Every dog owner wants to feed their pet the most natural dog food possible, and for many owners, this means opting for an all natural dog food that is made without artificial ingredients and fillers.
This is a laudable and obtainable goal, which may likely help improve the health of your pet. However, it is important to examine the issue carefully before diving into natural dog food.
Among other things, this means defining what “natural” means to you and educating yourself on some of the most common additives included in commercial foods. We’ll then list 10 of the best natural dog food brands on the market.
Best Natural Dog Food
At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Natural Dog Food:
- Fromm Four-Star Game Bird Recipe – Our Top Pick
- Precise Pet Holistic Complete Large / Giant Breed Recipe
- Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Large Breed Recipe
- Taste of the Wild Bison & Venison Recipe
|Fromm Four-Star Game Bird Recipe
|• Packed with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
• Contains chicken cartilage to help support joint health
• Made in the USA, with USDA-inspected ingredients delivered fresh daily
|Precise Pet Holistic Complete Large
|• Fortified with glucosamine- and chondroitin-rich ingredients to support your large dog’s joints
• Omega-3 rich recipe may help reduce skin and coat problems
• Contains blueberries, cranberries, carrots and apples for their antioxidant content and taste
|Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food
|• Fortified with four probiotic supplements for improved digestive function
• Bursting with colorful fruits and vegetables, including kale, spinach, blueberries and apples
• Grain-free recipe may help tame food allergies or improve coat and skin health
|Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Large Breed Recipe
|• Made without corn, wheat, soy or chicken-byproduct meals
• Fortified with a variety of anti-oxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, cranberries and parsley
• Formulated with five different probiotics to help support digestive health
|Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Grain-Free Dinner Patties
|• Made with hormone-free, grass free venison and lamb
• Packed full of 100% certified organic fruits and vegetables
• Fortified with probiotics to help ensure proper intestinal function
|Wellness TruFood Baked Blends Raw Dog Food
|• Contains only all-natural ingredients and no artificial additives, flavors or preservatives
• Made in North America
• Fortified with probiotics, vitamins and minerals to promote good health
|ORIJEN Freeze-Dried Tundra Dog Food
|• Contains a mixture of both fresh-freeze-dried and flash-frozen-freeze-dried meats
• Made in Canada under strict safety standards
• High-protein recipe is appropriate for all life stages
|TruDog Real Meat Organic Dog Food
|• All-natural recipe contains no grains, fillers, artificial preservatives or artificial colors
• Rich in natural sources of vitamins and minerals, such as bone and organ meats
• Can be served as-is (crunchy) or with water added for a soft, meaty texture
|“I and love and you” Homemade Raw Dog Food
|• Grain-free recipe relies on sweet potatoes and split peas for carbohydrate content
• Packed with several “superfoods,” including ginger root and flaxseed
• All-natural recipe contains no artificial colors, flavors or additives
1. Fromm Four-Star Game Bird Recipe
All Fromm formulas feature impressive ingredient lists, but when you are looking for a quality natural formula, made almost entirely from very familiar ingredients, Fromm Four-Star Game Bird Recipe rises to the top.
Made with several great real proteins and plenty of nutritious fruits and vegetables, Fromm’s Game Bird is a great choice for owners seeking an all-natural dog food.
Notable Qualities and Features:
- Packed with antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and real meat
- Contains chicken cartilage to help support joint health
- Made in the USA, with USDA-inspected ingredients delivered fresh daily
- 100% grain-free recipe
Ingredients: Duck, Duck Meal, Peas, Turkey, Potatoes, Pea Protein, Dried Tomato Pomace, Pea Flour, Dried Whole Egg, Quail, Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat, Salmon Oil, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken, Pheasant, Cheese, Flaxseed, Carrots, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Apples, Celery, Parsley, Lettuce, Spinach, Chicken Cartilage, Potassium Chloride, Blueberries, Cranberries, Salt, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca schidigera Extract, Alfalfa Sprouts, Sodium Selenite, Folic Acid, Taurine, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Vitamins, Minerals, Probiotics.
