Chicken is one of the most common animal proteins used in dog foods, but it’s also one of the leading causes of food allergies in dogs. If your pooch is allergic or sensitive to chicken, it’s necessary to find a healthy alternative.
We’ve chosen some of the best chicken-free dog foods to help you out with this task, along with a detailed buyer’s guide and tips on how to deal with your dog’s allergy to chicken.
Top 5 Picks for Best Chicken-Free Dog Food in 2022
|Dog Food Recipes||Our Rating|
|Best Overall Chicken-Free Dog Food||Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Recipe
|Best Budget Chicken-Free Dog Food||Purina Pro Plan SAVOR Shredded Blend
|Best Chicken-Free Puppy Food||Zignature Kangaroo Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Formula
|Best Chicken-Free Adult Dog Food||Stella and Chewy’s Duck Duck Goose Freeze-Dried Raw Food
|Best Chicken-Free Senior Dog Food||Orijen Regional Red Dry Dog Food
Best Dog Foods Without Chicken by Life Stage
Dogs have different nutritional needs as puppies, adults, and seniors. With that in mind, we have chosen a few of our favorite chicken-free dog foods for all life stages for you:
Best Chicken-Free Puppy Food
Puppies need a lot of protein and fat to help them grow, so look for high-calorie formulas for this life stage.
1. Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain-Free Rabbit Recipe
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Rabbit, Salmon Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal
The Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Rabbit is suitable for all life stages, including puppyhood. It’s also suitable for dogs of all sizes, except for large-sized puppies. This food is good for puppies since it’s high in protein and contains live probiotics for better digestion.
- 71% meat content
- Made in the USA with human-grade ingredients
- Not for large puppies
2. American Journey Grain-Free LID Venison and Sweet Potato Recipe
Our rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Deboned Venison, Sweet Potatoes, Peas
Suitable for all life stages and all breeds, the American Journey Grain-Free Dry Food uses venison as a novel protein source. It’s a limited ingredient recipe, making it a good choice for dogs with digestive issues.
- Affordable compared to other dog foods with novel proteins
- A great balance of all essential nutrients
- Could do with more protein for puppies (only 21% protein content)
3. Zignature Kangaroo Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Formula
Our rating: 5
Top Ingredients: Kangaroo, Kangaroo Meal, Chickpeas
Kangaroo is one of the rarest novel proteins in dog food, the staple of this Zignature Kangaroo Grain-Free Formula. This is high-quality meat, with no saturated fat and rich in iron, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various B vitamins.
- Kangaroo meat sourced from Australia
- Rich in many vitamins and nutrients, as well as antioxidants from chickpeas and peas
- A bit expensive
4. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Salmon, Menhaden Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes
Natural Balance Grain-Free Dog Food Without Chicken has different types of fish as the primary protein source. It’s a suitable choice for dogs with sensitive digestion since it has limited ingredients.
- A perfect balance of price and quality
- Most dogs enjoy the taste
- The new, changed formula may not suit all dogs
Best Chicken-Free Adult Dog Food
Adult dogs should be on a moderate calorie intake and balanced diet that includes all essential nutrients.
5. Stella and Chewy’s Duck Duck Goose Freeze-Dried Raw Food
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Duck With Ground Bone, Turkey, Turkey Liver
Type: Raw, Freeze-Dried
Stella & Chewy’s Duck Duck Goose Dinner Patties is a unique type of raw and freeze-dried dog food that’s rich in protein. It’s chicken-free, but the main protein source is poultry like duck, turkey, and goose.
- The taste will suit even the pickiest dogs
- Made from cage-free poultry and organic fruits and vegetables
- Some packages may have overly hard and stiff pieces
6. Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Recipe
Our rating: 5
Top Ingredients: Salmon, Ocean Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes
Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Recipe with salmon as the primary protein source is one of the most popular foods on the market. The food has all essential nutrients, along with high protein content.
- Contains proprietary probiotics for better digestion
- Made from high-quality ingredients from sustainable local and global sources
- Some dogs may not like the taste
7. The Honest Kitchen Whole-Grain Turkey Dog Food
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Dehydrated Turkey, Organic Oats, Dehydrated Potatoes
With a moderate protein and fat content, The Honest Kitchen Whole-Grain Recipe is suitable for both adult and senior dogs. The main ingredients are dehydrated instead of cooked to preserve those essential nutrients.
