The best grain-free dog food for skin allergies is one that works for you, your budget, and your dog. I often tell people that my dog, Chase, is allergic to the world. He has so many allergies I often forget one when listing them off.
Seeing Chase suffer through an allergy episode hurts my heart. The ear infections, scratching, painful sores, and bald spots are all symptoms of his skin allergies. I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. Hopefully, I can guide you through your options in finding the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies.
Nibbling Questions: Best Grain-Free Dog Food for Skin Allergies
Image from Pixabay
At this point, you’re searching online for the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies and have so many results that your head is spinning. Let’s approach this systematically for you.
What types of grain-free dog foods are available?
There are a lot of options for grain-free dog foods. We’re going to discuss and provide recommendations within the three most popular types of dog food.
When looking at any dog, food make sure they meet or exceed guidelines set forth by The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). They are the regulatory body for animal food and determine the nutritional requirements for domesticated animals.
Dry dog foods
When thinking of dog food, dry dog food is the one most pictured. Also known as kibble, this type of food is the most readily available and most often fed. Dry food is also one of the most recommended for the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies.
You can find dry dog food almost anywhere, even convenience stores, though we don’t recommend purchasing dog food at 7-Eleven — not a very good, or healthy, selection there.
You can find this food by searching for the company name. Your dog’s meals are often prepared when you order, then shipped to you. This food is most like a home-cooked meal.
This type of food was added as one of the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies due to its ordinarily limited ingredient profile. Even if you chose not to make this your primary diet, I would still add some fresh-prepared or home-cooked dog food to your pup’s menu for some variety.
Freeze-dried or dehydrated foods
If you ever had astronaut ice-cream as a kid, you’re familiar with freeze-dried. This type of food is sometimes dehydrated in a similar manner, and it’ll look very similar. Dehydrated food is cooked at low temperatures to remove moisture. The inclusion of this food type as an option for the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies was due to its use of single protein sources.
You can find this food online or in pet stores. Often used as a transition to raw feeding, dehydrated or freeze-dried foods are a great option and can be added as a training treat, or in place of milk bone type treats, if the cost is too prohibitive for meals.
It also travels very well. I’ve added it to my emergency go-bags, camping supplies, or otherwise when traveling with dogs.
What are the benefits of grain-free foods for allergies?
There are quite a few benefits to a grain-free diet beyond being gluten-free. Dogs are descended from wolves and still retain some of their more wild ancestors’ digestive systems.
Grains, while digestible, often sit in the digestive tract longer and rely on fermentation to breakdown. Over time, the fermentation process can damage the lining of the stomach or intestines. This can lead to diarrhea, irritable bowel system, and allergies.
Keep dogs fuller longer
Most grain-free dog foods contain premium ingredients of better quality. They also include higher amounts of meat sources that have higher protein and fat content.
Grain-free dog foods keep your dog full longer due to this higher protein and fat content. You can also give smaller portions daily, due to the quality of the food.
Easier for dogs to digest
Yes, dogs are omnivores and can digest grains. But it’s easier for them to digest proteins and fats.
The “fillers” in grain-free dog foods are often complex carbohydrates, like potatoes, which are easier for the dog’s digestive system to process and utilize.
Removing the grain that your dog has trouble digesting will result in less waste. Your dog will be able to absorb more of his food. Dogs thrive on a higher protein diet as this provides the basis for most of their energy needs.
Improved skin and coat health
Diets containing an excess amount of grains often don’t have enough fat or protein. By switching to grain-free, you change the diet profile of your dog.
Lower carbohydrates in dog food usually mean an increase in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, essential for healthy skin and coat.
The increase in protein and good fats will give your dog a fuller shinier coat, and their skin will be less dry.
What ingredients to avoid?
While it’s something you should keep in mind, the sample size of dogs that the research article is based upon remains rather small, only 500 dogs. Out of the millions of pet dogs in the United States, alone.
Some of the most common food allergens are the protein source itself. Chase, for example, is allergic to chicken, pork, potatoes, and chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans.
