Peas are a staple of many dry dog food brands and formulas. They provide a source of high-quality carbohydrates and fiber while still being relatively cheap. They also contain a modest range of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A, C, and K. Peas are present in a vast variety of brands including premium and luxury brands like Taste of the Wild, Acana, Orijen, Zignature, Fromm, Instinct, Merrick and many more.
So what do you do if your dog has a severe allergy or intolerance to Peas? Finding a high-quality and nutritious dog food recipe without Peas can become an intense challenge. To add to this challenge, if your dog has an allergy to other legumes, such as Chickpeas and Lentils, and not just Peas, then finding an appropriate dog food without Legumes can be an arduous task. This is as ingredients such as Lentils, Peas, and Chickpeas are a staple of almost all high-quality dog foods.
If allergies aren’t your concern then perhaps you have become aware of a possible link between legumes, such as Peas, and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy. We will discuss the fine details of this later on, but this has pushed many vigilant dog owners to search far and wide for alternatives.
Not only are whole Peas a common ingredient in dog food, but so are Pea by-products like Pea Protein and Pea Fiber. These can often be seen further down the ingredient list. Not only are these ingredients often considered lower-quality or fillers, even in lower quantities, but these ingredients can also cause the same adverse reaction Whole Peas can. For more information about Peas and all of the Pea By-products used in dog food, check out our Peas, Pea Protein, Pea Flour and Pea Fiber in Dog Food article. The article will break down what all those by-products are and why it is best to avoid them.
Peas And Heart Disease
In July 2018, the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration)announced that it had received reports about a type of heart disease called Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy, which can cause an enlarged, weakened heart and eventual heart failure in dogs. These reports suggested a link between grain free dog foods, high in Potatoes, Peas and other Legumes could be the cause.
The heart disease occurred in select breeds such as golden and Labrador retrievers, a whippet, a Shih Tzu, a bulldog, and miniature schnauzers. None of these breeds are genetically prone to the disease which suggests that there must be another cause and the reports pointed the finger at legumes like Peas.
If true, this could have enormous consequences and massively shake up the commercial dog food world as almost all brands, especially premium brands, utilize Peas and other legumes as their primary carbohydrate source. However, at this time this link is far from conclusive and may be unfounded. Unfortunately, a significant amount of research and studies conducted in relation to pet food are funded by pet food manufacturers and therefore can be biased or misleading.
Nevertheless, this claim should be taken seriously and further investigated. However, until there is indisputable evidence to link heart disease and a diet high in Peas, we will not negatively review or exclude dog food recipes that contain Peas. However, we will continue to mark down dog food recipes that use inferior quality pea ingredients like Pea Protein and Pea Flour as we believe these are not a positive addition to dog food.
But for those of you who want to act upon this information now, this article will provide you with information on the alternatives to Peas and suggest some fantastic quality Pea-free dog foods.
The Best Alternatives to Peas in Dog Food?
Legumes – Lentils or Chickpeas
As mentioned previously, legumes are very commonly used as a high-quality source of carbohydrates in dog food. If your dog suffers from an allergy or intolerance to Peas but is fortunate enough to not have an adverse reaction to other legumes such as Lentils or Chickpeas, then the task of finding a nutritious dog food can be less challenging.
Alternative legumes such as Chickpeas and Lentils share a similar nutritional profile. They are relatively high in protein for a vegetable and contain dietary fiber to help promote and sustain healthy digestion. Chickpeas also provide a high level of Manganese and Copper, while Lentils can provide Iron and Folate(Vitamin B9).
Unfortunately, many dog foods tend to use a mix of legumes rather than just one source. This approach is used in order for the legume ingredients to appear lower down the ingredient list. This technique is sometimes known as Ingredient Splitting and is one of the more sinister techniques employed in the pet food industry. Despite this, there are a large number of formulas available that only contain a single type of legume. Find out more about this subject in our article Ingredient Splitting in Pet Food – Exposed.
Once again, it is worth noting that the link to canine dilated cardiomyopathy was implied to be all legumes and not just Peas. Therefore, if the reason you are looking to change formulas is to help prevent this, then a formula with alternative legumes such as Chickpeas and Lentils would be up to the task.
Pumpkin & Squash
Beyond legumes, alternative high-quality carbohydrates ingredients can be more difficult to source. Pumpkin is one great example of a high-quality carbohydrate ingredient that does see widespread use in some dog foods brands products.
