Looking to help your dog feel better, reduce allergies and have more energy? Check out our guide to the best grain-free dog food for premium canine health.
If you’ve tried out different diets yourself, you’ll know the difference that switching up the ingredients can make.
Whether it’s the Atkins or Paleo Diet that suits you the best, there’s a huge amount of choice available for humans.
It’s no different for your four-legged friend as there’s now a variety of dog foods available. With increasing awareness of the effect that gluten can have on the system, it’s perhaps not surprising that now it’s possible to find dog food that’s specifically designed to reduce digestive upset.
Many dog owners are switching to grain-free dog foods because of the many benefits it offers. But should you do the same?
Here’s a closer look at the benefits of grain and wheat free dog food, including some of the top brands available on the market.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we may make a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Our Recommended Grain Free Foods Compared
Check out our shortlist in the comparison table below before reading about our more detailed reviews that follow.
OUR TOP PICK
- Hypoallergenic ingredients
- High meat content
- Gentle on the stomach
- Great value
- No artificial colours or flavours
Taste of the Wild
- Wheat free
- Complex carbohydrates
- High quality ingredients
- High in protein
- No artificial ingredients
- Handmade in small batches
Grain-Free Dog Food Reviews
Read on to see what makes our favourite grain free foods for dogs special. We'll start with our top choice.
OUR TOP PICK
James Wellbeloved Dry Adult Dog Food
As one of the first manufacturers of natural dog food, James Wellbeloved is a brand which has gone on to be one of the biggest names in the business.
Their range of grain-free food with added rice is one of the top-sellers among those looking for hypoallergenic dog food and is widely viewed as one of the best on the market.
In addition to the turkey, it’s also available in lamb, duck and fish so if your pooch is a bit picky, there’s plenty of flavors to try.
The formula contains approximately 27% turkey which is a decent proportion of meat and helps to give this dry food an appetizing flavor that your dog will enjoy.
Some owners find the odor a little too strong so you might need a peg for your nose while you’re serving it up! From your dog’s perspective though, the smell is just another incentive to eat and unlike some other dry foods, you won’t have any trouble with your pet gobbling this all up.
It’s worth pointing out that there is rice in this dog food, which technically is a type of grain. However, it doesn’t contain any of the usual fillers which cause so many digestive upsets such as wheat or corn, so it’s still considered to be grain-free even though it contains rice.
All of the ingredients in the James Wellbeloved dog food are hypoallergenic, creating a product which is gentle on the digestive system and won’t cause any upset. All of the foods which traditionally can cause an allergic reaction in dogs have been deliberately left out.
These include wheat, dairy, beef, chicken, egg, soy and rabbit. Instead nutritionally dense foods such as turkey and brown rice have been added in.
If your dog has been experiencing problems with his tummy, switching to this food could just settle things down. Yucca is included; this can help to make excretions less smelly. Overall, it’s better for him and certainly more pleasant for you too!
There are added vitamins and fortification in the formula such as seaweed, alfalfa and fish oils. This will help to make your pooch’s coat shiny and glossy, soothing any itching or dry skin.
Dogs who have allergies or food intolerances will often suffer with rashes, dry coats or itchiness and this food can help to settle all of these symptoms right down.
Harrington’s Grain-Free Complete
If you’d rather opt for a dog food which is truly free of all grains, Harrington’s Complete fits the bill.
It uses potato as a carbohydrate so you won’t find any kind of grains, including rice, in this formula.
Harrington’s also makes sure none of the typical gastro irritants are used so you won’t find wheat, dairy or soya.
So, what is in the bag? Similar to James Wellbeloved, the primary source of protein is turkey, a meat that’s renowned for being lean but full of nutrition. You’ll find approximately 25% protein in this food, only slightly less than James Wellbeloved, and it’s almost half the price.
Along with the turkey there’s a healthy dose of vegetables to help support the immune system and keep your furry friend feeling his best.
It’s not designed for dogs who have allergies in the same way as James Wellbeloved, but instead targeted more towards those pooches who suffer with tummy problems, more specifically.
Avoiding ingredients that are known to be difficult to digest or that upset the gastrointestinal system, this food should make life much easier for both you and your pet.
There are lots of extras in this bag of food that should promote good health in your dog in a number of different ways. Chondroitin, glucosamine and MSM provide protection for the joints, while L-carnitine helps to prevent excess weight.