User Reviews: Fromm dog food products are almost universally praised, and owners love the ability to give their dog such delicious all-natural food. Many owners note improvements in their dog’s coat condition and energy level, thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids present in the recipe, and most dogs seem to find it both palatable and easy to digest.
Bottom Line: This top-quality formula possesses all of the things you’d want from any good food, and most owners should find the vast majority of the ingredients list familiar. However, some owners may not like the inclusion of duck meal among the ingredients. Duck meal is a nutritious addition to most dog foods, but it is a processed ingredient.
2. Precise Pet Holistic Complete Large / Giant Breed Recipe
Precise Pet Holistic Complete Large Breed is an all-natural, delicious and nutritious dog food designed specifically for the needs of your large-breed dog.
In addition to the premium real meat, this dog food formula contains a number of other great ingredients, including fish oils, cartilage, and colorful fruits.
Notable Qualities and Features:
- Fortified with glucosamine- and chondroitin-rich ingredients to support your large dog’s joints
- The omega-3 rich recipe may help reduce skin and coat problems
- Contains blueberries, cranberries, carrots, and apples for their antioxidant content and taste
- Made in the USA
Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Ascorbyl Palmitate), Salmon Meal, Lamb Meal, Citrus Fiber, Rice Bran, Flaxseed, Dried Egg Product, Natural Flavor, Lecithin, Fat Product (natural source of omega-3 DHA from algae), Menhaden Fish Oil, Chicken Cartilage (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Dried Kelp, Peas, Dried Apples, Dried Carrots, Dried Cranberries, Dried Blueberries, Chamomile, Dandelion, Pepper.
User Reviews: Many pet owners reported that their dog’s skin and coat problems subsided after switching to Precise Pet Holistic Complete. Dogs also appear to love this recipe’s taste. Although a few owners lamented the price of the dog food, most still found that it provided good value and is priced similarly to other high-quality dog foods.
Bottom Line: As long as you don’t mind the inclusion of properly-identified meat meal in the formula, you should give Precise Pet Holistic Complete serious consideration. You could find most of the other ingredients on the shelf at your local grocery store, it is well-reviewed and the taste appears to appeal to dogs. It does, however, lack probiotics in the formula, which is slightly disappointing.
3. Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free is a premium quality dog food, based around a variety of all-natural and nutritious ingredients. A grain-free formula, Wellness CORE relies on peas and potatoes to supply the carbohydrate content, rather than corn, wheat or rice.
Notable Qualities and Features:
- Fortified with four probiotic supplements for improved digestive function
- Bursting with colorful fruits and vegetables, including kale, spinach, blueberries, and apples
- Grain-free, which may help tame food allergies or improve coat and skin health
- Made in the USA
Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Potatoes, Dried Ground Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Chicken Liver, Natural Chicken Flavor, Flaxseed, Salmon Oil, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Kale, Broccoli, Spinach, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Biotin, Folic Acid], Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate], Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Taurine, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.
User Reviews: Most owners who try Wellness Core Grain-Free dog food rave about it. Most report that their dog loves the taste, and many explain that their dog’s coat and skin health have improved since making the switch. Negative reviews were almost entirely the result of shipping problems, damaged packaging or expiration-date issues, and these types of problems occur with every food.
Bottom Line: Like all of the other dog food brands in our review, Wellness Core does contain meat meals, which may turn off some owners. However, the rest of the ingredient list is quite attractive for owners looking for all-natural foods. The formula contains all of the bells and whistles you’d want, including antioxidant-rich fruits, omega-3-rich salmon oil, and four different probiotics.
Wellness CORE is a good option for most owners, although it does not specifically address the needs of large dog breeds.
4. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Large Breed Recipe
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Large Breed is an all-natural dog food designed to provide your dog with all of the things he needs and none of the things he doesn’t.
Made with protein-rich beef, nutritious fruits and no grains, artificial colors or artificial flavors, this dog food is clearly among the best in the all-natural niche.
