These days, there are a ton of different limited ingredient dog foods to choose from, but they aren’t all created equal. Some are much better than others. Even good foods aren’t right for every dog. We want to help you find the best food for your dog, so we’ve put together this list of the 10 best limited ingredient dog foods.
Top Selection of Limited Ingredient Dog Foods
Considerations When Picking Pet Food
How can you tell if a food is good for not? How do you know if it’s right for your dog? Here are some things you should keep in mind when researching pet foods to help you pick the right one for your pup.
Protein and Fat Content
Active dogs need diets that are high in protein to help them build and maintain their muscles. However, high protein levels are usually accompanied by high fat levels, which aren’t suitable for less active dogs that are prone to obesity. While diets that are super high in protein can be tough on dogs’ kidneys, foods that are high in carbohydrates may trigger all sorts of health problems, so balance is vital overall.
Quality Protein Source
Dogs should get the bulk of their protein from animal meat rather than vegetables like chickpeas or pea protein. Whole meat is better than meat meal, especially for the first ingredient. Meat meal is cooked at a higher temperature and is less nutritious.
Avoid any meals that don’t specify what species they come from. For example, “chicken meal” is acceptable, while the vague “poultry meal” should be avoided.
You should also avoid any animal by-products. Those are the non-nutritious parts of the animals that humans won’t eat, such as beaks, hooves, and feathers. They are used as a cheap filler ingredient and have no benefit for your dog.
Avoid Fillers and Additives
With any dog food, you should try to avoid unnecessary ingredients like fillers and additives, but that’s even more crucial when you’re buying a limited ingredient pet food to reduce your dog’s allergy symptoms. The fewer the ingredients, the better, and each ingredient should have a purpose.
Check Ingredient Sources
Not all countries have the same safety and quality regulations. Try to ensure that the food is made in and with ingredients from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, or New Zealand to reduce the chances of contamination.
Best Limited Ingredient Dog Food
1. Zignature Whitefish Formula Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients: Whitefish, whitefish meal, peas, chickpeas, pea flour
Customer Reviews: As with any food, some dogs didn’t like the taste or experienced digestive upset. Otherwise, most dogs enjoyed it and showed reduced allergy symptoms.
Our Take: This is one of the best limited ingredients diets out there. While your dog may not like the taste or your wallet may struggle with the cost, we highly recommend this food.
2. Venture Rabbit Meal & Pumpkin Limited Ingredient Grain Free Dry Dog Food
Want to support a dog food company that cares as much about the environment and the ingredients they use as they do about your dog? You’ll love Earthborn Venture Rabbit Meal & Pumpkin Limited Ingredient Grain Free food. The bags are recyclable through the company, collecting UPCs supports replanting trees in deforested areas, and the rabbits are humanely raised on 100% vegetable diets.
First 5 Ingredients: Rabbit meal, pumpkin, tapioca, Alaska pollock meal, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols)
Customer Reviews: One owner reported that their dog didn’t like the taste, but most dogs loved it and had better stools and less itching after switching to this food from something else.
Our Take: This is an excellent food from a company that also cares about the environment. Most dogs do really well on this food.
3. Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Dry Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, dried potatoes, lentils, chickpeas
Customer Reviews: Some dogs didn’t like the flavor or got sick after switching to this food. However, most dogs like the taste, and many owners reported that their dog’s allergies cleared up.
Our Take: With several different grain-free options, this is a fantastic option that most dogs will do well on.
4. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients: Turkey, turkey broth, potatoes, flaxseed (source of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids), pea protein
Customer Reviews: In addition to the usual complaints about dogs getting sick or not liking the taste, there are quite a few reports of delivery and quality control issues. Other than that, most dogs experienced an improvement in gas or itchy skin.
Our Take: While this food has more complaints than our top choices, it’s still an excellent budget option for dogs who need a limited ingredient diet.
5. Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food Lamb & Oatmeal
First 5 Ingredients: Ground rice, lamb, lamb meal, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural source of Vitamin E), tomato pomace
Customer Reviews: Like any food, some dogs got sick or didn’t like the taste of this food. Most dogs, though, experienced significant improvements in their allergy symptoms.
Our Take: This is an excellent choice for a grain-inclusive dog food. It has antioxidants, prebiotics, and omega fatty acids with a single protein source.
6. Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food, Grain Free
First 5 Ingredients: Sweet potatoes, salmon, menhaden fish meal, potato protein, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols)
Customer Reviews: There may have been a bad batch or an ingredient change recently, as there are several reports over the last few months from people whose dogs have been on this food for years and just got sick after the latest bag. Still, most people talk about how much this food has helped their dog’s allergies.
Our Take: There is a chance you could get a bad bag of this food, but it’s still highly recommended for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities.
7. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Recipe Natural Dog Food & Toppers
If you want to introduce some of the benefits of a raw diet to your dog without the mess or hassle, try Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Recipe. There are several flavors to choose from, all of which are made with one protein source and one vegetable and are coated in freeze-dried raw meat.
First 5 Ingredients: Lamb meal, peas, tapioca, pea protein, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid)
Customer Reviews: As with any food, some dogs got sick after being switched to this food, and it didn’t help with all dogs’ allergies. However, most dogs do really well on this food and enjoy the taste.
Our Take: There’s a chance this food won’t agree with your dog, but it’s more likely they will thrive.
8. Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 Natural Premium Dry Dog Food, Limited Ingredient Diet
First 5 Ingredients: Lamb meal, brown rice, ground rice, dried plain beet pulp, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols)
Customer Reviews: There are quite a few complaints about people getting bad batches of this food, alongside the usual complaints of dogs getting sick or not liking the flavor. Those complaints are outweighed by lots of people who say their dogs are doing well on this food and enjoy it.
Our Take: With a lower cost comes more risk of quality control issues. With that being said, this is still a decent budget option for dogs who need food with fewer ingredients and don’t need a grain-free diet.
9. CANIDAE PURE Real Salmon, Limited Ingredient, Grain Free Premium Dry Dog Food
Many of the negative reviews are about quality control problems. Mostly, though, dogs do really well on this food, with many people saying it’s the only kind they can give their dog without aggravating allergy symptoms.
Customer Reviews: Many of the negative reviews are about quality control problems. Mostly, though, dogs do really well on this food, with many people saying it’s the only kind they can give their dog without aggravating allergy symptoms.
Our Take: While there is a chance you could get a bad bag, this is overall a high-quality food that most dogs do really well on.
10. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Dog Food with Vitamins & Minerals for All Breeds
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned lamb, lamb meal, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes
Customer Reviews: Most of the negative reviews surround a formula change about a year and a half ago. The most recent reviews rave about how much better their dog is doing after switching to this food.
Our Take: With grain-free and grain-inclusive formulas and several different protein sources to choose from, this is a great line of food that will suit most dogs.
Benefits of a Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Limited ingredient pet food has many different benefits. Here are some of the best reasons to try it for your pup.
Helps You Identify Food Allergens
Dog food allergies and sensitivities are more common than you might expect. If your dog has any of the following symptoms, their food might be the cause:
If you don’t know what your dog is allergic to, the best thing to do is to find a food with a protein source that your dog hasn’t been on before and few other ingredients. If your dog’s symptoms improve, you can try other ingredients to see if your dog has an allergic reaction. In that way, limited ingredient diets can help you identify your dog’s food allergy triggers.
You Can Avoid Your Dog’s Food Allergens
Once you discover your dog’s food allergies or sensitivities, these diets can help you avoid those triggers. Many dog foods have a long list of ingredients, so the fewer the ingredients, the less likelihood of your dog’s symptoms being triggered.
May Improve Digestion
Since digestive upset is a common sign of food sensitivity, then switching your dog’s food to one that doesn’t contain ingredients they may be sensitive to can improve their digestion. That could mean firmer stool or less gas.