Pumpkin contains high levels of micronutrients such as Beta-Carotene and Potassium. It also contains Vitamin C and E which are essential for healthy skin. Pumpkin also provides lots of dietary fiber, perfect for regulating a dog’s digestive system. Many products designed to aid a dogs digestion have pumpkin as an ingredient, and veterinary professionals will sometimes specifically prescribe dogs pumpkin to promote healthy digestion.
Sadly, Pumpkin is most commonly combined with other vegetables such as Peas. Therefore there is only a limited number of Pea-free formulas also utilize Pumpkin.
Pumpkins are members of the Squash family of vegetables. While the use of Squash vegetables excluding Pumpkin is limited there is some limited use. Butternut Squash and Acorn Squash are the most common forms of squash that are used behind Pumpkin.
Squash has very similar nutrition to Pumpkin and is high in carbohydrates, fiber and some beneficial Vitamins like Vitamin A, E and the B Vitamins.
Starches – Sweet & Traditional Potatoes and Tapioca
Another common alternative to Peas or Legumes is starches. This is especially true of Sweet Potatoes which are often considered the most nutritious and beneficial of all the commonly used starches.
Sweet Potatoes contain a similar nutrient profile to Pumpkins, with high levels of Vitamin A and dietary fiber. In addition to this, they also provide above-average levels of Calcium and Iron. They are however a very dense source of complex carbohydrates and as a consequence should be eaten in moderation.
Potatoes, on the other hand, have an even stronger focus on complex carbohydrates with little-added nutrition beyond that. However, Potato skins do contain some fiber. On a similar note to Sweet Potatoes, we don’t encourage high levels of carbohydrates in dog food. However, if other vegetable ingredients such as Peas are not an option, then dog food containing Potatoes is a very acceptable solution.
Tapioca, which can also be known by the name of Cassava Root, is not a commonly known ingredient in the western world but is very popular in South America. Tapioca is a root vegetable which provides similar nutrition to other starches with a high level of complex carbohydrates and limited micronutrients.
It is doubtful that your dog would have encountered it before as it is not a common ingredient. Tapioca is sometimes used as a binding agent. Binding agents are used to ensure that dog food stays in a consistent shape and texture. Find out more about Tapioca in our article Tapioca In Dog Food.
Tapioca and Potato By-products are sadly common in some dog food brands products. These are considered low-quality ingredients and should be avoided. Examples include Potato Protein, Potato Starch, and Tapioca Flour.
Grains – Oats or Brown Rice
The last and more controversial alternative to Peas to discuss is Grains. While we do strongly recommend grains in a dogs diet, there are some unique circumstances where their use can be justified.
If your dog has an extremely sensitive stomach and cannot stomach any of the traditional vegetable sources of carbohydrates, then grains may have to be considered. Another potential circumstance that could arise is if you can not source an appropriate grain-free dog food in your local area or cannot afford the financial cost of some of the more premium limited ingredient formulas.
The last reason, as we discussed previously, is if you are looking for an alternative dog food formula because you are concerned about canine dilated cardiomyopathy. While it is important to note that this link is not yet proven, recipes with grain ingredients look to be a realistic alternative.
In any of the above cases, we suggest a formula that contains whole grains such as Oats or Brown Rice. These are the two whole grains which we consider to be most beneficial to a dogs diet. These grains are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and easily digestible plant-based proteins. Brown Rice is an excellent source of magnesium and phosphorous while Oats contain Thiamin and Iron.
To contrast this we do not recommend grains such as Corn, Wheat, or Rye. We do not believe these are suitable grains for a dogs diet and are incredibly dense sources of carbohydrates. In addition, these ingredients are commonly associated with allergic reactions such as skin rashes and digestion issues.
Best Pea Free Dog Foods
Please note that the recipes highlighted below are a mix of Pea-Free and Legume-Free formulas. If you are only looking for Legume-Free formulas, then we advise you to ignore the recipes that contain Chickpeas, Lentils, and other legumes and focus on the remaining formulas.
Nature’s Variety Instinct is one of the powerhouses of the premium dog food market. Instinct has a wide range of products as is probably best known for their raw and semi-raw recipes. Nature’s Variety Instinct is available at large retail stores like PetSmart, unlike some of its competitors, as well as at many online websites and stores such as Chewy and Amazon.
While their raw recipes might get the most focus, they also produce formulas without raw ingredients such as their Ultimate Protein and Original range. There are three recipes in the Ultimate Protein range: Chicken, Duck, and Chicken for Small Breed Dogs.
