Finding the right dog food for your pet can be an extremely confusing experience, and it can sometimes feel like you’re getting conflicting advice from lots of different sources.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when the subject of grains comes up. Some people say that grains are terrible for your pooch, whereas others maintain that a healthy amount of grains make up an important part of a dog’s diet. While there aren’t very many one-size-fits-all solutions for a dog’s nutritional profile, we feel that you should feed your pup a food that has healthy grains inside — but which ones are those?
In the reviews below, you’ll find everything you need to make an informed decision about your dog’s diet. We looked at everything from ingredient lists to vitamin content to find the foods that we feel are worthy of being fed to your four-legged family members.
Yes, they all have grains in them — and yes, they’ll all help your dog stay healthy, strong, and happy.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
The 10 Best Dog Foods with Grains
1. Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food – Best Overall
Taste of the Wild 9667 is filled with healthy grains, to be sure, but you’ll likely notice the protein content: roasted bison and venison. These have the high protein count you’d expect from red meat, but they’re considerably leaner than beef, allowing your dog to build muscle without packing on excess flab.
The grains it uses — sorghum, millet, chia, and quinoa — are also filled with protein rather than simple carbs. These high-quality grains are used in place of cheaper filler like corn or wheat, giving your dog a well-rounded meal with every bowl.
Most pooches find this food easy to digest as well, despite its exotic meat sources. That’s likely due to the probiotics included in the recipe. The beneficial bacteria of probiotics help line the dog’s intestinal tract, and allow him to better process the things he eats.
While Taste of the Wild 9667 is the best dog food with grain we found, it’s not quite perfect. Many dogs see an increase in flatulence when first switching over, so don’t be surprised if your pup can clear the room after dinner. That’s a small price to pay for such a healthy kibble, though.
2. Whole Earth Farms Dog Food – Best Value
It’s rare to find an affordable dog food that doesn’t use cheap fillers like corn. Whole Earth Farms 86090 is one such food, however, as it manages to offer a well-balanced nutritional profile at a price that won’t bankrupt you.
Relying on grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and flaxseed, this food gives your mutt the vitamins and minerals he needs to have healthy skin, a luscious coat, and a powerful immune system. It also sidesteps potentially problematic ingredients like soy, which some dogs are allergic to.
As for the meat, the first two ingredients are chicken and turkey meal. This isn’t ideal, but it’s not unexpected for a food at this price point. Those ingredients are balanced out by the inclusion of chicken, chicken fat, and whitefish, all of which have lots of healthy omega fatty acids.
There are also several important vitamins added in, such as folic acid, niacin, and riboflavin. All in all, it’s a surprisingly robust ingredient list, which easily earns Whole Earth Farms 86090 the title of best dog food with grain for the money.
Until they swap out the animal meal, though, it’s doubtful this food will dethrone the Taste of the Wild anytime soon.
The Honest Kitchen R4 is unlike any other kibble you’ve fed your dog before. Instead of little dried chunks of hard food, this is filled with dehydrated free-range chicken and other high-quality ingredients.
It’s not cheap, but the good news is that there’s more in the box than you think. Since the food has had all the water squeezed out, it “fluffs up” when you add liquid, so a little goes a long way.
The chow is all human-grade as well, which means it meets the same standards the FDA has for the food people eat. There’s no meat from diseased animals, nor will you find any disgusting by-products like feathers.
All the grains inside are organic, so you don’t have to worry about pesticides making their way into your dog’s stomach, either.
The downside is that, while it’s unlike any dog food you’ve ever seen, there’s a good chance your dog’s never seen anything like it, either. Many animals turn their noses up and refuse to even try it, but if you can convince your dog to give it a taste, you can rest assured he’ll eat as good as you do (and let’s face it, probably better).
4. Hill’s Diet Dry Dog Food
Designed specifically for smaller breeds, Hill’s Science Diet 9096 pays special attention to your pup’s immune system. It does this thanks to its proprietary antioxidant blend, which can help your dog fend off disease and potentially enjoy a longer lifespan.
The kibble itself is very small, which lets tiny little mouths pick it up and crunch it with ease. There’s a lot to like about the ingredients list, too, including brewer’s rice, whole-grain sorghum, and soybean oil, all of which are complex grains that will give your dog long-lasting energy. You’ll quite a few nutrient-rich veggies as well, like spinach and carrots.
Unfortunately, the proteins don’t inspire the same confidence as the grains. There is a healthy dollop of pork fat, which has lots of omega fatty acids in, but other than that it’s animal meals as far as the eye can see. It also uses artificial flavors and has more salt than we’d like to see.
If you have a smaller pooch, Hill’s Science Diet 9096 should keep them spry and healthy well into their senior years. However, the manufacturer should improve the protein content if they want to see their food climb this list.
