Considering a switch to grain-free dog food? These inexpensive grain free dog food options provide all the benefits without breaking the bank.
Organic Brussels sprouts and free-range chicken do not come cheap these days.
And if you’re reading this, you’re equally as concerned about your four-legged friend’s health.
I think I already know the answer, but I have to ask…
Even though you love your dog like kin, are you cringing at the thought of parting with your hard-earned cash to ensure Fido is eating a grain-free diet for optimal health?
The bottom line is:Don’t expect to pay peanuts for high quality dog food. Click To Tweet
But at the same time, you shouldn’t have to subsist off of crackers and peanut butter so your dog can eat like a King/Queen.
So you’re probably wondering:
Do Inexpensive Grain Free Dog Food Options Exist?
We wondered that too.
So we researched. And researched. And we’re here to tell you, the answer is…
There are some great middle-of-the-road options for owners who want a high-quality dog food that won’t break the bank.
The following 4 brands all offer grain-free nutrition at a reasonable price for more fiscally-concerned pet owners.
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1. Boreal Grain-Free Chicken Dog Food
This affordable and grain-free dog food is made in the Great North. And by North, I mean in Canuck country (aka Canada).
The benefit of buying a dog food made in Canada is the peace of mind knowing ingredients are sourced locally and that nothing is cheaply imported from China (which is a contentious issue in the dog food world).
And if you feel like your dog acts like a crazy diabetic who has had one too many slices of cake, then you’ll be happy to know that this food was designed for blood sugar control.
High glycemic grains and white potato could have your dog’s blood sugar going up and down like a roller coaster. So Boreal’s solution is to use legumes as a form of carbohydrate for gentle blood sugar control.
You may be thinking that beans are one of the key causes of digestive disruption, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But Boreal has cleverly added probiotics and enzymes to help your canine friend break down all those starchy plant products. Better digestion means better stool and less stinky gas!
Some other added benefits for Boreal:
The relatively high protein content is great for high energy dogs, and the addition of Zinpro (a zinc supplement) will have your dog’s hair and nails looking like they spent a day being shampooed and shined at a high end salon. Plus, the calcium content isn’t too high, meaning it would be a safe bet for large-breed dogs who risk developing joint issues.
What I don’t like:
While probiotics and enzymes can assist with the digestion of legumes, they’re not a panacea cure-all for a sensitive tummy. Legumes have a low glycemic load, but are dogs really meant to eat them at all?
Optimally, these controversial beans should be soaked and sprouted to minimize the lectins, saponins, and phytates that can wreak havoc on your dog’s digestion.
Overall, who is Boreal well-suited for?
- Dogs with diabetes
- Dog’s with dull coats
- Dogs with medium-strength digestion (legumes)
- Large-breed dogs (calcium content is acceptable for large breed dogs)
2. Nutro Wild Frontier Grain-Free Natural Dry Dog Food
Another great option for those with tighter purse strings is Nutro’s Wild Frontier formulation. This grain-free food is reasonably priced and chock-full of wholesome ingredients.
What I like is that the first ingredient is whole chicken, and none of this animal-byproduct nonsense that is common in so many cheaper dog foods.
And what about those pesky legumes?
What I do like is that Nutro has included lentils as part of their starch content.
It’s not the taste that has me swooning over these little legumes (they’re actually kind of mushy in my opinion). It’s that lentils are easier to digest than hardier beans.
That being said, there are still more difficult-to-digest beans like chickpeas that could become a problem for those dogs with weaker digestion.
And by problem I mean some pretty outrageous gas that could make you and your dog the next social pariah at the local dog park.
Another pro for Nutro is the inclusion of rosemary and peppermint for sweet-smelling stools.
Plus, this all-American brand offers a senior and small breed formula for dogs who are a little long in the tooth or more vertically challenged.
Overall, this moderate protein formula full of slower-digesting carbs is a good option for energetic dogs.
Is there anything I would change about Nutro?
I’m not a fan of isolated potato starch because it’s just a form of empty carbohydrate calories with no nutrients. And I am extremely against the inclusion of omega-6 inflammatory oils like soybean and sunflower oil.