This Ultimate Protein range isn’t specifically designed for dogs who suffer from allergies or intolerances like their Limited Ingredient Diet range. However, it is still a very viable option, especially for those dogs who suffer from a Pea or legume allergy.
The primary ingredient is whole Chicken. This Chicken provides a considerable proportion of high-quality protein and fat. While it is true that the portion of Chicken will shrink as its water is lost, the portion is significant enough that it will likely remain the primary ingredient.
What makes Ultimate Protein formulas unique is that they also contain Tapioca, which we discussed as an alternative to Peas earlier. In this formula, Tapioca has two purposes, it is being used as a thickening agent to form kibble, and it is being used to provide a modest sum of carbohydrates.
This mix of whole meat ingredients and an unusual starch ingredient could make this formula extremely viable for those looking to remedy a Pea or Legume allergy.
Nature’s Logic is a lesser known brand, but their recipes fill an essential niche in the premium and hypoallergenic dog food market. As we discussed earlier, we do not strongly suggest dog food recipes with grain ingredients. However, if there are no alternatives, then there is a place for them with, and an example of this could be with dogs with severe Pea and Legume allergies.
Nature’s Logic’s dry dog food recipes make use of the grain Millet. While we don’t consider Millet to be quite as advantageous as other grains, like Brown Rice and Oats, it is still far superior to low-quality and filler grains such as Wheat and Corn. Nutritionally, Millet provides carbohydrates, some fiber, and a limited range of vitamins and minerals.
The above mentioned Pork Formula contains a mix of whole Pork meat and Pork Liver. This combination provides a very satisfactory proportion of protein and fat to fuel your dog’s activity. The Pork Liver can provide some minerals and vitamins that traditional meat cuts can not. The proportion of protein and fat is very satisfactory and suitable for dogs of all activity levels.
There are a number of other formulas available that use a wide range of meat and fish ingredients. Be sure to check out our reviews on their Canine Duck & Salmon Meal Feast and Canine Rabbit Meal Feast which are some of their other recipes which we are big fans of.
Nature’s Logic is an excellent choice for those dog owners who are incredibly concerned about Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Nature’s Logic recipes are free of Peas, Legumes, and Potatoes while still providing excellent nutrition and avoiding questionable and low-quality ingredients. Check out Nature’s Logic’s Brand Page for more information.
Venture by Earthborn Holistic is a high-quality Limited Ingredient range. No two formulas within this range are the same, and they utilize a variety of vegetable, meat and fish ingredients.
While some recipes such as Rabbit Meal and Pumpkin and Pork Meal and Butternut Squash do contain Peas, others such as Squid and Chickpeas and Alaska Pollock Meal and Pumpkin are entirely Pea free. They instead contain alternative legumes such as Chickpeas or vegetables and starches such as Pumpkin and Tapioca.
Do you remember how we mentioned that dog food formulas that contain Pumpkin but not Peas and other Legumes were extremely rare? Well, Venture – Alaska Pollock Meal & Pumpkin is probably the best and most available of that very select list.
Pumpkin is actually the primary carbohydrate ingredient which is extremely rare and therefore very appealing to those dogs who cope well with a large portion of Pumpkin. Tapioca is the secondary carbohydrate ingredient and one which we have discussed in detail earlier.
Seafood ingredients such as Squid and Pollock aren’t commonplace in most dog food recipes but are highly nutritious and could appeal to your dog’s pallet.
Venture formulas also include a significant portion of Flaxseed which can provide a healthy portion of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Omega 3 Fatty Acids are well known to offer a range of health benefits such as preventing heart disease and helping to maintain healthy skin and coat.
Nutri Source is not a pet food brand that is as well known or popular as some of the others mentioned in this article. Nevertheless, they produce a range of high-quality dog food recipes without Peas. Two examples high-quality formulas produced by Nutri Source are High Plains Select and Woodlands Select.
However, please note that these recipes from Nutri Source are not legume free and do contain other legumes besides Peas.
High Plains Select uses a wide range of meat and fish ingredients, including Beef, Trout, and Turkey. These ingredients provide a strong base of animal protein and fat which is incredibly vital to a dog’s diet. Other recipes from Nutri Source use meat ingredients such as Wild Boar and Salmon which are equally as favored.
The high-quality meat and fish ingredients in Nutri Source’s formulas are then combined with vegetable ingredients such as Chickpeas and Lentils which provide high-quality carbohydrates and fiber. Some of their formulas also contain a small proportion of Tapioca that we discussed earlier.
