Just like with any human diet, pet foods do not provide a one-size-fits-all diet for pets. This, however, has not stopped grain free diets from recently becoming all the rage for dog owners.
While some pets will do very well on grain free diets, others may not.
The nutritional benefits for any diet rest in how well-rounded and balanced it is. Whether or not a grain free diet is best food choice for your dog and his health depends on your dog’s preference and his nutritional needs being met by whichever dog food you select.
What is Grain Free Dog Food?
Grain Free and Carbs
Somewhere along the line carbs became a questionable part of a healthy or desirable diet and, at some point, our pets’ diet was added to the conversation.
People tend to associate grain free diets with being high in protein and low in carbohydrates. This is not typically the case though. Most grain free diets supplement the usual grains like rice with other foods high in carbohydrates like potatoes or legumes.
Dog food brands that make this replacement will have carbohydrate levels that nearly match or even exceed that of regular pet food. This often causes weight gain in dogs. Aside from carbohydrates being an important part of a well-balanced, they are hard to completely avoid.
Dietary carbs are sugars, starches and fiber so they provide your dog with energy and promote digestion. Carbs are found in foods other than grains like fruits and vegetables. Apples, for example, have about 25 g of carbs and I love sharing an apple with my dog almost every day.
Is It More ‘Natural’?
Some claim grain free diets are more natural for canines because the ancestors from which they descended did not eat grains. You may find that the same brands using this consideration in their marketing ads are still including carbohydrates in their pet food because carbs are essential for energy.
I stand by the idea that so long as the food I give my dog isn’t bad for him and he has a healthy diet, then I can give the guy whatever he wants as a treat when he gives me those ‘pretty-please’ eyes. Dogs have evolved to be able to digest carbohydrates be it grains or other sources. So then why deny our furry babies such simple pleasures?
Pets with Food Allergies
The topic of grain free diets for dogs with food allergies can be a tricky one. In the majority of dog food allergy cases, the allergen is protein. Though this is very true, a small percentage of dog food allergy cases identify a carb such as corn to be the allergen. This means a grain free diet may not be the go-to switch if you find out your dog has food allergies.
Assuming you are not one of the very few with a pup who has a carb allergy, a grain free diet may be an excellent semi-permanent alternative, especially while your dog is being treated.
Regardless, it is crucial you are providing your dog with a well-balanced diet that has all the nutrients your dog needs to be healthy. The best source to go to for such a diet is always your dog’s veterinarian.
The Reason Certain Grain Free Brands Are Superior to Others
Overall the best grain free dog foods contain more protein than regular dog food replacing the grains with potatoes (white or sweet) or legumes (peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, etc.). Both are great substitutes for grains because they are still carbohydrates offering energy, fiber and other good stuff.
However, legumes tend to be the preferred alternative to potatoes since they are higher in protein. By nature of being a plant-based protein, legumes are deficient in some essential amino acids necessary for a healthy, well-balanced diet. This is why meat should always be a more dominant ingredient in the grain free dog food you select.
Best Grain Free Dog Food
- My Rating: 4 Stars
- Featured Product: Turkey, organic flaxseed, potatoes, spinach, carrots
The Honest Kitchen is a highly recommended and uniquely notable brand for their food quality and FDA approved “human grade” label. This company explicitly and exclusively uses human-edible food components produced in a human food manufacturing facility. The company uses many organic ingredients which must be held to stringent government standards. Their dog food is made up of 32% protein, 20% fat and 41% carbohydrates. This means the product profile compares to line up to a similar average across the board as a regular dry food profile.
Earthborn Holistic Grain Free Dog Food
- My Rating: 4.5 Stars
- Featured Product: Bison meal, peas, pea protein, tapioca, dried egg
Overall, Earthborn dog food ranks in quality as an above-average dry product. Their food contains 36% protein, 20% fat, and 36% carbohydrates. The only component that falls below-average when compared to regular dog food is its carbohydrate content. The brand compensates by using a notable amount of named animal meat meals as its primary protein source though.
Orijen Grain Free Dog Food
- My Rating: 4.5 Stars
- Featured Product: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, Atlantic ﬂounder, whole eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel
Orijen is another dog food brand ranks with above-average dry product quality. Their food contains 43% protein, 21% fat, and 28% carbohydrates. Considering the extremely high protein content, the brand’s carbohydrate content does fall below-average when compared to regular dog food. The abundance of named animal meat paired with the protein-boosting legume varieties makes this brand trusted to provide your dog with a great meal.
Victor Grain Free Dog Food
- My Rating: 4.5 Stars
- Featured Product: Beef meal, sweet potato, chicken meal, peas, chicken fat
Victor is yet another brand worthy of trust and praise for its above-average dry food quality. Their food contains 36% protein, 18% fat, and 38% carbohydrates. Like other great grain free brands, this brand provides above-average protein and fat contents with below-average carbohydrate contents when compared to regular dog food. The significant amount of named animal meats with the protein boosting ingredients make this brand a great choice.
