To understand what ‘all-natural’ dog food is, you must also be able to recognize what it is not. In this guide to natural dog food, we’ll cover the basics of what should and should not be included on an organic, holistic and all-natural pet food label.
Dog Food Defined
Subtle differences characterize and differentiate holistic, natural and organic dog foods. To start, we’ve outlined some key characteristics of each.
- All-natural Dog Foods lack any artificial ingredients. This includes synthetic chemicals and animal by-products.
- Organic Dog Food follows the same USDA specifications as organic human food. That means there’s no presence of synthetic chemicals (like pesticides) during the growing or cultivation process.
- Holistic Dog Foods target the whole body—hence the name. They focus on your pet’s overall well-being as well as some nutritional aspects.
What to Look for
Learning how to read and investigate pet food labels is the best way to ensure you’re getting what you pay for and that your dog is getting the best nutritional care possible.
Remember that all-natural dog food doesn’t mean it is free of any and all by-products. “Natural” food natural may contain minimally processed by-products. There are several protein sources that can actually have superior nutrient profiles, and that by definition, would be considered a by-product. If your dog has allergies, you can find specialized formulas free of potential system irritants.
If you’re buying organic food, any grains and vegetables should be free of additions like bio-engineered products, pesticides, and chemical-based fertilizers. Additionally, the proteins should come from animals untreated with growth hormones or antibiotics.
Finally, it’s harder to assess a dog food labeled as holistic. There are currently no universal industry standards by which to double-check their validity. Consult your veterinarian to get a professional opinion about holistic dog food claims.
A Word About AAFCO
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is to dog food labels what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to human food. Pet food companies are beholden to these nutritional industry standards; however, the department does not conduct individual tests or certify any pet food brands.
In a world where there is no shortage of available formulas and types of dog food, knowing what to put in and what to keep out of the food bowl is essential. Good nutrition and regular veterinary care can help you give your pet a long, healthy life. Always check with your veterinarian to discuss the dog food formula that’s right for your pet. And when you’re in the pet food aisle, always read the label.
Like with humans, the food your dog eats is the linchpin of health. Therefore, quality ingredients lead to a quality life. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true.
About the Author: Michael Eggleston grew up in a veterinary household. His parents owned a group of veterinary clinics and a ranch, where he worked through high school. Upon graduation of high school, Michael attended farrier school to learn corrective horseshoeing. He specialized in working directly with veterinarians to treat or prevent lameness in horses. While running a farrier practice, he returned to school to study Biology. Michael’s pursuit of education eventually led him to West Texas A&M where he completed my undergraduate degree in Animal Science, with an emphasis in Animal Nutrition. He continues to pursue and advance his education in animal science & nutrition while collaborating with PhD nutritionists in developing new diets.