Notable Qualities and Features:
- Made without corn, wheat, soy or chicken-byproduct meals
- Fortified with a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, cranberries and parsley
- Formulated with five different probiotics to help support digestive health
- Made in the USA
Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch, Peas, Pea Starch, Pea Protein, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potatoes, Fish Oil (source of EPA-Eicosapentaenoic Acid), Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Dicalcium Phosphate, Deboned Lamb, Deboned Venison, Potassium Chloride, Dried Chicory Root, Choline Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, DL-Methionine, Caramel Color, Salt, Taurine, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, L-Carnitine, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Kelp, Turmeric, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Oil of Rosemary, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Chondroitin Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite.
User Reviews: The majority of owners who tried Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed dog food became instant fans. Many owners noted improvements in their dog’s coat condition, joint health, and digestive habits after switching to this food, and, like almost all Blue Buffalo Wilderness formulas, dogs appeared to love the taste. However, a few dogs did exhibit digestive difficulties after making the switch, but such reports were quite rare.
Bottom Line: If you are interested in a grain-free, all-natural dog food that is fortified with probiotics, glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids, it is hard to look past Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Recipe. It is priced similarly to other dog foods in the category. Additionally, because it is specifically designed for large breed dogs, it has extra value for most Canine Weekly readers.
5. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Grain-Free Dinner Patties
Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Patties are designed to offer a convenient way to offer your dog a delicious food made with plenty of raw meat. Made with all of the real meat, organs, bones, fruits, and vegetables you’d want for your dog, these patties are nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare for your pet.
Notable Qualities and Features:
- Made with hormone-free, grass-free venison and lamb
- Packed full of 100% certified organic fruits and vegetables
- Fortified with probiotics to help ensure proper intestinal function
- Made in the USA under strict quality control and safety guidelines
Ingredients: Venison, venison kidney, venison lung, venison bone, olive oil, pumpkin seed, potassium chloride, organic cranberries, organic spinach, organic broccoli, organic beets, sodium phosphate monobasic, organic carrots, organic squash, organic apples, organic blueberries, choline chloride, dried Pediococcus acidilactici fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium longum fermentation product, taurine, tocopherols (preservative), zinc proteinate, zinc sulfate, iron sulfate, iron proteinate, vitamin E supplement, niacin, copper sulfate, copper proteinate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, manganese proteinate, thiamin mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, calcium iodate, vitamin B12 supplement
User Reviews: Most owners who tried Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Dinner Patties were extremely pleased, noting that the food seemed to help improve their dog’s energy level, coat health, and digestive function. Additionally, most dogs appear to love the taste of the food.
However, a few owners did complain of finding large, potentially hazardous bone fragments in the food. This may give some owners pause, especially those with small dogs (who are more likely to be injured by relatively small pieces of bone than large dogs are).
Bottom Line: Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Dinner Patties are a great option for owners seeking an easy way to provide their dog with a nutritious, organic and all-natural food. This recipe is packed with plenty of all-natural extras, including probiotics, which aren’t included in many other freeze-dried diets. It is somewhat expensive when compared to conventional dog food, but it is more-or-less priced similarly to most other options in the raw dog food category.
6. Wellness TruFood Baked Blends Raw Dog Food
Wellness is well-known for their high-quality lineup (note that we recommended one of the recipes from their CORE line above), and TruFood Raw Dog Food fits right in with their other formulas.
It is easily one of the best options in the raw-food category, being packed full of the types of delicious ingredients you’d want, with none of the ones that you don’t.
Notable Qualities and Features:
- Contains only all-natural ingredients and no artificial additives, flavors or preservatives
- Made in North America
- Fortified with probiotics, vitamins, and minerals to promote good health
- Rich in omega–3 fatty acids for improved coat and skin health
Ingredients: Salmon, Salmon Meal, Peas, Tapioca Flour, Lentils, Chickpeas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Turkey Liver, Flaxseed, Turkey Hearts, Tomato Pomace, Green Beans, Beets, Apples, Coconut Oil, Natural Flavor, Choline Chloride, Turmeric, Calcium Carbonate, Chia Seeds, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Proteinate, Spinach, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Broccoli, Ginger, Pumpkin, Parsley, Blueberries, Kale, Purple Carrots, Niacin, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite, Yucca schidigera Extract, Inulin, Folic Acid, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus thermophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus bulgaricus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
User Reviews: The customer reviews for Wellness TruFood Raw were overwhelmingly positive. Most owners were very happy with both the quality of the dog food and the health benefits – including improved energy, coat health, and digestive function – that it provides. Additionally, dogs – even those who tend to be picky — appear to love the taste.
