Peas are a staple of countless 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. Some examples of brands that make consistent and widespread use of peas include Taste of the Wild, Acana, Orijen, Zignature, Fromm, Nature’s Variety 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 any 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 link later on, but for now, it’s important to know that this link 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, Pea Flour, and Pea Fiber. These can often be seen further down the ingredient list. Not only are these ingredients considered to be lower-quality or fillers, even in lower quantities, but these ingredients can also cause the same adverse allergic reaction that 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 Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, and Miniature Schnauzers. None of these dog 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.
To learn more about Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy, check out this in-depth explanation from Washington State University.
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 concerning 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.
Update June 2019
Until now, the FDA has avoided mentioning any specific dog food brands, but on Thursday, June 27, 2019, they did provide an update on their findings and named 16 dog food brands that were most frequently associated with the cases that they have studied and analyzed.
However, at this time, the FDA has still not found any concrete or conclusive evidence that the dog food brands in their report are the direct cause of these reported DCM cases.
The 16 Brands mentioned are:
- Taste of the Wild
- Earthborn Holistic
- Blue Buffalo
- Nature’s Domain
- California Natural
- Natural Balance
- Nature’s Variety
- Rachel Ray Nutrish
You can read the FDA’s update here.
The Best Alternatives to Peas in Dog Food?
Alternative Legumes – Lentils or Chickpeas
As mentioned previously, legumes are very commonly used as a source of carbohydrates in dog food. If your dog suffers from an allergy or intolerance to Peas but is fortunate enough to not have the same adverse reaction to other legumes such as Lentils or Chickpeas, then the task of finding a nutritious dog food can be far less challenging.
Alternative legumes such as Chickpeas and Lentils share a similar nutritional profile to Peas which is what makes them so attractive to dog food brands. 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 mixed 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 methods 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 not 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 and eyes. 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 expressly 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.
If Pumpkin appeals to you, check out our article Best Dog Food With Pumpkin to see a broader range of recipes that 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. Find out more about these by-products in our article Potatoes, Potato Protein & Potato Starch in Dog Food.
Grains – Oats, Brown Rice, Or Millet
The last and more controversial alternative to Peas to discuss is Grains. While we do not strongly recommend high quantities of grains in a dogs diet, others in the industry and supporters of the use of grains. This includes the WSAVA who discussed cereals in their FAQ page. Regardless of your stance on this there are some circumstances where their use can be justified by both sides.
If your dog has a susceptible 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, and some dogs saw improvement after transitioning to a diet with grains.
In any of the above cases, we suggest a formula that contains whole grains such as Oats, Brown Rice, or Millet. These are the 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.
Find out more about Millet’s use in dog food and what nutrition it can provide in our article Millet In Dog Food.
If a recipe that uses Brown Rice sounds appealing to you and your dog, we recommend you check out our Best Dog Food With Chicken and Rice article for a rundown of the best recipes currently available.
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/Legume-Free Dog Foods
Update June 2019 – We’ve made the decision to eliminate recipes that contain other legumes, such as Lentils and Chickpeas, from our recommendations to ensure that you have a comprehensive range of legume-free recipes to choose from.
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.
In the last few years, “Fresh Home Delivered” dog food has seen a surge in popularity. This style of dog food is drastically different from traditional kibble or canned food. It is prepared fresh, pre-portioned, frozen, and then delivered straight to a customers door.
NomNomNow is one of the most popular providers of this service and is available in all 48 of the contiguous states. We’d recommend checking out their How It Works Page for the full rundown on how the service works.
NomNomNow currently has four fresh dog food recipes available, and three of these are Pea-Free. However, we think that the above-mentioned Tasty Turkey Fare is the most appropriate to showcase in this article as it does not contain Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, or any other Legumes.
Instead, the recipe makes use of Brown Rice and some unusual vegetable ingredients such as Carrots and Spinach. This could be an ideal mix for dogs with severe legume allergies or for those dog owners who are concerned about Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
However, these aren’t the only ingredients present, and as you might have guessed, Turkey takes center stage. It is joined by a generous proportion of Eggs, which are one of the most bioavailable sources of protein.
These ingredients ensure that the nutritional profile of the formula is balanced, and it provides an above-average proportion of protein and fat.
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.
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.
One of Victor’s greatest advantages is that they sell their range is very high volumes. This allows Victor to be more affordable, which may appeal to owners of large dogs or multiple dogs.
