Every product and service on My Pet Needs That is independently selected by our editors, contributors, and experts.
If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a referral fee. Learn more
Commercial dog foods that exclude grains have become increasingly popular in recent years. As we humans have moved away from a carbohydrate-rich diet and have discovered adverse health effects associated with some grains (including gluten) we have been tempted to do the same for our four legged friends. But do all dogs really need this kind of diet? In fact, the majority of dogs will do very well on a diet that includes grains. Whole grains are better as they have not been so highly refined and retain all of their natural nutrition.
It’s no wonder that there is so much confusion about choosing the best diet for your dog! To help you out, we’ve prepared a no-nonsense guide on how to choose a dog food with grains for your pooch.
The grain-inclusive recipe of this premium kibble delivers a healthy and balanced diet for adult dogs. It is the best non grain free dog food for promoting a strong immune system and building strong muscles. The whole grains in this recipe include barley, oatmeal and brown rice.
Using whitefish and Menhaden Fish Meal as the primary animal protein ingredients, it contains a minimum of 22 % crude protein. There is plenty of fat for energy and this kibble delivers 377 Kcals in each cup. There’s 5 % fiber to keep your dog’s gut healthy. The recipe is packed with healthy vegetables which provide anti oxidants and micro-nutrients to support overall health. These include sweet potatoes, peas and carrots. The omega 3 and 6 fatty acids will keep your dog’s coat looking great and the LIFESOURCE BITS unique blend of supplements delivers exactly the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals. It contains chicken meal but there are no poultry by-product meals, and no corn, wheat or soy which can trigger allergies. The focus is on fresh and natural ingredients so there are also no artificial preservatives or additives.
There’s plenty of healthy protein (lamb meal) in this premium dog kibble which delivers exactly the right nutritional profile for very active dogs. As well as the lamb meal protein to build strong muscle, there’s a minimum of 12 % crude fat and the kibble delivers plenty of energy to keep your dog active. The protein content is provided by three animal sources: lamb, chicken and fish.
All of the ingredients are natural and there are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The oatmeal and brown rice support a healthy digestion and make sure that your dog passes firm stools. Flaxseed is included for omega fatty acids which gives your dog a lovely shiny coat. Active dogs can suffer from wear and tear of their joints so glucosamine hydrochloride has been added to keep the joints supple and pain-free. If you are looking for a grain free food for dogs because your pooch has an allergy to corn or wheat, this recipe will be suitable for your dog as these ingredients have been excluded from the recipe.
The wholesome recipe of this canine kibble is completely natural and contains no synthetic ingredients. It is suitable for all life stages and provides all the nutrients required in a dog s diet. For strong muscle and tissue repair, there is a minimum of 36 % protein (chicken meal) and this is balanced with the fat content (15 %) for energy.
Chicken meal provides the protein and the recipe is packed with fruit and vegetables to provide all the vitamins and minerals that your dog needs. This includes dried blueberry, dried spinach and dried cranberry as natural sources of essential micro-nutrients. Probiotics have been added to support a healthy digestion. The carbohydrate whole grain is provided by gluten-free millet. The recipe contains no corn, wheat or soy and is therefore suitable for dogs with allergies to these ingredients.
Calorie Content: 3,678 kcal per kilogram or 417.95 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 23.00%
Crude fat: 15%
Crude fiber: 5%
Maximum moisture: 9%
With dried blueberry and dried spinach
First three ingredients: Chicken meal, millet, chicken fat
This recipe combines turkey and oatmeal to produce a dog kibble that is perfect for adult small breed dogs. It is the best kibble to help them to maintain a healthy body weight and to look their best with a shiny coat. There are three sources of animal protein, namely deboned turkey, chicken meal and salmon meal which contribute to the overall protein content of 28 %. Added to the chicken meal are plenty of healthy fresh ingredients, such as spinach, sweet potatoes and blueberries, which are packed with antioxidants to support the immune system.
Flaxseed is the ingredient that delivers omega oils and glucosamine and chondroitin help to keep joints healthy. To support gut health there are added probiotics. The ingredients list does not contain any chicken by-product meal or any artificial preservatives or fillers.
Made from gluten-free grains and using brown rice as the primary carbohydrate source, this pet kibble is suitable for all life stages so you can use it if you need a puppy food with grain or if you need a whole grain dog food for an adult. It is suitable for dogs that have a gluten allergy.
It’s made from high quality beef meal as the main source of animal meat protein. It suits dogs that have an average lifestyle and that have average activity levels. In addition to the meat content, there is a full range of micro-nutrient supplementation. Some notable components of this are prebiotics for a healthy digestion and immune response, probiotics to promote friendly gut bacteria and mineral complexes to sustain paw pad integrity.
This recipe combines meat source proteins (including chicken meal and salmon) with whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, pearled barley) to provide a complete and balanced kibble for your pup. Together with the chicken fat, it provides plenty of energy for a lively young dog. The protein is also provided by potatoes, peas and dried alfalfa meal.
