best dog food without peas, lentil, legumes and potatoes

10 Best Dog Foods without Peas, Legumes, Lentils and Potatoes

Have you heard people talking about something called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)? Or have you seen discussions of possible problems with feeding grain free dog foods? Some people today are looking for the best dog foods without peas, legumes, lentils, and potatoes because these ingredients were singled out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a warning last year. We can tell you what you need to know.

In July 2018, the FDA put out a warning about a possible link between dog foods that contained peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes and a heart disease in dogs called dilated cardiomyopathy. This is significant to many dog owners because these ingredients are often found in grain free dog foods. The FDA considers these ingredients to be important if they appear in the first ten (10) ingredients listed.

In February 2019, the FDA released an update on their investigation. According to the FDA, they believe that “the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.”

Using only cases of DCM that were formally diagnosed by a veterinarian, the FDA stated:

“Between January 1, 2014 and November 30, 2018, the FDA received 300 reports of DCM (294 canine reports, 6 feline reports). Approximately 276 of these were reported after the July public notification about FDA’s investigation (273 canine reports, 3 feline reports).” Of these cases, 269 were fed dry foods. Of the dogs that ate only one kind of diet, 90 percent of the dogs were fed a grain free diet. Ten percent of the dogs ate vegetarian or vegan diets. A large proportion of the dogs diagnosed with DCM had diets that contained peas and/or lentils.

Since this update, the FDA has received many more reports of dogs diagnosed with DCM. Their investigation is continuing. Researchers and veterinary cardiologists are also investigating the cause of this sudden rise in DCM cases.

What is Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

Canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a kind of heart disease in which the heart becomes enlarged. It is unable to beat or contract as effectively as it should. Early on you may not notice any symptoms or your dog might have some intolerance to exercise. Your vet might detect a heart murmur or arrhythmia when s/he examines your dog. As the disease progresses your dog can be sluggish or sleepy, cough, have a decreased appetite, pale gums, and even faint. As the condition worsens, sudden death can occur.

DCM can be a genetic condition in some dog breeds such as Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, and Irish Wolfhounds. However, the DCM that is connected to the FDA warning is not genetic. Dogs of many breeds and mixes have been diagnosed and/or died from this condition. DCM is sometimes linked to large or giant breed dogs but in the present case, the dietary form of DCM can occur in dogs of any size. Even Toy and small breed dogs have died from this dietary form of DCM.

What are the Researchers Saying?

Researchers and veterinary cardiologists offer the following advice:

  • If you have been feeding your dog a grain free dog food that contains the suspect ingredients (peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes), consider switching to a food that contains grains.
  • Choose a diet that contains grains made by an established company that employs veterinary nutritionists on staff.
  • Look for a company that conducts canine nutritional research and publishes peer-reviewed studies.
  • Ideally, the food will be tested using AAFCO feeding trials.
  • Make sure the food you choose has good quality control measures.

Many experts believe that some of the current problems are due to boutique diets from popular brands that might not be formulated by qualified veterinary nutritionists. Exotic ingredients in some brands can also be difficult to formulate accurately.

List of Ingredients Linked to DCM

While much of the focus has been on grain free dog foods and the ingredients named by the FDA, there are some other ingredients linked to DCM.

