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The Top 7 Best Chicken-Free Dog Food

May 6, 2022

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The Top 7 Best Chicken-Free Dog Food

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Grab a random bag of dog food on the shelf and take a look at the first five ingredients. More often than not, you’ll see chicken listed as a main ingredient.

Chicken is a rich source of protein for dogs and an affordable option for pet food manufacturers. It’s also well tolerated by many dogs and familiar option for pet owners. The trouble is some dogs don’t like the flavor of chicken and others develop a negative reaction when they eat it.

Though chicken might be one of the most common proteins used in dog foods, it certainly is the only choice. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at chicken-free dog food and introduce you to our top picks.

Compare Best Chicken-Free Dog Food

Overall Best
Open Farm Wild-Caught Salmon Rustic Stew

1. Open Farm Wild-Caught Salmon Rustic Stew

Runner Up
Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Grain-Free Dog Food

2. Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Grain-Free Dog Food

Premium Pick
Ziwi Peak Lamb Recipe Canned Dog Food

3. Ziwi Peak Lamb Recipe Canned Dog Food

Best Value
Gentle Giants with Real Beef & Real Bacon Dry Dog Food

4. Gentle Giants with Real Beef & Real Bacon Dry Dog Food

Best For Puppies
Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Puppy Food

5. Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Puppy Food

Best For Senior Dogs
Wysong Senior with Organic Turkey Canned Dog Food

6. Wysong Senior with Organic Turkey Canned Dog Food

Best For Sensitive Stomachs
Zignature Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Trout & Salmon Meal Dry Dog Food

7. Zignature Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Trout & Salmon Meal Dry Dog Food

Food Type
Wet
Food Type
Wet
Food Type
Wet
Food Type
Dry
Food Type
Dry
Food Type
Wet
Food Type
Dry
Primary Protein
Salmon
Primary Protein
Turkey
Primary Protein
Lamb
Primary Protein
Beef
Primary Protein
Beef
Primary Protein
Turkey
Primary Protein
Trout
Top 3 Ingredients
Wild Pacific salmon, water, pumpkin
Top 3 Ingredients
Turkey, turkey broth, turkey liver
Top 3 Ingredients
Lamb, water, lamb lung
Top 3 Ingredients
Beef meal, pearled barley, brown rice
Top 3 Ingredients
Deboned beef, turkey meal, sweet potatoes
Top 3 Ingredients
Organic turkey, brown rice, natural flavor
Top 3 Ingredients
Trout, salmon meal, chickpeas
Price Per Ounce
$0.32
Price Per Ounce
$0.31
Price Per Ounce
$0.51
Price Per Ounce
$0.14
Price Per Ounce
$0.18
Price Per Ounce
$0.34
Price Per Ounce
$0.18

Before we get into the details of our recommendations, let’s take a closer look at the subject of chicken-free dog food. We’ll talk about what it is, whether it’s a good choice for your dog, and what to look for.

What Is Chicken-Free Dog Food?

Dog food brands do their best to minimize their costs and maximize profits. This means finding the right combination of ingredients that meets AAFCO nutrient requirements and satisfies consumers without spending over a certain margin.

Some of the most expensive ingredients in pet food are animal ingredients – protein, specifically. The truth is that chicken products like fresh chicken, chicken meal, and chicken fat are some of the most affordable and readily available options on the market.

Chicken-free dog food is exactly what it sounds like: dog food made without chicken ingredients.

Not only do these foods not contain chicken or chicken meal, but they’re free from chicken organs like liver and chicken fat. The jury is still out on whether chicken fat will cause an allergic reaction in dogs with chicken allergies, but it’s best not to take the risk.

Does Your Dog Need Chicken-Free Food?

Understanding what a chicken free formula is is one thing but knowing whether your dog needs it is another. How do you know your dog needs a dog food recipe without chicken?

There’s nothing inherently harmful about chicken. In fact, it’s a healthy source of animal-based protein for dogs. It’s low in fat and calories and it’s an easy ingredient to find.

If your dog has food sensitivities or allergies, however, chicken might be off the table.

Chicken is one of the most common food allergens. Along with beef, fish, and dairy, chicken has a higher likelihood of triggering allergic reactions in dogs than other proteins like turkey or lamb meal. If your dog is allergic to one of these ingredients, you’ll need to find a different recipe that doesn’t contain it.

Dog food allergies typically present with skin-related symptoms, not the digestive symptoms you’d usually see in humans. Some of the most common signs of food allergy are chronic skin problems and recurring ear infections.

