How to Choose Non Chicken Dog Food that Fits Your Needs


Although chicken is a lean source of bioavailable protein loaded with other vital nutrients, it is not always the best ingredient in dog food. This is because many dogs are sensitive to chicken meat and by-products. 

In fact, chicken is actually one of the most common canine food allergens. Many dogs will experience itchy skin, digestive issues, and other irritating symptoms if they consume a high volume of chicken. If you have noticed that your dog shows signs of a chicken allergy or chicken sensitivity, you should consider choosing a non-chicken dog food.

This is where we can help. Not only will we explain why you should consider not feeding your dog chicken, but we will also go over the best alternative sources of protein. From there, we will highlight and review some of the best chicken-free dog food options on the market today.

If you are ready to learn more about the alternatives to chicken-based dog food, it’s time to get started!

Why Do Some Dogs Need Non Chicken Dog Food?

As mentioned above, chicken meat and chicken by-products are dogs’ most common food-based allergens. This means that consuming chicken can trigger an immune response in some dogs. 

Although many dogs experience some form of an allergic reaction when they consume chicken, it is also one of the most common ingredients in prepared dog foods. 

This is because chicken is relatively inexpensive and a great source of lean protein, healthy fats, vitamin B6, and iron. In other words, it is packed with the nutrients that dogs need, but it can trigger a mild or severe immune response in many. 

What Are Common Symptoms of Chicken Sensitivity in Dogs?

Sad-looking English bulldog lying on mat on floor

Like food allergies in humans, there are varying degrees to which a chicken sensitivity or allergy will affect a dog. While some immune responses are quite mild and difficult to notice, other dogs will experience a much more severe immune response that could negatively impact their quality of life.

The following are some of the most common symptoms of chicken sensitivity:

  • Itchy and visibly irritated skin (this tends to be particularly prominent around the feet, outer ears, and hind quarters)
  • Inner ear redness that does not go away like an infection
  • Chronic coughing and sneezing, especially after eating
  • Inflammation near the joints and face
  • Eye irritation and discharge
  • Wheezing and labored breathing
  • Digestive system issues, including mild to severe diarrhea, vomiting, and increased flatulence 

If your dog is on dry or wet food containing chicken and you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, it might be a good idea to try non-chicken dog food.

As is always the case when you suspect a potential health issue in your dog, it is also worth booking a checkup with your veterinarian, as many of the symptoms associated with a chicken allergy closely resemble other types of allergies. Some more severe symptoms, like breathing issues, can even be a sign of a much more severe health issue.

When Do Chicken Allergies Usually Appear in Dogs?

Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy eating with head in dog bowl

While every dog is different, most allergies, including chicken allergies, will develop and emerge when a dog is between six months and three years old.

If a dog displays allergy-like symptoms earlier than six months, the puppy’s digestive system is likely reacting to another health issue. The reason allergies tend to emerge after six months is that a dog’s immune system is still developing at this age.

While it is not very common, it is also possible that a dog can develop a food allergy during their senior life stage, as the immune system can weaken with age. If you have a senior dog and they have suddenly begun demonstrating several of the common chicken allergy symptoms, you can switch them to a non chicken dog food that is formulated for senior dogs.

With that said, it is always important to report any sudden changes in a senior dog’s behavior or health to a veterinarian, as it is possible that the symptoms could be related to a much more severe cause than a simple food allergy. As is often the case with canine health issues during the senior life stage, the timing of a diagnosis is critical, as the longer you wait, the higher the risk.

For More Information About Canine Chicken Allergies

For more information about chicken allergies in dogs, we recommend reading Bond Vet’s informative guide – Chicken Allergies in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know.

It explains what causes so many dogs to have a sensitivity to chicken and how veterinarians diagnose a chicken allergy. It even goes into potential treatment options that dog owners can consider if they notice the most common chicken allergy symptoms.

What Are the Alternatives to Chicken-Based Dog Foods?

Dogs require a significant amount of protein in their diets. This means you must replace dog foods high in chicken with commercial dog food that replaces that type of protein with another that is equally lean and bioavailable. 

Growing dogs need a diet that is high in protein. This is also true for the more active and energetic breeds, like Australian cattle dogs, border collies, and Siberian huskies.