  • Peas – There are three main types of peas but they come in many varieties – English peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. Field peas are actually beans. Split peas, so popular in some dog foods, are field peas, i.e., beans.
  • Lentils – Edible legumes; there are four general categories (brown, green, red/yellow, and specialty) and each category has its own categories. Humans have been eating them for thousands of years.
  • Legumes – Here is the big category. Peas, lentils, pulses, and many other ingredients that you find in dog foods today all come from the legume family. Chickpeas, beans, soybeans, alfalfa (used in some dog foods), even carob, clover, peanuts, and tamarind. If you’re not sure about an ingredient, check to see if it’s a legume.
  • Potatoes – Very high in carbohydrates, potatoes have been used in some dog foods as a source of starch. The FDA warns against them in any form: whole potatoes, potato flour, potato protein, etc.
  • Sweet potatoes – Sweet potatoes are included with potatoes in the FDA warning. That includes whole sweet potatoes, sweet potato flour, sweet potato protein, etc. Sweet potatoes have similar carbohydrate, fat, and protein values as white potatoes.
  • Pulses – The edible seeds of the legume family; dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches, lupins and pulses nes (not elsewhere specified – minor pulses that don’t fall into one of the other categories).
  • Exotic meats, vegetables, and fruits – Many people love these ingredients in their dog’s food or they believe that their dog needs them. However, making recipes using these foods can make it difficult to formulate nutrient values accurately, especially if the company is not using accredited veterinary nutritionists. Food allergies are not common. Unless your dog has been diagnosed by a veterinarian with a food allergy or food intolerance, it’s usually best to feed a dog food that contains more well-known meats, vegetables, and other ingredients.

What can you do to choose a good food?

Choosing a good food made by an established company that has qualified veterinary nutritionists on staff is one of the best things you can do. It’s advisable to avoid foods that contain peas, legumes, lentils, and potatoes in the first several ingredients. The food you choose doesn’t have to be entirely grain free but you should make sure that if it contains any of these ingredients they come in small amounts and are listed lower in the ingredient list. Be aware that some dog foods might have several different kinds of peas, legumes, or lentils so even if they are lower in the ingredient list, when they are added together they could make up a large amount.

Another important thing you can do for your dog’s health is to reconsider your opinion of corn in dog food. Corn is definitely one of the grains that veterinary nutritionists and researchers are encouraging dog owners to feed. That’s because it contains cysteine and methionine which are precursors dogs need to make the amino acid taurine in their bodies. Taurine – or low levels of it – has been connected with some cases of the dietary form of DCM. (Taurine in dog food has become a complex subject and it hasn’t been fully understood yet.)

Try to avoid foods that contain exotic meats and other exotic ingredients. It can be difficult to formulate the nutrients for these foods correctly which can lead to dietary problems.

You can also talk to your veterinarian about the food you should feed your dog. If your dog has a food allergy, food intolerance, or a particular health problem that requires a special diet, your vet is your best source of information. Otherwise, most dogs should be able to eat a properly formulated food that contains grains.

Finally, for the health of your dog, try to set aside any previous biases you may have about dog food companies or any ideas about food ratings. DCM can be fatal unless it’s diagnosed in time. A change in diet has helped some dogs recover. It’s very possible that you might need to feed your dog a food you swore you would never buy.

Overall Best Dog Food without Peas, Legumes, Lentils, and Potatoes

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

Purina Pea Free Dog Food

For many dogs, Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food is the best overall dog food without peas, legumes, lentils, or potatoes. This formula is made for dogs with sensitive digestion but most dogs will enjoy it. It contains no corn, wheat, or soy, though it does contain barley and rice so it’s not a grain free dog food. Real salmon is the first ingredient. Oatmeal is an easily digestible source of carbs for dogs with sensitive digestion. Contains omega 3 from fish oil and omega 6 fatty acids. Contains no artificial colors or flavors. Purina Pro Plan’s Focus line of foods are also made with prebiotic fiber to help digestion. This food features 26 percent crude protein and 16 percent crude fat.

