Are you considering going grain free with your dog?
Choosing the best grain free dog food for your pup can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve been paying attention to the news lately regarding grain free dog food products.
While many think grain free options for dogs are a simple fad, others swear by this type of dog food and insist it has a number of benefits.
In today’s article, we are not only going to learn a bit about grain free dog food and why (or why not) it may be right for your furry friend, but we’re also going to list some of the best grain free dog food options currently available.
Table of Contents
What Are Grains And What Is Grain Free Dog Food?
Grain free dog food is dog food made without grains.
Grains are plant-based foods made from things like corn, cornmeal, barley, oats, rice, and wheat.
The most common grains found in dry dog food include grains like sorghum, wheat, rice, rye, oats, and barley.
Though there is some debate regarding grain free dog food when compared to dog food that contains grains (more on that in a moment), it’s important to understand that there is a reason grains were initially implemented in dog food.
Grains are important for an overall balanced diet in both people and animals, and they provide a good source of carbohydrates, which give animals energy in order to thrive. Many grains are also a good source of fiber, which can help promote healthy digestion.
Dog foods that contain grains may also have the benefits of added proteins, linoleic acid, and other fatty acids your dog needs to feel fulfilled, satiated, and energized throughout the day.
Both wet and dry dog foods can contain grains, and most grain free dog foods will specify such on their label.
Grain free diets for dogs began to become more popular around 2012. It was during this time people began looking more closely at specialty diets for dogs, canine nutrition, and how dogs ate before they were domesticated versus how we are feeding our dogs now.
However, there was a drop in the popularity of grain free dog food during 2016, just around the time studies began to show that grain free options may not be the best diet for all types of dogs.
So, before we dive into the best grain free dog food options for pups, let’s first take a moment to talk about the pros and cons of switching your dog to a grain free diet.
Is Grain Free Really Better? The Debate You Should Know About
Grain free dog food may be good for some dogs, but it’s not right for every dog.
We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, and this is especially true when it comes to our canine counterparts. Dogs require a specified diet not only for their species, but also for their individual age, weight, and activity level.
This means that no two dogs are alike, and many dogs have unique needs that can only be met with a specific type of dog food.
And since there are so many dog foods available these days, choosing what is best for your particular dog can be a challenge.
This is especially true if your dog has sensitivities, or if you’ve heard about the debate regarding grain free dog foods.
When it comes to feeding your specific dog, we recommend doing plenty of your own research. Speak with a trusted veterinarian or a canine specialist, and be sure you are weighing the pros and cons of feeding your dog the best grain free dog food available, or any dog food for that matter.
So, what are the pros and cons to grain free dog food? Let’s find out!
THE PROS OF GRAIN FREE DOG FOOD:
Grain free dog foods may not be right for every dog, but the best grain free dog food could be right for your dog. This is especially true if your dog has unique dietary needs, allergies, or digestive issues.
Here are a few pros to feeding your dog a grain free diet.
Grain Free Dog Food Is Ideal For Dogs With Allergies Or Sensitivities
As we just mentioned, grain free dog foods can be the best type of diet for dogs with sensitivities or allergies. Grains are a common source of gluten, which most dogs have been found to actually be allergic to or have an intolerance for.
Grain free dog foods are free of gluton, which can be beneficial for dogs with specific food allergies.
Grain Free Dog Food Is Easier To Digest
Because grain free dog foods are free of gluten and thus less allergenic for certain dogs, they are also often easier to digest for dogs who struggle with food sensitivities. Grain free dog can therefore can help reduce gas, stomach upset, and constipation.
Grain Free Dog Food Can Help Combat Canine Obesity
Grains are loaded with carbohydrates that turn to sugar upon being digested, and this sugar can raise blood sugar in your dog’s body. This can be problematic for dogs with diabetes or cancer, or even for dogs who are overwieght.
Feeding your dog a grain free diet can help reduce symptoms from diabetes and cancer and can not only help keep blood sugar at a healthy level but even decrease the chances of obesity in younger, more active dogs.
Grain Free Dog Food Can Help Keep Your Dog Active
Some studies have found that grain free dog food can help keep your dog active and healthy by boosting his energy levels. This can increase stamina for exercise and play, which in turn can reduce obesity, alleviate stress, and promote a healthy immune system.