Vitamins, botanical herbs and citrus extract add gloss to the coat, while omega-3 and 6 provide a range of canine health benefits.
Harrington’s have also opted to include Yucca to cut down on those unwanted odors from your dog’s rear end!
This grain-free food is great for dogs who react badly to regular pet foods and it contains a whole host of added extras for all-round good health.
Unfortunately the dogs don’t seem to have got the message about the importance of top nutrition as lots of pet owners report this wasn’t a winner with their four-legged friend.
Taste of the Wild Complete Dog Food
Before we even get into the contents of this pack, we have to pay kudos to this manufacturer for the beautiful packaging.
Most dog food looks fairly similar but the imagery on the exterior of the whole range of this brand is guaranteed to make anyone look twice.
Of course, what really matters is what’s inside so how does Taste of the Wild measure up?
The protein comes from fish and makes up 24% which is the same as Harrington’s and only slightly less than James Wellbeloved. Unlike the previous two, this formula is based on salmon rather than turkey so offers a different type of protein.
Fish has a high water content which means less protein pound for pound. However, Taste of the Wild use a lot of salmon meal which is a condensed form with the moisture removed. This allows more protein to be packed in without reducing any of the other valuable nutritional content of the fish.
For the pooches that don’t manage to digest grain very well, this formula is another win as there isn’t a single grain to be found. Instead, complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato are included, along with lentils and peas. These latter two ingredients belong to the legume family and are a useful source of fiber, essential for good gut function.
There are lots of antioxidants in this formula as well as guaranteed levels of Vitamin E, selenium and zinc. These help to combat free radicals and boost your dog’s health at a cellular level. As it’s based on fish, there are naturally high levels of omega-3 and 6 which help to take care of your pooch’s coat and skin.
There isn’t any Yucca in this dry dog food but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to put up with stinky omissions! Call of the Wild have opted to include chicory root extract instead which helps to achieve the same result. As a probiotic, it helps to promote easy digestion and encourages comfortable evacuation of the bowels.
All of the ingredients included in this mix are high-quality and natural but the only drawback is the size of the kibble. Each individual biscuit is small, which for larger dogs may take some adjustment.
AATU 80/20 Dry Dog Food
AATU is the most expensive grain-free dog food on our list but it weighs in with a whopping 32% protein.
This is the highest of all of the foods we’ve listed here and partly explains the higher cost. High-protein food is a sign of real quality and if you can afford the price, this food will be a treat for your pooch that they’ll appreciate.
The protein in this food is chicken, a naturally lean meat that is packed with accessible nutrients. Some dogs develop an allergy to chicken so if gastro symptoms don’t ease after switching to this food, this is something you might want to explore further with your vet.
The approach that AATU take to their food is far removed from large-large-scale mass production as you can get, as every morsel is handmade in small batches. A “low and slow” method is adopted for all meat processing which AATU believe helps with ease of digestion.
You won’t find any artificial ingredients, and all the food used is completely GM-free. As well as not containing any grains, this dry food is also free from gluten and white potatoes, minimizing the likelihood of other allergic reactions.
Probiotics are included for maximum gut health, but this can cause flatulence in some dogs while they adjust to the diet. MSM, glucosamine and chondroitin are also added for good joint health.
AATU refer to their recipe as “super-8” as the food includes fruit, vegetables, spices, herbs and botanicals for food that’s packed full of goodness.
Although there’s no question that the content of this food is extremely high-quality, the packaging is slightly misleading. Described as 80/20, the exterior suggests there’s 80% chicken and 20% fruit, veg and other nutritious content.
However, as mentioned above, the protein component is 32% of the total. While this is much higher than other dog foods, it doesn’t come close to the 80% the packaging and name suggests.
You’ll find no shortage of other grain-free dog foods on the market, but we think the above four brands represent some of the best.
Available at a range of price points, these four foods demonstrate it doesn’t have to cost the earth to switch to grain-free.
If you’re looking for a conclusive answer to “what is the best grain free dog food?” It’s a tricky call to make. All of the above four foods offer different benefits, and all have excellent levels of protein that your pooch will love.
However, our pick of the bunch would have to go to James Wellbeloved. Although it’s not completely grain-free technically, it does exclude the main grains that cause digestive upset.
It also has eliminated a long list of other irritants that cause allergies and intolerances in dogs. With a long history of being one of the best in the market, you could say it’s a pedigree brand!
