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We all want to give our dogs the best possible health. A great place to start being a well-intended dog parent is choosing a high-quality organic dog food. Healthy diets are not just for humans!
There are a lot of eye-catching labels making claims about holistic dog food ingredients and health benefits. Organic dog food can be a good way to steer clear of certain additives, pesticides, and chemicals, but it is important to know what to look for.
Below, we’ll discuss the most important things to consider when buying organic food for your dog. We’ll also recommend five of the best organic dog food brands to choose from if you decide to feed your dog a holistic diet.
For humans at least, organic food is food grown or raised without artificial pesticides, fertilizers, or chemicals. This means that the food is healthier, and your body doesn’t have to process potentially harmful chemicals – although scientists do not totally agree to the extent of this benefit.
Organic food is also raised or grown without the use of pesticides, growth hormones, and antibiotics (though farmers aren’t allowed to withhold antibiotics for a sick animal – this just means that the animal’s meat won’t be organic).
This means that producing organic food is kinder to the planet than food produced using conventional techniques. Pesticides can harm wildlife and disrupt animal reproduction, and the use of antibiotics in agriculture has increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria to alarming levels.
By choosing to eat organic food you are choosing a diet that is likely healthier for you and better for the environment. However, these reasons may not hold up when applied to dog food.
While there are strict guidelines describing what qualifies as organic for human food, the same is not true of pet food. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates nutrient guidelines, but not ingredient standards.
Although there are some dog food producers who probably adhere to the strict human organic rules, there is no regulating agency for the “organic” label of pet food. Because the USDA doesn’t define organic in terms of pet food, it is left up to individual states to regulate. This means that there could be a great deal of variation between different definitions of ‘organic.’
Because labeling is not monitored, there is no fool-proof way to tell if a dog food labeled organic really is truly organic or not.
Because of all this uncertainty, some dog owners who want to ensure that their dog eats an organic diet choose to feed their dogs a homemade diet made from human-quality certified organic ingredients.
If you decide to go this route, make sure you do your research and consult with a veterinarian, or – even better! – with a veterinary nutritionist. Homemade dog foods rarely are fully balanced and contain all the nutrients a dog needs to stay healthy.
Often supplements are required to make sure that your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs. A veterinary nutritionist will be able to help you decide what to feed your dog and help monitor your pup to be sure that your homemade diet is meeting all his needs.
Here are some high-quality dog foods labeled as organic. If you are wary of misleading ‘organic’ labels and are particularly adamant about feeding your dog a strictly organic commercial diet, consider doing more research or contacting these companies to find out what standard of organic they have for the ingredients in their dog food.
Description: This grain free, completely organic kibble includes organic chicken and organic chicken meal as its first two ingredients. This brand also uses feeding trials to test that their food is nutritionally complete and balanced in accordance with AAFCO guidelines. Castor & Pollux also sells an organic small breed formula here.
Pros: Castor & Pollux use ingredients that are held to the USDA organic certification: the same definition of organic that regulates organic human food, so this is probably your best option for high quality, completely organic dry dog food. This kibble is also grain free, which is good for dogs that are allergic to most commercial pet food.
Cons: While most dogs seem to love this food, a few dogs refused to eat it, perhaps because of a recipe change. By far the largest complaint against Castor & Pollux Organix food is due to the high price. It is significantly more expensive than other foods on this list, but it is also the only one that is completely made with USDA standard organic ingredients.
Description: This chicken-flavored organic kibble is made without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. In this case, the organic label is a bit misleading; this food contains 70% organic ingredients. The grains and vegetables used are organic, but the chicken is not.
Pros: Chicken is the first ingredient listed in this food, and it does not contain any wheat or corn, which are commonly used as fillers and can cause allergic reactions in some dogs. It also contains essential fatty acids and antioxidants, which help keep your dog’s coat shiny and healthy and boost their immune system.
Cons: As mentioned, the chicken used in this formula is not actually organic, so this food will not be up to scratch if you’re a diehard organic dog food shopper. This product also contains soy, a highly contested pet food ingredient that might be linked to health issues in dogs, although no conclusive evidence of this exists.
Pros: Dog owners have found that their dogs enjoy the taste of this food, and some people have commented on their dog’s coats looking healthier after switching to Natural Planet. It even comes in a compostable paper bag!
Cons: Again, there are some ingredients that are not organic, and a couple of dog owners claimed this food made their dog sick. Also, some customers have difficulty finding Natural Planet food at local pet stores and are forced to buy it online.