THE CONS OF OF GRAIN FREE DOG FOOD:
While the best grain free dog food options can help promote your dog’s overall health and vitality, it’s important to remember that grain free dog foods are not right for every dog.
Even the best grain free dog food can have negative impacts on dogs with certain conditions, and there is some debate amongst experts like veterinarians and canine nutritionists regarding grain free dog food options.
With that noted, let’s take a look at some of the cons of going grain free with your dog.
Grain Free Dog Food Has Been Linked To DCM In Dogs
Dilated Cardiomyopathy, also known as DCM, is a condition that occurs when the muscles in the heart become weakened and are unable to pump blood throughout the body as needed. This is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition that can be caused by genetic components and has been found to be more common in some breeds than others.
However, DCM can also be caused to a deficiency in specific amino acids like carnitine and taurine, both of which can be found more abundantly in dog foods that contain grains.
As of late, there has been a rise in the number of dogs diagnosed with DCM, with many findings pointing back to specific dogs not typically at risk having been on a grain free diet for a prolonged period of time.
Studies are still ongoing to determine if grain free diets are indeed the root cause of this uptick in DCM, but it’s important you note this if you are considering the best grain free dog food for your dog.
Grain Free Dog Food Can Be More Costly Than Traditional Dog Food
As with many boutique-type dog foods or dog foods made with specialty ingredients, grain free dog foods can be more costly. They fall in line with other specialty dog foods like raw dog foods, wet dog foods, and fresh dog foods.
Grain Free Dog Foods May Actually Have An Adverse Effect On Healthy Weight For Older or Less Active Dogs
Although grain free dog foods can be an aid in a healthy weight for younger dogs that may be predisposed to obesity and diabetes, they can actually have the opposite effect on older dogs with a more laid-back lifestyle.
Because grain free dog foods are higher in carbohydrates, they can lead to an increase in weight gain for dogs who are simply consuming the food without burning the energy carbs provide during routine play or exercise.
For this reason, grain free dog food may not always be the best option for dogs that are older or more stationary.
Picky Dogs May Turn Their Nose Up To Grain Free Dog Food
Finicky dogs who are funny about their dog food may be funny about grain free dog foods. Even the best grain free dog food on the market may not be enough to satisfy some picky pups.
The good news is that you can also invest in meal toppers to help your dog grow more fond of grain free dog foods, especially if you are looking at an option for a grain free dog food to help curb potential health issues.
So, is the best grain free dog food right for your dog? Here’s how to choose the best grain free dog food for Fido.
How To Pick The Best Grain free Dog Food For Your Dog
Many dogs are sensitive to certain dog foods, and it’s important to get your dog the best diet for him.
Just as you would with any type or brand of dog food you’re investing in for your pup, it’s important to do plenty of research and to ensure the dog food you’re buying is made with quality ingredients.
Keep in mind that all dogs do best on dog foods that are specified for their unique age, weight, and activity level.
Try and remember also that just because a dog food says it is grain free, this does not automatically mean it is made with high quality ingredients.
Be sure to read the fine print and the package details, and choose the best grain free dog food you can that contains real meat animal protein, fatty acids, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and is a good source of water.
Many grain free dog foods will be wet dog foods, fresh dog foods, and raw dog foods. However, grain free dog food also comes in dry food options that are easy to find and often more affordable.
When choosing the best grain free dog food for your dog, avoid dog foods that contain additives, dyes, or byproducts.
If you’re looking for the best grain free dog food for a dog with sensitivities or allergies, we also recommend avoiding dog foods with a protein source that comes from chicken. Poultry has been found to exasperate allergies in dogs. Instead, choose a dog food that is made with salmon, lamb, or beef.
We also suggest choosing dog foods from quality brands you are familiar with or have researched. If you’re not sure which type of dog food would be the best grain free dog food for your dog, it’s always safe to ask your veterinarian.
Of course, if you have decided that grain free dog food is the best option of dog food for your four-legged friend, we have you covered.
Keep reading to take a look at the best grain free dog food options we could find!
The Best Grain Free Dog Food, According To Experts
Not all grain free dog foods are created equal.
When looking for the best grain free dog food, remember to look for dog foods with quality ingredients. Also remember that if you are looking for a specific type of grain free dog food for a dog with allergies or sensitivities, you’ll want to avoid ingredients like chicken.