Harrington’s is our pick for the best budget brand as it offers great value for money without compromising on quality. This dog food is the perfect example of how to make the switch without breaking the bank.
Whichever grain-free dog food you choose, we’re pretty sure your pooch will thank you for it. Higher in protein and without any unnecessary fillers, your furry friend will be bounding with energy and bursting with good health.
Recommended Reading: Just how good is Wainwright's dog food?
If you’re considering buying grain-free dog food, the range of choice can seem overwhelming at first. However, if you know what to look for it’s possible to separate the best brands to find an alternative that your dog will enjoy.
Just like regular dog food, grain-free food is available in a range of flavors so you’ll be able to pick one that your furry friend enjoys. If your dog has dry skin or a lack-luster coat, consider opting for a fish flavor as this will have the maximum possible benefits to return gloss and shine.
One of the benefits of switching to grain-free food is eliminating a large proportion of the fillers which are found in regular kibble. In some cases the meat content in regular dry dog food can be as low as 4%, and even those labelled as having “extra” meat may only contain a paltry 14%.
In contrast, grain-free food typically contains much more meat content, which is closer to the natural diet for your dog. Look for the protein levels on the label to help you ascertain whether you’re choosing a brand which is packed full of quality. Ideally, a quality dry dog food will contain meat content of 20% or more but the higher the better!
In contrast, carbohydrates are an unnecessary but cheap filler, and can make your dog feel bloated while packing on calories which have little nutritional value.
Grain-free food tends to have lower carbohydrates as no grains are included, but where possible look for complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates. These are better for the body to digest and ease a smoother transit.
Fruit and veg aren’t just good for humans, they also provide your pet with a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals that will boost their immune system. Look out for food which includes fruit and veg in the recipe as well as other additional ingredients which are high in nutrients such as seaweed or alfalfa.
If your dog has been struggling to stay at a healthy weight, the grain-free dog food you choose will be key. The cheapest grain free dog food could still contain excessive amounts of carbohydrates and lower proteins, fruit and veg so checking the label is important.
A well-balanced grain-free food will keep your pooch feeling fuller for longer, as well as delivering more nutrients. Look for high-protein, low-carb recipes for maximum benefits.
There are many reasons why you might be considering switching to grain-free food but if it’s due to allergies, you might need to consider more than simply grains. It’s true that grains can produce a whole host of unwanted symptoms in dogs, but there are many other ingredients which can also aggravate your pooch’s body.
If you’re trying to make your dog feel more comfortable and eliminate symptoms of intolerance and allergy, look out for grain-free brands which are specifically hypoallergenic. This means they won’t contain other known allergies such as eggs and dairy which could still be present in other grain-free brands.
Hopefully now you’re feeling completely clued-up about what to look for in grain-free foods and are ready to try your dog with a healthy new diet!
Benefits of grain-free dog food
Many regular dog foods contain high levels of grain which act as a filler. Manufacturers include these because they are cheap, rather than due to the nutritional value they offer your pet.
The problem is that for some pets, they don’t just fail to provide optimum nutrition, they can also aggravate their system.
Dog food that doesn’t contain any grains tends to be much higher in protein, and therefore closer to a natural diet.
Although they’re typically supplemented by some form of carbohydrates, it’s usually much lower than seen in regular brands. For most dogs this means feeling fuller after eating less food, which is better for maintaining a healthy weight.
You’ll probably find your dog has more energy too after eating grain-free food, due to the increased levels of protein.
However, for some dogs it’s more than just delivering optimum nutrition; regular dog food can leave them feeling very poorly. If your dog has itchy skin, a dull coat and regular gastrointestinal upset, you might find that they are intolerant to grains.
Switching to a grain-free food could eliminate all of these unpleasant symptoms quite literally overnight, giving your beloved pooch a new lease of life.
Grains are notoriously difficult for dogs to digest so even those without an allergy can produce smelly stools which can be loose and runny too. Nice!
Removing grains from the diet allows a smoother transition, and a far less odious output once the food has travelled through their system.
Any dog can reap the benefits of grain-free food but if your pooch is pregnant it’s even more important to consider switching. Pregnancy is extremely demanding on the body and simply wolfing down more of the regular food won’t deliver the necessary benefits.
Opting for a grain-free food will allow your bitch to get the essential nutrients that both she and her pups require.