The careful blend of natural ingredients with vitamins and minerals provides support for a puppy’s metabolism. Added to the chicken meal are vitamins that include Vitamin A and Vitamin D3 and the minerals include iron amino acid complex and zinc sulfate. Because there are no corn, wheat, soy, or poultry by-products and no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors, it is suitable for dogs with allergies to these ingredients.
A delicious anchovy, salmon, and sardine recipe for dogs that love fish! The high-quality animal protein is combined with whole grains provided by ground brown rice to make sure that your dog s diet delivers all the nutrition that they need to stay healthy.
In this recipe, there is an emphasis on gut health so that your pooch can get every last drop of goodness from the kibble. The probiotics and prebiotics encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut so that the kibble can be broken down efficiently. The live cultures ensure diversity among the friendly gut bacteria and natural fiber move the food efficiently through the intestines. Added to this are digestive enzymes that help to break down the kibble so that the essential micro-nutrients can be absorbed.
Calorie Content: 3,599 kcal/kg or 425 kcal/cup
Crude protein: 25.00%
Crude fat: 13%
Crude fiber: 4%
Maximum moisture: 10%
With digestive enzymes
First three ingredients: Anchovy, Sardine & Salmon Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Brown Rice
This minimally processed formula is suitable for all life stages and can be eaten by dogs on grain-free diets because it contains no gluten. It is also great if you want a food with a small number of ingredients because you suspect that your pooch has allergies. These ingredients are chicken, quinoa, spinach, sweet potatoes, parsley and kelp.
The stand out feature of this recipe is that it is made with human grade ingredients so you know that your dog is getting the highest quality nutrition. The limited ingredients list also make it suitable for dogs that have food allergies.
Calorie Content: 4490 kcal/kg or 425 kcal/cup
Crude protein: 26 %
Crude fat: 16%
Crude fiber: 6.3%
Maximum moisture: 7.3%
First three ingredients: Dehydrated chicken, organic quinoa, dehydrated sweet potatoes
Pasture raised beef and rice form the basis of the ingredients in this complete dog food for adult dogs. There are superfoods to supply antioxidants including blueberries, spinach and carrots. Additional sources of protein are chia seed and quinoa.
Omega fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat are provided by ingredients including flaxseed and coconut. Pumpkin and dried kelp provide insoluble fiber and there’s plenty of vegetables and fruits to provide phytonutrients. To further support digestive health, there are 80,000,000 colony forming units of friendly gut bacteria in every pound of this food. The recipe is kept as natural as possible and there are no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
Calorie Content: 3518 kcal/kg or 425 kcal/cup
Crude protein: 25 %
Crude fat: 15%
Crude fiber: 3.5%
Maximum moisture: 10%
With Glucosamine and Chondronitin
First three ingredients: Beef meal, grain sorghum, ground white rice
The farm-raised chicken in this recipe is one of the best sources of animal protein that you can give your pooch. The grains provide valuable carbohydrates for energy. Chicken fat supplies omega 6 fatty acids to keep the skin and coat healthy. For intestinal health, your dog needs a healthy source of fiber and in this recipe that is provided by beet pulp and this is helped by the natural probiotics.
This particular recipe also includes several sources of antioxidants to keep the immune system healthy. The added supplementation of vitamins and minerals include vitamin b12 and calcium carbonate.
Sometimes it can seem that you need a degree in nutrition or veterinary science to choose the best food for your dog! Whilst it is true that your veterinarian is always the best source of advice, there are some things that you can look out for yourself. Try to find out all about the dog food that you are intending to purchase by looking carefully at the information given on the ingredients list. Here are some essential ingredients that you should look out for.
Protein content and source of protein
Dogs need plenty of protein to build healthy muscle so that they can race around. The requirement for protein varies with the different life stages. Most of this protein needs to come from high-quality protein sources. The best dog foods will therefore have meat and fish amongst the first three ingredients or they may have meat/fish meal such as lamb meal, chicken meal or salmon meal. Protein allergies are fairly common amongst pets and the proteins in poultry by-product meals are a particular problem. This is one dog foods ingredient that it may be best to avoid.
Dogs can get a lot of their energy from fats in the diet but they do need a small amount of carbohydrate as well. The best source of carbohydrate for your dog is whole grain. These offer superior nutrition to grain that has been processed in some way. Look out for terms such as ‘whole oats’ or ‘whole grain oats’ in the ingredients list of dog foods.
Support for a healthy gut
If your dog’s gut is not functioning properly, it cannot efficiently extract the nutrients in the food. This is true at all life stages. Therefore, it is a good idea to choose dog foods that have probiotics and healthy fiber. Probiotics are cultures of friendly bacteria that help to break down the food. Healthy fiber such as dried beet and dried beet pulp are needed to help these bacteria flourish. They also help to move the food efficiently through the intestines.