However, as with virtually every other option in the category, the cost of the food was a frequently mentioned complaint by owners.
Bottom Line: Of all the raw dog foods in our review, Wellness TruFood formula is the closest to a conventional dog food, so it is a good choice for those interested in experimenting with a freeze-dried recipe. It contains all of the things you’d want in any high-quality dog food, yet it is made without anything artificial or unnecessary. Additionally, because most dogs appear to find it palatable, this food is unlikely to go to waste.
7. ORIJEN Freeze-Dried Tundra Dog Food
Most Orijen foods are primarily made from all-natural ingredients, and their Freeze-Dried Tundra is no exception. Made from a combination of different freeze-dried meats, organs, bones, fruits, and vegetables, most dogs find the Tundra formula quite palatable.
Notable Qualities and Features:
- Contains a mixture of both fresh-freeze-dried and flash-frozen-dried meats
- Made in Canada under strict safety standards
- The high-protein recipe is appropriate for all life stages
- Contains no grains, potatoes or genetically modified ingredients
Ingredients: Venison (ground with bone), duck (ground with bone), whole steelhead trout, bison (ground with bone), elk (ground with bone), quail (ground with bone), duck liver, duck heart, spinach greens, pea fiber, bison tripe, elk liver, elk heart, elk kidney, whole ground sunflower seeds, whole pumpkin, butternut squash, whole carrots, whole cranberries, whole blueberries, whole blackberries, apples, pears, plums, apricots, brown kelp
User Reviews: Most Orijen dog foods enjoy fantastic customer reviews, and their Freeze-Dried Tundra Recipe is no exception. Words like “great,” “excellent” and “best” are woven throughout most of the reviews, although a very small number of owners experienced problems with shipping or the product’s packaging.
Freeze-Dried Tundra is an expensive dog food, but that is common to most raw foods and Orijen products in general.
Bottom Line: While Orijen’s Freeze-Dried Tundra Recipe is packed with real meat protein, it also includes a diverse array of nutritious fruits and vegetables, which both improve the food’s taste and increase its nutritional value. This makes the product a great option for owners who want to provide their dog with a meat-heavy diet, without completely ignoring the value of fruits and vegetables.
It certainly isn’t a good option for cost-conscious owners, but it provides great value for those who can fit it within their budget.
8. TruDog Real Meat Organic Dog Food
TruDog Real Meat Organic Dog Food is the perfect food for owners seeking a truly real meat-based diet for their dog.
Comprised almost solely (99%) of meat, organs or bones, TruDog is designed as a stand-alone dog food, but you can also add it to a bowl full of vegetables, fruits, and brown rice, to provide a greater breadth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Notable Qualities and Features:
- The all-natural recipe contains no grains, fillers, artificial preservatives or artificial colors
- Rich in natural sources of vitamins and minerals, such as bone and organ meats
- Can be served as-is (crunchy) or with water added for a soft, meaty texture
- Made in the USA and backed by the manufacturer’s safety and satisfaction guarantee
Ingredients: Beef, beef tripe, beef lung, ground beef bone, beef liver, beef heart, beef kidney, beef blood, beef fat, herring oil (natural source of vitamin D), mixed tocopherols (natural antioxidant), d-alpha-tocopherol (natural vitamin E).
User Reviews: The vast majority of dog owners who tried TruDog were very happy with their choice. Dogs appear to find the recipe very tasty, and many owners love the idea of giving their dog a diet comprised almost exclusively of animal-derived ingredients. However, several owners did complain about the expensive price tag.
Bottom Line: Even among raw diets, TruDog is an expensive option; but this is to be expected, thanks to its meat-heavy composition. This will surely turn off some dog owners and send them looking elsewhere, but for those who are comfortable with the hefty price tag, TruDog Real Meat Organic Dog Food is a great option.
9. “I and love and you” Homemade Raw Dog Food
“I and love and you” may be a bit of a puzzling name for a dog food, but you can get away with that when your pet food boasts such an impressive list of ingredients.
