Dogs

The Top 6 Best Fish-Free Dog Foods

May 4, 2022

The Top 6 Best Fish-Free Dog Foods

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If your dog suffers from chronic skin problems or recurrent ear infections, it’s worth taking a closer look at his diet. Food allergies don’t always present with digestive symptoms, and they can develop at any time, even if you haven’t recently switched recipes.

A food allergy is a type of hypersensitivity your dog develops to a specific ingredient, usually some type of protein. Common culprits include chicken, beef, dairy, and fish.

Whether your dog is allergic to fish or merely sensitive to it, the best option is to switch to a kibble or canned food free from fish. We’ve taken the time to research the market and have assembled a list of the best fish-free dog foods to help you get started.

Compare Best Fish-Free Dog Foods

Overall Best
Open Farm Homestead Turkey Rustic Stew Wet Dog Food

1. Open Farm Homestead Turkey Rustic Stew Wet Dog Food

Budget Pick
Victor Select Beef Meal & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food

2. Victor Select Beef Meal & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food

Best Wet Food
Smalls Fresh Ground Bird

3. Smalls Fresh Ground Bird

Best Dry Food
Canidae Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Duck & Sweet Potato Dry Food

4. Canidae Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Duck & Sweet Potato Dry Food

Best for Puppies
Merrick Grain-Free Recipe Puppy Plate Beef Wet Food

5. Merrick Grain-Free Recipe Puppy Plate Beef Wet Food

Best for Senior Dogs
Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Senior Chicken Dinner with Garden Vegetables Canned Dog Food

6. Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Senior Chicken Dinner with Garden Vegetables Canned Dog Food

Brand
Open Farm
Brand
Victor
Brand
Brand
Canidae
Brand
Merrick
Brand
Blue Buffalo
Food Type
Wet
Food Type
Dry
Food Type
Food Type
Dry
Food Type
Wet
Food Type
Wet
Main Protein
Turkey
Main Protein
Beef
Main Protein
Main Protein
Duck
Main Protein
Beef
Main Protein
Chicken
Life Stage
Adult
Life Stage
All
Life Stage
Adult
Life Stage
Adult
Life Stage
Puppy
Life Stage
Adult
Protein
Protein
Protein
21% Min
Protein
Protein
Protein
Fat
Fat
Fat
8.05% Min
Fat
Fat
Fat
Fiber
Fiber
Fiber
0.4% Max
Fiber
Fiber
Fiber
Type
Type
Type
Fresh
Type
Type
Type
Made In
Made In
Made In
United States
Made In
Made In
Made In

Before we get into the details of our top picks, let’s talk about why you might want to consider a dog food without fish and what to look for when you start shopping.

Food Allergies In Dogs

Food allergies are a type of hypersensitivity in which the immune system overreacts to the antigens in certain foods. They can develop at any age, typically after prolonged exposure to a single brand or type of protein. Your dog can’t develop an allergy to a food he has never eaten.

Some of the most common signs of food allergies in dogs include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Overgrooming
  • Gastrointestinal upset

If your dog exhibits chronic skin problems, ear infections, or gastrointestinal issues, his food could be to blame. It’s worth checking with your veterinarian to rule out other potential causes for your dog’s symptoms, but you’ll likely end up needing to conduct a food trial.

A food trial involves switching your dog to a new food made with a type of protein he’s never had before – a “novel” protein.

By keeping your dog on this new diet and completely avoiding the main ingredients in his previous food, you’ll be giving his body time to recover. If his symptoms resolve after 6 to 8 weeks, it’s likely that the food was the issue. You can confirm it by reintroducing the old food for a few days. If your dog’s symptoms return, you can safely bet that the old food was to blame.

Does Your Dog Need Fish-Free Food?

Conducting a food trial can be a lengthy process, but it’s the best way to identify and confirm food allergies. Once you’ve determined that your dog’s old food was the cause for his symptoms, the next step is identifying the specific ingredient causing the trouble.

The first place to look is the main protein in the food. While dogs can certainly develop sensitivities to complex carbohydrates, protein is a more common allergy.

If fish is the main protein in your dog’s food and there is no other protein, it’s likely the problem. The best thing you can do is switch your dog to a food that doesn’t contain fish. If the formula has multiple proteins, you may need to experiment with them one at a time to identify the problem, or you can simply switch to a new recipe that doesn’t contain any of them.

Removing the offending allergen from your dog’s diet is the only way to resolve his symptoms effectively for the long-term. If he continues to eat the food, his symptoms will only get worse.

Tips For Choosing Fish-Free Dog Food

Fresh fish as well as dried fish ingredients like salmon meal and menhaden fish meal are fairly common in dog food. That being said, there are plenty of fish-free recipes out there.

Aside from finding a dog food formula that doesn’t contain fish, there are a few other things to look for. It’s important to choose a recipe made with wholesome ingredients to ensure digestibility. A short list of ingredients is ideal to reduce the risk of triggering other allergies.

Here are some additional things to look for:

1. Plenty Of Species-appropriate Animal Protein.

While dogs aren’t obligate carnivores like cats, they do require a significant amount of animal protein in their diets. An animal-based source of protein should always be the first ingredient.

