Chicken is one of the most popular ingredients in modern dog food and without a doubt the most common meat ingredient. From the very cheapest grocery store brand to the ultra-premium freeze-dried ranges, formulas that contain Chicken are almost always available.
Unfortunately Chicken is also one of the most widespread causes of allergic reactions or intolerances in dog food. These allergic reactions or intolerances can cause dogs across the world symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, bloat, and sometimes worse.
Finding high-quality, nutritious dog foods that do not contain Chicken or any other ingredient that causes an allergic reaction or intolerance can be a significant challenge as we highlighted in our Best Dog Food Without Peas article. Thankfully Chicken free dog food is in much more abundant supply than its pea free cousins and this article will lay out some of the best formulas available.
Do I Need To Buy A Dog Food Without Chicken?
No. Chicken is an extremely nutritious ingredient and ideally suited for a dogs diet. It contains a very satisfactory proportion of biologically appropriate animal protein and fat. Protein is essential in a dogs diet as it is used for the growth, repair, and maintenance of a dogs cells.
Fat is as equally as important as protein and is used as an easily digestible and concentrated source of energy as well as helping keep hormones and other bodily functions working as they should.
Lastly, Chicken includes a range of vitamins and minerals such as Niacin, Selenium and the Vitamin B6. While Chicken contains fewer vitamins and minerals than other meats, the vitamins and minerals it does provide are essential for maintaining a healthy heart and skin.
What About A Dog Food Without Chicken Meal?
Chicken Meal, just like whole Chicken, is a very nutritious ingredient for a dog’s diet. While it is true that Chicken Meal is a processed ingredient, the rendering process that Chicken Meal undergoes removes the moisture and does not remove the protein and fat which are the core nutrition that Chicken provides.
In fact, because the moisture has been removed, Chicken Meal is more nutritious on a gram for gram basis than whole Chicken. Dog food formulas that have Chicken Meal or any other meat meal listed as their primary ingredient must, therefore, contain a significant portion of Chicken as whole Chicken can be as much as 80% moisture.
One downside of meat meal or fish meal over whole meat or fish is that many of the oils found within the meat are also removed during the rendering process alongside moisture. In the case of fish, these oils are often high in the Omega Fatty Acids which can provide a range of health benefits.
However, Chicken is not high in the Omega Fatty Acids, so having some of its oils removed during the rendering process is unlikely to have a noticeable effect on the level of those fatty acids. Nevertheless, it is an important consideration and as a whole, consumers should prefer whole ingredients to meals if there is a choice.
Chicken Fat In Dog Food
Some of the most prominent and well-known brands make use of Chicken Fat in their dog food recipes. Examples include Solid Gold and Fromm. Chicken Fat is actually a very beneficial ingredient for most dogs and can provide beneficial fatty acids such as the Omega 6 Fatty Acids.
For this reason, we have nothing against Chicken Fat, however, it could present problems for dogs who have a Chicken allergy.
However, as Solid Gold argues, more dogs react negatively to the protein in Chicken, therefore Chicken Fat may not cause the same adverse reaction. Nevertheless, it is worth being aware of as some dogs may also react poorly to Chicken Fat.
Chicken Fat can often be particularly far down the ingredient list and may not be picked up by unsuspecting dog owners who instead are focusing on the Non-Chicken ingredients further up the list.
For example, Fromm produces a formula called Salmon Tunalini. It contains a variety of fish ingredients such as Sardines, Tuna, and the primary ingredient: Salmon. Consumers would expect fish ingredients like these to be present given the recipes name. What many consumers don’t realize is that the formula also contains Chicken Fat as its thirteenth listed ingredient. While the quantity of Chicken Fat may be minor, it could still trigger an allergic reaction.
This is one of the reasons that you should read the full ingredient list of a dog food recipe before feeding it to your dog. This way you will not be caught off guard by minor ingredients that could cause your dog unneeded stress and discomfort.
What Should I do If I Think My Dog Is Allergic To Chicken?
If you suspect your dog may be allergic to Chicken but can not prove it, we recommend trying a Limited Ingredient Formula. Limited Ingredient formulas allow you to quickly remove the majority of ingredients from your dog’s diet and then reintroduce them over time until you can recognize or pin down the problem ingredient.
Therefore if you fed your dog a limited ingredient formula without any Chicken ingredients and any adverse reactions they were suffering stopped or were significantly reduced, it is very likely that your dog has an allergy to Chicken and will now require a dog food formula without Chicken.
