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9 Best (Healthiest) Dog Foods without Peas & Legumes in 2020

If you’re feeding your dog a grain free dog food, you may be alarmed to find out that many grain free dog foods contain peas and legumes as a source of energy and fiber. Peas may not have caused much alarm in the past, but now that researchers may have found a link between peas, legumes, potatoes and a condition that causes an enlarged heart in dogs, you may want to be more careful.

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We’ve got a list of our top picks for best food without these ingredients, but first, let’s explore why you may want to choose to avoid foods with these ingredients.

What’s So Bad About Peas?

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Foods that are grain free need a source of energy and fiber. Peas and legumes are often an alternative source for both of these, providing dogs with an energy alternative to wheat or barley that complement the protein in the food. Peas also provides a source of soluble fiber for dogs, keeping their digestive system moving and healthy.

Unfortunately, a recent study found a possible link between peas, legumes, potatoes and a condition called canine dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM. This condition causes heart trouble through an enlarged heart. There isn’t a definitive link yet, but here’s what researchers think may be happening.

Peas, potatoes, and legumes contain compounds that could block your dog’s ability to process something called Taurine. Usually, enlarged hearts are associated with certain types of dogs, but recently they’ve noticed an uptick in cases in dogs that don’t typically experience this condition.

Researchers believe that the inability to process taurine causes some canines to experience these symptoms. We’ve never been very concerned about taurine levels in dogs because they’re capable of creating their own supply of taurine as long as they have a good diet. Regularly feeding dogs foods with high levels of peas and legumes may contribute to a reduced ability to produce and create taurine.

Grain free foods may contain fewer grams of protein from animal sources. If dogs don’t receive enough animal-source protein, they won’t be able to assemble taurine. Foods with large amounts of peas and legumes appear to have a proper protein content, but they only have protein from plant sources, which don’t provide them with taurine.

best dog food without peas

What Should I Do?

The link isn’t definitive. Researchers suggest that because it’s hard to find foods that don’t contain one of the suspect ingredients, you should avoid foods with peas or legumes in the first three ingredients. That may be enough for your dog to get the right amount of animal-based proteins for a complete diet.

If your dog isn’t the type to be genetically predisposed to this kind of condition, that may be all you need to do. Also, supplementing your dog’s food with animal-based proteins in the form of treats or the occasional raw meal could help as well. Here are a few things to consider as well.

  • Find Dog Foods With No Peas – If you decide to cut out peas and legumes altogether, it won’t be easy. There aren’t many foods out there right now that don’t use peas, potatoes or legumes as a fiber supplement. Grain free foods especially use these ingredients as lower cost alternatives to some genuinely exotic forms of carbohydrates and fiber. It’s not impossible to find, but you may need to consider a few things.
  • Price – If your pet is suffering from allergies and genetically predisposed to an enlarged heart, it may be worth it to expand your budget. A higher budget could pay off in the long run because you may not have as many trips to the vet to treat conditions like canine DCM. It can also open your pup up to more exotic ingredients that could improve levels of protein and carbs while avoiding the most common food allergens.
  • Food Type – Kibbles without peas and potatoes can be hard to find but not impossible. Sweet potatoes and things like brown rice are good alternatives. You could also supplement with wet or canned foods for extra sources of animal proteins and very few of those triggering ingredients.
    If you’ve got the budget, you may want to try a cooked food diet. Companies like NomNomNow provide food combinations made from human grade ingredients. The recipes are limited and use only sources of protein and fiber that a dog can safely digest without risking things like a taurine deficiency.
  • Vet Visits – Make sure that your dog is getting regular veterinarian visits so you can check for things like irregular heart issues. The more your vet knows about your dog and your dog’s medical history, the easier it is for your vet to give you advice for the best way to feed your dog. If your pet is susceptible to DCM, it should be getting checked by your veterinarian regularly anyway.