This is also true for dogs with obesity, although instead of avoiding chicken you’ll want to avoid dog foods high in carbohydrates. Many grain free dog food options will actually replace the grain source in the dog food with sources like potatoes and other high-carb alternatives.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to looking for the best grain free dog food, we are here to help. Here are some of our best grain free dog food options below.
Wag Dry Dog Food
Wag Dry Dog Food Buy on Amazon
Wag Dry Dog Food is made without any added grains like corn or wheat, and it’s also free of additives, byproducts, or artificial flavors.
We have included this grain free dog food as one of the best grain free dog food options on our list because it is great for dogs who suffer from allergies. It is made with sustainably sourced salmon as opposed to poultry, which can exasperate allergies, as we discussed above.
The product is made in the United States and is created with the assistance of nutritionists as well as veterinarians.
Holistic Select Grain Free Dog Food
Holisitic Select Grain Free Dog Food Buy on Amazon
Another grain free dog food we’re including on our list of best grain free dog foods is Holistic Select. Again, this is a natural and holistic grain free dog food that is made with real meat protein like salmon, which can help promote healthy skin and coat and reduce allergies or sensitivities.
This grain free dog food is specifically designed to help improve digestion. It is made with added probiotics, live yogurt culture, natural fiber, and digestive enzymes. It also includes omega fatty acids, glucosamine, antioxidants, and taurine.
Since a taurine deficiency was one of the connections believed to be found between diet and heart issues in dogs, we found this additive important.
Solid Gold Mighty Mini Sensitive Stomach Dog Food
Solid Gold Mighty Mini Dog Food Buy on Amazon
Small breed dogs have unique dietary needs compared to medium and large-bred dogs, especially if they have sensitive stomachs. The above grain free dog food is one of the best grain free dog food options for small breed dogs because it is made without the use of poultry and instead includes real meat protein from beef.
It is specifically designed to help improve digestion and is made with smaller kibble sizes to help smaller dogs chew and digest.
We also like that it is made with real vegetables and lentils, and it includes probiotics, fiber, and other ingredients to help support a healthy digestive system.
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Wet Dog Food
SaleBlue Buffalo Wet Dog Food Buy on Amazon
One of the reasons many people look towards finding the best grain free dog food is due to the fact their dog may have food sensitivities or food allergies. A limited ingredient diet dog food can help with this, as we discussed. A wet dog food like the Blue Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Dog Food above can also help reduce allergies and food sensitivities.
We like that Blue Buffalo dog food is a trusted brand and that it is made with natural ingredients without any added byproducts, corn, soy, wheat, or gluten.
This grain free dog food is also available in a variety of flavors including duck, lamb, turkey, or whitefish.
Lotus Small Bite Grain Free Dog Food
SaleLotus Grain Free Dog Food Buy on Amazon
We have personally used Lotus dog food before and our dogs are pretty big fans. We especially like the grain free small bites dog food above. It is specially formulated for small dog breeds and the kibble is small and shaped to make it easier for dogs to chew and digest.
This dog food is made with natural ingredients and it is available in different recipes. If you have larger breed dogs or puppies, Lotus also makes grain free options for them as well.
360 Pet Nutrition Freeze-Dried Dog Food
360 Pet Nutrition Raw Dog Food Buy on Amazon
Raw dog food is unique to dry or wet dog food due to the fact that it is naturally considered a grain free option. This concept, for some, may mean it is the best grain free dog food for their dog.
The above dog food by 360 Pet Nutrition is made with multiple protein sources including beef, chicken, and fish. It is designed to provide your dog with full and balanced nutrition. The above dog food is specified for large or medium-sized dog breeds, though when following routine feeding guidelines and feeding instructions you can provide it to smaller breeds as well.
Alternatives To Grain Free Dog Food
You can forgo feeding your dog grain free only but use grain free foods and treats to supplement.
If you feel that grain free dog food may not be the best dog food for your dog, you do have plenty of other options. This is especially true if you have a dog with sensitivities or allergies, as many limited ingredient diet dog foods and grain free dog foods go hand in hand.
The good news is that there are a few types of dog foods that still contain grains but are free of other allergy-inducing ingredients or ingredients that could lead to skin issues, coat issues, digestive issues, and more.
Here are some of our favorites.