While it may be tempting to jump to this conclusion, it is also essential to ensure that it was not another ingredient in your dog’s diet that you also eliminated simultaneously. This could be achieved by reintroducing some of those other ingredients such as vegetables or fruits.
However, the flip side of this is if the symptoms or reactions do not subside then it is likely that another ingredient or environmental factor may be the cause. Other common dietary allergens in dog food are Beef, Legumes, Potatoes, and Grains but virtually any ingredient could be the culprit.
For more information on limited ingredient dog food formulas and food-related allergies in dogs check out our Hypoallergenic Dog Food Guide. The article breaks down all the types of hypoallergenic dog food, as well as common symptoms and allergens. Finally, it suggests some of the best hypoallergenic dog food formulas currently available.
The Best Alternatives to Chicken in Dog Food?
You are confident that Chicken is the cause of your dog’s discomfort and you want to know the best alternative? Look no further, below are all the alternative meat ingredients in no particular order.
Fish are an incredibly nutritious ingredient and are often neglected or underrepresented in dog food. They contain high-quality protein and fat, especially the advantageous Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids which are proven to provide a range of health benefits such as improved skin and coat health or improved cognitive function.
There is a large variety of fish ingredients commonly used in dog food such as Trout, Salmon, Mackerel, Whitefish, Menhaden Fish and many more. The nutrition these fish ingredients can provide varies, but they are almost all considered high-quality. The large variety of fish available can simplify your search as you are bound to find a fish that your dog enjoys.
Unfortunately, many fish-centric formulas also include small amounts of Chicken or Chicken ingredients like Chicken Meal or Chicken Fat. The likelihood of small quantities of these ingredients being present is why it is essential you carefully analyze the ingredient list of any prospective recipe and ensure it is entirely Chicken free. All of the fish ingredients we will suggest later in this article are free of any Chicken products.
If Fish doesn’t appeal to your dog, then red meats such as Beef, Lamb or Pork are a safe bet. Red meat is often considered by some to be inferior or less healthy than alternatives like Chicken and fish in a humans diet, but this is not the case for dogs.
Red meat is high in animal fat which can provide your dog with a concentrated energy source for their active and energetic lifestyles. Also, red meat tends to be higher in minerals such as Iron and Zinc that are just as crucial as nutrients like protein and fat.
Most dog food formulas with a heavy focus on red meat do not contain any chicken ingredients, but you would need to check the formula in questions ingredient list to be certain.
Therefore most high-quality dog food formulas with a focus on red meat ingredients and without Chicken ingredients may be the best bet on your search for a Chicken free recipe.
It may seem wrong to suggest poultry in an article aimed at avoiding the most common poultry bird of all. However, just because your canine friend reacts poorly to Chicken, does not necessarily mean they have an adverse reaction to other poultry birds such as Turkey, Duck, or even Quail and Pheasant. While some of these poultry birds may be significantly less frequent ingredients, there are some formulas out there that utilize them.
Poultry such as Turkey and Duck tend to be very similar to Chicken with both the nutrition and micronutrients they provide. As we mentioned, earlier this includes Niacin, Vitamin B6, and Selenium. However, some poultry birds like Duck tend to contain a higher proportion of fat than Chicken or Turkey.
Sadly, similarly to formulas that focus on fish, many dog food formulas that focus on alternative poultry ingredients such as Turkey and Duck also contain Chicken or Chicken ingredients. There are some that recipes that exclusively contain other poultry, but these are few and far between.
Novel Meat Formulas contain meats that are rarely used in dog food or food for human consumption. The advantage of these meat ingredients is that it is unlikely your dog would have been previously exposed to them. While the causes of dietary allergies are very complex, this reduced chance of exposure drastically decreases the possibility of your dog having an adverse reaction.
Some examples of novel meats include Kangaroo, Venison, Bison, Rabbit, and Crocodile. The core downside to novel meat formulas is that they are often expensive or hard to source which is understandable given that many of these animals are not domestically farmed like more traditional farm animals.
Some may consider sourcing exotic and expensive meat ingredients such as this as excessive and say that there are plenty of more affordable formulas without Chicken ingredients readily available. However, for some these formulas are a lifeline for their dogs who react very poorly to the vast majority of commercial dog food.
Best Chicken Free Dog Foods
Our first Novel Meat formula is surprisingly affordable and accessible to acquire. Nature’s Variety Instinct is becoming a staple in the high-quality dog food thanks to the quality of their recipes. While their raw and semi-raw recipes may be their most well-known products, their Original range is fast growing into one of the most popular dry food ranges. They have a reasonable range of recipes available including two recipes with Chicken ingredients.
