– there is no actual evidence to support this idea.
Last year the NY Times ran an article titled ‘Popular Grain-Free Dog Foods May Be Linked to Heart Disease’ after the FDA announced it was investigating a link between grain-free diets and a common form of canine heart disease.
The heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is when the heart becomes weak and enlarged. Dogs with DCM can quickly go into heart failure. DCM has always been typically associated with larger breeds, but a cohort of Baltimore-Washington DC-based vets alerted the FDA when they began seeing DCM in much smaller breeds, including Dachshunds. The common factor, said the vets, was a diet filled with peas, lentils, chickpeas, and potatoes, instead of grains.
But before you stop researching grain-free dog food, know this: the FDA has yet to recall any grain-free dog food because they haven’t found any conclusive evidence to support the theory that a grain-free diet causes heart disease. The exact cause of the reported illnesses is as yet, still unidentified.
Other Grain-Free Dog Foods We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other grain-free dog foods. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best grain-free dog foods list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your dog. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
- Adult Grain-Free Dog Food
- Small Breed Grain-Free Dog Food
- Freeze-Dried and Canned Grain-Free Dog Food
- Raw Grain-Free Dog Food
Adult Grain-Free Dog Food
Natural Ultramix Grain Free dog food contains real beef, and as the number one ingredient in this recipe with raw bites, it makes up 38% of the protein contained. If you’re keen to feed your pooch a high protein diet, you can’t go wrong with this choice of dog food. High protein kibble combined with real pieces of fruit and veg–you can see the nutrition in every bowl.
- 38% protein and the number one ingredient is beef
- The high vegetable content helps support your pup’s digestion
- No corn, soy or wheat
- Manufactured in the USA
Cost: $35 for 12lb bag
Canidae Pure Wild grain free dog food is made from real wild boar to guarantee a great taste for your pup. It is also made from whole foods for a gentler digestive experience, and their simple recipe has just 7-10 key ingredients to soothe sensitive tummies.
- Designed for sensitive tummies
- Each limited ingredient diet recipe is created with just 7-10 simple ingredients to keep digestion easy
- Real protein such as meat and fish is paired with whole ingredients such as sweet potatoes, lentils or chickpeas –never corn, wheat or soy
Cost: $20 for 4lb
Petcurean Go! Fit and Free dog food is a delicious combination of chicken, turkey and trout packed out with pure protein power and no grains. This tasty recipe is a balanced blend of top quality proteins and omega oils to guarantee healthy joints, a lustrous coat, and sustained energy.
- Added pre and probiotics to enable digestive health
- Omega oils for a healthy coat
- Grain-free as well as gluten, by-product, growth hormone and artificial preservative-free
Cost: $55 for 12lb
Open Farm grain-free dog food is sustainable, locally grown, humane and family farmed. So if you want to do your bit for the environment, whilst feeding your pup on a better diet, this is the dog food for you.
This whitefish and green lentil recipe is a delicious mix of coconut and fish oils – even the seasonal whitefish are Seafood Watch and Ocean Wise approved.
- Non-GMO fruits and vegetables
- 100% grain-free
- No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
- High in fish oils and coconut oils – with a balance of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
Cost: $105 for 24lb
Not all dogs have a cast iron stomach, despite their best efforts to eat everything. So sometimes they need a diet that is gentle on their digestion. Diamond Care has a formula that addresses any sensitive tummies plus they have replaced grains with potatoes as the carb component.
- Their high quality, egg protein provides adequate levels of essential amino acids
- Added probiotic strains native to canine digestive tracts to aid digestion
- Safe for prolonged consumption
Cost: $40 for 8lb
With their large and satisfying cuts of meat, all dogs will go nuts for Castor and Pollux Organix Butcher and Bushel Grain Free dog food. With no chemicals, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, this is a truly organic product.
- Includes no artificial preservatives, no added growth hormones, and no antibiotics
- Only organic fruit and vegetables make the grade here
- Provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
Cost: $40 for 12 cans
Yes, this grain-free dog food has also been created for cats too. Designed to encourage long term health, Keto-Kibble is specially formulated to contain no starch and no grains, to ensure the health and well being of your pet – both cats and dogs.
- One pet food will do both your dogs and cats
- Pets will eat as their primal ancestors did, on a diet high in meat, protein, and fat
- More than twice the protein content of conventional dog and cat food
Cost: $50 for 8lb
Annamaet grain-free lean reduced fat dog food has half the fat of their other grain free dog food products. This dog food is ideal for dogs with weight problems and works very well too for larger breed puppies and pups with pancreatitis.
- The recipe is formulated to meet all nutritional levels of dogs
- The reduced fat formula helps with weight loss
- Recipe includes pre-biotics to help maintain good gut bacteria
Cost: $72 for 25lb
One of the tastiest organic and grain free canned dogged foods on the market. This popular brand is as nutritious as it is delicious. Their organic meat blend contains all organic proteins including fish, chicken, beef and pork, in addition to organic vegetables such as alfalfa, kelp and a whole host of superfoods.
