Last updated: August 8, 2021

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Welcome to our big grain-free dog food test 2021. Here we present all the grain-free dog foods we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best grain-free dog food for you.

You can also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should be aware of if you want to buy grain-free dog food.




Summary

  • Food that does not contain any grain is called grain-free dog food. Grain refers to crops developed by humans, such as wheat, rye, oats and barley.
  • Grain-free dog food distinguishes between two types of food: dry food and wet food. The main difference is the moisture content. Dry food contains only about 3 to 12 percent water, whereas wet food contains between 60 and 80 percent water.
  • There are special circumstances where it is important for your dog that you avoid grain. These include allergy sufferers, dogs with diabetes, dogs with cancer and to prevent obesity.

The Best Grain-Free Dog Food: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should ask before buying grain-free dog food

What is grain-free dog food?

Food that does not contain any grain is called grain-free dog food. Grain refers to crops that have been developed by humans. Besides wheat, rye, oats and barley, cereals also include corn, rice and millet. The main ingredient of cereals are carbohydrates in the form of starch. In addition, they contain some minerals, trace elements and vitamins.

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The main ingredient of cereals is carbohydrates in the form of starch. You should look at the composition of your dog food, because dogs can only digest the carbohydrates contained in grains in limited quantities
(Image source: unsplash.com / Joshua Newton)

Why grain-free dog food?

Grains can often be an allergy trigger in dogs but even if you have a non-allergic reaction, you should look carefully at the ingredients of the dog food. Grains can make up a very high proportion of certain dog foods.

It is very important that you know that the dog's metabolism is geared towards meat and dogs can only digest the carbohydrates contained in grain in limited quantities.

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The dog's metabolism is geared towards meat and dogs can only digest a limited amount of the carbohydrates contained in cereals.
(Image source: unsplash.com / Dj Johnson)

Especially dogs with a sensitive digestion often suffer from food intolerance due to problems with grains. One trigger for this can be gluten, which is contained in common grains such as rye, barley and wheat. Symptoms of an intolerance can include itching, diarrhoea, intestinal irritation, rash and/or reddened ears. In this case, you should feed your dog grain-free dog food.

Although dogs are descended from wolves, they are now able to digest a limited amount of starchy food.

Therefore, grain as an energy source is not bad or harmful in principle. However, grain in dog food has come into disrepute due to its sometimes excessively high content in low-quality food.

Because grain is quite cheap, there are dog foods where up to 80% of the food consists of cheap grain flour. However, because the dog's intestine is relatively short, dogs can only digest small amounts of grain.

Therefore, we advise you to read the contents of your dog food carefully and avoid food with a high grain content.

Above all, high-quality meat should make up the majority of your dog's diet, as this is where he gets his high fat and protein requirements. However, you should avoid feeding your dog 100 per cent meat at all costs, as this can lead to deficiency symptoms, for example in the calcium balance. That's why it's important to feed your dog additional fruit and vegetables.

Here we list the advantages and disadvantages of grain-free dog food:

Advantages
  • No allergic reactions to grains
  • Mostly high meat content
Disadvantages
  • May be more expensive than conventional dog food

When do I give grain-free dog food?

You can feed grain-free dog food to dogs of all ages. The food on sale is usually divided into junior, adult and senior. However, you also need to consider other things such as your dog's size, activity level and stature. We recommend that you seek advice to help you find the right food for your dog.

There are also several special circumstances where it is important for your dog to avoid grains. These include allergy sufferers, dogs with diabetes, dogs with cancer and to prevent obesity. These and other important factors are explained in more detail below.

Grain-free dog food for dogs with diabetes

Grains are a starchy food that can quickly raise blood pressure levels. Therefore, if your dog has diabetes, you should not feed him foods such as cereals. However, a completely carbohydrate-free diet is not recommended either, as this can lead to the metabolic disease ketosis and insulin resistance.

