10 Best Low Carb Dog Food in 2021

Carbohydrates

This is our review of the best low carb dog food in 2021.

Protein is the essential foundation of any dog’s diet. A dog’s digestive system thrives on protein.

Carbohydrates are an easy source of energy that also helps a dog’s body regulate body heat and be converted into fat. This helps reduce frictions between the body and its organs.

However, excess carbohydrates can lead to weight issues, high blood sugar levels, and severe health issues such as osteoarthritis and diabetes.

I have been busy researching the internet for a couple of days, comparing various dog foods to find out the best low carb dog food currently on the market. I found that American Journey Grain-Free Dog Food was the best option overall.

However, each dog is different, and some require specific nutrients and additional dietary support. So I have reviewed the best low carb dog food for each scenario to help you make the best decision for your pup.

Our Best Low Carb Dog Food

  1. American Journey Grain-Free Dog Food (Best Overall Low Carb Free Dog Food)
  2. Rachael Ray Nutrish PEAK Open Prairie Recipe with Beef (Best Budget Low Carb Dog Food)
  3. Orijen Original Grain-Free Dog Food (Best Premium Low Carb Dog Food)
  4. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Puppy Dog Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Puppies)
  5. Nulo Freestyle Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Seniors)
  6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Canned Dog Food (Best Wet Low Carb Dog Food)
  7. Wellness CORE Small Breed Turkey Recipe Dog Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Small Breeds)
  8. Nature’s Recipe Large Breed Grain-Free Dog Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Large Breeds)
  9. Solid Gold Weight Control Dog Food (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Weight Control)
  10. Canidae PURE Limited Ingredient Dog Food  (Best Low Carb Dog Food for Sensitive Dogs)

10 Best Low Cab Dog Food Reviewed

All of the dog foods we are about to go through meet AAFCO recommended daily nutrient profiles for dogs. Before switching your dog’s food, consult a veterinarian. [1]

American Journey Grain-Free Dog Food

American Journey Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 34% Crude Protein, 15% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 36%
  • Caloric Content: 3,710 kcal/kg, 390 kcal/cup
  • Key Features: Grain-Free, No Corn No Wheat No Soy, High-Protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Overall Low Carb Dry Dog Food

This high protein, grain-free dog food provides the perfect balance of nutrition and affordability without overloading on carbohydrates.

The 36% protein content originates from the chicken, providing nutrients and essential amino acids that promote lean muscle mass for active dogs.

Peas and sweet potatoes are the primary sources of the low 36% carbohydrate content, providing a good source of complex carbohydrates for your dog. These complex carbohydrates provide energy for a dog without the additional calories from refined grains.

This formula avoids any wheat, soy, artificial additives, and by-products. The wholesome ingredients of kelp and carrots ensure it is suitable for dogs with sensitivities.

The whole food ingredients contained in this formula ensure that a dog gets the maximum bioavailability of the nutrients. [2]

Added amino fatty acids of omega-3 and omega-6 promote and assist with immune functions.

Some dog owners noticed ‘gassy’ tummies after switching their dogs to this diet. However, most dog owners saw vast improvements in their pups’ overall health. The caloric content of 390 kcal/cup in the formula may not be suitable for overweight dogs.

Rachael Ray Nutrish PEAK Open Prairie Recipe with Beef

Rachael Ray Nutrish PEAK Open Prairie Recipe with Beef, Venison & Lamb Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients:  Beef, Chicken Meal, Whole Dried Potato, Natural Pork Flavor, Tapioca
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 30% Crude Protein, 15% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 40%
  • Caloric Content: 3,635 kcal/kg, 338 kcal/cup
  • Key Features: Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, High-Protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Budget Low Carb Dry Dog Food

This low carbohydrate, high protein formula offers the perfect balance of nutrition with energy sources for dogs that need a grain-free dog food.

Numerous budget recipes will contain high amounts of carbohydrates as the primary ingredient, but this one isn’t one of them.

Whole beef is the first ingredient that contributes mainly to the 30% crude protein content. This ingredient provides a high-quality, meat-based protein source that is also rich in vitamins and minerals.