Blue Buffalo Blissful Belly Digestive Care
SaleBlue Buffalo Blissful Belly Buy on Amazon
If you have a dog with food sensitivities or digestive problems, you don’t have to turn to the best grain free dog food options if you’re not on board. Instead, you can look for dog foods specified for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Blue Buffalo Blissful Belly Digestive Care dog food is one such dry dog food that is specially formulated to help reduce digestive issues in dogs. It is made with natural ingredients and wholesome grains that can help alleviate digestive upset. It is also available in a wet dog food option for more picky eaters.
Hill’s Perscription Diet Low Fat Dog Food
Hill’s Perscription Diet Low Fat Dog Food Buy on Amazon
We also like HIll’s Prescription Diet Low Fat Dog Food, especially if you’re dealing with a dog that struggles with obesity or diabetes. This dog food is veterinarian formulated to help support a healthy digestive system and soothe digestive upset in dogs.
It is made with quality ingredients and is a low fat option to control a healthy weight. We also like that it includes prebiotic fiber and promotes beneficial microflora, which helps aid in digestion overall and can reduce instances of gas or constipation.
How To Make Your Own Grain Free Dog Food At Home
Making your dog food at home can be simple and even fun, but it’s important to ensure you are providing your dog with the nutrients he needs to thrive.
The concept behind grain free dog food is relatively simple, and you don’t have to break the bank to buy the best grain free dog food in stores.
However, making homemade grain free dog food can be time-consuming. The good news is that you will be able to pick out every ingredient that goes into making your dog’s food at home, and you’ll be able to have the assurance that you know exactly what is going into your dog’s body during his mealtime.
Before you jump into making your dog’s food at home, be sure to do plenty of research. Remember that dogs need a variety of nutrients in order to thrive, and it’s easier to accidentally leave out nutrients in your dog’s diet when you are making their food at home.
With that noted, when it comes to making the best grain free dog food, you will need a few key ingredients:
- A high-quality protein source (muscle meats)
- Animal organs like liver
- Vegetables like leafy greens, green beans, or carrots
When making homemade dog food or the best grain free dog food, avoid making dog foods that contain:
- Seasonings, added salts, pepper, or spices
- Grease or fatty meats
- Toxic foods to dogs like garlic, onions, chocolate, xylitol, and more
Are you ready to make the best grain free dog food at home? Here is one of our favorite recipes!
Best Grain Free Dog Food Homemade Recipe
You Will Need:
- 4 peeled carrots (medium in size and chopped)
- ¼ cup of water
- 2 peeled, cored, and chopped apples
- 6 eggs
- 3 pounds of ground chicken, turkey, beef, or duck
- 6 ounces of animal livers
- 4 cups of baby spinach
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil (may be substituted for sunflower seed oil)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, then place the apples and carrots into a pot of water. Bring the pot to a boil and boil the foods until they are soft.
Wisk eggs in a mixing dish, saving the eggshells on a baking sheet. Put eggshells in the oven once the oven has finished preheating and bake them for about five to seven minutes or until they are dry.
Remove the eggshells and crush them in a dish until they are ground down finely, and then add them to the whisked eggs.
Add the meat, eggs, oil, livers, carrots, and apples to a skillet on the stovetop and cook until the meat is browned.
Remove the skillet and sprinkle the meat mixture with spinach, then place a lid over the skillet until the spinach has been steamed.
You can then mash some softened carrots and apples (optional) into the food and allow it to cool before serving it to your dog.
This recipe makes about 10 cups of grain free dog food and should be served accordingly based on your dog’s size and weight.
So, Is Grain Free Dog Food Right For Your Dog?
While grain free dog foods can be great for some dogs, other dogs may do best on traditional types of dog foods.
Is the best grain free dog food right for your pup? Let’s sum it up!
Remember that there are pros and cons to even the best grain free dog food, and that grain free dog food does not necessarily mean healthier dog food.
Some dogs are better candidates for grain free dog foods than others, and these dogs include dogs with allergies, skin issues, and food sensitivities.
While we do think grain free dog food is a good option for dogs who struggle with food intolerance and allergies, it’s also wise to note that studies are still ongoing regarding the health benefits, if any, associated with offering your dog a grain-free only dog food diet.
As we’ve mentioned above, if you’re not sure what the best dog food option would be for your pup, we suggest contacting your veterinarian or a trusted canine nutritionist.
So, now that you know more about the best grain free dog food options available, what do you think about grain free dog food? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!