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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 many 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. However, it is important to know what to look for.
Below, we’ll discuss the most important things to consider when buying organic dog food.
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, food labeled as organic is grown or raised without artificial pesticides, fertilizers, or chemicals. This means that the food may be healthier, and your body doesn’t have to process potentially harmful chemicals.
However, scientists do not totally agree on the extent of this benefit.
Meat that is organic is also raised without the use of growth hormones and antibiotics. However, farmers can’t withhold antibiotics for a sick animal – this just means that the animal’s meat won’t be organic.
This means that producing organic ingredients is kinder to the planet than food produced using conventional techniques.
Pesticides can harm wildlife and disrupt animal reproduction. Also, the use of antibiotics in agriculture has increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria to alarming levels.
By choosing to eat organic foods, 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 dog food. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates nutrient guidelines, but not ingredient standards.
There may be some dog food producers who adhere to the strict human organic rules. However, there is no regulating agency for the “organic” label of pet food.
Because the USDA doesn’t define organic in terms of dog food, individual states must regulate it. 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 organic.
Because of all this uncertainty, some dog owners who want to ensure that their dog eats an organic diet feed their dogs a homemade diet made from human-quality certified organic ingredients.
If you go this route, make sure you do your research and consult with a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist. Homemade dog foods rarely are fully balanced and contain all the nutrients a dog needs to stay healthy.
Often, you need supplements to ensure that your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs.
A veterinary nutritionist can help you decide what to feed your dog. Also, they can 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 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 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. Additionally, Castor & Pollux sells an organic small breed formula here.
Pros: Castor & Pollux uses ingredients that are held to USDA organic certification (the definition of organic that applies to human food). Therefore, this is probably your best option for high-quality organic dry dog food. This dry dog food is also grain-free, which is good for dogs with grain allergies.
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. However, it is also the only one made entirely with USDA-standard organic ingredients.
Description: This chicken-flavored organic kibble is made without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. However, the organic label is a bit misleading; this food contains only 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. It has no 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: Since the chicken in this formula is not organic, this food won’t work if you’re a diehard organic dog food shopper. This product also contains soy. Soy is a highly contested dog food ingredient that might be linked to health issues in dogs. However, there’s no conclusive evidence yet.
Pros: Dog owners have found that their dogs enjoy the taste of this food. Also, 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 must buy it online.
Description: Halo’s 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 is the only food their sensitive/picky/allergic dog can 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 dry dog food.
Description: This grain-free, organic dog food includes organic chicken as the first ingredient. It claims to be “certified organic.” However, 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 human food.
Pros: This is the most affordable organic option for dry dog food. It’s 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 sick or caused allergies or issues with their dog’s coat and skin. Also, Costco is the only store that carries Kirkland products. Customers without Costco memberships or local stores must buy it online.
Here are 5 additional picks that made it on our list of the best organic dog food (even if most of them are natural, rather than organic).
Description: Unlike the other organic dog foods on our list, this one isn’t a dry dog food. The Honest Kitchen makes dehydrated human-grade food that you add water to before feeding it to your dog. A 10-pound box re-hydrates into 40 pounds of food. It comes in 3 flavors: Cage-Free Turkey, Free-Range Chicken, and Ranch-Raised Beef.
Pros: Most dogs love the flavor. Owners report improved skin, energy, weight, and appetite. One owner even said that her diabetic dog needs less insulin since switching to Honest Kitchen.
Cons: Some dogs won’t eat this food, and it makes some dogs sick. Also, any uneaten food may turn into a cement-like consistency, which makes cleanup tricky.
Description: Although Merrick doesn’t have any organic recipes, all their food is natural, so we feel comfortable including it on our list. Merrick grain-free recipes have real meat as the first ingredient and leading levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.
Pros: Most dogs seem to love this food and thrive on it, even those who typically struggle with diarrhea or pickiness.
Cons: There seem to be some quality control issues, with an unusual number of complaints about moldy food.
Description: Taste of the Wild has always been known for high-quality grain-free all-natural dog foods. Now, they also offer select recipes made with ancient grains. Since the FDA linked grain-free food with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), these ancient-grain formulations seem like a perfect compromise between potentially risky grain-free foods and those filled with wheat and corn, known fillers and allergens.
Pros: Most dogs love this food and thrive on it. Multiple owners mentioned how much their dog’s skin or coat improved after switching to Taste of the Wild.
Cons: Some dogs who switched from the grain-free version to the new ancient grains version of this food experienced a lot of gas and diarrhea.
Description: Blue Buffalo has many natural varieties of food, both with and without grains. The Rocky Mountain Recipe features red meat and contains no chicken (a common allergen).
Pros: Most dogs love the flavor of this food and owners report that their pups are healthy eating Blue Buffalo.
Cons: This food makes some dogs ill and may cause allergic reactions. Previous formulations contained chicken meal, so the newer, chicken-free version might be better.
Description: TruDog isn’t your typical dry dog food. Instead of highly processed kibble, it’s made of freeze-dried raw ingredients. You get the benefits of raw feeding with the convenience of kibble. Just add water to release the full flavor your dog will love.
Pros: Most dogs LOVE this food and thrive on it.
Cons: The biggest complaint people have about TruDog food is the price. It is extremely expensive. Some dogs also don’t love the flavor.
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.
Consuming organic food reduces a person’s exposure to pesticides and chemicals. However, 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 ingredients for yourself, or your pet? By far the most significant positive impact of organic farming 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.
However, an environmentally conscious person will likely 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.
While few dog foods claim to be “organic,” many claim to be “natural” or “all-natural.” What’s the difference between natural and organic?
“Natural” ingredients are anything that came from a plant, animal, or mineral. Many cheap dry dog foods are full of artificial flavors or preservatives that are made in a lab. All organic ingredients are natural, but not all natural ingredients are organic.
There is no good reason your dog needs to be eating artificial ingredients. Whether or not you choose to feed your dog organic, try to stick with foods that are all-natural.
You should feed 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). There are fewer regulations governing the quality of ingredients and how foods are labeled than there are for human food.
Despite these inconsistencies, here are some things to look for in a commercial dog food diet regardless of whether it’s organic.
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. However, feeding more of their regular diet is usually 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.
To prevent excess weight gain, adult dogs need lower proportions of protein and fat. 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 require food that is more calorie-dense. Large breeds are more prone to arthritis and other bone and joint problems. 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, 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 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!