Chicken is probably one of the most common allergens for pet dogs due to it being the protein exposed to most often. Other common allergens are beef, dairy, wheat, egg, corn, pork, and rabbit.
An elimination diet is the best way to determine which foods to avoid. It’s not a fast process; it can take up to three to four weeks for you to see improvements from each food trial.
Using limited ingredient diets with only 7 to 10 ingredients to compare to the next food will help to isolate allergens more quickly. I also recommend keeping a food journal.
How We Determined the Best
Determining which foods were among the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies wasn’t easy, but it’s something I do on a semi-annual basis for my little buddy. Nutrition is a science and is continually changing for both humans and animals.
In addition to going through updated research articles and any new nutritional guidelines provided by the AAFCO, I read reviews and recommendations from people like you and me who’ve had success with certain foods.
Our Recommendation for Dry Dog Foods
Kibble is easy and convenient. You can find numerous grain-free and limited ingredient options just about anywhere, including the grocery store. These are some of the most accessible foods and can be the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies.
If you’ve decided upon an elimination diet, I would recommend starting with a novel protein, one that your dog has not eaten before.
Make sure when looking for dry dog food, there are at least two meat sources in the top three ingredients, ideally with one being a meal. Meals are whole meats that have reduced water content, making them more concentrated.
If there is only one protein in the top three, be sure it is a meal. You want the majority of your dog’s protein to come from meat.
Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Lamb & Oatmeal Formula
- Limited Ingredient Diet: Formulated To Be Easily Digestible With Fewer Ingredients For Dogs With Food Sensitivities, Allergies Or Ingredient Intolerances
- Single Protein: Starts With A Single Source Protein From Real, High Quality Lamb And Mixes In Easily Digestible Carbohydrates For Complete, Balanced Nutrition
- All Natural: Contains Only Premium, All Natural Ingredients With No Gluten, Wheat, Fillers Or Artificial Additives
While not “grain-free,” Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Lamb & Oatmeal Formula still made my list for a couple of reasons.
One, it is still gluten-free, and two, for those still concerned by the taurine and DCM research, this would be my top recommendation. It lists in the top two ingredients, lamb and lamb meal.
Many dogs have done well on it. Lamb, the single protein source, is not a common allergen. Oatmeal is one of the more digestible grains, though this food also contains peas, rice, and millet.
Where to buy
- Fresh salmon is the #1 ingredient in this Canidae dog food
- Made with whole foods including sweet potatoes and peas
- Simple recipe with only eight easy-to-understand key ingredients
Recent archaeological research has shown that early domesticated dogs ate primarily fish scraps. Fish allergies are infrequent in dogs; perhaps this is why?
Canidae Pure(Sea) is a limited ingredient food with salmon, salmon meal, and menhaden fish meal as the first three ingredients. The remainder of this food is made up of whole foods, such as sweet potatoes and peas.
Where to buy
Zignature Kangaroo Formula Dog Food
- As An Exotic Protein, Kangaroo Is The Healthiest Pet Food, Rich With Twice The Vitamin B12 Of Other Meats.
- Kangaroo Also Acts As A Great Puppy Food Start, Perfect For Elimination Diets To Combat Any Pet Food Allergy Your Pup May Have.
- Coming From Australia, Packed With Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Kangaroo Makes A Fantastic Limited Ingredient Dog Food.
In comparison, Zignature is a relatively new company to the United States dog food market, but they’ve been around for a few years. This food originates in Australia.
They quickly created a buzz among dog owners with this recipe. It contains kangaroo and kangaroo meal in the first two ingredients.
Kangaroo is a novel protein and a good choice for the start of an elimination diet. The Zignature Kangaroo Formula also contains peas, chickpeas, pea flour, and sunflower oil. They also make sure to eliminate all chicken and chicken by-products from this recipe.
