What is the Best Dog Food with Grain?

No doubt you’ve heard the debate. Should I feed my dog grains? Are grains bad for them? Or is grain-free food dangerous?

The bottom line is, grains don’t deserve the negative reputation they’ve gotten in recent years.

a Pomeranian with a filled dog bowl
A hungry Pomeranian ready to eat its food

For most dogs, grain-free foods are not only good, but probably beneficial. Curious to learn more?

We’ll answer all your questions to help you decide which grain-inclusive food is best for your dog.

Top 5 Picks for Best Grain-Inclusive Food for Dogs in 2021

  Best Dog Food Recipes with Grain Our Rating
Best Overall Dog Food with Grain Whole Earth Farms Adult Dry Dog Food 

  • No corn, soy, wheat
  • Chicken and turkey are the first ingredients
  • Flaxseed for healthy fats
5
Best Budget Dog Food with Grain Diamond Naturals Dry Dog Food

  • No corn, wheat, or other fillers
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
4.5
Best Puppy Dog Food with Grain Whole Earth Farms Puppy Dry Dog Food

  • No corn, wheat, or soy
  • No by-products
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
5
Best Adult Dog Food with Grain Farmina N&D Ancestral Grain

  • No peas, legumes, or by-products
  • Vitamins added post-cooking
  • Made of 60 percent animal ingredients
5
 

Best Senior Dog Food with Grain

Halo Holistic Senior Chicken Recipe

  • Real chicken and carrots
  • No artificial ingredients
  • No meat meals
 

5

The Best Dog Food with Grains by Life Stage

Dog food manufacturers make food to fit each stage of your dog’s life, so we’ve broken down the best grain-inclusive foods by life stage. There’s something here for any age of the dog. 

a cute Shorkie asking for food refill
Meet Tivey, a Shorkie finishing up his meal but wants more – Image source

Best Dog Food for Puppies with Grain

1. Whole Earth Farms Dry Dog Food 

Whole Earth Farms Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal
Type: Dry

This food contains real chicken and salmon, plus lots of salmon oil and brown rice to nourish your pup. It also has antioxidants from blueberries and apples and potatoes for added nutrients. 

Pros:

  • No corn, wheat, or soy
  • No by-products
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Cons:

  • Brown rice, oats, and barley feature high in the ingredients

CHECK PRICE HERE

2. Victor Purpose Dog Food 

VICTOR Purpose Nutra Pro Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Blood Meal, Whole Grain Millet
Type: Dry

This dog food contains millet, which is a seed that is gluten-free, so it’s a good option for dogs with gluten allergies.

This recipe is nutrient-dense and made for all life stages. About 92 percent of the food is meat protein from chicken.

Pros:

  • Contains beef, fish, and chicken
  • Contains probiotics
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Cons:

  • Contains tomato pomace, a filler with limited nutritional value

CHECK PRICE HERE

3. Victor Classic High-Pro Plus 

VICTOR Classic Hi-Pro Plus Formula Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Chicken Fat
Type: Dry

Made for all life stages, this food contains beef, pork, chicken, and fish to give your dog a nutrient-dense diet. It’s gluten-free, made and source in the USA, and is perfect for high-energy, sporting dogs. 

Pros:

  • Primarily made from animal sources
  • Contains probiotics and DHA
  • Has Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids

Cons:

  • Contains tomato pomace

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best Dog Food for Adult Dogs with Grain

two dogs waiting for their meal
Meet Bruno and Broni, two dogs ready for their meal – Image source

4. Farmina N&D Ancestral Grain 

Farmina N&D Ancestral Grain Chicken & Pomegranate Medium & Maxi Adult Dry

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Dehydrated Chicken, Whole Spelt
Type: Dry

This food is made with “ancestral grains” like spelt and oats. It also contains pomegranate, apple, spinach, blueberries, and herring for lots of nutrients.

It’s low in fiber and low-glycemic, which is perfect for dogs with certain health issues.

Pros:

  • No peas, legumes, or by-products
  • Vitamins added post-cooking
  • Made of 60 percent animal ingredients

Cons:

  • Contains dried beet pulp, a filler with limited nutritional value

CHECK PRICE HERE

5. Nature’s Logic Dry Dog Food

Nature's Logic Canine Chicken Meal Feast All Life Stages Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Millet, Chicken Fat
Type: Dry

Packed with pumpkin seed, almonds, carrots, apples, apricots, blueberries, spinach, broccoli, cranberries, and artichokes.

This food contains a lot of nutritious elements to keep your pooch happy and healthy. 

Pros:

  • No potatoes, peas, or lentils
  • All-natural vitamins
  • No guar gum or xanthan gum.

