The 10 Best Grain-Free Dog Foods
Are you in search of the best grain-free dog food? You're not alone! Many dog owners opt for grain-free diets to improve their pets' nutrition and health.
But what exactly are grain-free dog foods, and why are they so popular? Are they really better than traditional dog diets that contain grains? And how do you choose the best one for your dog?
In this article, we'll address these questions and more. We at BestForPets have conducted extensive research and reviews to help you find the best grain-free dog food for your pet In 2024. We'll also offer tips and advice on how to transition your dog to a grain-free diet safely and effectively.
Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)Veterinarian
The information provided is current and up-to-date, in line with the latest research conducted in the field of veterinary medicine.Read more
What are Grain-Free Dog Foods and Why Choose Them?
Grain-free dog foods are made without cereals such as maize, wheat, rice, barley, and oats. Instead, they use potatoes, legumes (peas, beans, lentils, etc.), fruits, and vegetables as sources of carbohydrates.
There are several reasons why dog owners may choose grain-free dog food:
- They believe that cereals are not natural or appropriate for canines, which are carnivores by nature and have evolved to consume primarily meat.
- They believe that cereals can trigger allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities in some canines, resulting in symptoms such as itching, clawing, licking, ear infections, and digestive problems.
- They want to provide their canines with a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate diet that resembles their ancestral diet and promotes muscle mass, energy levels, and overall health.
- They wish to avoid preservatives, additives, and by-products commonly found in low-quality grain-containing dog foods.
However, not all grain-free dog food is created equal. Some may be superior in terms of quality, nutrients, and taste, while others may not be suitable or beneficial for every dog.
Before switching your dog to a grain-free diet, it is essential to research and consult your veterinarian. You must ensure that you choose the best grain-free dog food for your pet’s specific dietary needs and preferences.
To assist you, we have reviewed the top 10 best grain-free dog foods for 2023 according to the following criteria:
- Ingredients: We looked for grain-free dog foods containing high-quality ingredients from reliable sources. We preferred natural, pure, and lightly processed ingredients over synthetic ones. Additionally, we avoided ingredients that are potentially harmful or controversial for canines, such as by-products, fillers, and additives.
- Protein Sources: We looked for grain-free dog foods that rely primarily on high-quality animal proteins. We preferred proteins derived from meat over those derived from plants because they are more complete and digestible for canines. We also sought out a variety of protein sources to provide canines with distinct amino acids and flavors.
- Nutritional Value: We looked for grain-free dog foods that offer complete and balanced nutrition. We examined the nutritional content of each product to ensure that it meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) requirements for dog food. Additionally, we looked for products containing extra nutrients that can promote your dog’s health, such as probiotics, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc.
- Flavor Variety: We looked for grain-free dog foods that offer a range of flavors and textures to suit the diverse preferences of canines. We preferred products with natural flavors over those with artificial ones. We also looked for products that offer different types of food, such as dried kibble, canned food, dehydrated food, etc.
- Customer Feedback: We looked for grain-free dog foods that have received positive reviews from previous consumers. We read each product’s reviews and evaluations to determine what previous owners liked and didn’t like about it. We also considered the opinions of our own evaluators who had tested some of the products.
- Price: We looked for grain-free dog foods that are reasonably priced. We compared the per-pound and per-serving prices of each product to determine which ones were more affordable. We also considered each product’s availability and shipping options.
1. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Dog Food
- Deboned chicken, chicken meal, and peas are the main components
- 30% protein content
- 12% fat content
- 387 calories per cup
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Dog Food is an excellent option for pet owners seeking a premium, grain-free senior dog food.
It is high in protein, with deboned chicken as the primary ingredient, providing your senior dog with the extra energy they need to remain active and healthy.
One of the standout features of this dog food is the LifeSource Bits: small, crunchy kibble pieces that contain a blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
These LifeSource Bits strengthen your senior dog’s immune system and provide vital nutrients to support joint health and weight maintenance.