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. Once again, we ill mention that Victor could be advantageous when compared to other formulas in this article as it is very affordable and cost-effective. Victor use of huge bags allows them to make use of economies of scale.
Farmina N&D Cod, Spelt, Oats & Orange Review
Farmina is a premium dog food brand, and their N&D range contains some extremely high-quality and nutritious formulas. We are particular fans of their puppy recipes, but their adult recipes are not to be brushed aside.
They make use of a select few meat and fish ingredients, including Chicken, Cod, Duck, and Lamb. The Cod formulas use a mix of whole Cod and dehydrated Cod to ensure that the total proportion is significant. This Cod provides an ample portion of protein and fat that is significantly above average.
Most of Farmina’s dog food range makes extensive use of the legume by-product: Pea Starch. Pea Starch is a vegetable by-product that we discuss regularly. It acts as a source of carbohydrates and as a binding agent to hold the kibble together.
Thankfully, this particular recipe from Farmina is Pea and Legume-free. Instead, it makes use of a range of grain ingredients, including Spelt and Oats. These provide carbohydrates and fiber.
Farmina recipes also contain much smaller portions of a large range of fruit and vegetables. Examples include Blueberries, Carrots, Apples, and Pomegranate. These could give the kibble a unique flavor and provide some less abundant micronutrients.
The only downside to Farmina recipes is that they tend to be very expensive. For those of us on a tight budget, they may not be a realistic option; however, for those willing to splash the cash, they could be one of the best foods money can buy.
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 a requirement to ensure that working dogs can perform their jobs and 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.
Sport Dog Food would be an excellent choice for those dogs who are very active but suffer from pea or legume allergies. It may, however, not be an ideal choice for those dogs who are less active or senior in age.
Health Extension Chicken & Brown Rice Review
Health Extension is a family-owned company based in the United States. Health Extension has very impressive transparency about the source of their ingredients, including an interactive map for visitors of their site to explore.
This level of transparency is unprecedented in the pet food industry and is something that many brands could learn from.
Health Extension has a moderately sized product range which includes some very common recipes, like Chicken & Rice, but also some less common ones.
The Health Extensions Chicken and Rice recipe makes use of a mix of Chicken ingredients, including Chicken, Chicken Meal, and Chicken Fat.
The recipes primary plant-based ingredient is Brown Rice. As we discuss regularly on our site, Brown Rice is preferred to White Rice or cheaper rice-based ingredients.
However, Health Extensions Chicken & Brown Rice recipe does contain some other meat and non-meat ingredients in notable portions. Examples of these ingredients include Lamb Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, and Oatmeal.
While all three of these ingredients could be considered high-quality to most dogs, this recipe may not be suitable for those who need a simple diet of just Chicken & Rice without additional ingredients.
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, one of which is its significantly higher price when compared to dry dog food. Check out our Best Canned Dog Food Article for all the information you might need to know on the subject.
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 content of the formula, 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.
Once again, it is important to discuss 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.
Crave is a relative newcomer to the pet food market and is owned by Mars Petcare which produces other recognizable brands such as Pedigree dog food and Whiskas cat food.
The brand was launched to cater to consumers who demand higher-quality pet food. The number of consumers who have become more aware and better informed on dog food nutrition has increased significantly in recent years, and we believe it will continue to grow.
Crave is often available at large brand pet stores or grocery stores, such as Walmart & PetSmart, and is surprisingly affordable. While wet dog food is still more expensive than dry food, Crave’s products won’t break the bank or make you flinch.
Crave’s Pate range is one of their best and offers a small variety of wet dog food formulas. Each formula contains both traditional meat cuts alongside organ meat. This organ meat provides beneficial Vitamins and Minerals that standard meat cuts lack. This combination of meat ingredients offers fantastic nutrition, high in protein and fat.
Finally, and most importantly, none of their Pate recipes contain a significant amount of vegetable ingredients, including legumes like Peas and Lentils. This is in stark contrast to Crave’s dry food recipes which make extensive use of legumes and legume by-products.
This crucial fact, combined with crave’s affordability could make it a vital lifeline for those of you looking to explore pea and legume-free canned dog food.
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 weight of the packaging that these recipes are sold in is very low, which may confuse some consumers. But it is important to remember that the moisture from the meat has been removed. If you re-add this moisture, then their total weight is more reasonable.
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 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.
Many dog owners think that creating homemade dog food is easy but the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association suggest as much as 90% of homemade pet food is nutritionally incomplete. But for those willing for put the time and research in that is required, it is viable.
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.