Grain-free dog food for allergy sufferers and/or dogs with diarrhoea

Especially dogs with a sensitive digestion often suffer from food intolerance due to problems with grain. One trigger for this can be gluten, which is contained in common grains such as rye, barley and wheat.

Symptoms of an intolerance can include itching, diarrhoea, intestinal irritation, rash and/or reddened ears. In this case, you should feed your dog grain-free dog food.

If you experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, itching and reddened ears, we recommend that you consult a vet to check for possible allergies.

Grain-free dog food for small and large breeds, puppies, young dogs and seniors

This table shows you important information about small and large dog breeds, puppies and senior citizens.

Dog type Important information
Small dogs Small dogs such as Chihuahua or Dachshund require more energy per kilogram of body weight compared to larger dogs. Due to the ratio of their weight to their large body surface area, they lose more heat, which must be compensated for by additional energy.
Large dogs The joints of large dogs such as Labradors and CO are heavily stressed by their size and weight. Therefore, lower-energy foods are more suitable.
Puppies and seniors Puppies in particular should eat food that contains phosphorus and calcium for their bones. Older dogs, on the other hand, should eat as little fat as possible to prevent obesity.

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Puppies should eat food that contains phosphorus and calcium for their bones. Older dogs should eat as little fat as possible
(Image source: unsplash.com / Bergab Gumustekin)

Grain-free dog food for cancer

Tumour cells prefer energy produced from glucose metabolism, so you should feed your dog with cancer a grain-free diet! By feeding grain, you are feeding the tumours.

In dogs with cancer, the digestion of only simple carbohydrates leads to an abnormal increase in blood lactate levels. The breakdown of this in turn robs the body of energy.

Did you know that a study investigated the effects of a high-fat diet compared to a high-carbohydrate diet in dogs with cancer and chemotherapy?

It found that the remission rate for dogs on high-fat diets was 90%. In the dogs fed a high-carbohydrate diet, the remission rate was only 66%.

Grain-free dog food for hip joint dysplasia, elbow joint dysplasia and osteoarthritis

Hip joint dysplasia and elbow joint dysplasia are maldevelopments of joint components that mainly affect larger dog breeds. These diseases can be diagnosed at an early age, whereby genetics and nutrition have a great influence on them.

Due to the risk of overweight, high-energy food is a risk factor for the diseases as well as for arthrosis and should be avoided. Overweight would put too much stress on the skeleton of - especially young - dogs.

Grain-free dog food for epilepsy

Epilepsy in dogs, like in humans, is a disorder of brain function that manifests itself in recurrent seizures.

Did you know that a balanced diet can help reduce the frequency of seizures?

In general, you should choose high-quality food that is not only grain-free, but also specifically adapted to the disease and easily digestible for your dog!

Which grain-free dog food?

There are many different grain-free dog foods. You can try out which types of meat and/or your dog particularly likes. Below we describe the most important differences.

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Every dog has different needs. Exploring them together is an adventure.
(Image source: unsplash.com / Michael Dziedzic)

Wet or dry grain-free dog food

In 4 Decision: What types of grain-free dog food are there and which one is right for you or your dog, we describe the difference between wet and dry dog food and their advantages and disadvantages.

Cold-pressed grain-free dog food

It is generally said that cold-pressed dry dog food is particularly easy for your dog to digest. The gentle production process makes it particularly suitable for sick, susceptible, older or very sensitive dogs.

The disadvantage of conventional dry food is that it is exposed to extremely high temperatures. As a result, minerals, vitamins and nutrients are lost. Accordingly, it is also an ideal pet food for healthy and strong dogs.

Grain-free and calorie-reduced dog food

The more grain and wheat products your dog eats, the more tired he feels and his energy levels drop. For a species-appropriate diet, the proportion of grain in the food should never exceed 25 to 30%, because the many grains can make your dog fat.

For this reason, grain-free dog food helps your dog to lose weight. Your dog's body does not have to deal with the grain. As a result, your dog should have more energy and lose weight almost effortlessly.