Health Extension Grain-Free Chicken & Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food

Health Extension Dog Food without Peas and Lentils

Best Grain Free (Grain Inclusive) Pea, Lentil, Legume and Potato Free Dog Food – Frankly, it’s very difficult to find grain free dog foods without potatoes, peas, lentil and legumes. We looked at literally dozens of recipes and many of them had the ingredients of concern in the first three items listed! The FDA advises to steer clear of foods that have these ingredients in the first ten items listed. Dr. Joshua Stern at the University California-Davis, one of the lead researchers on dietary DCM, suggests that it should be enough if you can stay away from these ingredients in the first five items listed. That might be the best you can hope for if you are trying to find a grain free dog food. (Unless you buy a prescription diet for your dog, but that’s a slightly different issue.) We settled on Health Extension Grain Free Chicken & Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food. This recipe has potatoes and chickpeas as the fifth and sixth ingredients; and whole sweet potatoes as the eighth ingredient. It has 27 percent crude protein and 18 percent crude fat. No corn, wheat, or soy; and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. No added sugar. This food is GMO-free and gluten-free. You can also look at Health Extension’s other grain free formulas but they, too, contain some of the suspect ingredients. This is a good brand overall (we like some of their grain-inclusive foods) so if you are determined to feed a grain free dog food this is one to consider, especially if you are trying to avoid the big companies.

8 More Top Rated Dog Foods with Peas, Legumes, Lentils, and Potatoes

Here are eight more dog foods that we like if you are looking for foods that don’t contain peas, legumes, lentils, or potatoes.

Farmina Natural & Delicious Wild Cod & Ancestral Low-Grain Formula Dry Dog Food

Farmina is made in Italy but it has become very popular in the U.S. in the last several years. The company makes both grain free and low-grain dog foods. We can highly recommend the low-grain formulas (chicken, lamb, wild cod). Their low-grain formulas are pea-free with no lentils, peas, pea protein, chick peas, or added plant oils. The grains they use include spelt (a form of wheat) and oats. The foods do contain alfalfa – a legume – but it is in the middle of the ingredient list. They have a puppy formula and their foods come in different size kibbles (mini and medium). The low-grain wild cod formula has 30 percent crude protein and 18 percent crude fat. In this wild cod formula, 60 percent of the ingredients are animal ingredients, 20 percent are organic spelt and oats, and 20 percent are vegetables, fruits, vitamins, and minerals. Of the protein in the food, 92 percent comes from animal sources which gives the food a low ash content. Farmina low-grain foods are considered low-glycemic and GMO-free.

Purina Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance 30/20 Formula Dry Dog Food

Purina Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performances 30/20 Formula Dry Dog Food has been one of Purina’s most popular dog foods for decades. It’s enormously popular with many people who breed and show dogs as well as people with all kinds of performance dogs. Pro Plan Sport has 30 percent crude protein and 20 percent crude fat. It has been formulated for dogs that spend a lot of energy and use up calories so if your dog is a couch potato this food, with 475 kcal/cup, might make your dog overweight. But, if you work with your dog doing things like agility, dock diving, barn hunt, or fun things like hiking, this food could be a good choice. This is a great food for working dogs and canine athletes. It contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Contains no wheat or soy. This food contains glucosamine to help with healthy joints and good mobility. Purina is one of the companies recommended by researchers and veterinary nutritionists. The company invests millions of dollars in animal nutritional research. Purina Pro Plan Sport now comes in several formulas including a salmon & rice recipe; a 26/16 protein/fat formula; a chicken & egg grain free formula; and a 27/17 protein/fat formula.

Castor & Pollux Natural Ultramix Adult Dry Dog Food

Castor & Pollux has always had a good reputation so we are happy to be able to recommend at least one of their grain free dog foods. Some of their foods contain sweet potatoes or other ingredients that made us wary but we finally found Castor & Pollux Natural Ultramix Adult Dry Dog Food. After looking up “milo” – it’s sorghum and not a beverage – we were content. Dried peas are the 10th ingredient and dried sweet potatoes are the 13th ingredient but we can live with that. Most dog lovers should be okay with ingredients that low in the list. The first seven ingredients are: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Milo, Ground Whole Oats, Ground Whole Barley, and Chicken Fat (Naturally Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid). This food has 25 percent crude protein and 15 percent crude fat. No corn, no wheat, no soy. We think this looks like a good grain free dog food if you are concerned about DCM.

