Readers often ask me which natural dog food they should feed their dog. But you might be surprised at my answer. “I don’t know”.
Honestly, there’s no “right” answer. Your right answer depends on your pet.
Does she seem lively and energetic?
Is her coat glossy?
Are her eyes bright?
These are signs of a healthy animal and your pet should thrive on her food. If not, it’s time for a change.
What to Look for in Natural Dog Food
Let’s define “natural dog food”. It can have many meanings but for our purposes, we’re going to focus on kibble made of whole foods—meat, veggies and grains--rather than “bits and pieces of stuff” that mark low quality foods.
There are dozens of varieties and every time I go to the store, I see new ones.
Plenty of Choices
That’s the good news. You have a ton of choices. There are grain free foods, foods made of “exotic” proteins like buffalo. Holistic, organic, etc. Too many almost.
To keep it simple, we’ll just look at price and ingredients.
For those of you who want a little more, here we go.
You probably have encountered the wide price range in natural dog foods.
There can be a $15-30 difference between brands for the same size bag of kibble. Both are “natural dog food” so why the big price discrepancy?
High price can mean:
1—higher quality ingredients
2—higher advertising budget
3—high retail costs (is the shop a small, independent operation in the country?)
Just because the food is highest in price doesn’t mean it’s the best food.
If you want to know the quality of the natural dog food, you have to learn a few things about the ingredient label.
Do Not rely on healthy looking packaging or names like “natural”. Those are advertising tricks. You’ll find more truthful info on the ingredient label.
Labels are based on weight.
This means they're listed in order of greatest to least—i.e., the first ingredients are the most important because there’s more of this in the food. The last ingredients are the least important.
Give a quick scan down the ingredient list.
1—Look for named proteins at the top. You know, chicken, fish, beef or some other other recognizable protein source. Is it the first ingredient? Good, is the next ingredient a protein “back up” like chicken meal?
Fresh meat has a lot of water in it—as much as 65-75%. Your pet won’t get enough protein it’s not “backed up” with a quality protein meal.
(Note on “meals”, quality ones are chicken meal, salmon meal or other named animal source. “Meat meal” is not specific enough and can mean “junk” ground up together and put into your pet’s food. )
2—Whole vegetables, fruits and grains-—berries, carrots, barley, etc. are good for you and they’re good for your pet.
3—Look at the “Best buy” date. This gives you an idea of how fresh the food is. Is the date 10 or more months away? Great, that means the food is fresh so the vitamins and minerals are more intact.
The Great Grain Debate
Lately it’s popular to say dogs shouldn’t eat wheat, corn or other grains. Some say the dogs can't digest them. And that's just silly. There's no medical evidence to back this up.
However, some dogs are allergic or sensitive to grains. If that's the case then yes, don't feed them to your dog. It's simple enough. But it's not true that dogs can't eat grain.
The upshot is, unless you think (or know) your dog has a problem with these, don’t make that your whole focus.
It's Not the Grain, It's How Much Grain
Where is the grain is on the dog food label? A food that lists a grain at the top of the food label is lower quality than one that has grain towards the bottom.
What's Not "Natural"
1--Skip any food with un named “by products”.
These cheap ingredients could have been sitting around in a warehouse for months looking for a buyer. They may have been spoiled or on the verge of it when they were used in the food—common in cheap pet foods. They are not in high quality natural dog food.
2--Skip artificial (and dangerous) preservatives.
BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin preserve low quality foods. Linked to cancer and other diseases, they’re offer no value to you or your pet.
3--Skip the artificial colors too. Your dog doesn’t care. Those useless chemicals are in the food for you!
Your natural dog food should provide your dog with the nutrition he or she needs to thrive, not just survive. Below are a few high quality kibbles. They’re not the only ones but if you want a quick “grab and go” your dog will probably do fine on any of them.
Each company has several lines. What you choose is up to you.