Description: Halo’s line of holistic dog food chicken formula contains sustainably raised cage-free chicken as its first ingredient. Although not all the ingredients are organic, they are all responsibly sourced, minimally processed, and non-GMO.
Pros: For some owners, this food is the only food their sensitive/picky/allergic dog is able to eat without getting sick. Dog owners are generally happy with their dog’s health and shiny coats.
Cons: Some customers reported illness or allergic reactions in their dogs after a recent Halo formula change. This food is also fairly pricey for dog kibble.
Description: This grain-free, organic dog food includes organic chicken as the first ingredient. It claims to be ‘certified organic,’ even though there is no regulating body to certify pet food as organic. Likely, because it is made with organic ingredients, it is adhering to USDA organic certification guidelines for organic human food.
Pros: This is the most affordable organic option for dry dog food, and it is likely, although not certain, that it holds its organic ingredients to high, human-grade standards of ‘organic.’ Because it is grain free, Kirkland Signature is a good option for dogs who are allergic to corn or wheat which is in most commercial foods.
Cons: A few owners found that this organic dog food formula made their dog’s sick, or caused allergies or issues with their dog’s coat and skin. Also, this can only be found in-store at Costco, so customers without Costco memberships or local stores are forced to purchase online.
Just as there is very little in the way of regulations governing organic labeling in dog food, there is very little research on the benefits of an organic diet for pets. There is some data available on the effects of an organic diet on humans, but even this research is inconclusive.
Although consuming organic food reduces a person’s exposure to pesticides and chemicals, an organic diet is not significantly healthier or more nutritious than a conventional diet.
So is it really worth spending the extra money on organic food for yourself, or your pet? By far the most significant positive impact of organic food is on the environment. Organic farming techniques do not use pesticides, which spread into the soil, water, and wildlife.
So, a strictly health-conscious person can probably eat and feed their dog any food with healthy ingredients, organic or not, but an environmentally conscious person will probably still choose to buy organic dog food because organic farming and processing are kinder to the earth.
When searching for the healthiest diet for your dog, look first at the ingredients you are feeding her, not at the potentially misleading ‘organic’ label.
You want to be feeding your dog a meat-based diet, where a specific meat is the first ingredient, rather than a grain.
Unfortunately, experts do not always agree on the nutritional requirements for dogs (especially since dog breeds vary so much), and there are fewer regulations governing the quality of ingredients and how foods are labeled, than there are pertaining to human food.
Despite these inconsistencies, here are some things to look for in a commercial dog food diet regardless of choosing organic dog food.
Here are some other things to keep in mind when choosing a diet for your hound. Remember that your vet will know best what to feed your dog, so be sure that any diet you pick is veterinarian-approved!
This seems obvious, but a more active dog requires more calories than a dog who sleeps most of the day. There are some dog food formulas for especially active dogs, but often simply feeding more of their regular diet is enough (provided it is good quality food).
Activity level is not always specified in feeding instructions, so the amount you should feed an active dog is not always clear. Be sure to check with your vet to ensure that your dog is getting all the calories and nutrients she needs!
Puppies, adults, and senior dogs have different nutritional requirements. Puppies need food with extra high protein and fat content, which aids in their growth and development.
In order to prevent excess weight gain, adult dogs need lower proportions of protein and fat, and therefore their food has a higher proportion of carbs than puppy food.
Older dogs are usually less active, and have lower calorie requirements, and need less fat in their diet. Senior dog foods are often higher in fiber as well, which helps digestion.
Almost every commercial dog food brand has specifically designed puppy, adult, and senior formulas to choose from.
Just like with age, dog food companies have developed specific formulas for small breeds and large breeds. This is important due to the differing nutritional requirements for different dogs.
Small breeds have a higher metabolism, and therefore require food that is more calorie-dense. Large breeds have a high likelihood of developing arthritis, and feeding specific nutrient ratios has been shown to reduce this risk.
This often parallels the concerns relating to a dog’s size, but certain breeds have different nutritional requirements. Active breeds have different nutrient requirements and metabolism levels. There are a few companies that sell breed-specific dog food.
If your dog has any food allergies, it is important to ensure that whatever you feed him will be safe. Some common dog food ingredients, such as wheat, soy, corn, and chicken products, are known to cause allergic reactions in some dogs.
As well as these dry dog foods, there are organic wet dog food options as well that you might want to consider adding to your dog’s diet. Whatever diet you choose to feed your dog, make sure that you follow all recommendations from your vet.
Although organic ingredients might be a high priority for you, high-quality ingredients and balanced nutrition are more important for your dog. Your pup will thank you for putting his health first!