- Made from human-grade ingredients and cage-free turkey
- Easy to prepare
- Not the best choice for picky eaters
8. Merrick Backcountry Canned Dog Food Without Chicken
Our rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Beef Broth, Beef Liver
With its high protein content, Merrick Backcountry Canned Dog Food Without Chicken is ideal for building and maintaining your dog’s muscle mass. The food is also moist and tasteful, so even the picky eaters should like it.
- The right choice for muscular breeds
- Locally-sourced, flavourful ingredients
- It has a strong odor
9. Purina Pro Plan SAVOR Shredded Blend Formula
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Lamb, Rice, Poultry By-product Meal
Purina Pro Plan SAVOR Shredded Blend Formula offers balanced nutrition for adult dogs since it’s rich in all the essential nutrients. Made from real lamb and rice as the two main ingredients, it also has a savory taste.
- One of the most affordable options
- Fortified with prebiotic fiber and live probiotics
- The package may contain crumbs and small pieces
10. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Large Breed Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Brown Rice, Whole Grain Wheat
Made specifically for large and giant breeds, Hill’s Science Diet Adult Large Breed provides chicken-free benefits while still retaining some of those flavors through chicken fat and chicken liver flavor.
- Great for joint and cartilage health
- Made in the USA from natural ingredients
- Not suitable for small breeds or medium breeds
Best Chicken-Free Senior Dog Food
Senior dogs generally need a low or moderate amount of calories since they are usually less active. Still, some may need a high-calorie intake if they suffer from certain diseases.
11. Orijen Regional Red Dry Dog Food
Our rating: 5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Deboned Wild Boar, Deboned Goat
Type: Dry, Raw
With 85% meat ingredients, Orijen Regional Red Dog Food is naturally rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins. The food is made with raw and fresh ingredients to preserve its nutritional value.
- High protein content
- Coated with freeze-dried liver for better taste
- Very expensive
12. Acana Regionals Wild Atlantic Dry Food
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Whole Mackerel, Whole Herring, Whole Redfish
Rich in protein from various fresh-frozen fish and other essential nutrients from fresh fruits and veggies, Acana Regionals Wild Atlantic Dry Food is nutritious and a good choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
- No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
- Coated with freeze-dried cod for added flavor
- Some dogs may not like the fish-based food
13. CANIDAE All Life Stages, Premium Dry Dog Food
Our rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Brown Rice, Cracked Pearled Barley
Made without chicken and other common allergens like corn, wheat, and soy, CANIDAE All Life Stages Lamb Meat and Rice Formula is ideal for senior dogs with sensitive stomachs.
- Includes HealthPLUS Solutions – probiotics, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids
- Some packages may come crumbled or powdered
Does Your Dog Really Need a Chicken-Free Diet?
Chicken is one of the most common proteins used in dog foods – it’s lean, full of healthy nutrients, and affordable.
However, chicken is also one of the main food allergens and some canines have to eat chicken-free diets – without any chicken or chicken meal.
Some people also wonder if the chicken meal is bad for dogs in general since it contains some by-products, such as chicken bone and skin. But even though chicken by-products are not the healthiest option, they aren’t bad for your pooch unless he’s allergic to chicken.
Why should you avoid dog food with chicken?
Dogs, like humans, can have allergic reactions to different types of food, and that usually happens when they are repeatedly exposed to it. In addition to chicken, dogs can often be allergic to wheat, corn, and dairy.
If your furry friend has a food allergy or sensitivity that is triggered by chicken, he may show symptoms like digestive problems or skin issues. If that’s the case, the only way to prevent adverse reactions is to avoid chicken in dog food.
What’s the difference between chicken allergy and chicken intolerance or sensitivity?
It’s not always easy to determine whether a dog has a food allergy or intolerance.
The main difference is that food allergies affect the dog’s immune system, while food sensitivity or intolerance usually affects his digestive system.
So, to determine what is causing the issues, it’s important to focus on your dog’s symptoms. If your dog shows itchiness or skin irritation, or even inflammation in the ears, those are signs of a food allergy.
Meanwhile, if the dog is vomiting, has diarrhea, or has any other gastrointestinal problem, it could be a sign of food intolerance or sensitivity.
Why is nutritional balance important?
It’s important to feed your dog high-quality, nutritionally balanced food.
But keep in mind that even if you use dog food that provides a balanced diet, it can lead to some nutritional excesses or deficiencies, especially if you always feed your dog the same food.
Try to rotate your dog’s food to provide him with different protein sources, nutrients, and vitamins. This can decrease the risk of a nutritional imbalance and can be beneficial to your dog in a number of different ways.
It’s important to note that a food allergy or sensitivity can develop even if you feed your dog’s diet is nutritionally balanced.