5. Blue Buffalo Adult Wet Dog Food
As the only wet food to crack our list, Blue Buffalo 840243104956 is a great choice for older dogs with bad teeth or pups that turn their noses up at dry kibble. It’s extremely easy to wolf down, and can be mixed with dry foods or used in a Kong or other toy as a nice treat.
The ingredient list pays special attention to antioxidants, as it includes so-called “superfoods” like blueberries and cranberries that you won’t find in many other foods. You’ll also find carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes, each of which provides a nice shot of fiber, not to mention a wide range of vitamins.
There’s plenty of meat in each can of Blue Buffalo as well. Beef is the first ingredient, with beef liver not far behind, so your mutt should have all the muscle-building nutrients he needs to stay lean and healthy.
Of course, since it’s a wet food, the odor is extremely pungent, and it will be expensive if you feed it to your dog exclusively. It’s also very rich, so some dogs may get a little heftier around the midsection until you figure out the correct portion sizes.
6. Wellness Natural Dry Dog Food
If you’ve noticed Fido looking a little flabby lately, switching to a weight-control food like Wellness 89143 may be a good idea. It cuts back on the calories to prevent your dog from packing on too many extra pounds.
That doesn’t mean that it skimps on the flavor, however. Lamb is still the first ingredient listed, and there are plenty of other delicious, natural foods like apples, rice, and chicken fat to hold your pup’s attention.
One thing that helps keep the calorie count down is the lack of filler ingredients like wheat, corn, and soy. However, there are several animal meals listed, which calls into question the quality of the protein.
The kibble itself crumbles fairly easily, which makes it easy to chew but makes us think it’s not terribly fresh. That’s especially troubling considering the larger bags aren’t resealable, so you may have issues keeping this food from going stale.
Wellness 89143 is a solid choice for dogs on a diet, but you’ll likely find it just as easy to keep the pounds off by feeding your dog one of the higher-quality foods listed above.
7. Blue Buffalo Protection Dog Food
One thing you’ll quickly notice about Blue Buffalo Life Protection is that it has large chunks mixed in with the kibble. Those are “LifeSource Bits,” and they’re blends of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals; in addition to being a nice boost of health food, dogs seem to love them.
This is technically a large-breed dog food, but it’s suitable for just about any dog (and ironically enough, the LifeSource Bits are so small that they may be hard for bigger pups to eat). There are nutrients like glucosamine that contribute to joint health, as well as plenty of omega fatty acids from flaxseed and sunflower oil.
While all this sounds good, many dogs have difficulty digesting this food. This is likely because there are many ingredients in it that can be triggering for some dogs, like chicken, potatoes, and tomatoes.
If your pup suddenly has lots of gas or diarrhea, you should probably switch to something with less potentially irritating ingredients. For dogs that can tolerate it, however, Blue Buffalo Life Protection should give them lots of beneficial nutrients in a food they’ll love.
8. Merrick 35302 Pet Food
Merrick 35302 is a potato-free food, which is a nice touch, as potatoes are difficult for many dogs to digest. That also lowers the glycemic index of the food, which may be beneficial for overweight dogs.
Our favorite thing about this food is the fact that it’s filled with glucosamine and chondroitin. These are essential for joint health, and they can be helpful for issues like hip dysplasia or back problems.
The kibble is extremely tiny, and may serve as a choking hazard for dogs larger than 15 pounds or so. It’s also not particularly appetizing, so you may need to mix it with water or some wet food to convince your pup to chow down.
The protein in Merrick 35302 isn’t all that impressive, either. The first ingredient is a natural protein source — either chicken or lamb — but after that you encounter quite a bit of animal meal. It could be worse, of course, but it also could be a lot better, which is why we can’t see fit to rank this food any higher than 8th on this list.
9. Instinct Natural Dry Dog Food
We have to give the makers of Instinct 769949652861 Be Natural credit: they certainly tried to make a comprehensive dog food.
They threw everything but the kitchen sink into this recipe, including three different protein sources and a whole host of fruits and veggies. There’s even a dash of vitamins thrown in for good measure.
The problem is that it’s a little too much. It has plenty of “meals” in it, and there are several ingredients (like sweet potatoes and lamb) that often serve as allergens for many dogs. To top it all off, the salt content is rather high as well.
The final result is a food that many dogs will have difficulty stomaching, and that can be messy in the end. So, while we certainly appreciate the effort, in the end Instinct 769949652861 Be Natural is proof that you can definitely have too much of a good thing.
10. Earthborn Holistic Dry Dog Food
Earthborn Holistic prides itself on what’s in the food as much as what isn’t. They proudly state they don’t use peas, lentils, chicken, or a host of other ingredients.
That’s good, as many of those foods can wreak havoc on some dogs’ digestive tracts. It’s strange, though, to find ingredients like fish and eggs in their kibble instead, as these are just as likely to cause issues as the things that they excluded.