Many pet food manufacturers use plant-based proteins like pea protein or potato protein to increase the crude protein content in their foods without using more expensive animal ingredients. Dogs may have an improved ability to process these foods over cats, but they’re still not ideal.

2. A Limited List Of High-quality Ingredients.

Dogs suffering from food allergies can often benefit from a limited ingredient diet (LID). This is simply a formula with a short ingredient list. The fewer ingredients in the food, the lower the risk for triggering a food allergy. Simple formulas are also easier to digest which is important for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Opt for dog foods that contain whole-food ingredients rather than by-products. While animal by-products aren’t necessarily bad, it’s difficult to determine their quality. Vaguely named ingredients like poultry by-products versus chicken by-products can also be problematic because you can’t be sure exactly which animal the ingredient comes from.

3. No Fillers Or Artificial Additives.

Your dog deserves balanced nutrition that comes from real ingredients. Fillers like corn, wheat, and soy provide little in the way of nutritional value – they just bulk up the product without costing the manufacturer significantly. Choose a formula that prioritizes animal-based sources of protein and fat over recipes that rely too heavily on grains and other plant-based ingredients.

Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives have no place in a high-quality diet for dogs. Coloring and flavoring agents serve no purpose for your dog – they simply make the product look more appealing to dog owners. Synthetic preservatives may increase the shelf-life of the product, but many have been linked to negative health effects.

Our Top Picks For The Best Dog Food Without Fish

The best fish-free dog food is one that features a high-quality source of animal protein as the main ingredient. It should be highly digestible and packed with species-appropriate nutrition.

Here are our top choices for the best fish-free dog foods on the market:

Overall Best
1.

Open Farm Homestead Turkey Rustic Stew Wet Dog Food

Product Info

  • Brand: Open Farm
  • Food Type: Wet
  • Main Protein: Turkey
  • Life Stage: Adult

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 7%
Crude Fat: 5.5%
Crude Fiber: 2%
Moisture: 82%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 38.89%
Fat: 30.56%
Fiber: 11.11%
Carbs: 19.44%
Pros
  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Rich in moisture to support your dog’s hydration
  • Made with 100% human-grade ingredients
  • Bone broth supports joint health and immunity
Cons
  • Fairly expensive
Made with 100% human-grade ingredients including a single source of animal protein, this wet food formula is packed with natural flavor from humanely raised turkey.

This recipe gets its high moisture content from turkey bone broth. Not only does the bone broth impart plenty of flavor, but it provides supplemental protein and collagen. Collagen is a rich source of amino acids which support joint mobility, immune health, and a strong digestive system. It also strengthens the lining of the digestive tract which helps improve nutrient absorption.

In addition to turkey and bone broth, this formula contains nutrient-rich vegetables like pumpkin, carrots, and spinach. It is free from plant protein concentrates, low-value grains, and artificial additives.
Budget Pick
2.

Victor Select Beef Meal & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food

Product Info

  • Brand: Victor
  • Food Type: Dry
  • Main Protein: Beef
  • Life Stage: All

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 24%
Crude Fat: 12%
Crude Fiber: 4.4%
Moisture: 9%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 26.37%
Fat: 13.19%
Fiber: 4.84%
Carbs: 55.6%
Pros
  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Free from fillers, by-products, and artificial additives
  • Wholesome grains provide essential nutrients
Cons
  • High carbohydrate content
  • No dry food provides the moisture your dog needs
Priced around $1.25 per pound when you purchase a 40-pound bag, this beef meal recipe from Victor offers exceptional value. As a dry food formula, this food offers a long shelf-life as well.

This dry food from Victor features beef meal as a concentrated source of animal protein. While it is a single-protein recipe, it does contain chicken fat. Again, fats are much less likely to trigger food allergies than proteins, but you might want to feed with caution if your dog also has a chicken allergy.

In addition to beef meal and chicken fat, this recipe contains wholesome grains like sorghum and brown rice. These grains offer more nutrition for your dog than low-value options like corn and wheat, and they’re more easily digestible as well.

Overall, this is a moderate protein, low-fat formula that offers fairly low calorie content but has a very high concentration of carbohydrates.
Best Wet Food
3.

Smalls Fresh Ground Bird

Product Info

  • Protein: 21% Min
  • Fat: 8.05% Min
  • Fiber: 0.4% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Fresh
  • Made In: United States

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 21%
Crude Fat: 8.05%
Crude Fiber: 0.4%
Moisture: 66.1%
Ash: 2.25%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 61.95%
Fat: 23.75%
Fiber: 1.18%
Carbs: 6.49%
Pros
  • Made with a single source of novel animal protein
  • Pre-portioned and delivered to your door
  • Rich in moisture to support your dog’s hydration
  • Low calorie content, good for weight management
Cons
  • Can be expensive for larger dogs
  • Contains some fish oil
Fresh dog food provides a nutritious alternative to canned or dry food. Smalls offers four different recipes, all of which are pre-portioned according to your dog’s calorie needs and delivered to your door.

