9 Best Dog Foods without Peas, Lentils, Legumes, and Potatoes

We are concerned about reports of canine heart disease, known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), in dogs that ate certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legumes or potatoes as their main ingredients. – fda.gov

In this article we’ll discuss why you might want to feed a dog food that doesn’t contain peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes. We’ll also discuss:

  1. The 9 Best Dog Foods that Don’t Contain Peas, Lentils, Legumes, and Potatoes;
  2. What kinds of dog foods you can feed your dog that don’t contain these ingredients;
  3. What researchers are recommending about taurine and dog foods;
  4. Our Best Value Pick!

With the news that the FDA is conducting an investigation into grain free dog foods that contain large amounts of peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes and their possible link to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), many people that have been feeding grain free dog foods with these ingredients are starting to look for other options.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy has previously been associated with a few breeds as a genetic condition. However, in the last several years veterinarians, researchers, and owners have reported an increase in the condition, especially involving breeds with no past occurrence of DCM.

The FDA followed their initial warning up with a Q&A piece. Other researchers, especially at UC Davis, are also working on the case.

We can help you choose the best dog foods that don’t contain peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes, if you have been feeding a grain free food or any dog food that contains lots of these ingredients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. These reports are unusual because DCM is occurring in breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease.

Dogs and taurine

Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats meaning that they require it but they can’t produce it themselves. They have to obtain it from the meat they eat. Dogs and humans, however, can make taurine in their bodies. Veterinarians and canine nutritionists have never been particularly concerned about taurine deficiency in dogs since dogs are able to produce their own taurine as long as they have a good diet.

Taurine is necessary for normal vision, good digestion, normal heart muscle function, and to maintain a healthy pregnancy and fetal development. It also help support a healthy immune system.

In the 1980s, researchers discovered that tens of thousands of cats were going blind and/or dying from heart disease due to a lack of taurine in  their diet. Since then, pet food makers have added taurine to cat foods to make sure cats have what they need.

In the case of dilated cardiomyopathy and dogs with low taurine levels, research is still at an early stage but there are some theories that grain free dog foods that use lots of peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes might have lower meat protein. While these foods often appear to have high protein percentages according to the guaranteed analyses, much of the protein often comes from plant protein which is not a source of taurine. Taurine can only come from animal sources.

Another theory is that the fiber and plant material from the peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes may be impeding dogs from absorbing enough taurine which is leading to the heart problems.

Recommendations from researchers

We won’t really know if there is a link between grain free dog foods and DCM, or what the link might be, until researchers make more announcements. However, they have been advising dog owners to move away from feeding dog foods that contain high amounts of the suspect ingredients. They recommend feeding dog foods that have more nutritional research to back up their formulas and rigorous quality control. Here are some other things to look for when choosing a food for your dog:

  • Search out companies that employ a full-time, qualified nutritionist. Appropriate qualifications are either a PhD in animal nutrition or board-certification by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) or the European College of Veterinary Comparative Nutrition (ECVCN).
  • Can the company provide a complete nutrient analysis of their dog food? Not just the guaranteed analysis which only has minimums and maximums but exact numbers. You should be able to ask for any nutrient e.g., protein, phosphorus, sodium, etc., and get an exact number. This should ideally be given on an energy basis (i.e. grams per 100 kilocalories or grams per 1,000 kilocalories), rather than on an ‘as fed’ or ‘dry matter’ basis which doesn’t account for the variable energy density of different foods.
  • What kind of product research has been conducted? Are the results published in peer-reviewed journals?

You can find more detailed information about what researchers recommend in dog foods here.

You can watch a short interview with one researcher here:

Making a change in your dog’s diet

If you are concerned about taurine levels or diet-related cardiomyopathy and you’re thinking of changing your dog’s diet, you will probably need to adjust some of your ideas about dog food. Researchers have been outspoken in their belief that there is little science to back up the trend toward feeding grain free diets, especially those with exotic ingredients. According to these researchers:

  • Grain free dog foods are not healthier for your dog;
  • Dog food allergies are not common;
  • Grain free dog foods have become popular due to marketing and not because they are nutritionally sound;
  • It’s harder for companies to work with exotic ingredients which can lead to nutritional deficiencies;
  • There is nothing inherently unhealthy for your dog about eating dog foods that contain grains.