While uncommon, Rabbit meat is a very nutritious ingredient and contains high levels of protein and fat which should be at the core of every dog’s diet. Also, Rabbit meat contains relatively high levels of the B Vitamins such as B3 and B12 which can ensure your dogs remains healthy.
The formula also contains a smaller portion of fish ingredients such as Whitefish Meal and Salmon Meal. These fish ingredients help boost the level of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids to very satisfactory levels. These Fatty Acids can provide a range of health benefits such as improved cognitive function and healthier skin and coat.
Orijen regularly features on many of our “Best of” dog food articles because of the high-quality ingredients it utilizes and the fantastic nutrition they provide. Orijen is the sister brand of Acana, and many of their recipes share numerous similarities.
Orijen have a wide range of dog food formulas containing a vast variety of meat and fish ingredients. Each recipe is guaranteed to contain at least ten meat or fish ingredients which is unprecedented in the commercial dog food world. Many of Orijen’s recipes, such as Original, Fit and Trim and their Puppy formulas do include Chicken and so sadly wouldn’t be recommended in this article.
However, other formulas such as Regional Red and Six Fish are completely Chicken-free. Regional Red, as the name would suggest, has a focus on red meat ingredients such as Beef, Pork, and Lamb. While many dog owners try to limit their intake of red meat, it is perfect for an energetic and hungry dog and can provide them with a plentiful supply of protein and fat. The high-quality red meat ingredients are combined with an extensive range of fruits and vegetables such as Beans, Pumpkin, Spinach, and Carrots.
Tundra is another formula by Orijen that is similar to Regional Red. Tundra uses less common red meat ingredients such as Goat, Wild Boar, and Char. While these ingredients make the formula more costly, they may be a pleasant surprise for some dogs who enjoy the variety of never before tasted meat ingredients.
Merrick is an ever reliable source of high-quality dog food recipes. With a huge selection of both standard, limited ingredient and canned dog food available you can almost never go wrong with Merrick. While normally we would suggest a limited ingredient formula for an article like this, Merrick produces a very promising formula in its Grain Free Real range.
Salmon is one of the most common fish ingredients used in dog food and for a good reason. It is highly nutritious and readily available. Merrick’s formula makes use of both whole Salmon and Salmon Meal. It also contains a small portion of Whitefish which is also considered a high-quality fish ingredient. This lack of any poultry or red meat ingredients could make this formula ideal for a dog who is comfortable eating fish.
Merrick’s Salmon + Sweet Potato formula makes use of a wide array of plant material, alongside its fish ingredients, including Sweet Potatoes, Peas, and White Potatoes. It also includes small quantities of fruits like Blueberries and Apples. While the nutritional profile provided by all these ingredients may not be quite as impressive as some of the other formulas in this article, such as Orijen’s, it is very satisfactory for the majority of dogs.
As we mentioned earlier, novel meats and diets are an option for dogs who suffer from severe allergies associated with meats or fish such as Chicken. Zignature is a market leader in the Limited Ingredient space and produces a number of formulas that could be classified as novel meat formulas.
Zignature’s Kangaroo formula is one of the most famous novel recipes. It is extremely doubtful that your dog would have ever encountered a Kangaroo formula before and as a consequence, an allergic reaction is less likely to occur. Following Zignature’s use of Kangaroo meat, a number of other brands have attempted to produce kangaroo based formulas.
Zignature has recently expanded its selection of formulas including some additional novel meat ingredients. This includes a Guinea Fowl Formula and a Goat Formula which are almost as uncommon and exotic as Kangaroo.
In addition to Zignature’s Novel Meat formulas, they also produce a wide range of other formulas with more traditional meat or fish ingredients and have no recipes that contain Chicken of any kind. This wide range includes a Pork Formula, a Whitefish Formula, and a Duck Formula among many others. All Zignature’s recipes except one combine a single source of meat or fish with high-quality vegetable ingredients like Peas and Chickpeas.
Nature’s Logic is not as well known as other brands discussed in this article. However, it is worthy of inclusion and is very unique. Nature’s Logic has a wide range of dog food formulas including some that make use of unconventional meat and fish ingredients such as Sardine, Venison, Lamb, and Rabbit. Some of these ingredients could be considered Novel Meat formulas. Find out more about Novel Meat formulas in our Best Hypoallergenic Dog Food Guide.
One of the advantages of Nature’s Logic that puts them above their competitors is that they make public a vast range of nutritional and Ingredient information on their website which is significantly more information than most of their competitors are willing to provide.