So, if you suspect that your dog has a food allergy or intolerance, start an elimination diet to determine the culprit. If it turns out that chicken is causing the reactions, get your dog on a chicken-free diet.
Buyer’s Guide for the Best Dog Foods Without Chicken
Once you determine that your dog is allergic or sensitive to chicken, it’s time to choose the best chicken-free dog food for your furry friend.
Many people wonder if they should go with a big-name brand or stick with more affordable options. Both options have benefits and drawbacks, so focus on what works best for you.
Big brands are usually a good way to ensure quality, but not always. They are also the more expensive option – dog foods from unknown brands are usually more affordable, but they may not offer the same quality standards.
Of course, some smaller brands can offer better quality than big brands, so do your research to find the right chicken-free pet food for your pooch.
Benefits of Chicken-Free Dog Foods for Your Dog
Before you decide on the chicken-free dog food for your canine, there are a few things to consider first, like his age, breed, size, and health.
Should you feed your puppy chicken-free food?
Like before, the answer is the same here – you should feed your puppy chicken-free dog food if he is intolerant or allergic to chicken.
Otherwise, you can feed your puppy chicken since it’s a great protein source, in addition to also being rich in phosphorus, selenium, iron, and potassium.
We already said that puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs all have different nutritional needs.
For example, puppies need high protein in their diet and a higher calorie count, while senior dogs need lower calorie content since they aren’t as active and can easily gain weight.
If you determine that your puppy has a food sensitivity, it will allow you to start him on a special diet early in his life, which can be much easier than doing it when he is older.
However, food allergies and sensitivities rarely occur in puppyhood.
So, if your adult or senior dog shows signs of chicken sensitivity or allergy, it can be tricky to find the right food for him.
Senior dogs often become picky eaters and they also need a recipe that’s low in calories but high in protein, fatty acids, and fiber.
Fiber is especially significant for senior dogs since it can help with kidney problems and bowel inconsistencies.
Other factors can also affect your dog’s nutritional needs, such as his size, breed, and health.
If your dog has other allergies or some more serious problem like heart disease, kidney disease, or inflammatory bowel disease, he needs to be put on a special diet.
Things to focus on when you buy chicken-free dog foods
Dog owners should focus on quality ingredients that are nutritious and good for the overall wellness of their furry friends.
The most important thing is to read the label and the ingredients list, especially the first ingredient and the primary source of protein in the food.
Good alternatives for chicken include fish, red meat, or novel protein sources like venison or duck.
The best food formulas have a healthy balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and fibers. These added nutrients can come from grains, fruits, and veggies, but make sure that the manufacturer uses natural ingredients only.
You can also check whether the dog food is made in compliance with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines.
Some manufacturers offer limited-ingredient dog foods, which are recipes with a smaller number of carefully selected ingredients.
While the number of ingredients can vary from one product to another, it usually includes one or two protein sources, as well as one or two sources of carbs.
These limited-ingredient dog food recipes are considered hypoallergenic, but they can also benefit dogs with skin problems or digestive issues.
It’s important for a limited ingredient diet to have all the necessary nutrients, so work with your vet to determine whether this is the right option for you.
Other things to consider when you choose chicken-free dog foods are price and availability.
Some products can be found only in retail stores, while others are available online at sites like Chewy or Amazon, so choose a dog food that is available in your area.
Things to avoid in chicken-free dog foods
Not all things in dog foods are beneficial and some of them should even be avoided, like artificial colors, artificial flavors, fillers, and certain preservatives and additives. Some processed foods can also harm your pup.
Avoid dog foods that contain things like cellulose, peanut hulls, rice hulls, mill run, etc. Also, avoid sugar and sweeteners – these can lead to hyperactivity, obesity, and tooth decay.
It’s also better to steer clear of dog foods with corn syrup, fructose, glucose, sucrose, cane molasses, xylitol, and propylene glycol.
These ingredients have no nutritional value, contain many calories, and are only added to improve the taste of the food.
Frequently Asked Questions About Chicken-Free Dog Foods
Wet or dry chicken-free food – which is better for your dog?
The never-ending debate of wet vs. dry dog food is also something to consider when you choose the best chicken-free food for your canine. So, which is the better option?
The simple truth is that both options have their advantages. For example, dry kibble is more affordable, it’s clean and convenient, lasts longer, doesn’t have a strong odor as wet food and it’s more environmentally friendly.
Meanwhile, dogs often prefer wet food because it’s tastier and smells better to them. It also provides a lot of water already, so it’s easier for your dog to cover his daily fluid requirements.