Have grains been overused by some dog food manufacturers in the past? Yes, absolutely. Do some dogs have allergies or food sensitivities involving grains? Again, yes. Grain free dog foods were originally developed for dogs that had allergies. However, most people that feed grain free dog foods today do not have dogs that have food allergies. Grain free dog foods have simply become popular or fashionable. Many people probably do believe that they are healthier than dog foods that contain grains. The fact is that most dogs can eat a good dog food that contains grains without any problem, especially if the food is made by a company that uses good quality control and professional canine nutritionists.

We looked at all 40 pages of dry dog foods on the Chewy.com web site, examining dozens of foods in detail. We also looked at quite a few canned foods. Here are our picks for the 9 best dog foods that don’t contain peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes. (And it wasn’t easy!)

Best Value Pick for Foods without Peas, Lentils, Legumes, or Potatoes

Victor Hi-Pro Plus Formula Dry

Hugely popular with lots of dog lovers, Victor is a Texas company that has been expanding across the country. Victor Hi-Pro Plus Formula Dry Dog Food has beef meal as the first ingredient. This is a 30/20 protein and fat formula, great for active dogs. Per the company, 88 percent of the protein in the food comes from meat, poultry, and fish. No corn, wheat, soy, or glutens. No rice bran or wheat midds. Contains grain sorghum, whole grain millet, and feeding oatmeal. Chewy.com has bags in 5, 15, and 40 pounds. The 40-lb bag is $50.53 or $48.00 with autoship. Victor also has other formulas without peas, lentils, legumes, or potatos.

Most Popular Pick for Dog Foods without Peas, Lentils, Legumes, or Potatoes

Purina Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance 30/20 Formula Dry

Purina Pro Plan Sport is an all-time favorite with many dog lovers, especially dog breeders, trainers, hunters, and people who show dogs. You may not like all of the ingredients in this food if you’re used to feeding boutique dog foods but Purina is one of the companies that does lots of nutritional research and they have very good quality control measures. The food has no wheat, soy, or added artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Many people have fed Pro Plan Sport, and other Pro Plan foods, for generations with excellent results and healthy, long-lived dogs. Highly recommended. Chewy has this food in 6, 18, 37.5, and 50-lb bags. The 50-lb bag is $61.98 or $58.88 with autoship.

Best Dry Food without Peas, Lentils, Legumes, or Potatoes

American Natural Premium Original Recipe Dry

Many people probably don’t know about American Natural Premium but it might be the best dry dog food without peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes. There’s nothing fancy here, just good nutrition for your dog. The first ingredients are Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, White Rice, and Chicken Fat. It has 25 percent protein and 16 percent fat. Cooked in small batches at low temperatures, with no wheat, corn, or soy. Available in 4, 12, 25, and 40-lb bags from Chewy.com. The 40-lb bag is $55.01. Sorry, no autoship.

Best Canned Food without Peas, Lentils, Legumes, or Potatoes

Merrick Grain-Free Real Chicken Canned

Choosing the best canned dog food without peas and the other unwanted ingredients was tough. We looked at a lot of canned foods, including many that said they were grain free. Why? Because most canned dog foods today are grain free, whether they say so on the label or not. Most canned foods today do not contain corn, wheat, or other grains. They do, however, contain peas and potatoes. So, finding a canned food without these ingredients was difficult. We finally found Merrick Grain Free Real Chicken Canned Dog Food. This food contains Deboned Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil, the inevitable gums to hold everything together, and vitamins and minerals. But no peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes. Some other Merrick canned foods came close but they had some peas or potatoes lower in their ingredient lists. You can buy a case of 12 12.7 ounce cans of this food for $31.44 from Chewy.com or $29.87 with autoship.

6 More Really Good Dog Foods without Peas, Lentils,  Legumes, or Potatoes

Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula Dry

Yes, Purine Pro Plan is here again. Their Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula Dry Dog Food deserves it’s own spot. If your dog has sensitive skin or stomach issues, this is an excellent food. Salmon is the first ingredient, followed by barley. Prebiotic fiber and oatmeal make the food easier to digest. No corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, or flavors. This food has been popular for a long time with owners who have dogs with skin problems and sensitive stomachs. Comes in 5, 16, and 30-lb bags. Chewy.com has the 30-lb bag for $47.98 or $45.58 with autoship.

Farmina Natural & Delicious Wild Cod & Ancestral Low-Grain Formula Dry

We really like Farmina. This is the Natural & Delicious Wild Cod & Ancestral Low-Grain Formula but they have some other low-grain formulas. This food is made in Italy. According to the company, 92 percent of the protein comes from animal sources. Their fish formulas do have a strong odor but dogs love them. GMO-free and low-glycemic. Their low-grain formulas contain 20 percent grain, 60 percent animal ingredients, and 20 percent vegetables. The first ingredients are Cod, Dehydrated Cod, and Herring & Salmon Oil Blend. Farmina does use spelt in its foods, which is a sub-species of wheat. If your dog has a food allergy or sensitivity to wheat, we don’t know if this would be a problem. Famina has some foods for dogs with allergies and food sensitivities that use quinoa instead. At this time Chewy.com only has this food in the 5.5-lb bag for $20.59 with no autoship available but hopefully they will start carrying the bigger bags again.

