Top 10 Best Grain Free Dog Foods for skin allergies

Top 10 Best Grain Free Dog Foods

Dogs thrive on high-quality food. According to pet nutrition expert and veterinarian Dr. Gary Richter, author of “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide” and a member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, “The single biggest thing you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is to provide them with optimal nutrition.” For some dogs, this could be grain-free dog food.

Is grain-free right for your dog? While allergies are a serious issue for dogs, only about 10 percent of canine allergies can be attributed to diet. Of those diet-related allergies, most are related to beef, chicken, lamb, eggs, and dairy rather than grains like wheat or corn. A grain-free diet does lower the number of carbs your dog is eating, but keep in mind that many grain-free recipes simply substitute other types of carbs (rice or peas) for wheat or corn. One of the arguments for grain-free recipes is that they’re generally top-notch: Many are produced by well-regarded companies that use high-quality animal proteins. Learn more with our deep dive into whether grain-free is right for your dog.

What About Grain-Free Foods and “BEG” Diets?

The Food and Drug Administration has been looking into a possible link between DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs and the ingredients in certain boutique pet foods. In an article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, veterinarian and certified veterinary nutritionist Dr. Lisa Freeman explains that the issue is not just grain-free diets, but rather, BEG diets, which include grain-free formulas (BEG stands for boutique companies, exotic ingredients, or grain-free recipes).

“The apparent link between BEG diets and DCM may be due to ingredients used to replace grains in grain-free diets, such as lentils or chickpeas, but also may be due to other common ingredients commonly found in BEG diets, such as exotic meats, vegetables, and fruits,” Freeman writes.

For now, it’s best to check with your vet if you have any concerns. Freeman recommends purchasing food from companies that employ veterinary nutritionists and other experts.

The Best Affordable Grain-Free Dog Foods

If you are going the grain-free route for your pup, don’t be discouraged by some of the prices. It is possible to feed your dog a healthy grain-free diet and still stick to your budget. You just have to shop smart—and we’re here to help!

Read the label and check for high-quality ingredients. The food should include:

  • Whole proteins like chicken, beef, fish, duck, and eggs
  • A recipe that is grain-free, or contains healthy whole grains
  • Healthy supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin
  • Healthy vegetables like sweet potatoes, peas, beets, and carrots

Avoid foods with ingredients such as artificial colors, artificial flavors, and sweeteners. For information on specific foods, Dog Food Advisor is a great resource.

Read on as we check out some affordable grain-free dog foods, including three grain-free picks for puppies.

The 10 Best Grain-Free Dog Foods

Rachel Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food — Best Value

Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe

Breed Size Small, medium, and large breeds (under 70 pounds)
Food Form Dry food
Special Diet Gluten-free, grain-free, no corn, no soy, no wheat

Rachel Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Dog Food isn’t not only grain-free but also gluten-free. While this seems like an unimportant distinction, it’s an important one if your dog has a gluten sensitivity or allergy. Foods can’t be labeled as gluten-free unless they’re manufactured in a facility that’s gluten-free. Nutrish is our pick as the best grain-free dog food for the money.

This food has plenty of fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and prebiotics to promote healthy digestion. There are no fillers or by-products in this dog food. The ingredients list contains chicken as the first ingredient, followed by peas, whole potatoes, beet pulp, and chicken fat. Omega fatty acids are also added to support your dog’s skin and coat health.

There are not too many negative things to say about this dog food, other than the fact that it’s over-packaged. If you’re concerned about your environmental impact, this might affect your choice.

  • No fillers or by-products
  • High protein
  • Added vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids
  • Too much packaging

American Journey Grain-Free Formula — Best Overall

American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe

Breed Size Small, medium, and large breeds
Food Form Dry food
Special Diet Grain-free, no corn, no wheat, no soy, high protein

This salmon and sweet potato formula from American Journey has deboned salmon, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and a mix of fruits and vegetables. Salmon oil and flaxseed are contained within this recipe to provide omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.

This food is high in fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients to support your dog’s overall health and immune system. Along with being grain-free, it’s corn- and soy-free, which makes it a great choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs or food sensitivities.

While this food is labeled as “all life stages,” it’s not suitable for puppies. However, American Journey does make a grain-free puppy food specially formulated for dogs under 1 year of age.

American Journey dog food is not guaranteed to be GMO-free, but its products are considered high-quality.