Smalls Fresh Ground Bird recipe is made with a single source of protein and one that is novel for many dogs. Chicken thigh skin, chicken breast and chicken livers is complemented by green beans, peas and kale At just 1220 kcal/kg, this formula is a great option for weight management and the high moisture content helps support your dog’s hydration.

It’s worth noting that this recipe does contain fish oil, but it’s unlikely to trigger a fish allergy. Overall, this recipe is rich in animal protein with low fat and calorie content and moderate carbohydrate content.
Best Dry Food
4.

Canidae Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Duck & Sweet Potato Dry Food

Product Info

  • Brand: Canidae
  • Food Type: Dry
  • Main Protein: Duck
  • Life Stage: Adult

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 32%
Crude Fat: 16%
Crude Fiber: 4%
Moisture: 10%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 35.56%
Fat: 17.78%
Fiber: 4.44%
Carbs: 42.22%
Pros
  • Contains two sources of animal protein
  • Short list of 8 wholesome main ingredients
  • Rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients
  • Supplemented with probiotics for healthy digestion
Cons
  • High carbohydrate content
  • No dry food provides the moisture your dog needs
Some dogs simply prefer dry food and it’s certainly a convenient option for dog owners. If you’re looking for a high-quality, fish-free dry food made with a limited list of ingredients, this duck recipe from Canidae is a great option.

Made with just 8 primary ingredients, this recipe features fresh duck and duck meal with supplemental protein from turkey meal. While it may not be a single protein formula, both proteins are a good option for dogs with fish allergies.

This grain-free dry dog food contains chicken fat as well as sweet potatoes, peas, and potatoes. It’s rich in vitamin E and supplemented with joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin as well as probiotics for healthy digestion.

Though rich in protein with moderate fat, this formula is high in calories and carbs. Be mindful of the feeding recommendations if you choose this recipe to avoid overfeeding your dog.
Best for Puppies
5.

Merrick Grain-Free Recipe Puppy Plate Beef Wet Food

Product Info

  • Brand: Merrick
  • Food Type: Wet
  • Main Protein: Beef
  • Life Stage: Puppy

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 8%
Crude Fat: 3%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 82%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 44.44%
Fat: 16.67%
Fiber: 16.67%
Carbs: 22.22%
Pros
  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Rich in moisture to support hydration
  • Formulated to meet the needs of growing puppies
  • Cooked in a flavorful broth
Cons
  • Made with some plant protein concentrate
  • Contains salmon oil
While all dogs have the same basic nutritional needs, puppies need higher levels of certain nutrients to fuel their growth and development. In addition to plenty of protein and healthy fat, puppies need higher levels of calcium and potassium to grow strong, healthy bones.

This grain-free formula is made with deboned beef as a single source of high-quality animal protein. Beef liver provides a supplemental source of protein as well as essential nutrients like vitamin A. This nutrient plays an essential role in in development of healthy eyes and organs.

Overall, this recipe contains a fairly limited list of main ingredients, and it is rich in moisture to support hydration and healthy digestion. It does contain salmon oil and some concentrated plant protein, but it is a nutritious choice for puppies and an affordable one as well.
Best for Seniors
6.

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Senior Chicken Dinner with Garden Vegetables Canned Dog Food

Product Info

  • Brand: Blue Buffalo
  • Food Type: Wet
  • Main Protein: Chicken
  • Life Stage: Adult

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 7.5%
Crude Fat: 4.5%
Crude Fiber: 2%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 34.09%
Fat: 20.45%
Fiber: 9.09%
Carbs: 36.36%
Pros
  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Rich in moisture to support your dog’s hydration
  • Cooked in a flavorful gravy to appeal to picky eaters
  • Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
Cons
  • Thickened with carrageenan
  • Not a gluten-free or grain-free formula
As your dog gets older he may slow down but his nutritional needs don’t change. He still requires a protein-rich diet with adequate fat to provide energy as well as wholesome fruits and veggies to ensure balanced nutrition.

This Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe is formulated for older dogs and made with chicken as a single source of animal protein. In addition to high protein chicken, this recipe also contains chicken liver, a rich source of vitamins C and B12 as well as essential fatty acids.

Made in the USA with no artificial additives, this recipe contains the moisture your dog needs for hydration and the calorie content is moderate to prevent weight gain. It does contain gluten in the form of barley and is thickened with carrageenan, however, so keep these things in mind for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities.

Final Thoughts

Fish is by no means an unhealthy ingredient for dogs. It provides a complete source of protein which means it contains all the essential amino acids your dog needs. Fish is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which support healthy brain and eye development in puppies as joint health and skin and coat health in adult dogs.

Should you determine that your dog is allergic or sensitive to fish, the best thing is to avoid it. Fortunately, there are plenty of dog food formulas on the market that do not contain fish ingredients. Look for other animal-based proteins like chicken, beef, turkey, pork, or lamb.

Most food allergies are triggered by the proteins in the ingredient. A dog that is allergic to fish may be able to tolerate things like salmon oil, though pet owners may want to err on the side of caution and avoid fish ingredients entirely.

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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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