While this meal is more expensive than others, it is well worth the cost. The kibble portions are relatively small, making it suitable for small dog breeds but less so for larger breeds due to the small kibble size.
Overall, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Dog Food is an excellent option for pet owners seeking a nutritious, high-quality meal for their senior canines. It is free of fillers and artificial additives, and the combination of ingredients makes it an excellent choice for promoting your dog’s health and well-being.
2. Blue Buffalo Freedom Senior Dry Dog Food
- Deboned chicken, potatoes, and peas are the main components
- 18% protein content
- 10% fat content
- 380 kilocalories per cup
Blue Buffalo Freedom Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is an excellent option for grain-free senior dogs. This dog food is made with the highest quality deboned chicken, which is an essential source of protein for maintaining muscle mass and strength. The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in chicken contribute to a healthy coat.
This dog food is distinguished by the inclusion of LifeSource Bits, which are crunchy kibbles packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support your dog’s immune system and overall health.
Additionally, Blue Buffalo Freedom Senior Dry Dog Food contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which are essential for maintaining healthy joints, as well as taurine, which promotes cardiac health.
While this dog food is typically well-received by canines, some dogs may not enjoy it. As with any new food, it’s best to gradually introduce it and observe your dog’s reaction.
Blue Buffalo Freedom Senior Dry Dog Food is a natural, high-quality dog food that does not contain any artificial flavors or preservatives. If you’re seeking a grain-free option for your senior dog, this could be an outstanding choice.
3. Orijen Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- Ingredients: chicken, turkey, and flounder
- 38% protein content
- 15% fat content
- 417 kilocalories per cup
We highly recommend Orijen Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food for senior dogs. While it is pricier than some other options, this high-quality dog food uses raw or fresh whole animal protein as its first five ingredients. In fact, 85% of the recipe is made up of animal-based ingredients, including free-range and wild-caught fish and poultry.
Nutrient-rich bone and organs help with weight management and promote lean muscle mass. There are no additives or artificial chemicals in this dog food, and its freeze-dried coating makes it irresistible to dogs.
This senior dog food is formulated with a range of nutritious ingredients to ensure optimal health. The recipe includes beans, lentils, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, such as apples, pears, and cranberries, which provide essential vitamins and minerals.
Orijen Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is a grain-free, biologically appropriate diet that dogs have evolved to eat. Using fresh and raw animal ingredients, including meat, organs, cartilage, and bone, Orijen provides dogs with the nutrients they need to thrive.
The kibble size may be too large for smaller dogs. However, this dog food is an excellent option for senior dogs that require a high-quality, grain-free diet. Overall, Orijen Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is a natural and nutritious choice for older dogs.
4. Castor & Pollux ORGANIX Organic Senior Dry Food
- Organic chicken, organic chicken meal, and organic sweet potatoes are the main components
- 26% protein content
- 13% fat content
- 377 calories per cup
Veterinarians recommend Castor & Pollux ORGANIX Organic Senior Dry Dog Food due to its use of organic ingredients and free-range chicken.
The components in this dog food are certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture, and the chicken used is fed only pesticide-free food. Additionally, it includes organic ingredients such as flaxseed, cranberries, and sweet potatoes.
Chondroitin and glucosamine are added to promote healthy hips and joints in senior dogs. Castor & Pollux ORGANIX Organic Senior Dry Dog Food is free from GMOs, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
The kibble size is small, which may not be suitable for larger breeds.
This dog food comes in pellet form and is appropriate for senior dogs. The recipe is designed to promote a healthy digestive system, an active lifestyle, healthy joints, and a glossy coat. Castor & Pollux ORGANIX Organic Senior Dry Dog Food is free from corn, wheat, soy, peas, or lentils.
Overall, Castor & Pollux ORGANIX Organic Senior Dry Dog Food is an excellent option for aging dogs that require a grain-free, organic diet. While it may be pricier than some other options, it is made with high-quality ingredients and is designed to promote the health and wellbeing of your dog.
