Understanding the Ingredients in Natural Dog Food
What you feed your dog is one of the most important decisions you'll make toward their lifelong health. Made from whole ingredients and unique protein sources, natural foods can be a great choice for dogs.
What are the benefits of natural dog food?
When looking for the right dog food, it is important to understand the ingredients and their benefits to your pet’s overall well-being. Like other quality dog food manufacturers, natural dog food brands that adhere to strict standards and make their ingredients and label easy to understand allow for easy vetting of their products and easy understanding of the potential benefits for your dog. If you’re able to easily read and understand the label, you will be able to determine the ingredients in natural dog food and if they are right for your pet.
Selective ingredients in natural dog food
Dog food brands with a natural nutrition label meet specific requirements, including having selective natural ingredients that contribute to the overall health and wellness of your pet. Their ingredients should meet the nutrition standards and definition of the Association of American Feed Control Officials and include the following:
- Contain high-quality meat proteins as a primary ingredient (except vegetarian formulas)
- Contain nutrients from recognizable whole food sources including meats, fruits and vegetables
- Contain no unnecessary chemicals, preservatives or additives
Types of natural dog food
There are many natural dog food options. However, there are also various descriptors you may find on natural nutrition labels, and understanding what they mean can help you pick the right diet for your dog:
- Limited ingredients: Formulated to include one protein source, one easily digestible carbohydrate and limited ingredients for dogs with food sensitivities.
- Higher protein: Formulated with higher-than-average protein levels (32% or more) for dogs with higher-energy needs.
- Organic: Contains food sources that have not been exposed to pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics, and follows requirements from USDA, FDA or other recognized authorities in organic standards.
- Grain-free: Formulated for dogs with sensitivity to grains, these foods contain higher sources of protein than many other meal options. Consult your veterinarian to determine whether a grain-free dog food is right for your pet.
Ingredients to look for in natural dog food
Natural nutrition brands offer many healthful ingredients that can support your pet's needs. Look for specifically named, animal-based proteins such as chicken, lamb or salmon, which tend to be of higher quality than labels with the terms poultry, meat or fish by-products. Unique proteins such as venison or duck can also make a big difference in your pet's diet, especially if they have trouble digesting more standard foods. Both of these are great sources of vitamins and minerals including zinc and iron, which helps support a healthy level of energy.
You will also find formulas designed to offer other specific benefits, such as the development of a healthy skin and coat, improved digestion for dogs with certain food sensitivities and weight management options based on their activity level. However, no matter what formula of natural dog food you choose, you should be aware of some of the common ingredient differences in natural formulas.
- Carbohydrates: Your dog's energy source should come from high-quality carbohydrates such as rice, oats or potatoes.
- Fats: Chicken fat, flaxseed oil or salmon oil are great sources of healthy and high-quality fats
- Whole foods: Look for natural, whole food ingredients such as grains, fruits or vegetables They're easily recognizable and provide vitamins and minerals, as well as their own specific health benefits.
- Antioxidants: These are often added to supplement and help support a dog’s healthy immune system
- Natural preservatives: Natural preservatives such as vitamin C, vitamin E and oils of rosemary, clove or other spices are a better alternative to chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin that are often added in dog foods. Natural preservatives do not provide as long of a shelf life but are generally safer than artificial preservatives.
If you have any remaining questions as you look into natural dog food options for your pet, your local Petco employees can help determine which nutrition option will be best for your furry family member.