If you discover that your dog is showing any signs of a chicken allergy or sensitivity, there are some great alternatives. Rather than risk having your dog suffer from an ongoing food allergy, you should consider a balanced and nutritious commercial dog food from a trustworthy manufacturer that uses one of the following ingredients as the primary source of protein:

  • Lamb
  • Fish (salmon, herring, cod, hake, mackerel)
  • Turkey
  • Beef and buffalo
  • Duck
  • Venison 
  • Pork

As long as the dog food you choose contains a high-quality animal protein source other than chicken, your dog should be able to digest the food without experiencing the unpleasant side effects associated with a food allergy.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a New Dog Food

While the volume and type of protein are essential, it is not the only factor determining whether dog food is right for your pup. A good dog food is also nutritionally balanced, meaning it has all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients a dog needs in the appropriate amounts.

You also want to choose a dog food that does not contain unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients, like artificial flavors and colors, nutritionally empty fillers, unhealthy preservatives, and excessively high calories.

You should also find dog food appropriate for your dog’s current life stage. This is because dogs have different caloric and nutritional requirements at different life cycle stages. For example, a puppy will require relatively more protein and healthy fat with each meal than a senior dog.

The best dog foods also use highly digestible ingredients tailored to the canine digestive system. This will help the dog’s body absorb everything it needs from the food rather than just filling its stomach. You should also look for dog foods made from fresh, wholesome ingredients.

We also recommend choosing a dog food that contains added omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, as well as vitamin E, glucosamine, and chondroitin, as these are all important for the overall health of your dog’s skin, coat, and joints.

The Top Non Chicken Dog Foods

To help you make the right decision, we have reviewed plenty of different types of chicken-free dog foods to come up with our list of top picks.

If your canine companion has a chicken allergy or sensitivity, consider one of the following options, as they are amongst the best non-chicken dog foods on the market today:

1. Hill’s Science Diet – Adult Small Bites Lamb & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food

Hill’s Science Diet is one of the world’s most trusted dog food manufacturers. Part of their popularity is that the brand was founded by veterinarians who wanted to create life-stage and condition-specific dog food that would be scientifically formulated to give dogs the best quality diet possible.

This focus on offering specially formulated blends continues to this day, and Hill’s Science Diet still employs many veterinarians and animal nutritionists. This Adult Small Bites Lamb & Brown Rice formula dog food is ideal for any adult dog with a chicken sensitivity.

As the name implies, the primary source of protein is lamb, which is highly digestible and a great source of lean protein. Brown rice and several whole grains and seeds help to increase fiber content, which also helps with digestibility. This focus on including high levels of natural fiber and only the most digestible ingredients is helpful for any dog that suffers from food allergies or any sort of digestive issue.

Another key feature of this particular non chicken dog food is it’s loaded with added omega 6 fatty acids and vitamin E. This helps with skin and coat health, which can be vital if your dog has been dealing with an undiagnosed chicken allergy for years. Any damage done as a result of chronic itchiness and inflammation will be repaired much faster, thanks to the inclusion of these vital nutrients.

As with just about every type of dry food in Hill’s Science Diet product line, this blend contains high levels of antioxidants designed to bolster immune system strength. It is also formulated with ingredients that support heart health, which is extremely important during these most active years of a dog’s life.

Overall, this is an outstanding option for any dog, but it is appropriate for any dog suffering from a chicken allergy or food sensitivity.

2. Purina – Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Dry Dog Food

Purina is another major dog food manufacturer you might already be familiar with. Pro Plan is considered their highest quality line of dog food, and this particular blend was specifically designed for dogs with food allergies and sensitivities.

As you would expect, it is free from chicken and chicken by-products, as the primary protein source is real salmon. Salmon is the formula’s first ingredient, meaning it is the most prominent ingredient in every single kibble.

Salmon is less likely to trigger a food allergy than chicken, but it is an incredible source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, hugely beneficial for promoting healthy skin and coat. Like Hill’s Science Diet blend above, Purina packed this blend with highly digestible grains, like rice and oatmeal. Both of these natural sources of fiber are gentle on the digestive system, which is useful if your dog has struggled with digestive issues in the past.