- Grain-free and organic
- Each container has a full nutritional profile – these guys aren’t trying to hide anything
- Lily’s Kitchen grain-free dog food is great for dogs with food sensitivities
Cost: $51 for 11 cans
Acana beef and pumpkin with fresh Angus beef and pumpkin is packed full of 60% beef to give your pup the protein hit he needs.
- Contains single animal protein in each recipe
- Easily digestible recipe with vegetables, botanicals, vitamins, and minerals
- Gluten-free, grain-free and no plant protein concentrates
Cost: $55 for 13lb
A complete and balanced diet for all dogs from puppies to adult dogs. Zignature grain-free recipes are created with your pets nutritional needs in mind.
- A fine blend of meats, legumes, vegetables, oils, and fruits
- Their duck dry dog food formula has limited ingredients to aid digestion
- Grain free and gluten free
Cost: $93 for 27lb
Evanger’s Organic Canned Dog Food is a great meal for any pup in need of a more holistic diet. This canned dog food is grain free and chemical free.
- Free from chemicals this canned dog food is everything a sensitive dog needs
- All organic ingredients
Cost: $40 for 12 cans
This superior grain free dry dog food has a high concentration of nutrients without being overloaded with fiber and packed out with unnecessary fillers.
- Great tasting recipe that contributes to good digestion and great coat
- Great product for active pets that need high-quality food to fuel their high energy lives
- Available in a variety of flavors including land-based buffalo and cold water fish
Cost: $47 for 12lb
If you normally feed your pup canned food, push the boat out and treat them to something a little wilder. Party Animal’s grain-free canned dog food is made with organic ingredients, coconut oil, added vitamins and minerals and a whole heap of duck.
- 7 flavors available, not just duck: salmon, tender pork, lamb and chicken included
- All ingredients are certified organic
- Ingredients are all sourced and recipes manufactured in the USA
Small Breed Grain-Free Dog Food
Canidae grain free small breed dog food contains deboned chicken for great taste, made with whole foods for gentler digestion and simple recipe of just 9 essential ingredients to help with weight management.
- Simple recipes for sensitive tummies
- Each recipe is made of 7-10 limited ingredients that are recognizable
- Variety of formulas made from deboned meat or fish and paired with whole food ingredients such as sweet potatoes, peas or lentils, never grains or soy
Cost: $20 for 4lb
Merrick Lil Plates grain-free dog food is specially created to meet the needs of small breed dogs, in particular, their differing dietary requirements to bigger breeds.
Their Lil Plates range contains big nutrition for smaller breeds, as well as smaller mouthfuls for smaller mouths, even the portion sizes are reduced. Merrick Lil Plates recipes all start with real meat or fish as the number one ingredient and are supplemented with fruits and vegetables such as apples, peas, and sweet potatoes.
- The first ingredient is real meat, poultry or fish
- All recipes are gluten-free
- All Merrick recipes are cooked in USA kitchens
Cost: $40 for 12lb
Freeze Dried Grain-Free Dog Food
Grandma Lucy’s artisan grain-free dog food is cooked first and then freeze-dried, so their resealable 10lb bag goes a long way when rehydrated.
All their recipes are made from hormone and antibiotic free meat and suitable for all stages of your dog’s life. Their grain free recipe contains no fillers, just a blend of USDA chicken, fruits, vegetables and herbs, all natural human grade ingredients.
- Freeze dried all natural grain free dog food for maximum freshness
- The resealable 10lb bag contains up to 53 cups of dry food to be rehydrated with equal amounts of warm water
- Leftover food can be refrigerated up to 48 hours
Cost: $100 for 10lb
This pre-mix freeze-dried, grain-free dog food is ideal for all pets. Recommended by reviewers for pups with bowel issues, GI issues, allergies, and fussy eaters, Macanna premix with the shredded turkey was a huge hit.
- Able to buy samples via their website so you can try before you commit to a large bag
- Freeze dried so 3lb goes a long way
- Grain-free and suitable for all dog diets
Raw Grain-Free Dog Food
Sojos complete grain-free dog food is freeze-dried and their healthy formulation contains real raw meat, is free of all grains, gluten, GMOs, soy, preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors. Each 2lb bag provides up to 10lb of dog food once water is added to unlock the food’s nutrients and activate the enzymes.
- The packet is resealable to lock in freshness
- The recipe is manufactured in the USA
- 4 flavors available including Exotic, Beef, Lamb and Turkey
100% natural grain free dry dog food that supports your dog’s whole body and enables healthy digestion.
- Recipe contains 70% turkey and chicken and greens such as spinach, broccoli, and kale
- Protein-rich and grain free and no need to be refrigerated
- Designed to be eaten as a complete meal or can be added on top regular food for a protein boost
Cost: $29 for 2lb