Made without any grains, fillers or artificial ingredients, “I and love and you” is one of the foods most deserving of the “all-natural” label.
Notable Qualities and Features:
- The grain-free recipe relies on sweet potatoes and split peas for carbohydrate content
- Packed with several “superfoods,” including ginger root and flaxseed
- The all natural dog food recipe contains no artificial colors, flavors or additives
- Manufactured and packaged in the USA
Ingredients: Lamb, Yellow Split Peas, Sweet Potato, Cabbage, Carrots, Whole Egg, Flaxseed Meal, Banana, Tricalcium-Phosphate, Almond meal, Spinach, Alfalfa, Kelp, Ginger Root, Salt, Zinc Sulfate, Iron (Ferrous Sulfate), Vitamin B12, B12 (Methylcobalamin).
User Reviews: If you’ll pardon the pun, most users loved “I and love and you.” Several found that it helped their pup exhibit improved energy levels, and others were pleased with its ability to improve their dog’s coat condition. Most dogs found the food quite tasty. The only common complaint about the food was its high price tag.
Bottom Line: “I and love and you” is a great choice for those who want a raw, all-natural dog food, which still contains plenty of other nutritious ingredients. It is somewhat expensive, like most other raw diets, but most owners reported being happy with the investment.
Additionally, because of its low glycemic load, it may be a good option for diabetic dogs (just be sure to consult your veterinarian before making any substantial changes in your dog’s diet).
What is Natural Dog Food?
The word “natural” gets thrown around a lot, and different people use it to mean different things. For our purposes, we are considering “natural” foods to be those that contain only the following:
- easily identified and familiar ingredients
- real meat
- no artificial additives.
Just keep in mind that plenty of “natural” things are harmful. Strychnine is as natural as it is deadly. The same could be said of castor beans, tomato leaves, and apple seeds.
Likewise, “artificial” things can be quite beneficial for your dog’s diet; chicken meal, for example, is chock full of protein and other important nutrients, but it obviously doesn’t occur naturally.
So, the important thing for most owners seeking all-natural dog foods is the presence of nutritious, whole, easily identified foods, and the absence of things like artificial flavors, artificial colors and artificial preservatives.
Additionally, most owners seeking the best all-natural diet for their dog are keen to avoid cheap fillers and low-value ingredients.
Scary Sounding, but Safe Ingredients
It would be awesome to pick up a bag of dog food and see only easily recognized ingredients on the label, but there are a few ingredients that are commonly included in commercial foods that are natural, despite having a strange-sounding name. Some of the most important include:
- DL-Methionine is an amino acid commonly included in foods with relatively light protein content.
- Choline chloride is an organic molecule that plays a vitamin-like role in your dog’s body.
- Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid, commonly used to supplement dog foods.
- Mixed tocopherols are naturally occurring sources of Vitamin E compounds, which are often used as preservatives.
- Chicory (or chicory root extract) is a naturally occurring plant (Cichorium intybus) that works as a prebiotic. It is commonly included in many all-natural dog foods.
- Folic Acid is simply a water-soluble form of vitamin B9.
- Sorbic Acid is a naturally occurring preservative that was originally harvested from unripe berries of the rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia). It is widely regarded as safe and it breaks down rapidly, making it environmentally friendly too.
- Yucca schidigera is the scientific name for the Mojave yucca, a small flowering plant, whose fibers are incorporated into dog foods to reduce digestive odors.
- Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are included in many all-natural dog foods to help regulate your dog’s digestive system, among other things. However, they are often identified by strain, and these names are sometimes daunting-looking. But that’s just because bacteria are referred to by their scientific name which is based on Greek and Latin words. Some of the most common probiotic strains include Aspergillus oryzae, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Enterococcus faecium, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Trichoderma longibrachiatum.
What Are the Benefits of Natural Dog Food?
Natural dog food does provide a number of important benefits, regardless of whether you purchase a commercial variety or cook up something in your own kitchen.
- Many dogs exhibit increased energy levels after switching to natural dog foods.
- Often dogs will stop experiencing food allergies.
- Many dogs will exhibit better coat and skin health.
- Some dogs enjoy less joint pain and inflammation.