  • Appropriate for all sizes of dogs
  • High-quality food
  • No fillers or by-products
  • Great for dogs with food sensitivities
  • Not suitable for puppies
  • Not GMO-free

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dog Food

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Breed Size Small, medium, and large breeds
Food Form Dry food
Special Diet Grain-free, high protein, gluten-free, all-natural, raw, no corn, no wheat, no soy

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free is our premium choice of grain-free dog food. ORIJEN prides itself on how it sources its ingredients. While this makes for exceptionally high-quality food, this is reflected in the price.

This particular kibble recipe contains fresh free-run chicken and turkey and wild-caught or sustainably farmed fish. It’s made with only WholePrey animal ingredients, so it includes organs and bones and boasts a whopping 85% animal ingredients. While it’s technically raw food, it’s freeze-dried coated for preservation and ease of storage.

Since ORIJEN food is raw, dogs that have never eaten freeze-dried raw food may have trouble adjusting to the new diet. This food is also quite expensive, so it’s a gamble if you’re not sure that your dog will like it.

  • High-quality ingredients
  • Freeze-dried raw
  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Expensive
  • Can cause an upset stomach for dogs not used to a raw diet

Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain-Free Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Freedom Adult Chicken Recipe

Breed Size All breeds
Food Form Dry food
Special Diet No corn, no wheat, no soy, grain-free, gluten-free

Blue Buffalo Freedom lists real meat as the first ingredient. It is 100% grain and gluten-free with no by-product meals or artificial colors or flavors. It contains Blue Buffalo’s signature LifeSource Bits, which are a combination of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals hand-picked by veterinarians and animal nutritionists to support overall wellness. It is also a limited-ingredient food, so there is less chance of triggering a food sensitivity.

Some owners reported that their dogs developed diarrhea with this food; however, this can happen anytime you transition a dog to a new food too fast. Also, the kibble is small, so it’s not ideal for large breed dogs that might choke on it.

  • Limited-ingredient food
  • LifeSource Bits
  • Can cause stomach upset when transitioning
  • Small pieces of kibble

ACANA Puppy Recipe Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food — Best for Puppies

ACANA Puppy Recipe Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food

Breed Size Small, medium, and large breeds
Food Form Dry food
Special Diet Grain-free, high protein, natural, no corn, no wheat, no soy, raw

ACANA Puppy Recipe contains added protein and fat to help support puppy growth and development. This food is 60% animal ingredients, including cage-free chicken and eggs. The other 40% is fruits, vegetables, and botanicals like pumpkin. There are no artificial flavors or colors in this food.

This dog food is a freeze-dried raw formula with raw ingredients frozen at peak freshness. The coating is freeze-dried chicken and turkey, making the food extra appealing to your young pup. If you haven’t been feeding raw food to your puppy, make the switch slowly, so they don’t get an upset stomach.

As a puppy food, this recipe is more expensive than many other options. ACANA does make adult dog food too, though, so it is easy to make the switch once your pup is old enough. This price also goes down.

  • Supports puppy growth and development
  • Freeze-dried raw
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Expensive

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Breed Size Small, medium, and large breeds
Food Form Dry or wet food
Special Diet Grain-free, gluten-free, high protein

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dog Food is made with novel proteins, including bison and venison meat. It also contains peas and sweet potatoes for easy digestion, fruits and vegetables, and dried chicory root for natural prebiotics.

Novel proteins are great for dogs with food sensitivities, as those sensitivities are often related to the protein sources in dog food. This doesn’t mean all dogs will love the taste, though. This food is also slightly low in fiber content compared to other dry dog foods, which could cause issues for some dogs.

  • Novel proteins
  • Natural ingredients
  • Low fiber content

Purina Beneful Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Purina Beneful Grain Free with Real Farm-Raised Chicken

Breed Size All breeds
Food Form Dry food
Special Diet Grain-free, all-natural

Purina Beneful Grain-Free Dog Food contains chicken as the first ingredient, along with blueberries, pumpkin, and spinach. It is grain and gluten-free, with kibble bits that are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

While this food states that it’s safe for all breed sizes, the kibble is large and hard for small dogs to chew. With chicken as the primary protein source, this food isn’t ideal for dogs with food sensitivities. The ingredient list on this food is also a bit sketchy. There are several “meal” ingredients used as fillers, as well as “natural flavor” and preservatives.