Nulo Freestyle Grain Free Dog Food
- My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
- Featured Products: whole peas, sweet potatoes, deboned salmon, menhaden fish meal, turkey meal
Nulo Freestyle Grain Free dog food is highly recommended by dog lovers. It does not include any soy, wheat gluten, corn, fake additives, flavors or colors. Nulo also leaves out eggs and chicken, making digestion easier on your dog. The protein content is 33% which is above average while the fat level ranks below average at 18%. It also contains 100% all natural ingredients to help your dog maintain a healthy diet and high energy levels.
I and Love and You Nude Super Food
- My Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars
- Featured Products: Dried yellow peas, garbanzo beans, pork, lamb meal, herring meal
I and Love and You Nude grain free dry dog food is also rich in protein and is produced all naturally. It includes digestive enzymes, prebiotics probiotics, and a blend of nutritious meats and veggies to create a balanced diet for your dog. It also provides omega 3, omega 6, and fish oil to encourage healthy skin and a shiny coat. Overall, I and Love and You dog food is a very smart choice for your dog of any size or age.
Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food
- My rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars
- Featured Products: Salmon meal, turkey meal, peas, deboned duck, sweet potatoes
Merrick Grain Free dry dog food is another awesome choice. There are no gluten ingredients, so your dog will have an easier time with digestion. Plus it contains levels of glucosamine and chondroitin which strengthens hips and joints. It is a protein packed option with above average fat and protein levels. The dry-matter protein content of this brand is 43% with a fat level of 19% and an estimated carbohydrate share of around 30%.
Taste of the Wild Dog Food
- My Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars
- Featured Products: Lamb meal, peas, canola oil, beef, garbanzo bean
The Taste of Wild Grain Free dog food has high protein levels and an optimal amino acid profile. It contains a fat level of 17% and a protein content of 32%. Because of the high protein content and low fat levels, your dog will develop strong, lean bones. The highly nutritious blend of fruits and vegetables works as superfoods to provide an extra boost of antioxidants.
Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Wet Dog Food
- My Rating: 3.9 out of 5 stars
- Featured Products: Chicken liver, chicken broth, chicken, turkey, peas
Whole Earth Farms wet food can be served alone as kibble or as a complete meal for your dog. Analysis of this dog food recipe reveals a high protein content of 43% and a high fat level of 27%. It also showed a low estimated carbohydrate share of about 22%. This brand is perfect for a very active lifestyle and promotes a nutritious and fulfilling diet.
Wellness Core Dog Food
- My Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars
- Featured Products: Turkey meal, deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, potatoes
The Wellness Core dog food provides an all natural blend of premium proteins, real vegetables, essential vitamins and minerals. It contains a high protein content of 38% with a low fat level of 13%, resulting in leaner body mass and higher muscle tone for your dog. This makes it a leading brand and highly recommended by dog owners.
Weruva Grain Free Wet Dog Food
- My Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars
- Featured Products: Cage-free boneless chicken breast, gravy, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, eggs
Weruva Grain Free wet dog food is hand-packed into each can for your dog’s enjoyment. The company is owned and operated by devoted pet parents, David and Stacie Forman. It is a minimally processed dog food and does not include GMOs, MSGs, carrageenan, or gluten.
The dry matter protein content is above average at 60%, while the fat level is below average at 12%. These numbers are not typical to other wet dog foods, making it a highly ranked brand on the market.
Instinct Original Dry Dog Food
- My Ranking: 3.8 out of 5 stars
- Featured Products: Chicken meal, chicken eggs, turkey meal, duck, peas
The Instinct Original dry dog food is made with 70% real meat ingredients and nutritious oils. Every kibble of this dog food is coated in freeze dried raw for more nutrients and a delicious taste your dog will crave. It contains a protein content of 42% and a fat level of 22%. Instinct has above average fat and protein levels compared to other dry dog food brands and is ranked highly.
Farmina Natural and Delicious Grain Free Dog Food
- My Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars
- Featured Products: Fresh boneless chicken, chicken fat, potatoes, dried whole eggs
Farmina Natural and Delicious Grain Free dog is a low fiber formula with no gluten ingredients. It contains a dry matter protein content of 41% and a fat level of 20%. Both the protein and fat content of this brand are considered above average compared to a typical dry dog food giving it a boost in the market.
Throughout this review, we have walked you through thirteen of the most popular Grain Free dog foods on the market. All of the brands we have listed promote a balanced diet, strong bones, a shiny coat, and most importantly a happy and healthy pup. It is up to you now to find the brand that will get your dog’s mouth watering!