These oils are just plain bad news and are not a good source of fats for your pup. Have you ever seen a soybean? Imagine trying to squeeze it hard enough to get oil out of it.
In addition, I was also hoping to see an omega-3 and calcium breakdown, but they don’t seem to provide one. That means it can be difficult to know if the calcium content is too high for larger-breed dogs, or whether there is enough omega-3 to support a healthy brain.
And lastly, I would have loved to see a probiotic and enzyme formula to help digest all those legumes, but unfortunately it seems it wasn’t meant to be!
Overall, Nutro is good for:
- Dogs with diabetes
- Dogs with strong digestion (legumes and lack of enzymes)
- Small or medium sized dogs (lack of information pertaining to calcium content)
3. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Dry Dog Food Chicken and Turkey Recipe
For those who are fed up with beans in all their many forms then Whole Earth Farms’ dog food may be the answer for you.
Instead of a plethora of chickpeas, peas, and lentils, Whole Earth Farms opts for potatoes. In a grain-free dog food carbohydrates have to come from somewhere.
So as a responsible pet owner, it’s up to you to discover whether legumes or potatoes works best for your dog.
Mainstream media has really vilified the humble potato as of late.
It’s true that they’re not as low on the glycemic index as legumes are, but they’re also less likely to cause a lot of digestive distress in your dog. And when it comes down to nutrition, you’re not what you eat, you’re what you absorb. That means the potato could be a better option for pups with sensitive digestive systems.
Another positive for this dog food is the addition of salmon oil as a good source of omega-3s for a healthy skin and coat.
Plus, the added probiotic will help with your pup’s digestion, and the addition of cinnamon will help with blood sugar balance.
Whole Earth Farms is also another brand that provides more options to suit each individual dog.
For example, is your dog starting to resemble a slowly expanding beach ball?
Then try Whole Earth Farm’s Healthy Weight formulation. And if you’re dog is more pip squeak than pitbull, there’s also a food designed for him too.
What to be on the lookout for with this brand?
Well, the first ingredient is chicken meal and not whole chicken, which means Whole Earth Farms is trying to save a bit of money by using a lower grade of chicken instead of opting for the good stuff.
Plus, the fat and protein content in this food is not as high as the other brands listed here, which means Whole Earth Farms opted to add more starch in lieu of good quality and more expensive animal protein.
Overall, Whole Earth Farms is good for:
- Dogs with medium-strength digestion (potatoes)
- Dogs with dull coats
- Dogs with weight issues
- Small breed dogs
4. Nature’s Intent Premium Pet Food Adult Formula with Chicken
Nature’s Intent is another brand that has designed a food to balance your dog’s blood sugar levels.
This food’s blood sugar regulation abilities comes from its legume content, and if you remember what we were talking about before, legumes are all fine and dandy if your pup can digest them.
And just because Nature’s Intent uses legumes doesn’t mean your dog is eating the equivalent of baked beans with a bit of protein sprinkled in.
There’s actually a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables to give your dog an abundant source of antioxidants. Tomatoes, butternut squash, green apples, blueberries, carrots etc. are all included!
The caveat with this brand:
Even though meat is the first ingredient, it’s not a whole food.
And even though the chicken formula technically has chicken, it’s really just a minor add-on compared to the main ingredient, which is pork. I suspect this is why Nature’s Intent is so affordable because they’re using a protein that tends to be avoided by health conscious pet owners.
Pork isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not necessarily good either. Pork is more likely to contain parasites and worms that could infect your dog if the meat hasn’t been properly prepared.
That being said, pork can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet, but it’s good to know what you’re getting into, especially when Whole Earth Farms doesn’t explicitly state this on the front of the bag.
Finally, I’m disappointed that there are no probiotics or enzymes to help your pet’s digestion. And if you have a large-breed dog then you’ll have to call the company to find out the calcium content because it’s not listed on the label.
Overall, this food is good for:
- Dogs with strong digestion (legumes and no enzymes)
- Dogs with diabetes
- Dogs that don’t have an intolerance to pork
So as you can see, there’s really no reason you have to put a second or third mortgage on your home to feed your dog a good grain-free food.
Grain-free food doesn’t have to break the bank and can easily be incorporated into your monthly budget if you do a bit of research first!