Overall Best Dog Food without Peas and Legumes

We’ve chosen some pea free foods for a range of budgets and stages of life. You should be able to find suitable food without peas & legumes for your dog and your budget:

American Natural Premium Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Best Overall Dog Food without Peas and Legumes –Our first choice for a pea free, legume-free dog food is the American Natural Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food. It is crafted from healthy carbohydrates such as brown rice, oat flour and barley combined with a high-quality chicken meal to ensure a slow release of energy. Probiotics are also added after cooking to assist with your dog’s digestion and to support a healthy immune system, and it is completely free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

American Natural have also provided extra vitamins and minerals to be added to every mix, to ensure your dog’s overall health and well-being. All pet food manufactured by American Natural is created under the nutritional levels established by AAFCO nutrient profiles, with this mix offering a minimum crude fat level of 11%, calcium content of 1.51% and phosphorus content of 1.3%.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Chicken Meal
  2. Brown Rice
  3. White Rice
  4. Pearled Barley
  5. Oatmeal

About the Company – American Natural Premium was founded in 1998 by Gene Large and Jennifer Burlo, as they wanted to provide high-quality pet food to American pets at an affordable price. Their mission is to use premium nutrition to improve the lives of pets, by offering a huge variety of natural foods that are crafted in the heartland of the Midwest. American Natural Premium employs 2 nutritionists to assist in food formulation, as well as a third-party nutritionist to consult. They also participate in feeding trials, in addition to ensuring their food meets the nutritional levels established by AAFCO nutrient profiles.

What Customers Like:

  • Lower in fat so good for weight management
  • Great for picky eaters
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Customer Complaints:

  • Only available in 1 size (33lb)
  • The fat level may still be too high for some diets

Nutro Ultra Adult Dry Dog Food

Another great choice when it comes to pea free, legume-free dog food is Nutro Ultra Adult Dry Dog Food. This kibble, known as the ‘Superfood Blend’, has the perfect balance of three lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils. All products are of the highest quality, and the combination of different ingredients is tailored specifically to adult dogs. Nutro aims at using creative mixes to offer tasty and nutritious meals for your pet while using natural and healthy ingredients.

The mix of three protein sources from both natural and holistic elements provide the best amino acid levels for your canine companion, ensuring a great taste and the promotion of lean, strong muscles. There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, and it is manufactured at their facilities to ensure safety and quality.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Chicken
  2. Chicken Meal
  3. Whole Brown Rice
  4. Brewers Rice
  5. Rice Bran

About the Company – The Nutro brand has been around since 1926, making them one of the pioneers in the quality pet food industry. Their dry dog food offers an exclusive combination of 15 superfoods, with high-quality products and standards and manufactured in Nutro facilities to ensure quality and safety. They aim to bring together unique flavors and natural ingredients to create wonderful food for your pets, no matter their size, and only use materials that can be traced back to every supplier.

What Customers Like:

  • Suitable for picky eaters
  • Great for a shiny coat
  • A great option to transition from puppy to adult food
  • Suitable for dogs with stomach issues
  • Helps canine skin, especially if dry

Customer Complaints:

  • Higher in price
  • Can cause loose stools

Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

Best Sensistive Skin Dog Food without Peas and Legumes: If you require a pea free, legume-free dog food that is designed for sensitive skin and stomachs, then Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food is a good option to consider. It is the only fish-based choice on this list, with the number one ingredient being salmon, however, this offers a high level of nutrients and protein, as well as prebiotic fiber which offers an easily-digestible formula for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

The addition of both rice and oatmeal allows for carbohydrates that are easy to digest, and fish oil for omega 3 fatty acids to assist with joint health and mobility. There’s also zinc and omega 6 fatty acids to help your canine companion’s skin, as well as to keep their coat nice and shiny. This mixture was manufactured in facilities located in the USA, without any corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or flavors.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Salmon
  2. Barley
  3. Ground Rice
  4. Canola Meal
  5. Oat Meal

About the Company – Purina has been around for over 85 years and uses those years of experience and research to manufacture high-quality products that are backed by over 400 scientists, including nutritionists, veterinarians, and behaviorists. Purina proudly manufactures all their products in facilities located in the USA, without the use of corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or flavors.

What Customers Like:

  • Great for sensitive stomachs
  • Helps dogs’ skin, including dermatitis
  • Consistent stools
  • Great price point
  • Great for soft and shiny coats

Customer Complaints:

  • Ingredient vaguely listed as ‘fish meal’
  • Very distinct smell

Victor Hi-Pro Plus Formula Dry Dog Food

The Victor Hi-Pro Plus Formula Dry Dog Food is a super nutrient-dense formula that contains 88% meat protein, including premium-quality chicken, fish, beef and pork meals, ensuring it is suitable for every stage of a dog’s life. From puppyhood to the elderly, including pregnant and lactating females, the combination of balanced and natural ingredients allows for sustained energy for all canine types and sizes.