Added flaxseed ensures a reliable source of omega fatty acids, which promote coat and skin health. These essential fatty acids also promote and maintain healthy eye and brain functions. [3]

Chicken fat contributes to the moderate 15% crude fat content of the formula. It provides a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin. 

Glucosamine and chondroitin promote and support bone and joint development in dogs as well as maintaining cartilage tissue.

Many dog owners recommend this dog food to others looking for a budget low carb dog food. Dog owners noticed improvements in their dog’s overall coat health.

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients:  Deboned Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Flounder, Eggs, Whole Atlantic Mackerel
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 38% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 12% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 28%
  • Caloric Content: 3,940 kcal/kg, 449 kcal/cup
  • Key Features: Grain-Free, High-Protein, Gluten-Free, Natural, Raw, No Corn No Wheat No Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Premium Low Carb Dry Dog Food

Orijen Original has an impressive 85% meat ingredients naturally rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

These high-quality meat-based proteins ensure maximum protein and fat content while providing suitable energy sources and limiting carbohydrates.

The first five ingredients of deboned chickenturkeyfloundereggs, and whole mackerel contribute to the remarkably high 38% crude protein. In addition, using these ingredients ensures that the entire animal is used to provide further nutrition to dogs. 

The added chicken ensures there are natural, adequate sources of glucosamine, which promotes healthy joints and maintains cartilage tissue. [4]

The remaining ingredients consist of whole fruits and vegetables, providing essential antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

The low 28% carbohydrate content is primarily reduced because of the high protein and fat content of the formula. This makes this recipe ideal for active dogs with higher energy levels that cannot consume typical foods due to high blood sugar levels.

Dog owners recognize this recipe for picky eaters because the kibble is coated in the freeze-dried liver to improve flavor and addition nutrients. However, this dog food may not be suitable for dogs that aren’t as active.

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Puppy Dog Food

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Puppy Chicken & Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients:  Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Lentils, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 36% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 32%
  • Caloric Content: 3,867 kcal/kg, 491 kcal/cup
  • Key Features: Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, No Corn No Wheat No Soy, High-Protein
  • Life Stage: Puppy
  • Best For: Low Carb Dry Dog Food for Puppies

The low 32% carbohydrates, combined with the recipe’s high-quality protein meats, means it is an excellent dog food for growing dogs that need a grain-free diet option. 

Deboned chicken provides a highly concentrated source of the 36% protein, promoting and maintaining lean muscle mass in dogs. Chicken is a natural food source of glucosamine which provides support for bone development in young puppies.

The added peas and lentils provide alternative complex carbohydrate sources and rich sources of protein and fiber. Growing dogs require these nutrients to support healthy development as they grow. 

Flaxseed provides a natural source of omega fatty acids that promote eye development and biological brain functions. 

This diet also contains appropriate amounts of essential minerals such as phosphorus and calcium. Diets that are lacking these minerals can cause skeletal problems. [5]

Some dogs observed their dogs being picky with the formula due to the intense aromas, meaning this dog food may not be ideal for picky eaters. However, some dog owners noticed improvements in their dogs’ stools.

Nulo Freestyle Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Nulo Freestyle Senior Grain-Free Trout & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned Trout, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Yellow Peas, Sweet Potato
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 30% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 43%
  • Caloric Content: 3,359 kcal/kg, 396 kcal/cup
  • Key Features: Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, High-Protein, Low Glycemic
  • Life Stage: Senior
  • Best For: Low Carb Dry Dog Food for Seniors

Senior dogs usually need additional support from their diet for several common health conditions. This dog food is an excellent option for seniors due to its low glycemic content, which helps manage the risks of developing diabetes.

This formula also contains L-Carnitine, which promotes lean muscle development in older dogs and provides support for a healthy metabolism and burning nutritional fats. [6]

The 30% protein content originates from the trout, turkey, and salmon meal. These animal-based proteins are rich in several amino acids that prevent the loss of muscle in seniors.

Added natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin are the foundations of healthy joint cartilage. They prevent severe joint conditions such as arthritis. Probiotics in the formula assist with the absorption and digestion of the nutrients and promote beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. 

