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6 Best (Healthiest) Dye Free Dog Foods: Our 2020 Review

Dyes, or artificial colors, are common in lower quality brands of dog food. There are several risks and concerns with dyes that you should be aware of. Most dyes and artificial colors are being used less and less frequently, especially the higher up the quality list you go. However, there are many budget-friendly and well-known brands that still use dyes in their formulas.

Why does this matter? Will dyes hurt your dog? In this article, we will examine the effects dyes and artificial colors can have on dogs and how to avoid foods that contain them. We will then give you the best dye-free dog foods for all life stages.

Are Dyes in Dog Food Bad?

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In almost all instances the answer to the question “are dyes bad for my dog?” will be yes. In this case, it is always better to err on the side of caution. While not every breed, nor indeed every dog within a breed, will have adverse effects from dyes, it is highly possible.

While we won’t sit here and tell you that a bowl (or even a 25-pound bag) of food that uses dyes will harm your dog, over time, it can. There are other effects of dyes that can affect dogs without being medically relevant, too. Let’s look at what food dyes do.


By and far, the most common side effect attributed to food dye is allergies. A lot of dogs are allergic to the compounds used to create the food coloring and as a result, will have allergic reactions. As you can imagine, this is a very dangerous side effect.

To compound the problem, some breeds (and again, individual dogs within a breed) can develop this allergy over time. So while you don’t see any effects after the first few bags of dog food, you could well get a reaction with the next one. Let’s just hope you are home if this happens.


Just like the case with children, dogs too can become hyperactive after consuming food dyes and artificial colors. The main problem here is that some dogs are naturally hyperactive and have a higher heart rate and metabolism.

When this condition presents, the dog will be more active, energetic and burn through calories. Not to mention the increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Because the metabolism is also kicked into a higher gear, the food won’t last as long in the system, making the dog hungry, eating more and repeating the cycle.

In extreme and severe cases, the hyperactivity can cause heart complications as well, especially in smaller breeds that have a faster heart rate naturally.

Fur Discoloration

One of the non-medical conditions that often occurs is the discoloration of the dogs’ fur. While the dyes will rub off on almost every dog, light-colored fur is the most susceptible. This is especially true around the muzzle, face and front paws of the dog which gets the dye while eating.

In some cases, depending on the breed, the fur color and the amount ingested, discoloration can become noticeable in the body and legs as well.


While it hasn’t been scientifically established in canines, the threat of tumor growth from dyes is known in humans. It only makes sense that the threat is real for our furry friends as well. Even if it isn’t proven, yet, why take the risk?

Tumors in dogs are more difficult to diagnose before they become a problem (mainly because they can’t tell if something hurts or is wrong, like a child or adult can). However, if the risk is there, it should be avoided if possible.

What to Look for on the Label

When you examine the ingredient list, all dyes and artificial coloring must be listed. This makes it easier to identify if you know what to look for. This list of natural and artificial dyes and colorings is far too broad in size and scope for an article of this nature. Instead, we will focus on the most harmful and notable ones to look out for:

  • Blue 2
  • Red 40
  • Yellow 5
  • Yellow 6

If you see any of these on the list, you will know that the food has dyes included. If there is a natural dye, such as caramel, or annatto, it will also be listed. In these cases, the term “natural” dye will also be presented, usually in parenthesis.

Best Dye Free Dog Food

Here is the list of the most notable dye free dog foods on the market today, for all life stages. It should be noted that most of the brands on this list don’t ever use artificial colors or dyes in any of their formulas. However, if you select a different recipe you should always check the ingredient list prior to purchase, just to be on the safe side.

Adult – Best Overall – Taste of the Wild High Prairie

6 Best (Healthiest) Dye Free Dog Foods: Our 2020 Review 1Taste of the Wild offers a wide range of flavors and recipes with their proteins being source form the local regions on the name. Wild High Prairie uses buffalo, lamb and chicken as well as fruits and vegetables from the prairie regions of the United States. The never use dyes or coloring in any of their recipes, much like most others on this list.

The first five ingredients are: Buffalo, lamb meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, and peas.

What Customers Like

  • Great flavors with no artificial additives, colors or dyes.
  • Easily digested, promoting nutrient absorption and growth.
  • Mixes well with water or wet food for topping.

Common Complaints

  • Kibble can be too large for smaller breeds.
  • More picky eaters may not like all the flavors.

Adult – Best Value – Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken & Brown Rice

6 Best (Healthiest) Dye Free Dog Foods: Our 2020 Review 2Blue Buffalo Life Protection offers a dye free variety that all adult dogs love. The flavors are naturally sourced with a high protein concentration, great vegetables and a multitude of vitamins and minerals. Blue Buffalo never uses colors or dyes that aren’t natural. You will find caramel coloring, as a natural product of the processing, and it is listed on the label.

