Grain Free Puppy Food | Sensitive Dogs

If your puppy is showing signs of a food intolerance or allergy, then you are probably searching for answers to find meals that will help them feel better and more vibrant. Although grain allergies are not the most common food allergen for dogs, they can be present.

Some owners are also interested in finding higher quality dog food, and one indicator of that may be less fillers like wheat, corn and soy. However, it is more important to find complete and balanced nutrition specifically designed for puppies than to follow the latest diet fads – grain free dog food being one of them.

Grain Free Myths

Grains are a leading source of allergies in dogs.

The leading sources of allergens for dogs is actually beef and dairy, followed by wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit and fish. If you are hoping that eliminating grains alone will solve your dog’s diet sensitivities, you might get lucky. However, keep your mind open to the idea that it may be another ingredient that is causing the issues.

If you suspect that your dog may have food allergies, the only way to be sure and to identify the allergens involved is to do an elimination trial diet. Work with your vet to choose dog foods with limited ingredients, observe for 4-6 weeks until all allergy symptoms abate, and then slowly add ingredients one by one to identify the culprit.

Dogs did not evolve to digest carbohydrates.

In fact, recent research has shown otherwise. It is now a matter of genetic record that domesticated dogs, having lived for over ten thousand years as human companions, have indeed evolved beyond their wolf ancestry to be able to better digest starches.

Although the “wolf diet” mythos does seem to be fueling grain-free dog food trends, it may not have strong basis in science.

Grain free is the same as carb free.

This is not correct because grains are not the only sources of dietary carbohydrates. Potatoes, peas, carrots and other vegetables have plenty of carbs. Moreover, unless your dog has been diagnosed by a vet as diabetic or some other condition where carbs could be an issue, avoiding carbs is not necessarily more “healthy” for your dog.

Gluten sensitivity is on the rise in humans, therefore avoiding gluten is better for our pets.

There really is not strong evidence to support this hypothesis. In fact, again, it is proteins that tend to be the worst offenders in terms of diet sensitivities for dogs.

However, as more and more owners are becoming educated about the potential problems from GMOs in our food stream, and the high concentration of herbicides used to cheaply produce corn, wheat and soy in particular, avoiding these ingredients in our pet feed seems prudent to some.

Most vets do not have an issue with avoiding corn, wheat and soy for these reasons, as long as the pet food is otherwise nutritionally sound and balanced. All of the puppy foods on our list avoid corn, wheat and soy.

Allergies & Limited Ingredient Diets

If your dog is presenting with allergy issues such as skin rashes or excessive licking, your vet may want you to try some novel proteins and grain free formulas with limited ingredients. Grain free is likely to be a part of an elimination trial since the most common non-protein allergies in dogs is wheat, a cheap and heavily used grain in the pet food industry.

Therefore, our list includes attention paid to the following factors:

  • All foods on our list have the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) seal of approval for providing a complete and balanced diet for your dog.
  • All foods on our list avoid wheat, corn and soy products, the chief GMO concerns in used in cheap commercial pet food.
  • All foods on our list have a meat based protein first among the ingredients.
  • If you are using grain free food as part of your plan to identify and remove allergens or irritants from your dog’s diet, make sure to check out our articles on Sensitive Stomach Dog Foods and Best Grain Free Dog Treat Recipes.

Tips For Using A New Food With Your Dog

  • Change the diet gradually, mixing the food for several feedings and gradually changing to the new ingredients.
  • Keep an eye out for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive licking which could be signs of a food intolerance, allergy or spoiled ingredients.
  • Make a note on the calendar when you change foods. It may be helpful information that your vet may want to know if your dog develops any health issues.

Puppy Vs Adult Dog Food

One final note to consider on the subject of puppy food is that puppies do have different requirements to support their rapid growth than adult dogs. Most vets recommend specially formulated puppy diets until at least 6-12 months, longer for larger breed dogs.

Large breed dogs require specially formulated puppy diet to support their proper growth. If you have a large breed dog, make sure you get a puppy food formulated just for them.

Best Grain Free Puppy Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain Free Large Breed Puppy Food

We wanted to be sure to get a grain free food especially formulated for large breed dogs and their unique nutritional needs. Deboned chicken is the number one ingredient in this high-quality dry kibble.