We believe Nutri Source is a fantastic option for those dogs who react poorly to Peas and cope well with other legumes like Chickpeas.
Victor is another successful brand to feature in this article and one which many of you will be familiar with. Victor is commonly found in local or large pet food stores as well as at a myriad of online retailers.
Victor produces a number of high-quality and nutritious formulas some of which contain Peas and Legumes, but there are others that include some of the more preferred grain ingredients such as Brown Rice or Millet.
A noteworthy example of such a formula is the Hi-Pro Plus. It contains a substantial variety of meat and fish ingredients all of which are meat meals. While meat meals may sound scary, they are, in fact, very nutritionally dense. This is as they have had their moisture removed. As long as the meat meal is named, we consider it to be a satisfactory ingredient. Examples of meat meals used in Hi-Pro Plus include Beef Meal, Chicken Meal, Pork Meal, and Menhaden Fish Meal.
The formula uses two sources of carbohydrates, Grain Sorghum and Millet. While not quite as preferred as some other carbohydrate providing ingredients, these are two very realistic options for those dogs with severe allergies associated with Peas and other legumes. Besides, the sum of carbohydrates provided by the portion of these two ingredients is modest and satisfactory for the majority of dogs.
Hi-Pro Plus from Victor is another formula that we would highly recommend to those dog owners who are deeply concerned about Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy or have a dog breed that is prone to Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy. It could also be advantageous to other formulas suggested in this article as it is very affordable and cost-effective. Victor dog food comes in huge bags which can allow you to make use of economies of scale.
Taste of the Wild is an extremely popular brand in the United States and one that the vast majority of dog owners will be familiar with. Taste of the Wild, however, only recently launched their Prey range, but it has grown in popularity at a fast pace. Taste of the Wild have not maid their Prey range readily available online, so you may need to visit a local store to purchase a bag.
There are three recipes currently available for dogs in the Prey range, Trout, Angus Beef, and Turkey. The Prey range is a classic example of a limited ingredient formula and focuses on containing as few ingredients as possible to avoid irritation and allergies. Each of the three recipes core meat or fish ingredient is combined with Lentils, Tomato Pomace, and Canola Oil.
If you are looking for a legume free recipe, then Taste of the Wild Prey will not be suited. Lentils are very similar to Peas and are a part of the legume family. However, if your pet only suffers from a Pea allergy or intolerance, then a dog food such as this that uses Lentils is an excellent option.
Tomato Pomace is used as a source of soluble fiber and does not provide any significant nutrition. Canola Oil is sometimes controversial but is known to provide a healthy portion of the Omega Fatty Acids.
Sport Dog Food is a brand that many readers will likely not be familiar with. The brand aims to fill the sporting and working dog food niche such as sled dogs, K9 dogs, and tracking dogs. As a consequence, many of their formulas provide very satisfactory nutrition which is required to ensure that working dogs can remain active and healthy throughout their working lives.
In addition to their nutritional content, all of Sport Dog Food’s formulas are entirely free of Peas and Pea By-products which could make them an ideal choice for those dogs who react poorly to Peas.
An example of one of Sport Dog Food’s formulas is Sporting Dog – Whitefish Formula. It contains a minimal number of ingredients including a single core fish ingredient in Whitefish Meal. While Whitefish may sound a little vague, it is a high-quality ingredient and provides satisfactory nutrition. The formula also contains a large portion of starches like Sweet Potatoes and Tapioca. These provide carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
The protein proportion of this formula is not as impressive as some of the other formulas in this article or from Sport Dog Food, but I have chosen to include it due to the high level of the Omega Fatty Acids it contains. As we know, these fatty acids can provide a range of health benefits, especially to those dogs with allergies.
Some examples of other Pea-free formulas available from Sport Dog Food include Working Dog – Turkey Formula, Sled Dog – Buffalo Formula, and Cub – Buffalo Formula.
Bully Max only sells one variety of dry dog food which is their 30/20 High Performance Formula. Behind the generic marketing, aimed at owners who want strong and muscular pit bulls, is a surprisingly nutritious dog food. Also, the formula is not only Pea-free but also Legume-free which could offer a lifeline to those dogs with severe legume allergies or those who are concerned about Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
As we mentioned earlier, while grains are not often considered to be the ideal source of carbohydrates, they should be considered in some circumstances. Bully Max uses Brown Rice, Pearled Barley, and Sorghum. Brown Rice, in particular, is one of the best grains for dogs and provides high levels of manganese and dietary fiber alongside its carbohydrate content.