This food comes in 5, 15, 40 and 50lb bags, allowing you to buy a bag suitable for the size and appetite of your dog. It is made from gluten-free grains and is fortified with minerals, essential fatty acids, vitamins, amino acids and protein, which promotes a healthy digestive system and strong immune system.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Beef Meal
  2. Grain Sorghum
  3. Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols)
  4. Pork Meal
  5. Chicken Meal

About the Company – The Victor brand was created in 1950 and made a change to become a super-premium pet food in 1998 when acquired by Mid America Pet Food LLC. Around 80% of Victor ingredients that are found in their pet foods are sourced within a 200-mile radius of their facility in Mount Pleasant, Texas.

What Customers Like:

  • Great for shiny coats
  • Great price point
  • Consistent colored and solid stools
  • Comes in 50lb bags for larger dogs (that go through a lot of food!)
  • Perfect for sensitive stomachs

Customer Complaints:

  • High-fat content can upset some dogs’ stomachs
  • Kibble size is quite small

Ziwi Peak Air Dried Dog Food

Our second choice for a pea free, legume free dog food is Ziwi Peak’s air-dried food. It uses proteins from animal sources that are free range and ethically sourced. It’s gently air dried to preserve the ingredients without harsh heats but still destroy dangerous pathogens.

It features 95% animal ingredients and never any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. It’s also free of conventional fillers, including soy and corn, and doesn’t use peas or potatoes. It has more dense nutrition than a raw food or kibble diet, so you can feed less food while still providing your pet plenty of nutrition.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Beef
  2. Beef Heart
  3. Beef Kidney
  4. Beef Tripe
  5. Beef Liver

About The Company – Ziwi Peak uses a unique air dried formula for processing food that helps retain more of the vital nutrients than traditional kibble. There’s no need for cold storage like raw diets, and you don’t have to feed your dogs as much of the food. The company is 100% family owned and located in New Zealand. They create foods designed to mimic ancestral diets and give pets lifelong health.

What Customers Like:

  • air dried formula
  • mostly animal protein
  • no fillers
  • easier to store than raw food
  • more nutrient dense than kibble

Common Complaints:

  • portion sizes can be hard to master
  • has a high-fat content

NomNomNow Tasty Turkey Fare

Super Premium Dog Food without Peas & Legumes – NomNomNow’s food is cooked, meaning the company prepares fresh foods for your dog using human grade ingredients. Foods are prepared and shipped immediately to your house. You refrigerate or freeze the portion sizes, so they’re ready to go whenever you need them.

The recipe uses just six ingredients for whole proteins and excellent fiber. Turkey provides animal sourced protein while things like spinach and eggs provide other vitamins and antioxidants. It’s simple to use, and you can adjust your dog’s recipe and portion size any time you need to. For many states, delivery can even happen once a week, reducing the amount you have to store.

First Five Ingredients:

  • ground turkey
  • brown rice
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Egg

About The Company – NomNomNow was created by a veterinarian who wanted to offer excellent nutrition in an easier form than completely raw. It uses human grade ingredients and provides dogs with allergen-free foods that store easily and come in easy to understand portion sizes. It’s a great alternative to store-bought kibble, especially for pickier dogs.

What Customers Like:

  • picky dogs like it
  • whole proteins
  • limited ingredients
  • cooked recipes
  • easy portion sizes

Common Complaints:

  • weekly delivery not available in some areas
  • requires cold storage

Merrick Grain Free Real Chicken Canned Food

Merrick’s canned food provides picky dogs with a wet food that suits their appetites. It could also serve as a puppy food for some breeds of dogs (not large breed puppies). It’s good for dogs who are picky or those who have jaw issues that prevent them from eating kibble.

It uses whole chicken for complete protein plus plenty of vitamins and antioxidants for immune system support and better digestion. It has natural sources of omega fatty acids to support coat and skin health, and it has excellent moisture for active dogs.