  • Appealing kibble bits for dogs
  • Large kibble
  • Not for dogs with food sensitivities
  • Filler ingredients

Diamond Naturals Grain-Free Whitefish & Sweet Potato Formula

Diamond Naturals Grain-Free Whitefish & Sweet Potato Formula

Breed Size All breeds
Food Form Dry food
Special Diet Grain-free, no corn, no wheat, no soy

Diamond Naturals Grain-Free Formula contains superfoods and probiotics to support your dog’s immune system. Whitefish is the main protein source in this recipe, along with kale, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and raspberries. Omega fatty acids promote skin and coat health, and this food has enough protein to support the needs of large breed dogs.

This dog food contains quite a bit of fiber, so it can cause some dogs to go to the bathroom more frequently. While it claims that there are no artificial ingredients, “natural flavors” are listed on the ingredient list. It’s not clear what this ingredient is, but usually, it’s added flavoring.

  • High protein
  • Supports immune health
  • High fiber
  • Questionable ingredients

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free beef dinner

Breed Size Extra small and toy breeds, small breeds
Food Form Wet food, pâté
Special Diet Gluten-free, grain-free, no corn, no wheat, no soy

If you have a toy or small breed dog, this grain-free food from Whole Earth is a good choice. Developed in consultation with animal nutrition experts, this recipe is free of by-products and artificial flavors and colors. It can be fed as a standalone meal or as a topper to your dog’s kibble. It’s also a great choice for senior dogs with sensitive teeth, as it’s a nutritionally balanced meal all on its own.

  • Nutritionally complete wet food
  • No by-products or artificial ingredients
  • Designed for toy and small breeds

Merrick Real Texas Beef and Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dog Food

Merrick Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Adult Dry Dog Food

Breed Size Small, medium, and large breeds
Food Form Dry food
Special Diet No corn, no wheat, no soy, gluten-free, grain-free

Merrick’s grain-free dog food contains 65% protein and healthy fats, listing deboned beef as the primary ingredients to support energy levels and muscle growth. The remaining 35% of the food contains fresh produce, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In addition to omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, this food has glucosamine and chondroitin to support bone and joint health. For senior dogs, these ingredients help them stay active for longer.

The kibble in this recipe is quite hard, so it’s not a great option for dogs with teeth sensitivity. It’s also a rich food, so it can upset some dogs’ stomachs.

  • High protein
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin added
  • Hard-to-chew kibble
  • Potential for stomach upset

Buyer’s Guide – Finding The Best Grain-Free Dog Foods


Why Some Dogs Need Grain-Free Food

While grain allergies in dogs are rare, they do happen, which is why there are grain-free dog foods. Some people choose to feed grain-free diets based on the idea that dogs are obligate carnivores, but this is untrue. Dogs are actually omnivores and left to their own devices, would eat a mixture of animal- and plant-based foods.

There are also cases where dogs develop food sensitivities that cause stomach upset. Most often, this is related to the protein source in your dog’s food, but it can happen from grain. Grain-free food can solve stomach issues in some cases.

Why Dog Foods Use Grain

Most dog food manufacturers utilize grain in their recipes because it’s more cost-effective. Carbohydrates, in the form of grains, do provide energy for your dog. Some dogs need this extra energy, while others don’t; it depends on the dog. Dogs can also get energy from high-protein foods.

Grain-free Foods and “BEG” Diets

The American Veterinary Medical Association has found a possible link between dilated cardiomyopathy and boutique dog food ingredients. The issue is not only grain-free diets but also boutique, exotic, or grain-free diets that include grain-free recipes. The link is thought to be due to ingredients that are used in dog food to replace grains, like lentils or chickpeas, but it could also be due to exotic ingredients like certain meats, vegetables, and fruits.

It’s best to consult with your veterinarian before switching your dog’s diet, particularly if you are switching to grain-free food.

Choosing a Grain-Free Food

When shopping for grain-free dog food, the best way to ensure that you’re choosing high-quality food is to check the ingredients list. High-quality dog food should include:

  • Whole proteins like beef, chicken, turkey, duck, or eggs
  • A grain-free recipe or healthy whole grains
  • Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids added vitamins and minerals
  • Healthy vegetables, such as beets, carrots, peas, or sweet potatoes

As a general rule, avoid foods that contain artificial colors or flavors, sweeteners, fillers, and by-products.


Our best overall grain-free dog food recommendation is the American Journey Grain-Free Formula. The best value for the money is Rachel Ray’s Nutrish Grain-Free Formula. Both these dog foods contain high-quality ingredients to promote optimal health for your dog.

Edward Hollon is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Edward has been writing for petdii for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Edward has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Edward knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.