If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, it’s wise to conduct a food trial. You simply switch your dog to a chicken free formula for at least six weeks and monitor his progress.

Should your dog’s symptoms gradually disappear, it’s likely that chicken is the problem. You can reintroduce small amounts of chicken over the course of a week to test the theory. If your dog’s symptoms return, the allergy will be confirmed.

You can always talk to your veterinarian to rule out underlying conditions that might be causing your dog’s symptoms. In fact, it may be wise before overhauling your dog’s diet.

Shopping Tips For Dog Food Free From Chicken

Though chicken may be one of the most common ingredients in commercial dog foods, there are plenty of other options. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a universally hypoallergenic dog food. The only hypoallergenic dog food is one that doesn’t contain the ingredient to which your dog is allergic.

When shopping for chicken free dog food, keep the following things in mind:

1. It Should Contain A High-quality Source Of Animal Protein As The Primary Ingredient.

The first ingredient in your dog’s food should always be a high-quality source of animal protein. In this case, look for something other than chicken like beef, turkey, or fish. If your dog has additional allergies, a novel protein like venison or duck might be a more appropriate choice.

2. It Should Contain A Limited Number Of Plant Ingredients.

The protein content is one of the key indicators of a quality dog food over a lesser one. Aside from looking for high protein levels, however, it’s wise to check the carbohydrate content.

While dogs may have an improved ability to process carbohydrates than cats, plant ingredients should not make up the bulk of your dog’s diet. The truth is dogs don’t have a minimum requirement for carbs in their diet and anything over 20% is excessive.

3. It Should Be Formulated For Your Dog’s Life Stage.

While many dog food formulas are nutritionally balanced for all life stages, you may want to look for a specific recipe if you have a puppy or a senior dog. It’s also worth considering a large breed or small breed formula if your dog falls on the high or low end of the size spectrum.

Different dog breeds don’t have significantly different nutritional needs. An adult dog simply requires a balanced diet that provides the right combination of protein, healthy fat, and essential nutrients.

4. It Should Be Free From Low-quality Fillers And Artificial Additives.

Not only should you be looking at the things your dog’s food contains but take a look at the things it does not. Poorly digested grains like corn, wheat, and soy have no place in your dog’s diet and it’s best to avoid vaguely named ingredients like animal digest or poultry meal – especially if your dog has food allergies and you can’t be sure of the ingredient’s source.

Avoid recipes that contain artificial additives as well – things like synthetic colors, flavors, and preservatives. These have been linked to negative health effects in pets.

Now that you have a better understanding of what chicken-free dog food is and why you might consider it, let’s take a look at our top picks for the best chicken-free dog food.

Our Top 7 Picks For The Best Dog Foods Without Chicken

All of the following recommendations are top-rated products from reputable brands that have a history of quality and customer satisfaction.

Overall Best
1.

Open Farm Wild-Caught Salmon Rustic Stew

Product Info

  • Food Type: Wet
  • Primary Protein: Salmon
  • Top 3 Ingredients: Wild Pacific salmon, water, pumpkin
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.32

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 8%
Crude Fat: 4%
Crude Fiber: 2%
Moisture: 82%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 44.44%
Fat: 22.22%
Fiber: 11.11%
Carbs: 22.22%
Pros
  • Made with human-grade ingredients in human food facility
  • Wild-caught Pacific salmon is a single source of animal protein
  • Wet food is rich in moisture to support hydration
  • Packed with protein and natural fish flavor
Cons
  • Fairly pricey
  • Resealable carton can be tricky
Open Farm is setting an example in the pet food industry by using ethically sourced, traceable ingredients. All of their formulas are 100% human-grade which means they use human-grade ingredients, and their products are made in human food facilities.

This salmon recipe wet dog food features wild-caught Pacific salmon as a single source of premium animal protein. Nutritious veggies like pumpkin, carrots, and green beans provide supplemental sources of key nutrients. This recipe is rich in protein and flavor but free from fillers, vaguely named by-products, and artificial additives.

Some customers find that the resealable carton is messy and a little tricky to use. After opening the carton, you can fold down the flaps to reseal it, but food near the lip may end up running down the sides. Some pet owners prefer to store leftover food in a separate container.
Runner Up
2.

Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Grain-Free Dog Food

Product Info

  • Food Type: Wet
  • Primary Protein: Turkey
  • Top 3 Ingredients: Turkey, turkey broth, turkey liver
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.31

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 10%
Crude Fat: 8%
Crude Fiber: 1.5%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 45.45%
Fat: 36.36%
Fiber: 6.82%
Carbs: 11.36%
Pros
  • Made with a simple list of three main ingredients
  • Single source of high-quality animal protein
  • Rich in omega-3 fatty acids from salmon oil
  • Free from added carbohydrates and artificial additives
Cons
  • Fat and calorie content may be too high for some dogs
Packed with high-quality animal protein from fresh turkey and turkey liver, this wet food formula is easily digestible and very species-appropriate. It contains no added carbohydrates and is completely free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

In addition to plenty of protein and healthy fats, this recipe is rich in moisture to help support your dog’s hydration. High moisture content also promotes healthy digestion.

One thing to keep in mind with this recipe is that the fat content is fairly high. This also means that the food provides a more concentrated source of calories than other recipes. This can be a boon for growing puppies or underweight older dogs, but it’s important to follow feeding recommendations and monitor your dog’s body weight.
Premium Pick
3.

Ziwi Peak Lamb Recipe Canned Dog Food

Product Info

  • Food Type: Wet
  • Primary Protein: Lamb
  • Top 3 Ingredients: Lamb, water, lamb lung
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.51

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 9.5%
Crude Fat: 6%
Crude Fiber: 2%
Moisture: 78%
Ash: 3%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 43.18%
Fat: 27.27%
Fiber: 9.09%
Carbs: 6.82%
Pros
  • Made with a single source of novel animal protein
  • Contains 91% meat, organs, and NZ green mussels
  • Rich in joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin
  • Plenty of moisture to support your dog’s hydration
Cons
  • Contains some added carbohydrate
  • Fairly expensive
If your dog has an allergy to chicken, it’s possible he’s allergic to other common proteins like beef and fish. This lamb formula from Ziwi Peak is a great option for dogs who need a novel protein.

Made with 91% meat, organs, and New Zealand green mussels, this formula is very species-appropriate and highly digestible for dogs. This single-protein formula features fresh lamb as the main ingredient with an assortment of lamb organs like lung, kidney, liver, tripe, and heart.

New Zealand green mussels act as a natural source of joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin. Lamb bone is another animal-based source of essential nutrients.

While this recipe is packed with protein and rich in moisture and healthy fats, it does contain chickpeas as an added carbohydrate. Fortunately, the overall carbohydrate content of the recipe is very low.
Best Value
4.

Gentle Giants with Real Beef & Real Bacon Dry Dog Food

Product Info

  • Food Type: Dry
  • Primary Protein: Beef
  • Top 3 Ingredients: Beef meal, pearled barley, brown rice
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.14

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 22%
Crude Fat: 9%
Crude Fiber: 4%
Moisture: 10%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 24.44%
Fat: 10%
Fiber: 4.44%
Carbs: 61.11%
Pros
  • Affordably priced under $0.15 per ounce
  • Rich in animal protein from beef and menhaden fish meal
  • Supplemented with probiotics for healthy digestion
  • Low in fat and calories, may be good for weight loss
Cons
  • Contains a significant number of plant ingredients
  • Contains two common allergens, beef and fish
Your dog deserves the highest-quality diet you can give him, but you don’t necessarily need to bankrupt yourself. If you’re looking for an affordable, high quality dog food that will meet your dog’s nutritional needs through natural ingredients, this Gentle Giants formula is one to consider.

Featuring beef meal as a concentrated source of animal protein, this dry food recipe is completely free form poultry. Fresh beef, bacon, and menhaden fish meal provide supplemented sources of protein.

In addition to these proteins, this recipe contains whole grains like pearled barley, brown rice, and oatmeal with flaxseeds to help balance the omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid content. You’ll also find New Zealand green mussels as a natural source of joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin with cranberries for urinary tract support.

Overall, this is a moderate protein, low-fat formula with low carbohydrate content. It might be a particularly good option for dogs who need to lose a little weight.
Best For Puppies
5.

Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Puppy Food

Product Info

  • Food Type: Dry
  • Primary Protein: Beef
  • Top 3 Ingredients: Deboned beef, turkey meal, sweet potatoes
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.18

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 28%
Crude Fat: 15%
Crude Fiber: 4.5%
Moisture: 11%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 31.46%
Fat: 16.85%
Fiber: 5.06%
Carbs: 46.63%
Pros
  • Rich in animal protein and healthy fats
  • Supplemented with probiotics for healthy digestion
  • Balanced source of omega fatty acids
  • Easily digestible for growing puppies
Cons
  • Carbohydrate content is fairly high
  • Contains several starchy plant ingredients
When your puppy is growing and developing, he needs a high-protein diet to support lean muscle mass. Higher concentrations of fat and calories are important as well, though it should all come from high-quality ingredients.