Where to buy
ACANA Singles Duck & Pear
- ACANA Singles Duck & Pear dog food is a limited-ingredient, nutrient-dense and high in protein, nourishing dogs completely with whole free-run duck and delicious Bartlett pears
- With rich inclusions of quality animal ingredients, ACANA dog food uses meat, organs, cartilage, and bone, delivering the nutrients dogs need naturally
- Our Fresh Regional Ingredients are supplied by people we know and trust, from regional farms, ranches, and waters, and delivered to our kitchen fresh or raw
ACANA Singles has a few different options, but the duck and pear recipe is one of their more unique and complete. They use meat, organs, cartilage, and bone in their single protein line of foods.
The Duck & Pear recipe ingredients include deboned duck, duck meal, whole lentils, whole peas, duck liver, duck fat, lentil fiber, pears, pollock oil, pea starch, natural duck flavor, duck cartilage, pumpkin, additional vitamins, and minerals.
Where to buy
Our Recommendations for Fresh Prepared Dog Foods
If you don’t have time to cook for your dog but still want him or her to have fresh home-cooked meals, this is the way to go. Most will need to be kept refrigerated. This food was included in this list of the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies because it uses whole foods in addition to single protein sources
Most manufacturers of fresh prepared are smaller businesses who make your food when you order. In some cases, you can customize your dog’s diet through the manufacturer when you order.
Because your food is made to order and is of whole ingredients, minimally processed, you’ll want to make sure that meat is a primary ingredient within the recipe. Most manufacturers will list it first.
Almost all of these will be limited ingredient diets.
Ollie has four recipes, lamb, chicken, turkey, and beef. They do tailor their delivery and amounts based on your dog. They also have an option if you plan to use Ollie as a supplement to a meal.
Ollie adds organ meat to most of its recipes, except the turkey recipe. While not necessary, organ meat can help to balance the nutritional profile to require less supplementation within the formula.
The beef option contains beef, beef heart, sweet potato, peas, potato, beef kidney, carrot, beef liver, spinach, chia seed, and various supplements for vitamins and minerals. has a few different options, but the duck and pear recipe is one of their more unique and complete. They use meat, organs, cartilage, and bone in their single protein line of foods.
Developed by a veterinarian, NomNomNow has four recipes, beef, turkey, chicken, and pork. They also offer probiotic and joint supplements. You can schedule delivery on a reoccurring basis in the required amounts.
The Heartland Beef Mash contains ground beef, potatoes, carrots, peas, egg, and to supplement the meal they add a nutrition mix of additional vitamins and minerals to exceed AAFCO recommendations for dog food.
The Farmers Dog
Formulated by veterinarians as well, The Farmers Dog has three recipes, beef, turkey, and pork. They recommend reoccurring food delivery and require you to answer a questionnaire to order your first time.
Only having three recipes isn’t a detriment for this selection due to the missing meal option being chicken, which I’ve mentioned is one of the more common allergens.
Their recipes also include organ meat and include additional vitamins and minerals to meet or exceed AAFCO standards.
The beef recipe contains beef, sweet potato, lentils, carrot, beef liver, water, kale, sunflower seeds, fish oil, vitamins, and minerals.
Another vet formulated diet, Pet Plate, also has four meal options, chicken, beef, turkey, and lamb. This company also has reoccurring food delivery and meets AAFCO standards.
Their beef recipe contains ground beef, sweet potatoes, potatoes, beef liver, carrots, apples, green peas, pumpkin, supplemental vitamins, and minerals.
Our Recommendations for Freeze-Dried or Dehydrated Dog Foods
Both of the foods are dehydrated foods, just using different processes. Mostly made up of dehydrated meat and vegetables, the meat source should be the first ingredient listed and often only the one source animal.
The best grain-free dog food for skin allergies will usually just have one meat source. Almost all of these will be limited ingredient recipes. These foods have the most extended shelf-life and, when packaged, are the lightest. When traveling with your pets, this is your best option.
Dehydrated food will have about 90 to 95 percent of all moisture removed and often takes longer than 10 minutes to rehydrate.
Freeze-dried food has about 98 to 99 percent of moisture removed and takes about two to three minutes to rehydrate. Most feeders of these types of food mix the night before and refrigerate.
The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Grain Free Dog Food
- GRAIN FREE: This healthy dog food is made with ranch-raised beef and dehydrated for easier digestibility and to lock in nutrients.