Pet owners recognized an improvement in their older dogs’ energy levels as well as their overall mobility. However, picky eaters may not suit well to this formula.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients: Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken, Potato Protein, Potatoes
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 10% Crude Protein, 7% Crude Fat, 1.5% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 3.5%
  • Caloric Content: 1,350 kcal/kg, 478 kcal/can
  • Key Features: High-Protein, Grain-Free, No Corn No Wheat No Soy, Pea-Free
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Carb Wet Dog Food 

This wet dog formula features high concentrations of real meat, whole, high-quality ingredients, and low carbohydrate content. This dog food uses nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits as the primary sources of carbohydrates.

The whole chicken and chicken broth boost the protein content to 10% and supply glucosamine, promoting healthy joint cartilage and bone development. They are also a natural supply of essential amino fatty acids.

Added potatoes provide complex carbohydrates to the 3.5% carbohydrate content and vitamins, minerals, and additional fiber. Typically, because this is wet dog food, the crude percentages will be lower than dry formulas due to the high moisture content.

This recipe avoids common allergen ingredients such as grain, wheat, corn, additives, and fillers. This is a suitable option for dogs who suffer from allergies caused by common allergens. [7]

Wellness CORE Small Breed Turkey Recipe Dog Food

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Turkey & Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Lentils, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 36% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 35.5%
  • Caloric Content: 3,746 kcal/kg, 412 kcal/cup
  • Key Features: Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, No Corn No Wheat No Soy, High-Protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Carb Dog Food for Small Breeds

Small dog breeds need refined carbohydrates to meet their high-calorie needs. However, not all small dog breeds thrive on high carbohydrate diets.

This dog food offers small dogs alternative options for complex carbohydrates, with a crude protein percentage of 36%. 

The deboned turkey is the primary source of protein content and offers a natural source of glucosamine. Turkey is also rich in phosphorus, riboflavin, and other essential nutrients and minerals. Riboflavin promotes the absorption and metabolic processing of protein and amino acids. [8]

The high 16% fat content ensures your dog receives the appropriate daily calories.

Peas and lentils ensure small dog breeds get the appropriate glycogen from the recipe. These ingredients are excellent alternative sources of complex carbohydrates too.

Many reviews indicate that small dogs find it easy to eat this dog food due to the size of this kibble being explicitly designed for small mouths.

Nature’s Recipe Large Breed Grain-Free Chicken Dog Food

Nature's Recipe Large Breed Grain-Free Chicken, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe Dry Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Pea Starch
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 27% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 47%
  • Caloric Content: 3590 kcal/kg, 365 kcal/cup
  • Key Features: Grain-Free, No Corn No Wheat No Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Carb Dog Food for Large Breeds

Generally, large dog breeds require fewer carbohydrates compared to small dog breeds because of their slower metabolisms. Large dog breeds can quickly develop severe health conditions such as obesity because of their immense body mass.

Chicken is the first ingredient in this dog food and a significant contributor to the 27% protein content. This lean meat is a high-quality animal-based protein that isn’t brimming with additional calories or fat. 

This formula is much lower in calories than others featured on this list, with only 365 kcal per cup. 

Peas and sweet potatoes are highly nutritional complex carbohydrates. And although this recipe is has a higher 47% carbohydrate content, these whole vegetables are much less in caloric content than other refined carbohydrates.

The peas and sweet potatoes included in this dog food also largely contribute to the fiber content. The added fiber acts as a prebiotic, which supports good bacteria in the digestive system and promotes the absorption of nutrients.

Prebiotics also reduce the risk of developing bloat in dogs. [9]

In addition, this recipe eliminates any common food allergens such as corn, wheat, and soy, which makes this dog food suitable for larger dogs with sensitivities.

Dog owners noticed an improvement in their sensitive dogs’ overall health, as well as the frequency and consistency of their stools. This dog food is an excellent option for large dogs with sensitivities caused by common allergens.

Solid Gold Weight Control Dog Food 

Solid Gold Fit & Fabulous Weight Control Grain-Free Chicken, Sweet Potato & Green Bean Dry Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Potatoes
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 6.5% Crude Fat, 10% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 47%
  • Caloric Content: 3,155 kcal/kg, 320 kcal/cup
  • Key Features: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Weight Control, No Corn No Wheat No Soy, High-Protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Weight Control Low Carb Dog Food

Weight control formulas are becoming more popular due to a steady increase in obesity in dogs. Many dog owners choose to put their dogs on a low carbohydrate diet to manage their weight more effectively.

