Thinking about putting your pooch on a natural dog food diet? You’re not alone. Natural dog food brands have been cropping up all over the place in response to pet owners’ desires to feed their dogs a diet closer to what nature intended. Head to the supermarket, pet store or your local feed store and you’ll find a plethora of dog foods labeled “natural.” Before you pick a bag, though, understand one thing: unlike with human food, there are no government regulations defining exactly what makes a dog food natural. So how do you know if you’re getting best possible food for your pup? For starters, by knowing what to look for!
How do you know if your natural dog food is actually natural?
Let’s take a look at a few signs that your dog food isn’t as natural as the company claims. Ready?
Is it colorful and pretty?
If the bag is filled with vibrant colors, like red and yellow kibble, chances are it’s not natural. Look, your dog doesn’t really care if his kibble is red, yellow or fluorescent green for that matter. Unlike us fickle humans, they don’t judge a dish by how pretty it looks on Pinterest. The majority of the methods used to produce those colorful bits of kibble involve artificial coloring agents. While you can use natural colorings to achieve muted effects, the best natural dog food companies are more focused on putting stellar ingredients into the food, not trying to trick humans into thinking it’s healthier.
Do any of the preservatives start with butyl-, etho- or propyl-?
Rather than trying to remember all the long names of synthetic (and potentially dangerous) preservatives found in some brands of dog food, just remember the prefixes: butyl, etho and propyl. This is a sign that your pup’s food contains some very nasty artificial ingredients. Some have even been banned from cat food, while others may cause liver failure. Why, then, are these preservatives still allowed in food? Mainly because the dog food industry is so loosely governed (if at all) by laws that they can get away with it. Instead, look for vitamin-based preservatives.
What to look for in a Natural Dog Food
Now that you know what to avoid, should you run out and buy the first brand of natural dog food that fits the above criteria? Well, no. See, even if a dog food contains all natural ingredients, that doesn’t mean they’re GOOD natural ingredients. You could fill up a bag with organic corn and call it natural. Technically, it’s natural dog food, right? But a bag of corn isn’t going to keep your dog healthy.
When you choose the best natural dog food, look at all the factors together. Look at the ingredients and make sure you’re not seeing those nasty preservatives. Check the color (if possible) to make sure it isn’t overly “pretty” food. Then look at the other ingredients. Is the first one meat? Actual meat, not “by-product” meat? While some by-products are okay, they shouldn’t be the first ingredient. Look at the grains (unless you’re going with grain-free dog food). If it’s corn, move on, as that’s pretty much the most nutritionally-devoid grain. Rice is better.
Finally, look at your dog. Does he seem itchier after eating a certain food? Are her stools loose and watery? Does he have less energy? More illnesses? You know your dog better than anyone. If he reacts differently to a certain type of food, you’ll know. I have a Shepherd who really only does well on one type of food (and it’s not even a grain-free food!). When I switched her to a higher-quality food that happened to be on sale, she nearly scratched off all her fur from allergies. While that particular food is considered one of the best, it just wasn’t the best for my dog.
Bottom line: don’t be fooled by the fancy words on the bag. Do your research, read the ingredients and, most important, pay attention to your dog. That’s the only way to choose the best natural dog food.