The first five ingredients are: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, and oatmeal.

What Customers Like

  • All natural protein sources from meat.
  • Added vitamins and minerals to promote health and growth.
  • Great flavors for even the pickiest eaters.

Common Complaints

  • Doesn’t hold up well when mixed with water for a gravy.
  • Kibble can be too tough on smaller teeth.

Adult – Super Premium – NomNomNow Heartland Beef Mash

6 Best (Healthiest) Dye Free Dog Foods: Our 2020 Review 3NomNomNow is a premium dog food company making human-grade dog food when you order it. They have a variety of recipes to choose from that are suitable for all breeds and life stages. You won’t find many ingredients at all, and never colors or dyes. Every recipe is hand made from the highest quality ingredients, used in part and in whole.

One of the most popular recipes, Heartland Beef Mash, first five ingredients are: Ground beef, potatoes, carrots, peas and egg.

What Customers Like

  • The ingredients are the highest quality and taste amazing.
  • Little waste as most dogs cannot wait to eat.
  • Easily digested for proper nutrition absorption and energy.

Common Complaints

  • Can easily be overeaten, careful portioning must be administered.
  • Storage for freshness is difficult.

Puppy – Best Dry Food – American Journey Lamb and Sweet Potato

6 Best (Healthiest) Dye Free Dog Foods: Our 2020 Review 4American Journey is quickly making a name for itself with high quality ingredients and a minimal ingredient list. The Lamb and Sweet Potato recipe is not only dye and color free it is also chemical and potato free. Even picky eaters tend to gravitate towards the bowl when it’s filled with any flavor from Blue Buffalo.

The first five ingredients are: Deboned lamb, chicken meal, turkey meal, peas, and chickpeas.

What Customers Like

  • Easily mixed with wet food toppers for added nutrition.
  • Smaller kibble for most breed sizes.
  • Added vitamins and minerals promote healthy growth.

Common Complaints

  • Without much starch, mixing with water can break down the kibble quickly.
  • Some food may be left over during meal time as it can fill bellies fast.

Puppy – Best Wet Food – Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grain-Free Puppy Canned Dog Food

6 Best (Healthiest) Dye Free Dog Foods: Our 2020 Review 5Blue Buffalo comes in again on the list as a great option for puppies that need a wet food in their diet. Not only is it dye free and color free, it is also packed with protein rich meats, vegetables and vitamins and minerals to help your puppy grow strong, healthy and properly.

The first five ingredients are: Turkey, chicken broth, chicken, chicken liver, and potatoes.

What Customers Like

  • Easily portioned, stored and served.
  • Can mix with dry foods as a topper.
  • Flavors are rich and all breeds seem to love them all.

Common Complaints

  • Some of the ingredients are larger and are often eaten around, leaving waste.
  • Can lead to obesity with high crude fat if not portioned.

Senior – Best Dry Food – Chicken Soup for the Soul Mature

6 Best (Healthiest) Dye Free Dog Foods: Our 2020 Review 6Chicken Soup Mature brings everything your senior dog needs to maintain a happy and healthy life. Added vitamins and minerals allow bones to stay strong, teeth to remain unbroken and elderly coats to stay thick and full. You won’t find any colors or dyes, and this holistic brand ingredients are as pure as they come.

The first five ingredients are: Chicken, turkey, chicken meal, cracked pearled barley, and whole grain brown rice.

What Customers Like

  • High crude protein and moderate crude fat ratio (23% to 12%).
  • Easily digested with crude fiber to promote digestion tract health.
  • Great flavors enjoyed by all breeds and sizes.

Common Complaints

  • Some irregularity can occur, especially after switching brands.
  • Can be tougher on some smaller or toy breed’s teeth.

Senior – Best Wet Food – Chicken Soup for the Soul Mature Canned Dog Food

6 Best (Healthiest) Dye Free Dog Foods: Our 2020 Review 7Chicken Soup Mature wet is also perfect for a dye free food aimed towards senior dogs. Their formulas only use the best ingredients, sourced naturally and include not only proteins and grains, buy vegetables, fruits and berries as well.

The first five ingredients are: Chicken, chicken broth, turkey, salmon, and chicken liver.

What Customers Like

  • Easily mixed with dry food for better consistency in older mouths.
  • Digests quickly for better vitamin absorption.
  • Helps promote activity and health in the later years.

Common Complaints

  • Does contain milk, which should be watched or vet approved.
  • Not all flavors are liked by all dogs.


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