5. Now Fresh Weight Management Dry Dog Food for Small Breeds
- Deboned turkey, potatoes, and peas are the main components
- 24% protein content
- 12% fat content
- 375 calories per cup
Now Fresh Small Breed Weight Management Dry Dog Food is a nutrient-packed option for small dogs, with over 20 superfoods included in the recipe. These include blueberries for antioxidants and pumpkin for fiber and good digestion.
The dog food also contains L-carnitine, which helps maintain a healthy heart in senior dogs. In addition, chondroitin from New Zealand green mussels is added to help support healthy hips and joints.
To preserve nutrition and freshness, all fresh ingredients are cooked just once at moderate temperatures, and no artificial additives are used. The kibble size is small, which is perfect for little breeds.
It is worth noting that the dog food is on the pricier side, and some picky eaters may not enjoy it.
Now Fresh Small Breed Weight Management Dry Dog Food is made with all-natural ingredients, with no by-products or meat meals.
The recipe includes premium-quality turkey as the first ingredient, along with fresh salmon and duck. The balanced protein and fat content helps maintain a healthy weight, with L-carnitine to support heart health and fat burning.
This grain-free dog food recipe contains over 20 natural superfoods, including antioxidant-rich blueberries and pomegranate to support a healthy immune system. Whole eggs are also included to provide a complete protein with all the essential amino acids dogs need.
Now Fresh Small Breed Weight Management Dry Dog Food is expertly crafted by pet nutritionists to meet the specific needs of small dogs. The minimally processed recipe is tailored to breed sizes and ages, helping your dog thrive at every stage of life.
6. Senior Nulo Freestyle Dry Dog Food
- Deboned trout, turkey meal, and salmon meal are the main components
- 30% protein content
- 12% fat content
- 396 kilocalories per cup
Nulo Freestyle Trout & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food is an excellent option for senior canines due to its high animal-based protein content of 82%.
This recipe contains glucosamine and chondroitin to promote joint and hip health in senior canines. Additionally, L-carnitine is added to aid senior canines in fat digestion. Probiotics are included for optimal digestion, while phosphorus and calcium aid in tooth and bone maintenance.
Due to the presence of turkey meal and chicken fat, this dog food is not appropriate for canines with a sensitivity to poultry.
The recipe for Nulo Freestyle Trout and Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food is made with all-natural ingredients, such as trout without bones, salmon meal, and sweet potato. It also contains legumes, lentils, and pea fiber for optimal nutrition and a low glycemic index.
This recipe contains the probiotic GanedenBC30, which assists in digestion and boosts the metabolism and immune system to promote healthy intestinal flora. Additionally, L-carnitine is added to aid senior canines in fat digestion.
This formulation for senior dog food contains glucosamine and chondroitin to support the hips and joints of aging canines. This dry dog food is available in a 26-pound container and is suitable for dogs of all breeds.
Nulo Pet Foods is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and its products are made in the United States. Furthermore, this recipe contains no corn, wheat gluten, soy, artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, ensuring optimal nutrition for your dog.
7. Dry Dog Food Canidae Pure Limited Ingredients
- Chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal are the main components
- 28% protein content
- 10% fat content
- 409 kilocalories per cup
Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food is an excellent option for senior canines that require a restricted diet. This dry dog food contains just nine ingredients, excluding vitamins and minerals, and is rich in high-quality proteins, antioxidants, probiotics, and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.
This recipe is free from artificial additives and fillers, and it is formulated with extra vitamins and minerals to support total health. However, it is important to note that this dog food is on the pricier side and some bags may contain residue or “food dust.”
This limited-ingredient dog food contains chicken and turkey meal, which may not be suitable for canines with a sensitivity to poultry.
The first ingredient in the 22-pound bag of Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food for Senior Dogs is chicken, which your dog will adore.
This recipe is complete and balanced for adult canines, made with easily recognizable ingredients including sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans, and peas, perfect for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
This dog food is formulated with antioxidants and probiotics to support a healthy digestive and immune system, along with a nutritious blend of vitamins and minerals to support healthy joints, skin, and coat.