Royal Canin Golden Retriever Adult Dry Dog Food

Golden Retrievers are one of the breeds that have been particularly plagued by DCM in recent years and there is some evidence that it could be linked to diet. I’ve always been skeptical of these breed-specific formulas but evidence is showing that, at least where taurine and DCM are concerned, Royal Canin Golden Retriever Adult Dry Dog Food is helping Golden Retrievers. Don’t even look at the ingredients. You won’t like them. But Royal Canin is one of the companies that does enormous amounts of nutritional research and food testing and this food has been proven to help Golden Retrievers. Available in 17 and 30-lb bags from Chewy.com. The 30-lb bag is $60.29 or $57.28 with autoship.

Holistic Select Adult Health Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Holistic Select Adult Health Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Recipe is another food that probably seems rather basic compared to many exotic dog foods. The first ingredients are Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Rice, Oatmeal, and Chicken Fat. It has 25 percent protein and 15 percent fat (guaranteed analysis). Active probiotics and digestive enzymes help with good digestion. Nothing too fancy here but it contains no peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes. Available in 4, 15, and 30-lb bags from Chewy.com. The 30-lb bag is $57.99 or $55.09 with autoship.

Eukanuba Premium Sport 28/18 Condition Adult Dry

Eukanuba Premium Sport 28/18 Condition Adult Dry Dog Food is another great food if you have a very active dog. Eukanuba, the sister company of Royal Canin, can back up their formulas with solid research. Again, you may not like the ingredients here (though the first ingredient is chicken), but the higher quality foods from these big companies have plenty of nutritional research to support their formulas. Good nutrition is more important than hype. Chewy.com has this food in 14 and 30-lb bags. The 30-lb bag is $43.19 or $41.03 with autoship.

Sport Dog Food K-9 Series Police K-9 Chicken & Fish Formula Pea-Free Dry

Sport Dog Food is becoming known as a company that makes dog foods that don’t contain peas or flax. They have a number of foods that might appeal to people looking to avoid peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes, especially if you have active dogs. We like Sport Dog K-9 Series Police K-9 Chicken & Fish Formula Pea-Free Dry Dog Food. This food has 26 percent protein and 19 percent fat (guaranteed analysis). The first ingredients are Chicken Meal, Whole Ground Sorghum, Whole Grain Millet, and Chicken Fat. No artificial preservatives, flavors, fillers or by-products; and no corn, soy, wheat, eggs or egg product, if your dogs are sensitive to eggs. This food is high in calories, so watch how much you feed. A 40-lb bag at Chewy.com is $62.95 or $59.80 with autoship.

Here are some other brands you can check. They also had some good dog foods without peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes.

In most cases, the brands we have discussed also have formulas for puppies, large breeds, etc. You will need to check ingredients to see if those formulas contain peas, potatoes, legumes, and lentils.

Don’t be concerned that some of these foods seem to have lower protein percentages in the 25 percent range according to their guaranteed analyses. The percentage will be a little higher by dry matter. Adult dogs that aren’t doing heavy work need about 18 percent (minimum) protein in their diet so all of these foods are well above that percentage. We’re also used to seeing some enormous – and inflated – protein percentages in grain free dog foods thanks to the addition of peas, legumes, and lentils, among other ingredients. Without some of these plant protein boosters, protein percentages will fall back to more ordinary levels in dog foods. The addition of these plant proteins to dog foods are what we’re trying to avoid.

Conclusion

At the moment it can be difficult to find foods that are free of peas, potatoes, lentils, and legumes. Even dog foods that are grain-inclusive often contain peas in some form or potatoes/sweet potatoes. Depending on the results of the FDA’s investigation into grain free dog foods and what, if any, link there might be to taurine and dilated cardiomyopathy, we could see a lot of changes in dog food ingredients in the future.

If you have been feeding your dog a grain free diet and you are concerned about the risk of DCM, talk to your veterinarian. S/he can arrange testing. If your dog has taurine-related dilated cardiomyopathy that is caused by diet, changing his food has been shown to improve DCM in some cases.

See our article Grain Free or Not? to find out what you need to do if you think your dog might have DCM.

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