Also, if you go down the list of things they refuse to put in their kibble, you’ll notice that many of them are things dogs like. So, while giving your pet a heavy dose of buckwheat and kale might be good for him, he’s not likely to appreciate it — and indeed, many dogs turn their noses up at this kibble unless it’s mixed with wet food.
This is not a cheap food, either, so you’re not going to be happy to see it go to waste. All in all, it’s a noble effort, but not worthy of ranking any higher than the bottom of this list.
What’s the Big Deal About Grains, Anyway?
If you’ve done much research about dog food at all, you may know that whether or not grains should be a part of a dog’s diet is a hotly-debated topic.
Critics claim that grains are difficult for canines to digest, and that they often end up causing stomach problems, not to mention weight gain. The pro-grain side argues that dogs are omnivores, and grains contain many of the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy.
So who’s right? Should you feed your dog grains or not?
Not All Grains Are Created Equal
The first thing you should realize is that “grains” is a large category, and some are certainly better than others.
There are certain ingredients that are considered “filler grains” — these are typically corn and wheat. They’re thrown in to help fill out the kibble while keeping costs low for the manufacturer, but they offer little in the way of nutritional value and many dogs have issues processing them.
However, there are other grains which are much more beneficial, not to mention easier for dogs to tolerate. These are complex whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and oatmeal. Not only do these tend to be higher in important nutrients that dogs need, but they also take a long time to break down, helping your dog feel full for longer while still giving him plenty of energy.
The downside, of course, is that these higher-quality grains are usually more expensive than the cheap fillers. However, the difference isn’t as stark as you’d see with protein sources of different quality, so you can usually still find a food that uses high-quality grains without needing to take out a second mortgage to buy it.
What About Gluten?
Gluten has become something of a food supervillain in recent years, and people are blaming it for a whole host of health issues. Even some dogs are suspected of having gluten allergies, which is why you’re seeing many foods touting that they’re free of gluten as well as grains.
The fact of the matter is, some dogs do seem to have a sensitivity to gluten, and they can have digestive issues or inflammation as a result. This isn’t terribly common, but it’s still worth being cognizant of. The good news is that there are plenty of grains (like quinoa, for example) that are gluten-free.
What Are the Benefits of Feeding My Dog Grains?
Grains are usually one of the main sources of fiber in a dog food, so if you don’t want to be waiting around for 30 minutes every time your dog goes outside, giving him a healthy dose of grains is a smart move.
Fiber can also be useful for lowering cholesterol and controlling blood sugar. This is especially important for overweight dogs, so be careful about cutting out grains if you’re trying to convince your pup to drop a few pounds.
Many beneficial bacteria in the intestines thrive on healthy grains as well. If you keep those germs alive, your dog should absorb nutrients better, have smoother and more regular bowel movements, and have less gas (this only goes so far, of course — nothing is going to stop a bulldog from regularly clearing the room).
There are many medical conditions that require nutrients that can only be found in grains as well, so be sure to check with your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet. The last thing you want to do is exacerbate a preexisting condition.
So Should I Feed My Dog a Food with Grains In It?
Here’s the bottom line for many dog diets: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If your dog is doing well eating grains, keep feeding him grains (maybe switch to better grains if he’s been eating a lot of filler junk). If he has health issues, talk to your vet, and see if his diet may be to blame.
Generally speaking, though, the right grains make an excellent addition to any dog’s diet. We generally wouldn’t recommend cutting them out unless you have a very clear and specific reason for doing so.
Our favorite dog food with grains is currently Taste of the Wild 9667, as it uses high-quality grains like quinoa and sorghum. These foods are also high in protein, helping to give your dog plenty of muscle-building nutrients while keeping his waistline in check.
Another one of our preferred foods is Whole Earth Farms 86090. It uses natural foods, with no soy or other potentially problematic ingredients, and it does so at a price that’s hard to beat. It’s not quite on the same level as Taste of the Wild 9667, but it’s extremely close.
Ultimately, finding the right dog food for your pooch may take a bit of trial and error, but we recommend starting with one of the two foods listed above. We know that picking the right kibble for your pup can be stressful, but hopefully the reviews above made the whole process clear and easy.
The good news is that, once you find the perfect food, your dog will be happier, healthier, and most importantly, less gassy than ever.
Featured image credit: Earthborn Holistic Unrefined with Ancient Grains & Superfoods Dry Dog & Puppy Food, Amazon
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 10 Best Dog Foods with Grains
- 1. Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food – Best Overall
- 2. Whole Earth Farms Dog Food – Best Value
- 3. The Honest Kitchen Dog Food – Premium Choice
- 4. Hill’s Diet Dry Dog Food
- 5. Blue Buffalo Adult Wet Dog Food
- 6. Wellness Natural Dry Dog Food
- 7. Blue Buffalo Protection Dog Food
- 8. Merrick 35302 Pet Food
- 9. Instinct Natural Dry Dog Food
- 10. Earthborn Holistic Dry Dog Food
- Buyer’s Guide