Grain-free dog food with a high meat content

High-quality meat should make up the majority of your dog's diet, as this is where he gets his high fat and protein requirements.

Grain-free dog food with horsemeat, lamb, rabbit, salmon and/or without poultry

You can find various grain-free dog foods with different types of meat. You can buy good quality beef, poultry, sheep and horse. You should find out if your dog is allergic to any of these meats. Raw pork carries the risk of Aujeszky's disease. Therefore, you should make sure that the pork is well cooked.

Fish such as salmon, tuna and trout can be used as a source of protein in between meals. Be sure to remove the bones.

Grain-free dog food yes or no?

In general, we recommend that you take a close look at the ingredients of your dog food. The majority of the food should consist of high-quality meat. In addition, the food should contain vegetables and fruit so that your dog gets the necessary minerals, vitamins and nutrients.

Opinions on "grain in food" are nevertheless divided. Opponents emphasise that grain in dog food has fallen into disrepute due to its sometimes excessively high content in low-quality food.

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Carbohydrates contained in grain can only be digested by dogs in limited quantities, because the dog's metabolism is geared towards meat.
(Image source: unsplash.com / Sebastian Holgado)

Proponents say that the grain serves as an energy source and provides the necessary amount of carbohydrates.

Basically, there are special circumstances where it is important for your dog that you avoid grains. These include, for example, dogs with allergies, dogs with diabetes, dogs with cancer and to prevent obesity.

Is grain-free dog food harmful?

In the USA, the US Food and Drug Administration has found a link between the heart disease dilated cardiomyopathy (DKM) and 16 known grain-free dog foods.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is damage to the heart muscle. The heart muscle increases in size and at the same time its wall thickness and contractility decrease. This reduces the efficiency of the heart, which can lead to the death of the dog.

The brands mentioned were Adana, Tipnature, Earthborn Holisitc, 4Health, Taste of the Wild, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Blue Buffalo, Nature's Domain, Nutro, Rachael Ray Nutrish, Orijen, Nature's Variety and NutriSource.

We recommend avoiding these brands.

How much does grain-free dog food cost?

Prices of grain-free dog food vary widely, just like their range. Prices also vary according to how much food boxes or bags weigh. There are also tins that contain small portion sizes.

Basically, large feed bags are cheaper per kilogram than the small packaged ones. The type of feed, the brand as well as the feed bag size therefore has an influence on the price.

You can buy small feed bags for as little as €6. Large feed sacks that weigh 12 kilograms can cost up to about 75 €. Food bag sets are often offered on the internet. If your dog likes this food very much and you are also satisfied with the composition, it is certainly worth buying such a set.

What are the alternatives to grain-free dog food? - Make it yourself?

As an alternative to grain-free dog food, you can feed your dog on your own. "BARF" or "Barfen" means the "biologically species-appropriate raw feeding" of your dog. Since most ready-made foods do not contain as much meat as your dog should actually get, you can control this by feeding your dog BARF on your own.

Barfing is healthy for your dog and you can respond very well to his special preferences. The most important ingredients in barfing are offal, meat and bones. You can add small amounts of vegetables and fruit to replicate the stomach contents of smaller prey.

With this feeding method, however, you first have to learn the ropes and consider several important things. For example, what percentage of each meal should be meat and how many vegetables and which vegetables are good or should be avoided.

Decision: What types of grain-free dog food are there and which is the right one for you or your dog?

Grain-free dog food is divided into two types: dry food and wet food. The main difference is the moisture content. Dry food contains only about 3 to 12 percent water, whereas wet food contains between 60 and 80 percent water.

What distinguishes wet grain-free dog food and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Wet food contains about 60 to 80% water. The water content of high-quality wet food comes from the moisture contained in the meat and not from added water.

Most dogs like wet food better because it has a more intense taste than dry food. In addition, dogs do not have to drink as much, with older dogs benefiting most from this.