- HIGHER PROTEIN: More calories and higher fat in every batch make it the perfect meal for active puppies and adults of all breeds and sizes.
- HUMAN GRADE: The Honest Kitchen meets the rigorous FDA safety standards to use the label 'human grade', ensuring the highest quality dog food.
The Honest Kitchen has four grain-free varieties, chicken, turkey, beef, and fish. They advertise that their food is almost 50 percent meat.
The Honest Kitchen Turkey recipe has dehydrated turkey, flaxseed, dehydrated potatoes, dehydrated spinach, dehydrated carrots, dried coconut, dried apples, dehydrated eggs, dried bananas, dehydrated celery, dried cranberries, dehydrated kelp, vitamins, and minerals
Also, they are in the process of adding additional vitamins and minerals, including taurine, to their grain-free recipes to address the taurine concerns.
Where to buy
Primal Freeze-Dried Dog Food Turkey & Sardine Formula
- Complete And Balanced Diet For All Life Stages
- Turkey Raised Without Antibiotics Or Added Hormones
- Naturally Derived Vitamins & Minerals
Primal is an excellent option for those who would like to switch to raw feeding, but don’t want to deal with the mess or potential cross-contamination. It comes in a large nugget form you add to water to reconstitute. As such, it may take longer to rehydrate, about 15 to 20 minutes.
This food contains organ meat in addition to muscle meat to provide a balanced product. The first five ingredients consist of meat sources. They include turkey, turkey necks, whole sardines, turkey hearts, and livers.
The remaining ingredients are collard greens, squash, cranberries, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, celery, sunflower seeds, and supplements to provide vitamins and minerals. The lack of legumes makes this a solid choice for those who remain concerned about legumes blocking taurine absorption.
Where to buy
Sojos Complete Pork Recipe
Sojos is another raw food alternative from here in the United States. While it does not contain organ meat, it does have sufficient supplementation to make up for that lack.
Pork is the first ingredient, followed by split peas, whole egg, parsnips, flaxseed, cranberries, coconut, celery, and then the additional supplementation, which includes ginger, kelp, and kale.
Where to buy
Addiction Outback Fig’Licious Venison Feast
- Pet Food'S Best Kept Secret - New Zealand Is The World'S Cleanest Place To Produce Dog Food Made With Free-Range Venison From Lush Grasslands And Pastures
- Wholesome Goodness - Made From New Zealand Venison With Super Nutriotious Figs Rich In Powerfull Antioxidants For Overall Vitality And Wellbeing Of Your Dogs
- Healthy Lifestyle - High In Protein But Low In Cholesterol And Fat, Packed With Antioxidants & Phytonutrients From Fruits & Vegetables To Protect The Body, & Probiotics For Improved Digestion
A New Zealand company, Addiction has quite a few dehydrated food options, including kangaroo, brushtail, and venison recipes. Addiction uses hormone and steroid free meat.
This grain-free venison recipe is 45 percent venison, followed by potatoes, papayas, canola oil, figs, carrots, and spinach. Then the various supplements which supply vitamins and minerals round out this recipe.
Where to buy
Fill the Bowl
Finding the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies can often be frustrating. We also want to recommend that you work closely with your vet to find the right options. Once you find a diet that works for your dog, don’t stop with the food trials.
The temptation to only feed that one diet will be strong, but you want to rotate foods and proteins for several reasons. Dogs get bored with the same food daily.
Also, reoccurring exposure to the same foods can create an autoimmune response, or in other words, another allergy. Find three to four different diets with varying proteins and other ingredients and alternate them.
Sometimes I change it up within the same day or week. I may stick with one food for a month and then switch to another. Alternate between topping with dehydrated or fresh prepared.
Another way to appease concerns about DCM and taurine is to add some grain-inclusive foods occasionally. The variety will also ensure you are hitting all nutritional requirements.
How do you make your dog’s meals more interesting? Have you tried a product that you feel is the best grain-free dog food for skin allergies? Answer below in the comments!
Featured Image from Pixabay