Cons:

  • Contains pig plasma

CHECK PRICE HERE

6. Diamond Naturals Dry Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula Adult Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Ground White Rice
Type: Dry

With real fruits, veggies, beef, and fish, this food is made to promote a healthy coat and immune system with its high-quality ingredients. Made in the USA by a family-owned company. 

Pros:

  • No corn, wheat, or other fillers
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Cons:

  • Ground white rice is less nutritious than other forms
  • Contains dried beet pulp

CHECK PRICE HERE

7. Whole Earth Farms Dog Food 

Whole Earth Farms Adult Recipe Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Brown Rice
Type: Dry

Featuring real chicken and whitefish, along with fish oil, herbs, and healthy additions like apples and blueberries, this food is made with healthy grains and the right balance of carbs and protein.

Made in the USA without corn, wheat, soy, by-products, or artificial additives. 

Pros:

  • No corn, soy, wheat
  • Chicken and turkey are the first ingredients
  • Flaxseed for healthy fats

Cons:

  • Potatoes are a less healthy source of carbs

CHECK PRICE HERE

8. VICTOR Select Beef Meal & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food 

VICTOR Select Beef Meal & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Brown Rice
Type: Dry

With no artificial flavors or preservatives, this beef and brown rice formula is made with 77 percent meat protein.

It has lots of minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids, along with quality protein from beef and chicken to support your dog’s overall health.

Pros:

  • Sorghum is good for dogs with blood sugar imbalances
  • Contains gluten-free grains

Cons:

  • Contains tomato pomace

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs with Grain

a Senior Golden Retriever with his pupcake
Meet Beny, a Senior Golden Retriever celebrating his birthday – Image source

9. Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Senior Chicken and Rice

Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Chicken & Rice Formula Dry

Our rating: 4
Top ingredients: Chicken, Poultry By-Product Meal, Rice
Type: Dry

Formulated to help senior dogs maintain their brain, joint, and body health, this food is fortified with probiotics and glucosamine. 

Pros:

  • Contains live probiotics
  • Chicken is the first ingredient

Cons:

  • Contains corn
  • Contains poultry by-products

CHECK PRICE HERE

10. Victor Senior Healthy Weight

VICTOR Purpose Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Beef Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Whole Grain Millet
Type: Dry

Some dogs, like humans, tend to get a little chunky as they get older. This food was developed to help dogs maintain a healthy weight as they enter their golden years.

With high-quality protein sources from beef, chicken, and fish meal, this food will keep senior dogs in top shape. 

Pros:

  • Sourced and made in the USA
  • Contains beef, chicken, and fish for energy

Cons:

  • Contains tomato pomace
  • Contains blood meal

CHECK PRICE HERE

11. Halo Holistic Senior Chicken Recipe

Halo Holistic Chicken Recipe Senior Canned Dog Food

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver
Type: Wet

Halo makes their wet food free of artificial ingredients like colors, flavors, or preservatives. They also skip on using meat meals and use whole proteins instead.

This food contains a balance of fiber, carbs, proteins, and fats to help keep your senior pup feeling good.

Pros:

  • Real chicken and carrots
  • No artificial ingredients
  • No meat meals

Cons:

  • Contains guar gum
  • Has a high level of peas

CHECK PRICE HERE

12. Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Chicken, Egg, and Oatmeal 

Diamond Naturals Senior Formula Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice
Type: Dry

This food is made to give senior dogs a boost with probiotics, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids. It also has glucosamine and chondroitin to help with joint health. 

Pros:

  • Contains kale, blueberries, and coconut
  • No corn, wheat, or fillers

Cons:

  • Contains dried beet pulp

CHECK PRICE HERE

13. Canidae All Life Stages Dog Food 

CANIDAE All Life Stages Chicken Meal & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, White Rice
Type: Dry

Flaxseed, cranberries, and cracked pearled barley give dogs of all ages a healthy boost. This food is made for all life stages and all sizes, so it’s ideal for multi-dog families.

No more buying multiple foods. You can feed your large breed pup the same thing as your toy breed.

Pros:

  • No corn, soy, or wheat
  • One food for all life stages

Cons:

  • Contains a high level of rice, including white rice
  • Contains tomato pomace

CHECK PRICE HERE

Is it true that grains are bad for dogs?

a Coton de Tulear with her homemade meal
Meet Candy, a Coton de Tulear loving her healthy meal – Image source

As long as your pooch doesn’t have any grain sensitivities, then grains won’t be bad for him or her.

There seems to be a lot of debate about whether or not dogs should eat grains. After all, wolves don’t go around nibbling on wheat and oats, right?

Grain also got a bad name when wheat gluten in pet food from China was contaminated with chemicals.

On top of that, grains, and gluten, in particular, have a bad reputation among many humans, who also avoid the stuff.

Some grains are genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which some humans prefer to avoid, as well.