This formula includes sweet potatoes, peas and potatoes to provide dogs with the carbohydrates they need, while also boosting the nutritional content and avoiding grains as well as corn and soy products. There are also antioxidants added to the formula from blueberries, cranberries and carrots.


  • Deboned chicken is the number one ingredient.
  • “LifeSource Bits” boost antioxidants.
  • High levels of protein. 35% minimum calories from protein.


  • Corn, wheat, or soy.
  • Artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
  • Poultry by-product meal.

Nulo Puppy Dry Dog Food – Salmon and Pea Formula

This specially formulated puppy food avoids grains as well as high glycemic starches such as corn, potatoes and tapioca. This is truly a low-carb formula for dogs with 80% animal based proteins which have more amino acids to support growth.

DHA is added to the formula as well, thought to support brain and eye development in puppies. Probiotics are added for strong digestive support. Calcium and phosphorus have been added to aid in bone growth for developing puppies.

This grain free dog food is an excellent choice for active puppies and young athletes. The protein dense formula is perfect for high energy dogs.


  • Protein dense with 30% minimum calories from protein.
  • Deboned salmon is the number 1 ingredient.
  • Probiotics added for digestive support.


  • Corn, wheat, or soy.
  • Chicken or egg proteins of any kind.
  • High glycemic starches like tapioca.
  • Artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
  • Poultry by-product meal.

NUTRO ULTRA Puppy Dry Dog Food – Whole Grain Blend

This is not technically a totally grain free dog food, however, since it avoids the major offenders: wheat, corn and soy, and instead uses whole grain oats and rice which are very rarely irritants or allergens and are full of added fiber, we wanted to include it. If you have a small breed puppy, this grain free doggy meal may be a great choice since the formula is built with especially with small dog breeds in mind.

One of the hallmarks of a great quality dog food is avoiding the cheap feed-grade ingredients like chicken by-product meal. In addition, there is no corn, wheat, soy or artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

This blend also avoids all GMO ingredients, a concern for some dog owners. Plenty of antioxidants, DHA, and a variety of “superfood” ingredients make this a balanced meal for small breed puppies. Small kibble bites make it easy to chew for your little baby too.


  • This is not a totally grain free formula since technically rice and oats are grains, although rarely provoking allergic reactions in dogs.
  • Specially formulated for small breed dogs.
  • Added super foods like coconut, flaxseed, chia, kale, pumpkin, spinach, blueberries and carrots to boost overall vitamins and minerals.


  • Corn, wheat, or soy.
  • GMOs
  • Artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
  • Poultry by-product meal.

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Puppy Food - Potato & Duck Formula

Many dog owners are working with their vets to avoid the allergens of common proteins in dog food which are more likely to be causing sensitivity than grains. “Novel proteins” are those that are not common allergy triggers because they are less used in commercial dog food.

This puppy formula combines the best of both worlds, it is grain free in addition to being made with a single novel protein source – duck. If you are looking for a puppy food to use in an elimination trial diet to identify an allergy, this may be a great choice for you and your puppy.


  • Novel protein, Duck, for elimination diets.
  • DHA boosted for optimal brain and eye development.
  • Fairly high protein content of 22.5%.


  • Artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
  • Poultry by-product meal.

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited-Ingredient Dry Puppy Food

This puppy food is not technically grain free since it does include oatmeal and brown rice. However, it does avoid all corn, soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, and chicken which are much more likely to be causing sensitivities.

We are including it here because it is one of only a few limited ingredient diets that use a novel protein, in this case turkey, and is specially formulated for puppies. It may be a great choice for those looking for a suitable puppy food for an elimination trial to isolate allergens.


  • Novel, single source protein, turkey, ideal for elimination diets.
  • Easily digestible carbohydrates like peas and potatoes.
  • Pea Fiber and Pumpkin for digestive support.
  • High protein with 26% minimum calories from protein.


  • Artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
  • Poultry by-product meal.
  • Corn, wheat, soy, dairy or eggs.

We hope your found our list of the best grain free puppy food helpful for you and your little guy!

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