Do Natural Dog Food have any Drawbacks?
While a quality natural dog food provides a number of benefits to dogs and their owners, they are not without their faults. These problems vary depending on whether you are talking about commercially produced or homemade varieties, so we’ll consider them separately.
Potential Problems with Commercially Produced Natural Dog Food
- Commercially produced natural foods may still become tainted or contain unintended or mislabeled ingredients.
- You cannot alter the recipe easily to suit the needs of your dog.
- Commercial foods that best fit our definition of “natural” are typically quite expensive.
Wait a Minute: I Thought Table Scraps Were Bad
Many people foods are bad for your dog – some are even dangerous. But there’s nothing inherently different from the food you normally eat and the food your dog would love to devour.
Table scraps are problematic for three basic reasons:
- They can encourage bad behavior from your dog.
- Many processed people foods are loaded with salt, sugar and other undesirable ingredients.
- Table scraps often pack a bunch of calories, which can lead to weight gain.
However, none of these three things are problematic for those feeding a properly balanced homemade diet. Although it doesn’t hurt that people’s food is often more delicious than dog food, the main reason dogs beg is because you feed them from your plate. Avoid this, and your dog is unlikely to become a beggar.
When preparing food for your dog, you’ll use no salt or sugar, so you don’t have to worry about your dog suffering from the additives in your food. You may add healthy fats, but these (in the correct amounts) are great for your dog’s health.
Finally, because your dog will only be eating the food provided to him, and not table scraps, you can calibrate the calories provided to keep him at a healthy body weight.
Should You Buy or Should You Cook Natural Dog Food?
There are two basic options for owners seeking the best natural pet food for their dogs. You can purchase a pet food that is mostly comprised of all-natural ingredients, or you can make your own food, which will be entirely comprised of natural ingredients.
- Commercial Products
There are a very small number of commercially produced dog foods that fit our definition of natural, and there are a few others that come very close to meeting this definition.
These foods may be great options for owners who want to feed their dog as safe and natural a diet as possible, without having to go to the cost or expend the effort needed to prepare a homemade dog food diet.
Additionally, most quality commercial foods are formulated to conform with the AAFCO guidelines for nutritional health, which means that you can just kick back and relax, comforted by the knowledge that your dog is receiving all of the vitamins and minerals he needs.
You’ll also know that the relative protein, fat, and carbohydrate portions are appropriate and that the mineral content of the dog food is properly balanced.
A few manufacturers take things a step further in the quest for the best natural dog food possible, by formulating their recipes with raw, freeze-dried cuts of meat, instead of (or in addition to) cooked cuts.
Many owners prefer these raw dog food options over cooked products, and because they are freeze-dried, they’re not as likely to cause illness as raw, yet still hydrated, meats are.
- What About Homemade Dog Food Meals?
Some owners are willing to go to the additional effort and expense to make their dog’s food at home. By doing so, they can be completely aware of every single item going into the recipe, and tweak them to suit their dog’s individual needs and preferences.
Most home-prepared dog food meals are comprised of a basic real meat (such as chicken breast), a nutritious carbohydrate (such as brown rice or sweet potatoes) and some fruits and vegetables for vitamin and mineral content.
However, the nutritional content of the dog food must be balanced carefully to avoid causing long-term, developmental problems or deficiencies.
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: If you are willing to put in the time and (considerable) effort to feed your pup homemade dog food, go for it. However, this is a significant commitment, which shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If you don’t have the necessary dedication, energy, and finances to pull off a homemade diet, just select one of the premium all-natural dog food brands listed below.
- A Word About Raw Food Diets
In the early 1990s, many dog owners began offering their dogs homemade meals, in which most or all of the items were uncooked. Often called the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet, most meals would consist of a few fruits and vegetables, along with a healthy serving of ground bone and raw meat (including both muscle and organ meats).
Many proponents report that the diet provides a wealth of health benefits, including improved digestive function, increased energy and a reduction in skin and coat problems.
However, few of these benefits, if any, have been verified empirically. If raw foods were as safe as cooked foods, this may not matter – it may make sense to take a chance on the potential benefits provided, despite the lack of confirming evidence.