Finally, wet food can be a good option for overweight dogs due to the lower calorie content per portion.
As we mentioned before, one of our favorite chicken-free wet foods on the market is the Merrick Backcountry Canned Dog Food Without Chicken.
To grain or not to grain: Do dogs need grain-free chicken-free food?
Next to chicken, grains are the most common culprit behind food allergies and intolerances in dogs. With that in mind, many pet parents decide to stick to grain-free formulas. But is this really necessary?
The truth is that grains like oats, wheat, corn, and rice provide various nutrients to dogs, so only avoid grains if your dog is allergic or sensitive to them.
One of the best grain-free dog foods is the Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain-Free Rabbit Recipe.
Can you feed your dog with homemade chicken-free food?
Yes, homemade chicken-free food can often be a better choice than commercial options.
However, you need to be careful if you decide to make homemade chicken-free food the staple of your dog’s diet since it can be hard to ensure nutritional balance.
The best homemade chicken-free recipes include a mix of protein, carbs, fat, and fiber.
If your dog is also sensitive or allergic to grains, you can try a high-protein diet with moderate fat content, to which you would add some fruits and vegetables, such as chickpeas, lentils, flaxseed, carrots, sweet potatoes, various berries, apples, and others.
Adding supplements like omega-3 fatty acids and calcium will keep your dog’s skin in good shape, so try to incorporate them into your homemade recipe.
A glucosamine supplement could help if your dog has joint problems. Yogurt is a good source of probiotics, but you should use probiotic supplements instead if your dog is lactose-intolerant.
What are the healthiest alternatives to chicken?
The main concern, when you are thinking about alternatives to chicken, is protein content. You should look for healthy proteins, which can include:
- Red meat like beef, pork, or lamb. These proteins are the easiest to find, especially beef-based dog foods. Red meat is healthy for dogs since they can use the high-fat content for energy, but they also have a lot of vitamins and minerals, such as zinc and iron.
- Fish, such as trout, salmon, mackerel, whitefish, or menhaden fish. While fish is not rich in fat, it contains Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, which are important for the health of your dog’s coat. However, some dogs may not like the smell of fish.
- Novel proteins like venison, bison, kangaroo, rabbit, herring, ostrich, and others. These meats are rarely found in dog foods, so they are also less likely to be the cause of a food allergy or sensitivity. This is also the reason why foods with novel proteins are usually quite expensive.
- Poultry like turkey or duck. If your dog is allergic or sensitive to chicken, it doesn’t mean that he is also allergic to other types of poultry. Turkey and duck are great alternatives for dogs used to chicken that suddenly became allergic or sensitive to it.
In addition to these, eggs are also a good protein source. However, eggs work best as the secondary source of protein in a dog’s diet.
Can dogs allergic or sensitive to chicken consume chicken fat?
Yes, dogs that are allergic to chicken can still eat chicken fat since the allergen that’s found in chicken comes from protein and not fat.
Meanwhile, chicken meal or chicken by-products should still be avoided since they contain chicken meat and organs.
Should you also give chicken-free treats to your dog?
Dog treats that contain chicken are not suitable for dogs with a chicken allergy or sensitivity. Check out the Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Tender Beef Treats or Stewart Freeze-Dried Dog Treats with beef liver.
Plus, you can always make homemade chicken-free dog treats yourself.
Will chicken-free dog food cause any deficiency?
No, the only thing that your dog will miss in chicken-free dog food is that specific protein source, but there are many great alternatives for it on the market.
How often should you rotate your dog’s food?
As we said before, rotating your dog’s food can be a great way to provide different sources of nutrients and reduce the risk of your dog developing food allergies or sensitivities due to regular exposure to the same type of food.
The best way to do this is to change your dog’s staple food every two or three months.
Our Top Choice for Chicken-Free Dog Food
Dealing with your dog’s allergy to chicken requires a bit of adjustment, but, thankfully, there are many great chicken-free options on the market.
Our favorite is the Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Recipe – it’s grain-free, with delicious salmon as the main protein source, and a perfect balance of all essential nutrients.
That being said, other options on our chicken-free dog food list have their advantages as well. If you have any questions on the topic, feel free to ask us in the comments.
How to Transition Between Foods Without Getting Your Dog Sick
Most dogs are used to eating one type of dog food all the time and abruptly changing their food can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting.
The key to making a successful transition is to do it gradually. Start by mixing his old food and his new food – 20-25% of new food at the beginning and work your way up gradually over the next week or two.
Also, make sure to discuss any changes in your dog’s diet with your vet first.