This formula features a low 6.5% fat content which is ideal for dogs who need to lose weight, in addition to the modest 26% protein content. 

Chicken is the first ingredient for this formula and is the main contributor to the protein content. This ingredient is also a rich source of amino acids, which don’t contribute to the caloric content of the dog food. 

However, high levels of protein can be unsuitable for less active dogs.

However, the ocean fish meal adds essential omega fatty acids that a dog with weight issues needs. These amino acids are critical for overweight dogs to reduce inflammation in joints. [10]

This dog food also excludes common allergen ingredients such as corn, soy, gluten, grains, and wheat. This makes this dog food a suitable option for sensitive dogs.

Dog owners recommend this formula for picky eaters due to its low-fat content. Some dog owners noticed an improvement in their dogs’ weight when they switched to this diet.

Canidae PURE Limited Ingredient Salmon Dog Food

Canidae Pure Grain-Free Dog Food
  • First 5 ingredients: Salmon, Salmon Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Estimated Carbohydrates: 36%
  • Caloric Content: 3,880 kcal/kg, 496 kcal/cup
  • Key Features: Sensitive Digestion, Grain-Free, No Corn No Wheat No Soy, Gluten Free, Limited Ingredient Diet, Chicken-Free
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best For: Low Carb Dog Food for Sensitivities

This limited ingredient formula only contains eight real foods that provide adequate, balanced nutrition while eliminating risks of allergies. Not only this, but the low carbohydrate content of this formula prevents inflammation in the digestive system. [11

The only source of the 32% protein content is salmon, which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids that support the immune system and promote healthy coats. The salmon also contributes towards the 18% crude fat content of the recipe. 

And because this recipe only features a singular protein source, it limits the likelihood of allergic reactions being caused because of exposure to other common allergen proteins.

There are no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or fillers in this formula that would otherwise cause adverse reactions for sensitive dogs. In addition, this dog food is chicken-free, which is a common allergen for dogs.

Dog owners noticed improvements in their dog’s skin health when they are on this diet. The broad mix of probiotics, minerals, and antioxidants results in an excellent recipe that meets your dog’s nutritional requirements.


carbohydrates

Low Carb Dog Food Buyers Guide

Carbohydrates are considered a healthy energy source in a dog’s diet; however, some dogs need low carb dog food due to health conditions.

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient that a dog’s body utilizes for energy. Usually, you will find a carbohydrate source within the first few ingredients on dog food. Some examples may be:

  • Oats (incl. Whole oats)
  • Whole wheat
  • Whole corn
  • Barley
  • Potato (incl. Sweet potato)
  • Millet
  • Brown Rice
  • Melons
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Pasta
  • Peas

There are three types of carbohydrates; fiber (complex carbohydrate), starches (complex carbohydrate), and sugars (simple carbohydrate).

Carbohydrates help a dog’s body regulate internal body heat and be converted into fat, which helps reduce frictions between the body and its organs.

While these carbohydrates are essential for vital bodily functions, excessive consumption can lead to weight issues in dogs.

Do Dogs Need Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the primary source of nutritional fiber in moderation. They are essential for a dog as they provide energy in the form of glucose.

Dogs do not require vast amounts of carbohydrates to be healthy. The AAFCO does not have any specific recommendations or requirements for carbohydrates.

Dog foods that contain high amounts of carbohydrates may result in gastrointestinal inflammation and cause significant harm to your dog’s metabolism.

Typically, carbohydrates are added into dog food to supply extra energy to them, but protein and fats are easier to digest.

Active dogs or toy breeds may need a consistent source of carbohydrates because of their fast metabolisms. However, some high-fat ingredients can be a substitute for these carbohydrates.

Benefits of Low Carb Diet

Primarily, reducing the number of carbohydrates your dog is consuming will reduce their weight because you’re reducing any excessive calories within their diet.