This grain-free canned dog food from Merrick is uniquely formulated to meet the needs of your growing puppy. It’s packed with animal protein from deboned beef, turkey meal, and whitefish meal with pork fat as a nutrient-rich source of animal-based fat.

Prebiotic fibers and probiotics help your puppy develop a healthy microbiome while essential nutrients like calcium and potassium support healthy bone growth.

This recipe does contain a significant number of plant ingredients, including starchy potatoes, tapioca, and peas. The overall carbohydrate content is pretty high, but it doesn’t contain any potentially harmful ingredients and the price point is affordable for many dog owners.
Best For Senior Dogs
6.

Wysong Senior with Organic Turkey Canned Dog Food

Product Info

  • Food Type: Wet
  • Primary Protein: Turkey
  • Top 3 Ingredients: Organic turkey, brown rice, natural flavor
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.34

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 9%
Crude Fat: 7%
Crude Fiber: 2%
Moisture: 25%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 12%
Fat: 9.33%
Fiber: 2.67%
Carbs: 76%
Pros
  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Very short list of main ingredients, highly digestible
  • Rich in moisture to support hydration
  • Soft texture is easy for dogs with dental issues
Cons
  • Contains some added plant ingredients
  • Somewhat pricey
Dental problems are common in dogs, especially as they get older. If your dog struggles with kibble, this canned food formula might be a good option.

This Wysong senior recipe is completely free from chicken ingredients, featuring organic turkey as the only source of animal protein. Brown rice and blueberry are the only other main ingredients, supplemented by organic barley grass and dried kelp.

Given its simple formula, this wet food should be easy for older dogs to digest, and the high moisture content will support your dog’s digestion. Overall, it’s moderate in protein with moderate fat content in a moisture-rich, highly palatable formula.
Best For Sensitive Stomach
7.

Zignature Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Trout & Salmon Meal Dry Dog Food

Product Info

  • Food Type: Dry
  • Primary Protein: Trout
  • Top 3 Ingredients: Trout, salmon meal, chickpeas
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.18

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 31%
Crude Fat: 14%
Crude Fiber: 4%
Moisture: 10%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 34.44%
Fat: 15.56%
Fiber: 4.44%
Carbs: 45.56%
Pros
  • Made with two high-quality sources of animal protein
  • Rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil
  • Completely free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives
Cons
  • Contains some starchy plant ingredients
  • Doesn’t contain the moisture your dog needs
  • Fairly high carbohydrate content
Whether your dog has a sensitive stomach or suffers from food allergies, a limited ingredient diet (LID) may be more digestible than standard dog food. Even better if it’s made with a novel source of protein.

This limited ingredient dog food from Zignature features a duo of high-quality proteins: trout and salmon meal. If your dog can’t tolerate chicken, fish may be a better option. Not only is it rich in species-appropriate animal protein, but it provides plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to support your dog’s skin and coat. Omega-3s may also provide anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits.

Though this grain-free recipe is fairly simple, it is rather high in carbohydrates. This isn’t uncommon in dry dog food formulas. Neither does it provide the moisture your dog needs, so make sure to supplement his moisture intake elsewhere in his diet.

Final Thoughts

If you suspect that your dog has a food allergy or sensitivity, it’s worth talking to your veterinarian. Your vet can help you rule out other underlying conditions to confirm the diagnosis.

With your vet’s approval, the next step is likely a food trial. You’ll need to switch your dog to a chicken-free diet for a period of at least six weeks. During that time, monitor your dog’s digestion to see if his symptoms improve. If they do, you can consider it confirmation of the allergy or sensitivity.

But what do you do from there? You can simply keep feeding your dog the chicken-free dog food you’ve chosen or transition him onto another product free from chicken.

The most important thing to remember is that your dog’s long-term health depends on the quality and nutrition of his diet. Even if you can’t afford to feed top-shelf food, you can find an affordable brand made with high-quality ingredients.

You can even supplement your dog’s diet occasionally with premium chicken-free foods when they go on sale, as long as his stomach can tolerate them.

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Kate Barrington is avid pet lover and adoring owner of three cats and one dog, her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. She has been writing about pet care and pet products since 2010
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