First Five Ingredients:

  • Deboned Chicken
  • Water Sufficient for Processing
  • Dried Egg Product
  • Natural Flavor
  • Calcium Carbonate

About The Company – Merrick uses only the finest ingredients to produce nutrient-dense foods. All recipes are tested in the company’s kitchen before being released, and the company proudly manufactures all meals in the United States from locally sourced ingredients.

What Customers Like:

  • plenty of moisture
  • good immune support
  • pleases picky dogs
  • whole, lean proteins from chicken
  • supports coat health

Common Complaints:

  • Messy
  • has a strong smell

Nutro Ultra Senior Pate Chicken, Lamb & Salmon Entree Dog Food Trays

Our final food is a premium senior formula designed to encourage picky seniors to eat. It features dense nutrition with real chicken, lamb, and salmon for a variety of animal-based protein sources. Plenty of vitamins and antioxidants support the coat and skin. It also promotes joint and bone health.

It doesn’t use any cheap fillers such as corn or soy and has no artificial flavors or colors. It forgoes all common food allergens and should be easy for your senior dog to digest without much issue. Plus, it should encourage even the pickiest senior dog to eat despite the condition of the mouth and teeth.

First Five Ingredients:

  • Chicken Broth
  • Chicken
  • Chicken Liver
  • Carrots
  • Spinach

About The Company – Nutro has been in business since the 1920s and uses premium ingredients to create better, more nutritious food for your dog. They’re pet lovers themselves and want nothing more than to help your dog live a healthy, allergy-free life.

What Customers Like:

  • designed for picky eaters
  • easy to digest
  • easy to chew
  • no fillers
  • supports joints, bones, skin, and coat

Common Complaints:

  • has a strong smell
  • may not be enough for large breed dogs

Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 Natural Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Limited Ingredient Recipe Dry Dog Food

If your dog is a fan of lamb meal, then the pea free, legume-free dog food from Rachael Ray Nutrish is a great option. Known as Just 6 Natural Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Limited Ingredient Recipe Dry Dog Food, this choice is made with only six natural ingredients, plus added vitamins and minerals. The top six ingredients are wholesome and natural, and the food does not contain corn, wheat, soy or gluten, as well as no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or poultry by-product meal.

Everything that is contained within Just 6 Natural Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food is in there for a reason – not ‘just because’. The lamb meal provides vitamin B and amino acids, as well as natural glucosamine and chondroitin to assist with joint health. The ground and brown rice provide carbohydrates and fiber for a quick energy boost and the beet pulp offers prebiotic benefits by feeding the healthy bacteria in a dog’s gut. And let’s not forget the poultry fat, which offers omegas for healthy skin as well as a yummy taste. It is also all cooked in the USA!

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Lamb Meal
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Ground Rice
  4. Dried Plain Beet Pulp
  5. Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)

About the Company – Rachael Ray Nutrish was founded by celebrity cook and cooking show host Rachael Ray, who joined up with pet nutrition experts to create high-quality pet food for both dogs and cats. Nutrish focuses on simple recipes with real ingredients, that results in food that is ‘real good’. Nutrish is also connected with Rachael Ray’s animal rescue organization, Rachael’s Rescue. The proceeds of sales from Nutrish have gone to medical supplies, food, and treatments for animals in need since 2008.

What Customers Like:

  • Suitable for dogs with digestive issues
  • Consistent solid stools
  • Great for dogs with skin allergies caused by food
  • Suitable for dogs that are required to lose weight
  • Reasonable price point

Customer Complaints:

  • Name can be misleading, as has over 30 ingredients
  • Dogs breath can smell due to the food’s odor

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

Finally, but certainly not forgotten is Holistic Select Adult Health Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food. This kibble is also created to offer extensive digestive health support, with active probiotics, digestive enzymes and healthy fiber combining to create a great companion for your dog’s gut. Combine these ingredients with other natural and high-quality products and all the vital parts of this dry dog food will be both absorbed and utilized through your dog’s whole body… you’ll see the difference both inside and out!

Holistic Select Adult Dry Dog Food offers the right balance of whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa with healthy fruits and vegetables such as pumpkin and papaya, to provide both healthy energy and natural fiber. It also contains protease, cellulase, and alpha-amylase to help break down proteins, cellulose, and starch, as well as anti-oxidant rich superfoods such as pomegranate and blueberries. And your dog will love the flavor too.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Chicken Meal
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Rice
  4. Oatmeal
  5. Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)

About the Company – Holistic Select has been creating healthy and natural pet food for both dogs and cats for over 10 years. They believe in the philosophy that total body health for your pet begins with their digestive health, which fuels their commitment to natural nutrition and quality products. Their pet food never contains wheat, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, and they include healthy wholefood ingredients every time.