- Safety Concerns
Raw dog foods are not as safe for your dog as commercial foods. While it is true that dogs rarely fall sick to the common strains of Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and other stomach-sickening bugs that commonly infest raw meat and cause illness for humans, some dogs can and do become sick from the bacteria. In some cases, these poor dogs can suffer from very serious illness – death is even possible.
Accordingly, the veterinary medical community typically discourages the feeding of raw meats. Many human doctors also discourage the practice, as it puts dog owners at increased risk of illness too (in fact, you are probably more likely than your dog to become sick from feeding your dog a raw diet).
Fortunately, there is a nice compromise available: Dog food with freeze-dried raw meats. These products are still raw in every sense of the word, but they’ve had their moisture removed.
Once dry, the meats won’t support nearly as many bacteria as fresh, raw meats will. This means that while freeze-dried foods aren’t quite as safe as cooked foods, they are much safer than traditional raw diets.
If you’ve decided to go the commercial route to acquire your natural dog food, consider the following ten formulas. Each quality pet food is sure to provide your dog with the nutrition he needs, without including a bunch of unnecessary artificial junk among the ingredients.
We’ve listed five of the best all natural conventional, cooked dog foods first, and they are followed by five top natural raw, freeze-dried options.
Best All Natural Dog Food Recipes for Home Cooking
You’ll essentially prepare your dog’s food the same way you prepare your own food. You’ll want to cook most of the ingredients used in the recipe and treat the food with the same dedication to safety and hygiene you’d employ when making your own all-natural dog foods.
Don’t provide your dog with questionable items or foods that have passed their expiration date. If it isn’t good enough for you, it isn’t good enough for your dog (seasoning preferences aside).
Recipe 1: Easy Turkey and Rice Recipe
If you are interested in feeding your dog a healthy, nutritious, all-natural food, but you want to keep the process as easy as possible, this recipe may be the best choice for you and your pet.
- 3 pounds ground turkey
- 1.5 cups brown rice
- 3 cups shredded spinach, kale or collard greens
- 2 diced carrots
- 1 diced zucchini or squash
- 1 tablespoon olive or sunflower oil
- Brown turkey thoroughly in a pan, drain grease and set aside
- Cook brown rice. About 10 minutes before the rice is done, mix in olive oil and all the vegetables
- Remove rice from heat, mix in turkey
- Cool and store in the refrigerator (use a low-profile container to ensure the rice cools quickly)
Recipe 2: Salmon and Potatoes
If your dog loves salmon or you are trying to get him plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to support coat health, this salmon and potatoes recipe may be the best option for you.
- Fresh salmon with skin on (1/5 ounce per pound of your dog’s body weight)
- 1 head of broccoli
- 3 russet potatoes
- 2 whole carrots
- 1 squash or zucchini
- 2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
- Bake or pan-fry salmon until medium-well (dogs should never be given undercooked salmon)
- While the salmon is cooking, wash and chop potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and zucchini
- Toss all vegetables in an aluminum pouch and roast until soft
- Cut salmon into small pieces (leave the skin on if possible)
- Toss all ingredients together in a large container and mix in olive oil
- Cool and refrigerate promptly
Recipe 3: Crockpot Chow
If you want your dog’s food to be as delicious as it is natural, this recipe will not disappoint. You will have to go to some effort to prepare the food, but you know your dog is worth it!
- 2.5 pounds ground beef
- 1.5 cups rice
- 1 can rinse and drained kidney beans
- 1.5 cups butternut squash
- 1.5 cups diced carrots
- 1 cup peas
- Combine all ingredients and 4 cups of water in a crockpot
- Cover and cook on low heat for about 5 hours
- Cool and store in the refrigerator (use a low-profile container to ensure rapid cooling)
What Do “Natural,” and “Organic” Mean on Dog Food Labels?
Most of us favor natural and organically grown foods these days. Aren’t we? We are well aware of the long-term benefits of consuming such food items and how these foods positively impact our health.
While “natural” and “organic” are related, they differ. Generally speaking, “natural” refers to growing a specific food item (with a focus on purity). On the other hand, “organic” means how the product was processed and handled.