Advantages
  • Tastes better to most dogs
  • Older dogs in particular benefit from the high water content
  • The high water content comes from the moisture contained in the meat
Disadvantages
  • Dirtier
  • Less long lasting

What distinguishes dry grain-free dog food and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Because of its low moisture content, dry food has a longer shelf life than wet food. Storage in a food bin is particularly advantageous and dry food makes less mess. Dog owners also appreciate that they can easily carry dry food as a treat in their pocket for training.

Dry food also cleans your dog's teeth, as the solid ingredients rub off the dental plaque.

Advantages
  • Longer shelf life
  • Convenient to take along
  • Less mess
  • Teeth cleaning
Disadvantages
  • Your dog needs to drink more
  • Many benefits are for humans, less for dogs

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate grain-free dog food

Basically, you should compare the ingredients of your grain-free dog food before you buy it. Here we show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible grain-free dog foods.

The criteria you can use to compare grain-free dog food with each other include:

In the following sections, we explain what is important in each aspect.

Food type

In 4 Decision: What types of grain-free dog food are there and which is right for you or your dog? we describe the difference between wet and dry dog food and their advantages and disadvantages.

Age group

Basically, dogs have different needs in the different years and phases of their lives. The food on the market is usually divided into Junior, Adult and Senior.

Puppies in particular should eat food that contains phosphorus and calcium for their bones. Older dogs, on the other hand, should eat as little fat as possible to prevent obesity.

Main ingredients

Here we list the most important ingredients that must be included in the dog food for your dog.

  • The majority of your dog food should consist of high-quality meat. Meat is where dogs get their high fat and protein requirements.
  • A few valuable carbohydrates are sufficient for a healthy diet for your dog. It should be noted that dogs that are not allergic to grain can digest it well if it is processed correctly and in small quantities.
  • Alternatives for grain include potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, amaranth or tapioca.
  • Depending on your dog's age, you will need to ensure that he is getting all the minerals, vitamins and nutrients he needs. In section 4.5 Age group, we have described that young dogs need phosphorus and calcium and older dogs should eat as little fat as possible.

No Go's

There are several ingredients that have no place in a healthy dog food for your dog. These include:

  • By-products from animals such as claws, beaks, callus or feather meal,
  • Plant by-products,
  • Flavour enhancers,
  • Chemical preservatives,
  • Attractants
  • Artificial flavours and
  • artificial colourings

Therefore, we recommend that you check the contents of your dog food.

Facts worth knowing about grain-free dog food

Recipes for grain-free dog biscuits - Do it yourself

Here we have a recipe for inspiration that you can easily bake for your dog.

All you need for the recipe is:

  • 200g potato flour
  • 100g minced beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TABLESPOONS OIL
  • 500ml water

Can I cook grain-free dog food?

In any case, you can feed your dog on your own. The big advantage is that you always have an exact overview of which ingredients are used and in which quality they are purchased. However, you should be well informed about your dog's needs, because his food must be composed of different ingredients.

Here we list the most important ingredients and what you should look out for.

Food Why Brief information
Meat Protein source Almost all types of meat are suitable. Especially beef, poultry, sheep and horse are available in good quality. Raw pork carries the risk of Aujeszky's disease. Therefore, you should make sure that the pork is well cooked. You should find out whether your dog is allergic to a particular type of meat
Offal Source of protein Kidneys, heart, liver and lungs contain many trace elements, minerals and vitamins that are important for your dog. Offal should not be eaten more than once a week. Fish such as salmon, tuna and trout can also be used as a source of protein. Be sure to remove the bones. You can also give your dog curd cheese or cottage cheese.
Fruit and vegetables Carbohydrates Potatoes and many different types of vegetables and fruit give your dog vitamins and fibre.

In any case, you should be well informed about the right and balanced diet for your dog.

Picture source: Wisniewska/ 123rf.com

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