The kibbles also contain high levels of natural prebiotic fiber, which is included to nourish beneficial intestinal bacteria and restore the gut flora within your dog’s digestive system. To help dogs with sensitive stomachs, this blend is free from other typical dog allergens, like corn, wheat gluten, soy, and artificial colors. Not only is it 100% free from any amount of chicken, but it also does not contain any other type of poultry, so you will not have to worry about any chicken allergy.

It’s another great non chicken dog food that can help your pup enjoy a healthy diet without irritating stomach issues.

3. Canidae – PURE Goodness Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato Adult Dry Dog Food

While they might not have the same market share as Hill’s Science Diet or Purina, Canidae has made a good name by offering reasonably priced, high-quality dog food.

This particular sweet potato recipe is an excellent option for any dog with a sensitivity to chicken, as it is entirely free from poultry. Instead, the primary source of protein is real salmon. As the name implies, it is a limited-ingredient recipe that only contains ten key ingredients. Not only does this offer dog owners peace of mind that they are feeding their dog food that only contains natural ingredients, but it also helps eliminate the chance that your dog will have an allergic reaction to the food.

Despite the small list of ingredients, the food is nutritionally and calorically balanced for adult dogs. It is also formulated with antioxidants, probiotics, and a nutritious blend of vital vitamins and minerals. In addition to providing your dog with easily digestible protein, the salmon also bumps the omega 3 and 6 fatty acid content, which is excellent for skin and coat health. Natural sources of glucosamine also help with long-term joint health. Natural sources of taurine also help with heart health, which is essential for active breeds.

Natural sources of fiber that are easy to digest, like sweet potatoes, also help with digestive system health. The fact that the food is entirely grain-free will also benefit dogs that are known to have digestive issues.

If you’re looking for high-quality, non chicken dog food at a budget-friendly price, we highly recommend looking at the Canidae PURE Goodness Limited Ingredient dog food line.

4. Merrick – Classic Healthy Grains Beef & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food

Merrick is another smaller-scale dog food manufacturer growing in popularity rapidly thanks to the fact that they offer high-quality products at reasonable prices.

This Classic Healthy Grains blend is high in protein but utterly free from chicken and other types of poultry. Instead of chicken, the primary source of protein is natural, deboned beef. It also contains limited amounts of pork and salmon, which helps improve each kibble’s protein content and nutrient profile.

It also contains a high volume of plant fiber, provided by healthy grains like quinoa, brown rice, flaxseeds, and more. One of the things that stood out the most to us about this particular non-chicken dog food is the extremely high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, which is helpful if you are looking for food that will support your dog’s joint health. Since so many breeds are highly susceptible to hip dysplasia, having a chicken-free dog food that contains leading levels of glucosamine is incredibly helpful.

Like the other dog foods on our list, this blend from Merrick is also loaded with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, supporting healthy skin and a shiny coat. Since many dogs enjoy the taste and aroma of beef, this is a useful option for anyone looking for a chicken alternative that is not fish or lamb-based.

5. AvoDerm Advanced – Sensitive Stomach Support Dry Dog Food for Intolerances and Sensitivities

As the name suggests, this dog food is specifically formulated for dogs that suffer from common food intolerances, allergies, and sensitivities. This means it is free from ingredients known to trigger immune responses in dogs, including all forms of chicken.

Rather than chicken, it contains a single source of animal protein, which happens to be duck. Unlike meat sourced from chicken, dogs are far less likely to have a sensitivity to duck. It is also completely grain-free, so you will not have to worry if your dog is sensitive to wheat.

While it is grain-free, it still contains plenty of fiber, delivered in the form of a unique blend of ground seeds and other highly digestible ingredients. Omega fatty acids are supplied through avocados, so dogs that suffer from fish allergies will not experience discomfort.

AvoDerm even slow cooks all of the duck meat before it is added to the recipe, which helps with digestion. While it is a bit pricey compared to some of the other non-chicken dog foods on the market, the fact that it contains such high-quality ingredients makes it well worth the money, especially if your dog has multiple food allergies.

For More Information

If you are looking for more information about dog foods that are good options for dogs that suffer from stomach issues, we recommend reading our list of The Best Food for Dogs with Diarrhea and Loose Stool.

We have also broken down some of the best options for those looking for limited-ingredient dog foods for their canine companion – The 5 Best Limited Ingredient Dog Foods Reviewed.

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