Additionally, some dogs with sensitive stomachs might find certain grains hard to digest. 

The truth is that dogs are similar to humans in that some of them may have a gluten intolerance, some may be allergic to grains, but most can digest grains just fine.

Dogs evolved alongside humans to become omnivores. They can digest grains much better than wolves can.

How do I find out if my dog is allergic to grains?

The best way to determine if your dog is allergic to grains is to eliminate all grains from their diet and see if their symptoms resolve.

Allergies can manifest in diarrhea, itchy skin, dry skin, patches of missing hair, licking at feet, ear infections, rashes, and vomiting.

If the symptoms go away after eliminating grain, you can gradually re-introduce individual grains one at a time if you like, or just keep your dog grain-free.

If their symptoms return, you’ll know it’s that specific grain that is causing trouble.

Why non-grains can be problematic (or even dangerous)

a Pomchi sitting on a rug waiting to eat
Meet Purin, a Pomchi waiting for the signal to eat – Image source

There’s some evidence that feeding a grain-free diet can be linked with a serious heart issue known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Right now, the FDA is investigating the link between dogs who died or became ill with this disease who were eating grain-free diets. 

While cases of DCM have increased in recent years, even among dogs who don’t have a genetic predisposition, it is still extremely rare.

However, if you want to be safe, you might want to include grains in your dog’s diet until science gives us a definitive answer. 

As the American Kennel Club (AKC) reports, some grain-free foods substitute other plant-based foods like a potato that can be less nutritional than grains are.

So avoiding grains in order to give your dog a better diet may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Many big dog food brands are aware of the trend against grains and they’re jumping on the bandwagon in order to rake in your money. That doesn’t necessarily mean that grain-free is better for your dog.

For now, it’s best to talk with your vet if you have concerns about feeding grains or feeding your BFF a grain-free diet. They can help you decide what’s best.

This vet has posted a video online to talk about whether or not grain-free diets are a good idea.

When are grain-inclusive diets a good idea?

Grains can provide important nutrients to your dog’s diet because they contain vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and fiber. They’re packed with carbohydrates, fat, and antioxidants, too.

So long as your dog doesn’t have a healthy or allergic condition that prevents them from eating grains, a grain-inclusive diet can provide nutrients to support a healthy coat, skin, and immune system.

Buyer’s guide: How to choose the best dog food with grain?

a Maltipoo sitting beside his dinner
Meet Horlicks, a Maltipoo loving his veggies – Image source

You know it’s important to pick high-quality dog food, but how do you know what to look for? First, check the ingredient list. You want to avoid cheap fillers like wheat, corn, and soy.

You should also look for food that exceeds the AAFCO guidelines. Grains like brown rice, millet, quinoa, and rye are better than grains like white rice or barley.

You don’t have to buy a well-known name brand or premium food. You can find foods that aren’t as famous or that don’t cost quite as much that is still healthy.

That said, when it comes to dog food, you generally get what you pay for.

Brands such as Wellness, Blue Buffalo, and Purina have big advertising budgets and are well recognized, but some smaller brands have just as good if not better quality ingredients.

Are there any benefits of feeding whole grains to my dog?

No doubt you’re wondering if there is any reason to include grains in your dog’s diet. Do grains have a positive impact on the digestive system of your dog?

Feeding a grain-inclusive diet can be a good idea, so long as you pick a high-quality kibble. Remember, not all foods are created equal.

Beyond potentially being better for your dog’s heart, a grain-inclusive diet can help promote your dog’s health. How?

Grains are rich in fiber, so they can help keep your dog’s bowel movements regular and healthy.

They’re also a great source of vitamins and minerals. On top of that, grains are more affordable than animal products to raise and process, so foods that contain grains are generally less costly, as well.

What kind of grain-inclusive dog food is best?

So you’ve decided to feed your dog grain. Now, what do you need to look for in healthy grain-inclusive dog food?

First, there are things you should look for in all healthy dog foods. You want a healthy protein source, whether that be a salmon meal, lamb meal, whole venison, or good old chicken.

Avoid foods that contain meat by-products. They can contain non-human-grade ingredients.

Think of it this way: the closer you can get to feeding your dog a diet that you could make at home, the better.

So if you wouldn’t make homemade food with a chicken by-product meal, then you probably shouldn’t buy food that contains that ingredient.

Next, look for dog food with healthy grains. Just as not all protein sources are the same, neither are grain sources. White rice is less nutritious than brown rice, and ground rice is less nutritious than the whole.

Corn should be avoided in general, since it isn’t easily digestible and isn’t a superior source of energy. Corn is often GMO and is included in dog food because it is cheap. Similarly, watch out for wheat.