However, dogs that suffer from health conditions such as diabetes will need a low carb formula to prevent high spikes in blood sugar levels. In addition, many types of low carb dog food will contain additional protein content to supply your dog with added amino acids.

Many carbohydrates can cause allergic sensitivities. Switching a dog to a low carb dog food can help manage allergic reactions. In addition, too many carbohydrates can lead to inflammatory bowel disease.[12,13]

We previously covered that high carbohydrates can lead to obesity. However, reducing a dog’s intake of carbohydrates can prevent severe health conditions such as urinary bladder stones, cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis, and cancer.


Dog Food

Things To Look Out For When Buying Low Carb Dog Food

When considering a diet excluding carbohydrates, it can often be challenging to find the right dog food for them. After all, not every carbohydrate is the same quality. Some carbohydrates are not as good as others.

Minerals and Vitamins

Every dog is different. However, dogs need a certain amount of vitamins and minerals to live a happy and healthy life.

Whole vegetables, and fruits, are the best bioavailable, nutritional sources of vitamins and minerals in low carb dog food.

Protein

The general rule of thumb is that if a dog food has less carbohydrate content, it needs to be higher in protein to ensure a stable, consistent source of energy for your dog.

Protein provides essential amino acids which are critical for overall growth and normal bodily functions. Protein is crucial to any dog’s diet and is the most vital macronutrient they need.

When purchasing a low carb dog food, look for a dog food containing animal-based protein rather than plant-based protein. Real meat is the foundation of any diet. It should always be the first ingredient on the list as it’s much more bioavailable compared to plant proteins.

Healthy Fats

Fat is the best energy source in a dog’s diet; however, carbohydrates are also an excellent form of easily digestible energy. Dogs primarily use the calories contained in fat to support their daily activities and metabolism.

Omega fatty acids are vital in supporting your dog’s immune system, in addition to promoting their overall health, skin, and coat. These fatty acids stimulate the skin to produce oils and have anti-inflammatory qualities.

Simple vs. Complex Carbs

You could probably tell by our list of low carb dog foods that even they contain a moderate level of carbohydrates. However, as we previously discussed, there are different nutritional benefits between simple and complex carbohydrates.

The healthiest and most nutritionally beneficial form of carbohydrate is complex carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates originate from refined grains. These types of carbs are higher in sugar content and low in fiber. Whereas whole grains are richer in minerals and vitamins as they contain the fibrous part of the plant.

Generally, grain-free dog foods that use starchy vegetables are the best option for a low carbohydrate diet. These vegetables are complex carbohydrates that prevent high spikes in high sugar levels as they take longer to break down.

Calculating the Carbohydrate Content in Dog Food

Most dog foods don’t show the carbohydrate content on the label. However, you can utilize the guaranteed analysis, which is on the dog food, to estimate the carbohydrates for yourself.

To do this, you add up the total amount of fat content, protein, fiber, and moisture content of the recipe before you minus this result from 100. This will provide you with a percentage of the total carbohydrates in the dog food. If you struggle with this, you can use this carbohydrate calculator.

For example, the content on the label is:

  • Crude Protein: 26%
  • Crude Fat: 14%
  • Crude Fiber: 8%
  • Moisture: 10%

Then you would calculate as:

26% + 14% + 8% + 10% = 58% then 100 – 58% = 42% Carbohydrates

Final Thoughts

Many dog owners switch their dogs onto a low cab diet to help with health conditions associated with obesity.

Carbohydrates are an excellent source of digestible energy, particularly for energetic dogs. However, too many carbohydrates will result in obesity and other severe health conditions such as osteoarthritis and cancer.

Many dogs can thrive on a diet that has high levels of protein but low amounts of carbohydrates.

After reviewing all these low carb dog foods, I found that the American Journey Grain-Free Dog Food is the best low carb dog food. This grain-free dog food provided the perfect balance of protein and carbohydrates while remaining affordable too.

Before switching your dog’s diet, it is always best to consult your veterinarian before doing so.

James Fuller

James Fuller

Founder of Honest Whiskers

Hey! I’ve owned a pet pretty much all my life, in fact, I currently have both a cat and a dog! My mission is to deliver a reliable, trusted website that only uses evidence-based information

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