The grains in this formula are combined with a very healthy portion of Chicken Meal and Menhaden Fish Meal to provide adequate animal-based protein and fat. As we mentioned earlier, Meat and Fish Meal is not something to be scared of and is merely meat that has had its moisture removed. Bully Max also produces a range of dog supplements which they would like you to be combined with their dry dog food.
Another solution to a severe Pea or legume allergy could be to try Canned Dog Food. Canned dog food tends to contain far fewer vegetable ingredients such as Peas and other legumes. This lack of legumes in canned dog food often means there is a greater variety of formulas available that could be suitable for your dog’s unique allergies and sensitivities.
One of our favorite canned dog food brands is Merrick. Merrick produces a wide range of canned dog food formulas that utilize a variety of meat and fish ingredients such as Buffalo, Lamb, Duck, Salmon, and many more. They also produce unique holiday-themed recipes including Christmas and Thanksgiving formulas.
While not holiday themed, the Real Beef + Lamb + Buffalo formula contains a core of highly nutritious red meat ingredients which provide a very healthy portion of protein and fat. While a little obvious, these include Beef, Lamb, and Buffalo.
The only other ingredients in the recipe are a small number of gums and minerals. The complete lack of any vegetable ingredients such as Peas or other Legumes makes this formula a fantastic option for those dogs with severe allergies.
However, there are other things to take into account when considering canned dog food. Check out our Best Canned Dog Food Article for all the information you might need.
Wellness also produces a range of high-quality Canned Dog Foods alongside more traditional dry food recipes. Their Core 95% range not only has a similar name to the above Merrick recipes but similar ingredients and nutrition. They have three unique formulas with a choice of meat ingredients including Beef, Chicken, and Turkey.
By constituting the vast majority of the formulas content, these meat ingredients provide a very satisfactory sum of protein and fat. This may make these formulas extremely appealing and enjoyable to your dog who is not used to such a concentrated diet.
While the Merrick canned dog food formulas only contain meat ingredients, these Wellness formulas also contain a small amount of a less commonly used vegetable ingredient. In the case of the Turkey formula, they include Spinach. Spinach can provide a wide range of Vitamins and Minerals including Vitamin A, B, C, and K as well as high levels of Iron. Other formulas in the Core 95% range include Broccoli and Carrots, and all three varieties are entirely pea and legume free.
It is important to note that canned dog food is significantly more costly than dry food. This is the case for both the Merrick and Wellness formulas mentioned above. Some dog owners use a mix of dry and wet food as a consequence of the higher price in an attempt to make it more affordable.
If your dog’s Pea and Legume intolerances are severe enough and none of the recipes mentioned above, with grains, are viable, then you might want to consider an air-dried dog food. Ziwi Peak produces a fantastic quality air-dried dog food range and is one of the leaders in this niche market.
The advantage of air-dried dog food is that it almost entirely made up of meat and has no significant vegetable, grain or fruit ingredients. By eliminating these ingredients, your choice narrows to choosing a meat or fish ingredient that your dog can enjoy safely.
As you can imagine, air-dried dog food is highly nutritious and contains a plentiful supply of protein and fat.
The disadvantage of Air Dried Dog Food is that it is incredibly costly and not a realistic solution to provide complete nutrition to anyone but the super-affluent.
However, if you considered feeding your dog a mixture of Air Dried Dog Food and fresh ingredients the cost can be a lot more realistic. Ingredients such as fresh fruit and vegetables are ideal to combine with a diet of air-dried dog food. This would also enable you to feed your dog specially selected vegetables that do not cause allergies or contribute to other health concerns.
Homemade Dog Food
The final and most often overlooked solution to any severe allergy is to create and feed your dog homemade dog food. When you are making the dog food yourself, you have complete control over the what ingredients it will contain, their quality and the overall nutrition of the food. Making Homemade Dog Food is one way you can provide a diet that is entirely pea-free without having to travel long distances or wait for deliveries.
The downside is that making homemade dog food requires planning and hard work. You can no longer come home after a long day at work and refill your dog’s food and water bowl. However, we find the time to plan, prepare and cook food for ourselves and our families so why can’t we put the same amount of effort into our dogs?
Peas aren’t the only ingredient that dog food owners struggle to avoid. We are building up a range of articles to cover the most commonly queried ingredients. Here are some of our articles that cover other ingredients or allergies in general.