Wheat can be a healthy addition to a dog’s diet, but some manufacturers use it as a cheap filler. Pick formulas that include whole wheat rather than ground.

Healthier grains include barley, whole oats, millet, quinoa, sorghum, and rye.

Limit grain meals as much as possible. Look for wheat gluten, cornmeal, wheat middlings, grain hulls, or cereal fines, as well. These are just cheap fillers that don’t have any nutritional benefit for your dog.

Finally, remember that whole grains are better than processed grains.

Just as you know that wheat bread is better for you than white bread, unprocessed grains have more nutritional value than those that have been processed.

There are lots of brands out there from Iams to Nutro and Merrick to Blue Buffalo who are creating healthy grain food options for dogs.

Some brands have even developed their own special lines to assure buyers that they are using healthy ingredients. Think of Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula, for instance.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dog Food with Grains (FAQs)

a Black Labrador checking out what is his meal
Meet Oreo, a Black Labrador Retriever celebrating his mom’s birthday – Image source

How much grain-inclusive food should you feed your dog? 

Every dog food is different, so be sure to consult the package when deciding how much to feed your dog. Active dogs need more calories than couch potatoes, and puppies need more food than seniors.

Some foods are made with a lot of calories packed into a little food, while others are bulkier so your dog feels more full while not getting too many calories.

Read the label and decide accordingly. 

Can whole grains cause weight gain in my dog? 

Whole grains aren’t any more likely to cause your dog to gain weight than any other ingredient.

There’s a myth out there that carbohydrates cause weight gain, but in reality, carbohydrates are an important part of a dog’s diet.

That said, processed grains like ground white rice may contribute to weight gain because it doesn’t keep your dog full and it may cause blood sugar to spike. Basically, it’s empty calories.

Stick to whole grains to keep your pup in good shape. 

Wet, semi-moist, or dry? Which grain-inclusive food is best for your dog?

Whether you feed dry or wet food is entirely a matter of choice. You can find healthy options in both types of food. Canned dog food is pricier than kibbles, though.

Some dogs, and particularly small breeds, do well on wet food because it is easy to chew and digest.

But you can also add some water to dry food if you want to make it easier for a dog with dental issues to gulp down their dinner.

Avoid semi-moist foods because they contain high levels of salt and are generally less nutritious.

Can you give grain-inclusive homemade food to your dog?

You can absolutely give your dogs homemade food that includes grains. The key is to pick a healthy animal protein like ground beef, turkey, or chicken, and then add healthy fruits and veggies.

Sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, broccoli, blueberries, coconut, and flaxseed are all good additions. Then, add in a healthy, whole grain like brown rice, steel-cut oats, or quinoa.

Finally, add in a little healthy fat. Fish oil is a good option, as is olive oil.

For a healthy recipe, try combining one cooked squash, a cup of cooked carrots, one pound of ground beef, and a tablespoon of fish oil with a cup of cooked brown rice.

Should you also give grain-inclusive dog treats to your dog? 

Even if you opt to give your dog a grain-free diet, you can still give treats that contain grains to your dog.

Just be sure to check out the label so that you know whether or not the ingredients are healthy, safe, and nutritious.

Some treats that contain grains have cheap fillers to make them cost less.

You don’t want to undo all your hard work finding healthy food by feeding your dog unhealthy treats!

Talk to your vet before choosing any new food for your dog 

a GSD Boxer mix sitting near a table filled with food
Meet Boris, a Senior GSD x Boxer on a date night – Image source

You’re probably wondering, should I consider taking my vet’s advice before starting a grain-inclusive diet for my dog? The answer is yes!

Your vet knows your pup’s health best and they can help you decide how to keep your dog healthy and happy.

They’ll know if your dog has food allergies and how to avoid them.

So what’s the best way for dog owners to know if their best friend is getting a good diet? Watch her! If your pup looks healthy, with a shiny coat, and has lots of energy, you’re probably on the right track.

A dog with flaky skin, a dry coat, dull eyes, and low energy is probably not getting the right food for them.

If you decide to switch foods, be sure to do it slowly to avoid making your dog sick. That means adding a little bit of new food at first and gradually adding more over a week until you are feeding just the new food.

Don’t be Afraid to Give your Dog Grains

an Australian Shepherd licking the bowl clean
Meet Finn, a Red Australian Shepherd eating on a training bowl – Image source

It can be overwhelming trying to find the right diet for your dog. Grains or no grains? If you feed grains, what kind?

Hopefully, this guide helped you feel better armed to make the right choice for your best friend.

You really can’t go wrong with an option like Whole Earth Farms dry food, with its real chicken and salmon, plus lots of salmon oil and brown rice for a healthy foundation for your dog.

But really, anything on this list is worth checking out.

Let us know which food you like best and why.

Further reading: Choose the Right Diet for your Dog

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