What is the best grain free puppy food?!
We wondered that too, so we researched & you need to see these nutritious options before buying your first puppy food.
Impatient (like me)?
Jump directly to current prices & more info about the best grain free puppy food:
- Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Puppy Food
- Merrick Grain Free Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food
- Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Dry Dog Food for Puppy
- Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Dry Puppy Food
Hint: Some links have coupons. 🙂
Initially, you were skeptical and didn’t understand why certain foods, including grains, would be harmful to your puppy.
So why would your puppy be any different?
Well, your puppy isn’t a person and even though he may happily inhale a box of unsupervised cookies, that doesn’t mean it’s the best food for his overall health.
Conventional pet foods are often full of grains, not because they are a good source of nutrients, but because they are a cheap filler that lowers the cost of production.
So now that you’ve decided to take the plunge into grain-free food, you have to answer a new question:
What is the Best Grain Free Puppy Food?
Maybe you’ve purchased something akin to Kibbles ‘n Bits for the past twenty years, and you’ve never thought to look at the ingredient list on your dog’s food before.
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance covers everything that matters including injuries, illnesses, genetic conditions, and emergency care. As part of your employee benefits program, you'll receive a special lifetime discount of up to 15%.
Learn more by getting a free quote and let Healthy Paws pay your vet bills while you care for your pet.
Well never fear because today I’m going to help determine which grain-free puppy food is best for your new best friend without too much hassle.
The contenders are . . . .
1. Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food, Puppy Health Recipe
I was really impressed by Wellness’ formula.
The first three ingredients are a source of animal-based protein including whole chicken.
In addition to poultry, Wellness has added a source of omegas from fish oil.
Most of the puppy foods in this category do add omegas from fish, so I wouldn’t consider that a standout feature, but it is a great feature nonetheless.
You can always tell when someone’s dog is getting adequate amounts of healthy fats in their diet because their coat will be soft and shiny. Contrary to popular belief, a beautiful coat is not attained through the latest doggy hair-styling product.
Wellness also has a great mixture of fruits and vegetables as a source of antioxidants and fiber including blueberries, spinach and kale.
Finally, the addition of probiotics is excellent for intestinal health. You might shirk at the idea of bacteria being added to your puppy’s food, but good bacteria are essential for proper digestion and absorption of key vitamins and minerals.
Without them, your puppy is more likely to experience digestive discomfort and some especially horrendous gas. What I didn’t like about this brand is the price. Wellness was the most expensive food in the lineup, and may provide a bit of sticker shock for those not used to buying premium-quality dog food.
2. Merrick Grain-Free Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food
Merrick is the second contender for the top spot of best grain-free puppy food. The formula is similar to Wellness’ with the main ingredient being poultry, but there’s definitely a greater abundance of starch in the form of potato and pea to provide bulk.
As a reminder, when adopting a more ‘evolutionary diet’ for your puppy, it’s always better to emphasize meat-based protein. Merrick has also included omegas from salmon and essential probiotics for intestinal health, which is a great benefit.
As a negative, they’ve added more natural pork and chicken flavour to their recipe. The inclusion of pork flavor (despite there being no actual pork in the food!) is to make the food more palatable, likely as a result of it containing more flavorless starch.
It’s a bit like adding butter and salt to a plain potato. The addition of pork and chicken flavors increases the palatability of the food without increasing its nutritional value, which is why I’m not a big fan of their inclusion in Merrick’s formula.
Merrick is expensive, but without benefiting from the same amount of protein contained in Wellness’ formula.
One thing I do like about Merrick’s food is that it’s made for large and small breed dogs, which can simplify shopping for those of us who have replaced actual children with fur babies in various shapes and sizes!
3. Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Dry Dog Food for Puppies
First off, I was instantly impressed with Taste of the Wild’s (TotW) price point. Compared to the previously mentioned two brands, you’re getting a lot more food per dollar, which is nothing to shake your tail at.
In addition, what I loved about this food is the use of large wild game animals. TotW uses buffalo, bison, lamb, and beef compared to the chicken that is used in most grain-free puppy foods. And while they do include a source of fish, it’s not whole salmon. Instead, they use a cheaper fish meal.
Although I was initially impressed when I started reading the ingredient list for TotW, I had to pause in confusion when my eyes scanned one particular ingredient.
Why, oh why, would they decide to add canola oil?
Unfortunately, canola oil is a cheap source of energy that doesn’t fit into the current paradigm of what a healthy evolutionary diet is for your puppy.
You may be thinking, ‘what’s so wrong with canola oil?’ Let me enlighten you.
There is a reason your grandma cooked with lard and there is a reason wolves aren’t chewing on canola plants to extract the oil from them. Canola is an extremely delicate omega-6 fat that turns rancid very easily and has inflammatory effects in the body. Your dog shouldn’t eat it and neither should you!
For that reason, I’m not sure I would recommend this brand.
4. Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food
Our last contender is Blue Buffalo. I didn’t see anything that made Blue Buffalo stand out as the best grain-free puppy food. Like many of the other brands, it does use chicken as its main source of meat protein.
The use of flaxseed as an omega is interesting, although I don’t think it would trump the benefits of fish as an omega source (considering dogs are carnivores).
Actually, there was something that jumped out at me, and that was the inclusion of alfalfa and barley grass as ingredients.
Here’s where things get a little foggy in the realm of evolutionary science.
You’re buying a dog food based on the idea that it aligns with your dog’s ancestral needs. If he was in the wild, what would be his natural diet? And this is where it becomes difficult to draw the line between ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods.
There are no grains in this product, but there are grasses. Are grasses healthy for a dog? According to Dr. Becker from Mercola, alfalfa is not a healthy addition to dog foods because it can disrupt your pet’s endocrine system and it contains something called saponins.
Saponins have a foaming quality that disrupts your pet’s ability to absorb nutrients.
But Blue Buffalo isn’t all bad. Actually there are some great additions including kelp as a good source of minerals. Plus, the shape of dog food is great for tartar removal.
Overall, I wouldn’t choose Blue Buffalo as my top pick namely because it had the lowest protein content of the four listed puppy foods, which is a key factor when trying to select a food that’s closest to your dog’s ancestral diet.
Before I make my final decision, I want to address the elephant in the room, or rather the elephant in the grain-free puppy food.
Creating a dog food based on your dog’s evolutionary ancestry can be a tricky business. Grains are out, but sweet potatoes are in?
How much starch and carbohydrates do our dogs actually need and is it as high as what most grain-free puppy foods are including in their formulations?
Unlike people and herbivores, dogs don’t actually produce amylase in their saliva so too much carbohydrate can really slow down and overburden their digestion. Dogs definitely aren’t wolves and can probably handle more starch than their wild counterparts, but how much is too much?
I’m of the mindset that it’s best to ensure most of your puppy’s nutrition is coming from whole animal sources, which is why I’ve chosen Wellness Core as the winner in this category.
It has the highest protein and fat content out of the four brands and the first three ingredients are a source of animal protein, which none of the other brands can attest to. Its cost does run a bit higher, but in this case, it seems you get what you pay for.