In line with the movement towards more natural foods for humans, there has been a surge in more natural food for dogs. This is a welcome trend in a market that unfortunately is filled with a lot of cheap artificial fillers. Here we will take a look at what makes the best natural dog food as well as review some of our top picks on the market.
You don’t want to find a lot of highly processed or chemical-based ingredients in any dog food, but sadly there are still a lot of brands on the shelf that contain things that are just downright unhealthy for your dog. Even some of the most popular names in the industry are guilty of using bad ingredients, so never blindly trust a dog food just because it is well-advertised or has a long history.
You will find that some of our choices for the best natural dog foods are brands that you may not immediately recognize. More often than not, manufacturers with smaller operations who do not throw a lot of money into marketing tend to produce better quality products. This is true of so many consumer products, especially foods. The best thing you can do is always read the label.
Catering To Natural Canine Cravings
To find the best all natural dog food, you need to keep in mind what your dog would naturally eat.
As a general rule, you should always avoid foods that contain artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners including sorbitol or corn syrup, and of course chemicals like BHA, BHT, PG or ethoxyquin. These are just a handful of the most commonly seen chemicals. If you are scanning a label and see ingredients that you can’t identify, it’s probably better to put it back on the shelf.
Moreover, since we are looking for the most natural foods, you also want to avoid any that contain wheat, corn, gluten, soy or grain. These may seem to be natural food sources for us, but dogs did not evolve eating anything like this in nature. Their digestive systems simply are not designed to process certain types of food.
Our dogs are carnivores and just like their ancestors, they are anatomically built to thrive on a meat-based diet. Their mouths are full of sharp teeth in a jaw that only moves in one single hinge bite motion, perfect for ripping and tearing muscle, but incapable of grinding or chewing plants. The saliva in their mouths doesn’t even contain the enzyme amylase, which breaks down carbohydrates. The digestive tract of a dog is short, with a high amount of very acidic stomach acid to kill potential bacteria and digest meat quickly.
When you imagine the diet of a wolf, it may seem pretty simple. They hunt large prey that will sustain them for weeks and possibly forage a little in between kills. This simplicity is something to look for in the best holistic dog food. Our dogs need just a few high quality ingredients that are as close to their natural diet as possible.
The Raw Truth
For this reason, raw diets are a great option. A lot of brands use freeze drying or even just freezing to preserve the nutrients of raw ingredients, providing your pup with more of the natural nourishment he needs.
Raw foods have fewer ingredients that are not subjected to the over-processing that drains them of crucial nutritional content. Drying or freezing locks in all the goodness of fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, oils and supplements. It also locks in all the flavor of these ingredients, meaning that these foods are much more appealing even to picky eaters.
Hallmarks of great natural dog food include:
- High amounts of meat from identifiable animal sources
- The use of organs, bone and cartilage as sources of natural nutrients and compounds
- A good blend of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables
- Healthy oils like fish or flaxseed
- Zero grain
The only reason why dog foods started to contain so many things that they don’t need – namely a lot of ‘people foods’ like corn or wheat products – is because it is cheaper to fill the vats with scraps from other food processing plants. Marketing these ingredients that humans eat as being equally healthy for dogs is false. It’s only done to justify using cheap fillers rather than more expensive, healthy ingredients.
On that note, higher quality foods are not going to be the cheapest. Many of the best natural dog foods are also the best organic dog foods, meaning that manufacturers raised the bar even further by using certified organic ingredients.
If you compare how much you would have to spend to source quality meats with other edible animal parts like organs and cartilage, a well-balanced mix of fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, possibly supplemental vitamins and minerals, then serve your dog everything in the proper proportion while managing to either preserve all these ingredients or make several trips a week to get fresh meat, even super premium natural dog food starts to seem like a bargain.
Besides, you can’t really put a price on the health of your best friend. What you feed your dog is really the single most important thing you can do to ensure good health. It is a form of preventative medicine. You are investing in his health for years to come.
Brands that are embracing the ancestral and raw diet trends and offering convenient ways to feed raw are taking a huge step in the right direction. Plenty of pet parents have already applauded the results of feeding more natural diets, citing more regular, solid stools, higher energy levels, diminished allergies, better weight management and overall improved health.
Here are a handful of our top choices for all natural dog food:
A relatively new name in the dog food industry that is going the extra mile to provide real food for our furry family is Primal Canine. Human grade ingredients are used in their frozen raw and freeze-dried raw recipes. Meat, organs, bone and marrow from animals that are locally sourced make up the bulk of this food, supplemented with fruits like organic broccoli, squash and blueberries, oils from salmon and coconut and apply cider vinegar. This is just an all-around great formula that gives your canine exactly what his body needs.
This is another high quality raw option that is conveniently freeze-dried for nutritional content and longer storage. It contains all of the essential animal parts your dog would consume if he was eating prey. Chicken meat, organs and bones are all included in their recipes, offering vitamins, minerals and compounds like glucosamine and chondroitin. They have also added fish oil and flaxseed for critical omega fatty acids, along with a strong antioxidant blend of carrots, kelp, blueberries and more.
ZiwiPeak is a brand from New Zealand that offers wet food, air-dried kibble and treats. Their air-dried food is particularly excellent as ingredients are slowly dehydrated to preserve nutritional value. They use top notch meat sources like local grass-fed venison, lamb or beef to provide the meat, bones, and cartilage that makes up 92% of their formulas. New Zealand green-lipped mussels are a unique ingredient used to provide natural glucosamine and chondroitin. Kelp, parsley, chicory, supplemental vitamins and minerals complete ZiwiPeaks signature recipe – a grain-free, high protein choice that suits your dogs’ needs perfectly.
Here is a brand that has the carnivorous drive of our canines in mind. Around 95% of their freeze-dried recipe is meat, organs and bones, all from animals that have been responsibly farmed. Their fruit and vegetables are also organic, featuring such vitamin-packed choices as spinach, blueberries, apples, cranberries and squash. Stella and Chewy includes probiotics in their formulas, as well, for added digestive support. Their freeze-dried food comes in convenient patties that can be served as they are or rehydrated, depending on your pup’s preference.
This is one of the most trusted names in natural dog food. Orijen offers both dry kibble and freeze-dried raw options, both of which make the cut as high quality natural foods. They also use what they have trademarked ‘Wholeprey’ ratios of meat, cartilage, organs and bone, balanced with an excellent selection of all organic fruits and vegetables. The meat and produce in their formulas are all locally sourced and responsibly farmed. Orijen describes their award-winning recipes as Biologically Appropriate, with over 80% meat, low carbohydrate formulas that are modeled after your dog’s natural diet.
Natural dog food is simply better for your beloved four-legged family. Unfortunately, most of the biggest players in the dog food industry have been shaped by business needs rather than by the needs of dogs.
Some of the absolute best natural, organic food choices come from the names you don’t usually see on a lot of shelves. What they have in common is fewer, higher quality ingredients that are easily identifiable. The bulk of the recipe needs to be from meat and it is ideal if they use nutrient-rich organs, cartilage and bone to supplement. Organic fruits and vegetables provide critical antioxidants, while health oils from sources like fish or flaxseed provide omega fatty acids.
If you are ready to make the switch to a natural dog food, be ready to see a much happier, healthier pup in your life.
Product images sourced from Amazon.com