Canidae is dedicated to creating a better world for canines and the environment. This recipe contains premium proteins and regeneratively farmed ingredients to nourish your companion and the environment, establishing a new benchmark for pet food.
With Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food, you can be confident that your senior dog is receiving the nutrients necessary for a joyful and healthy existence.
8. Grain-Free Merrick Senior Dry Dog Food
- Deboned chicken, chicken meal, and sweet potatoes are the main components
- 30% protein content
- 12% fat content
- 370 calories per cup
Merrick Chicken & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food is an excellent choice for overweight senior dogs. This grain-free dry dog food contains 77% protein from animal sources, making it an ideal combination of protein and healthy fats for helping dogs maintain optimal weight and energy levels.
The primary ingredient in this recipe is deboned chicken, which provides the ideal amounts of fat and protein, as well as fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Additionally, it contains glucosamine and chondroitin to support hips and joints, along with omega fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat.
This grain-free dog food recipe contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, and it is crafted with real, whole foods sourced from trusted farmers. Vitamins and minerals are also added to ensure a complete and balanced diet.
This dry dog food is formulated with fewer calories and fat to help older dogs maintain a healthy weight, along with L-carnitine to support a healthy metabolism. It is suitable for dogs of all breeds and sizes.
However, it is important to note that this dog food is on the pricier side, and the kibble is quite large, which may make it difficult for smaller dogs to eat.
Overall, Merrick Chicken & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food is a high-quality, all-natural option for senior dogs who need to maintain a healthy weight while receiving all of the essential nutrients they require to live a happy and healthy life.
9. Dry Dog Food Instinct Raw Boost
- Chicken dinner, salmon meal, and chicken are the main components
- 36% protein content
- 16% fat content
- 478 kilocalories per cup
For senior canines that require a high-protein diet, Instinct Raw Boost Dry Dog Food is an outstanding grain-free option. Its kibble contains freeze-dried fresh pieces to provide a balanced and nutrient-rich diet.
This dog food is made with cage-free chicken and contains a natural source of DHA for eye and mental health, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin for hips and joints. It is a healthy option for your pet as it has no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
This raw dog food recipe is intended to provide senior canines with a complete and balanced diet, including calcium and phosphorus for robust teeth and bones. Additionally, it does not contain any grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meal, artificial colors, or preservatives.
Instinct Raw Boost Dry Dog Food is made from natural ingredients and contains the unadulterated, natural nutrition of raw food. It is protein-rich, minimally processed, and made in the United States with the world’s best ingredients.
It is important to note that this dog food is on the more expensive side, and that some canines may only consume the freeze-dried portions, which come in packets containing a small quantity. Nevertheless, it is a premium option for senior canines that need a balanced and nutrient-rich diet.
Overall, Instinct Raw Boost Dry Dog Food is an excellent option for senior canines seeking a high-protein, grain-free diet. This unique combination of kibble and freeze-dried raw pieces provides a balanced and complete meal for your furry companion.
10. Senior Wellness CORE Dry Dog Food
- Deboned turkey, chicken meal, and lentils are the main components
- 32% protein content
- 12% fat content
- 359 kilocalories per cup
Wellness CORE Deboned Turkey Dry Dog Food is a premium, grain-free option for senior canines who require a balanced and complete diet.
It contains responsibly sourced deboned turkey, lentils, peas, and other superfoods expertly calibrated to provide optimal fat and calorie levels for the health of your companion.
This dog food contains an abundance of omega fatty acids, which promote healthy skin and a glossy coat. In addition, it contains prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants, and taurine, which support your pet’s immune system, cardiac health, hip and joint health.
Wellness CORE Deboned Turkey Dry Dog Food is made with natural ingredients and contains no poultry by-products, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, or preservatives. It is also manufactured in a state-of-the-art facility in the United States.
This dog food may not be suitable for finicky feeders or dogs with sensitive stomachs, but it is an excellent option for senior canines who need a nutrient-rich diet. However, the kibble is sizable and tough, making it difficult for senior canines with dental issues to eat.