Avoid cheap fillers
You may see some dog foods brands claim that you should feed your dog on a gluten free diet but very few dogs are actually allergic to gluten. Nevertheless, some dogs do have reactions to carbs such as soy and corn and to artificial additives so these are best avoided.
Benefits of Grain Inclusive Dog Food
There has been a rise in the popularity of grain-free dog foods but unless your dog has a specific allergy to grains there is actually no need to avoid them. Here are just some of the benefits of whole grains in dog foods.
Grains are carbohydrates
Grains such as whole rice, oatmeal, and quinoa are excellent sources of carbohydrate. These make a valuable contribution to your dog s diet at all life stages. Carbohydrates are essential for the body to produce energy. They are converted to glucose (a type of sugar) which is used by the body to generate energy for metabolism. Of course, there are many alternative sources of carbohydrates to grains, such as potatoes and peas, but these can lead to unwelcome weight gain. Obesity is a real health issue for many dogs and your vet can recommend a diet to avoid it.
Fiber is an essential element of a dog’s diet. It is not broken down by the gut but controls the way in which other food passes through. Dogs with enough fiber in their diet have healthy, well-formed stools. Fiber is also needed for friendly gut bacteria to thrive. Grains are an excellent source of fiber in dog good recipes.
Grains are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. These are essential micro-nutrients that dogs of all life stages need. Every grain has a different nutritional profile. You may need to experiment a bit to find out which grain will suit you best but whole grains are always better than processed grains. Whole grains contain all parts of the seed and therefore retain a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals.
Grains For Dogs to Avoid
Some grains are not so healthy for dogs. Anything that is more refined is not as good as the wholegrain alternative. For example, brown rice is preferable to white rice.
On the whole, it is best to avoid any foods that have highly refined grain products. Have a look on the pet food label for grain by-products including soybean hulls, corn cobs, rice hulls, and cottonseed hulls. Also avoid foods that contain wheat middlings and soy mill run. These may sound like real grains but they are actually leftovers from the refining process and are not good for dogs.
Best Grain Dog Food FAQ:
Q: Why are grains considered bad for dogs?
A: Some owners insist that feeding grains to dogs is a bad idea at all life stages. This is because a small number of dogs develop an allergy to certain grains. However, that does not mean that all dogs have to avoid all grains. In the wild, grains would have made up an important part of a dog’s diet.
If you suspect that your pooch has a food allergy, you must talk to your vet. They will know all about dogs’ food and the effect it can have on the canine body. Grain-free diets are recommended by vets if it can be shown that the grains are causing allergic symptoms. These include dry and itchy skin, gastrointestinal issues and lethargy. Food allergies can also cause ear infections.
Q: How do I find out if my dog is allergic to grains?
A: Your vet will be able to help you establish if your dog is allergic to grains. They may recommend that you transfer your dog onto a different diet. Limited ingredient diets and grain-free diets can be useful at this stage. Your vet will probably ask you to make the transition gradually as sudden changes in diet can upset your dog’s stomach.
If the allergy symptoms resolve after the grain has been eliminated from the diet, it indicates that your dog does indeed have an allergy. The most common allergens are corn, wheat and soy.
Q: How are whole grains better than processed grains for my dog’s food?
A: Whole grains consist of all parts of the seed including the outer husk. Often, this is where most of the goodness is found. If you remove the husk during processing, you also remove a lot of the nutrients. Therefore, it is best to leave the husk where it is and use the whole seed in the recipe. The unrefined versions of rice, oatmeal and other grains are always the preferable choice.
Q: Can a grain-free diet be potentially dangerous?
A: If your dog is doing well on a food that contains grains, there is no reason to change it. You should never make drastic changes to your dog foods unless you have to.
There is some evidence that a grain-free diet can cause harm to the wellness complete health of some canines. They may gain weight because of the alternative carbohydrates in the recipe. Diets that lack grains can also affect the blood levels of taurine and that can cause serious problems for the heart including cardiomyopathy.
Our Top Pick
Our top pick has a grain-inclusive recipe to deliver a healthy and balanced diet for adult dogs. It supports a strong immune system and builds strong muscles. The whole grains in this recipe include barley, oatmeal and brown rice.
The primary ingredients are whitefish and Menhaden Fish Meal giving 22 % crude protein. The recipe is packed with healthy vegetables which provide anti oxidants and micro-nutrients. The omega fatty acids will keep your dog’s coat looking great and the essential vitamins and minerals support overall health. The recipe includes chicken meal but there are no poultry by-product meals, and no corn, wheat, soy or artificial ingredients that could trigger allergies.
Sharon is a Ph.D. scientist and experienced pet content writer. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a Cockapoo puppy. She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and turning it into easy-to-understand articles that offer practical tips. When it comes to our furry friends, she knows that there is always something new to learn!