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

Holistic Select has a long history and was once part of Eagle Pack. Today, as its own brand, Holistic Select is a good dog food that pays attention to a dog’s digestive system with prebiotics, probiotics, fiber, and digestive enzymes. Holistic Select Adult Health Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food contains none of the FDA’s suspect ingredients. There are no peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes in this food. It also contains no wheat or wheat gluten; and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Grains in the food include brown rice, rice, and oatmeal. Fiber comes from pumpkin and papaya. This food has 25 percent crude protein and 15 percent crude fat. Holistic Select has several formulas that could be good choices if you are looking for a grain-inclusive dog food.

Sport Dog Food Active Series Cub Buffalo & Oatmeal Formula Pea-Free Dry Dog Food

All of Sport Dog Food’s formulas are pea-free so many people like them for that reason. Some people started feeding Sport Dog Food long before the FDA warning came out about the possible link between peas and DCM. Sport Dog Food’s recipes also tend to be flax-free which is something else many people like. Flax and flax seeds always sound like good ingredients in dog foods and they can be a source of fiber and plant protein. But, as a source of omega-3 they are a bust since dogs can’t convert plant sources of omega-3 into a usable form very well. They need fish sources of omega-3. All of those dog foods that have been marketing flax seed to you as a source of omega-3 have been lying to you. This formula has no artificial preservatives or flavors. It contains American-sourced ingredients with no corn, soy, eggs, or egg products in case your dog cannot eat eggs. It contains no peas, wheat, flax, or white potatoes. It does, however, contain sweet potatoes as the third ingredient (18 percent). Some of Sport Dog Food’s other recipes also contain sweet potatoes. We debated leaving this food off the list but we wanted to include Sport Dog Food to give another option for people who don’t want to feed a food from the big companies. You can decide if you want to risk the sweet potatoes. Sport Dog Food K-9 Series Police K-9 Chicken & Fish Formula Pea-Free Dry Dog Food and Sport Dog Food K-9 Series Project K-9 Hero Multiple Protein Formula Pea-Free Flax-Free Dry Dog Food contain none of the suspect ingredients. They use sorghum and millet as carb sources.

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog Food

Hill’s Science Diet is another brand that is highly recommended by DCM researchers and veterinary cardiologists. We know that many people won’t like the ingredients in Hill’s Science Diet dog foods. We are not recommending dog foods here based on ingredients. We are recommending foods based on what is good for your dog’s health. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog Food is formulated for dogs from 1-6 years old. Omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, and other nutrients nourish your dog’s skin and make his coat shiny. A clinically-proven antioxidant blend with vitamins C and E support a healthy immune system. The ingredients are easy to digest and the food contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Chicken is the first ingredient. Science Diet has a multitude of formulas so you can probably find one that is appropriate for your dog. Hill’s also makes prescription diets and other product lines.

Royal Canin German Shepherd Adult Dry Dog Food

Available in formulas by breed, size, and life stage, as well as veterinary/prescription formulas, Royal Canin is one of the brands frequently recommended by researchers and veterinary nutritionists because of their commitment to nutritional research and their qualified staff. This German Shepherd formula is a good example of Royal Canin’s breed formulas. It’s made for adult dogs older than 15 months. It has been formulated for the German Shepherd’s digestive system, which can be sensitive (soft stools, digestive upset, and sometimes bloating). The recipe also takes into account the breed’s sensitive, alkaline skin. The proteins are highly digestible and the fibers limit intestinal fermentation to keep the flora balanced. Even the size, shape, and texture of the kibble has been considered. For many Royal Canin breed formulas, you can begin feeding your puppy a formula and then easily transition to an adult formula for the breed. Also, as far as we know at this time, no one feeding Royal Canin dog foods has had a dog diagnosed with DCM. They have many foods besides this German Shepherd dog food so see if they have one that would be suitable for your breed or size dog.