Wellness CORE Deboned Turkey Dry Dog Food is an excellent option for pet owners seeking a grain-free dog food that provides complete and balanced nutrition for their senior canines. It is an ideal option for pet owners who want the best for their animal companions due to its premium ingredients and natural preservatives.
How to Choose the Best Grain-Free Dog Food for Your Pup
Now that you’ve seen our list of the top 10 best grain-free dog foods for 2023, you may be wondering how to choose the best one for your furry friend. Every dog is unique with specific requirements and desires.
To help you choose the best grain-free dog food for your dog based on factors like age, size, breed, activity level, health condition, preferences, etc., we’ve compiled some guidelines and advice.
Consider the following factors when selecting a grain-free dog food for your pet:
- Take into account your dog’s age, size, breed, and activity level. These factors affect your dog’s nutritional needs and the amount of food they should eat.
- Look at the product’s ingredient list and nutritional analysis. This will give you an idea of the product’s composition and nutritional value for your pet.
- Choose products that contain high-quality animal proteins and nutritious lipids. These will provide your dog with sufficient protein and omega fatty acids to support their muscle mass, energy, and overall health.
- Avoid products that contain synthetic additives, fillers, and by-products. These may be harmful or controversial for your pet’s health.
- Choose a flavor and consistency that your dog enjoys. When it comes to food, every dog has unique preferences and tastes.
- Consult your veterinarian before switching to a grain-free diet. Your veterinarian is the expert on your dog’s health condition and medical history. They can advise you on whether a grain-free diet is suitable or beneficial for your dog, as well as any potential risks or challenges.
By following these guidelines, you can choose the best grain-free dog food for your pet and promote their health and well-being.
1. Is it really healthier for a dog to eat grain-free?
Although many dog foods are marketed as grain-free, there is no physiological or medical justification for feeding canines a grain-free diet. In fact, grain-free diets can make certain canines and cats sick.
2. What are the benefits of grain-free dog food?
Grain-free diets may reduce the incidence of food allergies and intolerances in canines. However, there is no evidence that grain-free diets for canines are inherently healthier.
3. Why do vets recommend dog food with grains?
Grains provide carbohydrates for energy and fiber for digestive health. In addition, they contain essential nutrients, such as protein and linoleic acid, that are vital to a dog’s health.
4. Why should you not give dogs grains?
Unless a dog has a direct grain allergy, there is no reason to avoid grains. In fact, grains can provide canines with vital nutrients and energy.
5. How can you tell if your dog needs a grain-free diet?
If your dog experiences skin irritation, such as inflammation and scabs, it may be due to an allergy to grains. However, such sensitivities are uncommon in canines, and food allergies are typically associated with the protein source rather than the grain source.
6. Do dogs need grains to survive?
While canines do not require carbohydrates for survival, they do require glucose. Glucose is provided by grains such as wheat, rice, and maize; however, carbohydrate vegetables and legumes can provide glucose in grain-free diets.
Our favorite grain-free food for older dogs is Blue Buffalo Wild Dog Dry Food . It boosts the immune system and contains substances that help your dog’s joints and keep him at a healthy weight.
Blue Buffalo Freedom Premium Dry Dog Food is a low-cost premium dog food that has high-quality boneless chicken protein as the major component.
Orijen Premium Grain Free Dry Food is our top recommendation. Animal protein accounts for around 85% of the recipe, including wild-caught fish and fowl.
Castor & Pollux ORGANIX Organic Dry Food , recommended by our veterinarian, is made with USDA-certified organic vegetables, including free-range chicken and superfoods like flaxseed, blueberries, kumquats, and sweet potatoes.
BestForPets (bestforpets.org) would like to thank our consumers for visiting our website to learn about and compare the best grain-free dog foods.
These evaluations should have helped you understand more about your senior dog’s nutritional needs. Hopefully, you’ll find something for your closest friend that will thrill them and keep them with you for a longer period of time.
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