What Customers Like:

  • Suitable for dogs with digestive issues
  • Great for a shiny coat
  • Suitable for dogs who are picky eaters
  • Great for dogs of most ages
  • Great for dogs with skin allergies caused by food

Customer Complaints:

  • Food can give dogs gas
  • Does not work for dogs with colitis issues


  • Are peas, Lentils & Legumes in dog food bad for dogs? –  There are some suggestions that canine food that contains peas, lentil and legumes can cause canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. Per articles released by the FDA, they are currently investigating the connection between DCM and ‘grain-free’ dog food, which contains high levels of peas, lentils, and legumes.
  • Can Dogs Digest Peas? – Yes, dogs can digest peas.
  • Do Peas cause Heart Problems in Dogs? – There are some suggestions by the FDA that canine food that contains peas can cause canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. This is currently under investigation.
  • Do dogs need Taurine? – Yes, they do. However, dogs are capable of transforming cysteine and methionine into taurine, so as long as they receive enough of these amino acids in their diet, they do not need a taurine supplement.
  • Are Potatoes Bad for Dogs? – There are some suggestions by the FDA that canine food that contains potatoes can cause canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs, however, this is currently under investigation. Raw potatoes must not be fed to most dogs however, as they can be toxic.

Final Thoughts

Although it may not be easy, it is possible to find food that’s grain free but doesn’t contain peas, legumes, or potatoes. If your dog is the type of breed to be susceptible to an enlarged heart, avoiding these ingredients may be your best bet until we understand more about the links between the condition and those ingredients.

If you just can’t avoid those ingredients, try to avoid foods that have any in the first three ingredients in the list because they may not be present in the food enough to cause issues. Be sure to check in with your vet regularly so that you can catch any problems well before they’re serious and can begin a treatment plan to get your dog’s health back on track. The study isn’t definitive yet, but your vet can help you make the best decision for the health and well-being of your pet.

About The Author

9 thoughts on “9 Best (Healthiest) Dog Foods without Peas & Legumes in 2020”

  1. I have two new sheltie puppies approx. 13 weeks old. My vet recommended Purina Pro plan for puppies Chicken and Rice variety. I have already been through the Science Diet fiasco with my previous sheltie and am trying to be very careful with my two new pups. Not a breeder just a dog lover who rescued these two from that type of life.

  2. Several years ago grain free was the way to go. It’s getting to be so confusing monthly to buy dog food. Fruits and veggies were suppose to be so healthy today , now slowly there picking at that list. It’s getting ridiculous to buy dog food monthly. Who, what , where and when. Just asking? Brenda asking

  3. I would not feed any of those foods other than Ziwi or Nom Nom, which are both excellent. Nestle-Purina, the company that refused to stop importing and selling treats from China that sickened and killed so many dogs, now owns Merrick. Nutro is owned by Mars. Things like rice brand are nothing more than cheap fillers. Many of those brands suggested use ‘meal’ rather than ground meat as chicken meal, lamb meal etc. are again cheaper ingredients. There are many good alternative brands like Wellness, Fromm, Canidae and others that don’t sell junk foods. While the information regarding the use of peas and legumes is being researched and it is wise to avoid them, please do some solid investigation before recommending specific brands.

    1. Try to give the best for my dog to the Papillon Chihuahua and I make sure that I asked I go to PetSmart Pet Express Pet Express is really the best place to go but I give her Blue Buffalo so is that good there’s nothing bad in it it’s the pink and it has blue on it I have antioxidants those little purple things she loves those

  4. I realize that it is not part of this discussion, but some of these foods have ingredients sourced overseas. This should be chonsidred when buying food. Also a question, are many of the foods mentioned regional foods?

    1. I give my stevielyne Papillon Chihuahua only the best food it’s Blue Buffalo and I give her chicken breast fresh little bit of nonfat low-fat cottage cheese rice cooked carrots and I only shop at the best store Pet Express is like number one but I give her Blue Buffalo she loves the Apple antioxidant that’s and it’s in a pink bag for her age

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