Eukanuba Breed Specific Chihuahua Adult Dry Dog Food

Eukanuba makes breed specific formulas, foods for dogs based on size, and performance dog foods, as well as life stage foods for puppies, adults, and seniors. Together with their sister company, Iams, they sometimes get lost in the shuffle of the big companies, but they produce some excellent dog foods in terms of nutrition. Eukanuba formulas often have the 3D DentaDefense system included in their foods which, according to studies, actually works to reduce tartar build-up on your dog’s teeth in 28 days. Their foods often have a specialized fiber system made from natural beet pulp and the prebiotic FOS (a natural sugar) to promote nutrient absorption and better digestion. Formulas will vary depending on the individual breed. This Chihuahua formula supports the dog’s joints with glucosamine and chondroitin; and includes antioxidants for a healthy immune system. It also contains L-carnitine to burn fat. Many people with active dogs such as hunting dogs like their performance dog foods. They also have good puppy foods. These are good grain-inclusive dog foods if you are looking to switch from a grain free food.


  • Are Peas Legumes? – Yes, peas are legumes. The legume family is very large. It includes peas, lentils, beans, lupins, soybeans, and peanuts, to name just a few. Legumes can be good sources of protein, dietary fiber, carbohydrates, and dietary minerals. However, not all animals are able to digest various legumes well. There has been a lot of research about farm animals and legumes but not much about dogs and legumes.
  • Is Pea Protein Bad for Dogs? – A small amount of pea protein is not bad for your dog. However, if you read the ingredient lists on some dog foods you will discover that pea protein (and pea fiber and pea starch) are often listed quite high on the list. Pea protein is a plant protein and dogs don’t digest plant protein as well as meat protein. Pet food manufacturers add ingredients like pea protein to dog food to boost the protein percentage. This allows them to reduce the amount of meat/animal protein in the food which is more expensive for them to buy. Pea protein costs a lot less than meat protein. This is being done in some very expensive dog foods. The protein percentages continue to look high but the meat/animal percentage in the food has fallen. Dogs cannot thrive on this kind of diet.
  • Are all Grain-Free Diets Bad? – No, not all grain free diets are bad. The FDA has not advised people to stop feeding grain free diets. The agency advised people to stop feeding foods that contained peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes in the first 10 ingredients. However some researchers and veterinary cardiologists have recommended that dog lovers switch to diets that include grains. There are some grain free diets that don’t include peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes. They can be hard to find but we have tried to find a few for you in our list.
  • Is the FDA Going to Release More Information? – The FDA’s last update was released in February 2019. At that time the agency said that their veterinarians were still collecting information from the public, collaborating with veterinary cardiologists and researchers, and analyzing data. They said that they were continuing to investigate and would provide information to the public as things developed. So far there has not been a solution found or even a definitive cause of the dietary DCM in dogs.


There are no clear-cut answers about what is causing dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. According to researchers, veterinary cardiologists, and the FDA, there appears to be a link between ingredients commonly found in some grain free dog foods – peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes – and DCM. These experts have recommended that dog lovers, out of caution, avoid feeding foods that contain peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes (including sweet potatoes) in the first few ingredients.

If you are concerned that your dog might have DCM, the first thing you can do is have your veterinarian examine him and listen to his heart to check for any abnormalities. Your vet can also take an x-ray or ultrasound of the heart. If your dog doesn’t have any symptoms, it’s up to you whether you want to have any other tests done by a veterinary cardiologist. You can have your dog’s blood plasma level and whole blood taurine level tested by a lab or schedule an echocardiogram.

If your dog is diagnosed with DCM, some dogs (not all) have had their enlarged heart return to normal with a change in diet and supplements recommended/prescribed by their veterinarian.

We hope that the information here is helpful. Please let others know about this dietary form of dilated cardiomyopathy so they can make informed decisions about their dogs’ diets.

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