As concerned dog parents, you would also want the best quality dog food for your furry friend. So, we recommend you select only those dog foods which mention these two words; “Natural” and “Organic.”
Are “Natural” and “Organic” foods good for your dog?
Yes. If your dog food has labels mentioning these two words —rejoice. A “natural” label means that your dog’s food has been naturally grown in a suitable environment. Besides, no preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners have been added.
Also, if your dog’s food has beef or chicken, this tag implies that these animals or birds were never subjected to growth hormones. These assurances and quality checks improve the quality of the food.
In addition, the organic tag on your dog food label means that the food was grown without using herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. Besides, if your dog food has any livestock as its ingredient, the food fed to the animal is well-regulated.
Concerns About Grain-Free and “Exotic” Dog Foods
As a dog parent, it is natural to be concerned about the food your dog consumes. These days there are lots of dog food brands available in the market. These companies are coming up with innovative dog food solutions.
You must have come across grain-free and exotic dog feeds. What are these variants of dog food? How do they differ from traditional dog foods? Let us find out more.
Grain-Free Dog Food
Grain-free dog food has gained immense popularity in recent times. These food items are different from traditional dog food as they do not contain any grains. This implies that these foods do not have a traditional source of carbohydrates.
But that does not mean that they are carb-free. For example, there are some grain-free dog foods that have higher percentages of carbohydrates than grain-based dog foods. In addition, these food items often have different sources of carbs, like sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, quinoa, and lentils.
Similarly, grain-free dog foods are not gluten-free as well. Although they don’t have grains like wheat or barley (the main gluten source), some may have other kinds of grains that provide gluten in the food.
Exotic dog food
An increasing number of dog parents are gradually venturing into the “exotic” variant of dog food these days. Of course, these food items are more expensive than regular dog foods, but they still choose this as they simply wish to improve their dog’s diet.
Recent studies have revealed that dogs can have food allergens like beef, dairy products, chicken, and egg despite loving meat. So, this exotic meat in dog food covers a range of animals, providing new ingredients to the food.
In the current market, the source of exotic meat is quite extensive. They can contain mackerel, lamb, mussels, boar, quail, and rabbit. These ingredients do not compromise the nutrition of the dog. Besides, it is beneficial if your dog has allergies.
Some of the healthiest natural food for dogs are squash, watermelon, mango, tuna, banana, celery, oatmeal, cauliflower, strawberry, coconut, oranges, and pears.
Oatmeal is probably the best natural food for a dog. It has a high amount of soluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Some of the cleanest and premium quality dry dog foods are Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Large Breed Recipe, Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Grain-Free Dinner Patties, Wellness TruFood Baked Blends Raw Dog Food, and Precise Pet Holistic Complete.
Some of the best dog foods vets recommend are Taste of the Wild Bison & Venison Recipe, Fromm Four-Star Game Bird Recipe, Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, and ORIJEN Freeze-Dried Tundra Dog Food.
The food items that can prove fatal for your dogs are chocolate, avocados, caffeinated drinks, and resins. Besides, apple seeds, plum seeds, onion, garlic, and any other food item containing alcohol is equally dangerous. Also, excess salt in dog food can prove fatal.
Additionally, raw dog foods are also dangerous for your dog. These food items can have sickening parasites like Escherichia coli and Salmonella, which grow in raw meat. In extreme cases, such food items can even cause death to your dog.
Certain dog foods are dangerous for your dogs. These food items can cause allergies and serious diseases. First, you should avoid milk and other dairy products as they can lead to tummy issues.
Similarly, vegetables and fruits like onions and grapes can also cause digestive problems in your dog.
Yes, grain-free dog foods are widely believed to be better options than normal dog foods.
Summing Up the Best Natural Dog Food
Have you ever experimented with natural dog food? What convinced you to make the switch? Did you find it easy to prepare the diet? How did your vet feel about the switch? Most importantly, how did your dog’s behavior and health change after making the switch to an all-natural dog food diet?
We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
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Forrest is a lover of dogs, the wild outdoors, deep mysterious conversations… and coffee. He is the owner of several websites, including Canine Weekly. He resides in Austin, Texas.