This dense source of information includes accurate levels of a vast variety of micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Nature’s Logic also shows you exactly where their ingredients are sourced on an easy to understand visual map. This approach to transparency shows that they are passionate about dog nutrition and not ashamed of the nutrition their formulas provide or the source of their ingredients.
Their Pork Formula is very high in protein, which should be at the core of every dog’s diet. The formula does not contain any other meat or fish ingredients which is ideal for a dog with an allergy to Chicken. It is important to note that the formula does use a single grain as its source of carbohydrates.
Millet isn’t considered a high-quality source of carbohydrates, but for those dogs who do not have difficulty digesting Millet, it may be acceptable. Also, grains can be a vital lifeline for those dogs with severe allergies of vegetable and starch ingredients like Peas and Potatoes and should therefore not be immediately dismissed.
As we mentioned earlier, Acana is the sister brand of Orijen and shares its high-quality ingredients and excellent nutrition but does so at a more affordable price. Acana also has a broad range of formulas with many containing Chicken and other poultry ingredients such as Light & Fit and Meadowland. Acana produces a specific dog food range for dogs with dietary sensitivities and allergies which is known as their Singles range. The Singles range contains four formulas.
Acana’s fish recipes are our favorite due to there extremely high levels of the beneficial Omega 3 Fatty Acids. As we mentioned when discussing the Instinct recipe, the Omega 3 Fatty Acids can provide a range of health benefits such as improved cardiovascular health.
The Singles range formula that contains fish is Singles – Wild Mackerel. This formula combines Mackerel and Mackerel Meal with a wide range of vegetables such as Chickpeas, Lentils, and Pumpkin. This formula is without a doubt one of the best limited ingredient formulas on the market for those dogs without fish allergies.
While not quite as premium as Orijen or their sister brand Acana, Taste of the Wild is a popular choice in the dog food market. It is often touted as affordable yet high-quality. Unsurprisingly many of their recipes contain Chicken, but due to the sheer size of their range, many are Chicken free.
Taste of the Wild produces a range specifically for dogs with allergies known as Prey. It contains three recipes, Turkey, Trout and Angus Beef. While these recipes contain significantly fewer ingredients than other Taste of the Wild formulas, their nutrition is slightly inferior and they contain a large portion of Lentils.
For this reason, we are going to suggest a more traditional recipe which is one of our favorite recipes from Taste of the Wild. Southwest Canyon Canine Formula combines Beef, Lamb and Wild Boar with a mix of legumes such as Peas and Chickpeas. The nutrition provided by this formula is fantastic given that it is affordable and straightforward to acquire.
The larger range of ingredients may make this formula inappropriate for those with severe or multiple allergies. But for those who only struggle with Chicken and need a Chicken Free diet, Southwest Canyon could be the ideal solution.
Canidae Grain Free Pure is a high-quality dog food range. Pure includes a large variety of recipes, and while some of their recipes aren’t quite up to our high standards, we rate a select few of their formulas very highly. Many of the recipes contain Chicken as is expected in almost all brands. But some of the recipes, such as Pure – Sea, do not contain any Chicken ingredients.
Pure – Sea is a formula with a focus on fish ingredients such as Salmon and Menhaden Fish. While Menhaden Fish are often misunderstood, they can be an affordable high protein addition to pet food and preferred to unnamed meat by-products often seen in lower-quality recipes.
These high-quality fish ingredients are combined with vegetables such as Peas and Sweet Potatoes. These vegetable ingredients provide a satisfactory portion of carbohydrates and dietary fiber to aid digestion. The recipe does, however, contain traditional Potatoes which are considered a less beneficial ingredient. However, the portion of Potatoes is relatively low and should be of little concern.
Earthborn Holistic Venture is a grain free limited ingredient range of dog food. There are some recipes in this range available with unusual meat or fish ingredients like Squid or Alaskan Pollock. While these formulas with uncommon ingredients are worth investigating, as we mentioned earlier, just because a dog has an allergy or intolerance to Chicken does not mean they share that reaction to other poultry like Duck.
This is fortunate as Duck Meal and Pumpkin is probably our favorite recipe of the Venture range. Duck meat is a very nutritious source of meat and is particularly high in fat in comparison to other poultry like Chicken and Turkey. This fat can be used as a concentrated source of energy to promote activity.
This recipe only adds a limited number of vegetables to its ingredient list including Tapioca and Pumpkin. For this reason, this recipe may also be suitable for dogs who have an allergy or intolerance to more traditional legume ingredients like Peas and Lentils.