Great for a Rotating Diet
Some dogs get bored eating the same food every day for their entire life, so many pet owners choose to feed their pups a rotating diet. The fewer the ingredients a food has, the easier it may be to switch between different proteins without upsetting your dog’s system.
How Much and How Often Should You Feed Your Dog?
Like human food, every dog food contains a different number of calories and a different nutrient profile, so you should always follow the feeding guide on the bag. Each dog weight will give a range of feeding amounts. More active dogs and puppies need more food than couch potatoes and senior pups.
Bloat is a life-threatening condition where a dog’s stomach rotates on its axis, and it may cut off blood to your dog’s digestive tract. It’s more common in large dogs, especially deep-chested breeds, but it can happen to any dog. Eating large meals is thought to be one trigger of bloat, so it’s best to feed your dog at least twice a day rather than one big meal.
Many vets recommend against free-feeding because it can be harder to notice appetite changes that may indicate your dog is sick. If you like to free-feed your dog, talk to your vet about whether you should start to pick up their food after 15 minutes.
Tips for Choosing the Best Limited Ingredient Diet
How can you decide which food is best for your dog? Here are some tips.
Talk to Your Vet
Your vet should always be the first person you talk to about your dog’s diet. Some vets recommend grain-free foods for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities, while others recommend against grain-free foods. Your vet can also suggest how much protein your dog needs. Take their recommendation seriously, although it’s OK to do additional research.
Avoid Common Food Allergens
The most common dog food allergens include:
If you aren’t sure what your dog could be reacting to, it’s best to find a food that doesn’t contain any of the most common allergens. If you do know what your dog is sensitive to, you just need to avoid those ingredients.
Check the Ingredient List
If you have a dog with food allergies, you must read the entire ingredient list. You would be surprised how many companies will sneak chicken meal, chicken fat, or other allergens toward the end of the ingredient list. Amazon listings can occasionally be out of date, so it’s best to check the bag of food as soon as it’s delivered. Don’t risk feeding your dog a food that recently changed recipes and now contains an ingredient that your dog may react to.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does My Dog Need a Limited Ingredient Diet?
Not all dogs need a special diet. If your dog is doing just fine on their current food, then there’s no need to switch. However, if your dog is having digestive problems, itchy skin, or recurring ear infections, then they may benefit from a limited ingredient diet.
What Is a Limited Ingredient Diet?
Some dog foods contain a surprising number of ingredients. Limited ingredient foods have as little as one protein source and one vegetable, which reduces the likelihood of the food containing ingredients that will cause allergic reactions in dogs. Still, foods claiming to be “limited ingredient” may have as many as ten primary ingredients (not counting things like vitamins and probiotics), so you should read the full ingredient list.
What Is the Best Food for Dogs with Itchy Skin?
There is no one best food for dogs with itchy skin since each dog will be sensitive to different ingredients. If you aren’t sure what your dog is allergic to, the best thing to do is to choose a food with a novel protein source like bison, kangaroo, or whitefish and few other ingredients. If that reduces your dog’s symptoms, you can try adding other ingredients. If not, you can try a different protein.
Alternatively, dogs with allergies can also get tests done at the vet to find out what they are allergic to.
Which Is Better: Dry Food or Wet Food?
Dry dog food is far more common than wet food, primarily because it is more affordable. However, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Wet food can help add moisture to your dog’s diet, but not all canned food is certified for “complete and balanced nutrition.” Canned food may contain fewer ingredients, but it can be cost-prohibitive for all but the smallest dogs.
What’s the Difference Between a Food Allergy and a Food Sensitivity?
While many people use the terms interchangeably, they’re actually quite different. A true food allergy is an overreaction of your dog’s immune system that usually leads to skin issues like itching, hives, paw licking, and chronic ear infections. Think about people with severe peanut allergies.
A food sensitivity doesn’t involve an immune response. Instead, it triggers digestive upset like diarrhea, vomiting, or gas. Think about a person who is lactose intolerant.
Either way, avoiding your dog’s triggers can help bring them relief from their symptoms.