Choosing a dog food product can be quite confusing with the advent of diets like vegan, raw, organic, natural dog food, and high-protein. However, none of the diets mentioned above are outright dangerous for your dog.
Which one you choose for your pooch completely depends on your personal preference and the desired outcome from your dog’s diet. With that said, I’d recommend anyone who’s worried about his dog’s health to buy natural foods for dogs.
If you’ve ever been in the dogs’ natural food aisle at your local supermarket, you’d know that there are hundreds of natural dog food brands out there. But the truth is that the labels on these natural foods can be quite misleading. So, in this article, we’ll discuss exactly what natural foods for dogs are and enlist the top vet-recommended dog foods in the industry.
Regardless, dogs’ natural foods are a fantastic option. But to find the best natural dog foods for your pooch, you’ll need to thoroughly research all your options, go through reviews, read, and reread ingredients lists. But even so, finding the right dog food for your pooch is largely a matter of hit-and-trial. So, keep your vet in the loop for some much-needed advice on choosing your dog’s diet.
What Are Natural Dog Foods?
The AAFCO defines natural dog food as one that contains real meat, vegetables, and plants. In easier words, it’s generally free from all types of chemicals. Despite how common dogs’ natural foods are, many pet parents are not aware of what “natural” really means on a dog food label.
Now, a lot of dog owners consider the word “natural” to be synonymous to “organic.” However, these two dog food types can be worlds apart. Organic dog foods go a step further from natural ones by using absolutely no additives, artificial flavors, genetic engineering or poultry meat.
So, in essence, natural foods for dogs are quite different from those labeled as organic. However, you’ll need to pay top dollar for organic dog foods. On the other hand, you can purchase a natural dog diet at a very affordable price.
Also, look at our recently published review of the best natural dog treats.
Benefits of Feeding a Natural Dog Food
Before we dive into the reviews of our top picks, it’s important to consider how useful a natural dog diet can be. Here are some factors to consider:
Lessen Digestive System Issues
Do you have a doggo with a weak tummy? If yes, then a mild natural diet can prove to be quite useful for your dog. A lot of the harsh chemicals found in commercial dog foods can affect your dog’s digestive system. However, natural and wellness dog foods can undoubtedly reduce the strain on it as well as offer enhanced bioavailability.
Reduces Allergy Symptoms
Poultry is currently subjected to a lot of artificial methods to increase hormone production and achieve favorable characters. This has hurt us in the long-term. So much so, that a lot of dogs are now allergic to certain types of meat. Using natural dog foods ensures that your dog is safe from such allergies.
Improves Immune System
Allergies are actually immune system responses to particular allergens. So, it’s safe to say that if natural dog foods reduce allergy symptoms, they’ll undoubtedly improve the immune system of your dog as well.
How To Choose The Right Natural Dog Food
Before buying natural dog food for your pooch, consider the following factors.
According to a recent study published by BMC Veterinary Research, 1-2% of dogs have a food intolerance or allergy. If a particular ingredient doesn’t sit well with your dog, your only option is to avoid it since there’s no real cure for food allergies.
Some of the most common food allergens, according to BMC Veterinary Research are:
If you buy your dog’s natural food and it causes skin rashes, itching, and makes your dog scratch and bite its fur, then you should immediately consult your vet to find a substitute food product. Generally, a hypoallergenic dog food, or prescription dog food.
Even though you’re buying natural food for your dog, you should always read its ingredients list first. At times, there are synthetic or controversial ingredients in the ingredients list which you might not want to feed your dog.
You’d want a natural dog food which has fewer fillers and more healthy proteins. Also, reading the ingredients list is a must for people with dogs that are allergic to certain ingredients.
It’s important to consider that a lot of allergens for dogs are highly common in dog foods. These include ingredients like chicken and beef which might even make for the major ingredient in the list. So, it’s always better to know what’s in the bag that you’re buying, for your dog’s sake.
Providing a well-balanced and nourishing diet to your dog is extremely important. It’s vital to consider that dogs are primarily carnivores. The majority of energy for a dog comes from proteins and fats, however, they can also use carbs for this purpose.
While going through the ingredients list of a specific recipe, notice if they name specific protein sources in there (eg. chicken or turkey.) If most of the ingredients sound synthetic to you, then buy from a different brand.
The FDA is responsible for testing dog foods in the United States. And they take this responsibility quite seriously. So much so, that they conduct continuous researches on diseases caused by dog foods and go as far as naming dog food companies that are under investigation.
So, if the FDA certifies a dog food to be of high quality, you can rest assured that it is. Although the AAFCO does not test any dog food products, it’s also a good source for understanding exactly what dog foods should and shouldn’t have.
Age Appropriate Food
Not all dog foods are made for every age group. Puppies that are still growing would certainly need a high-protein diet while senior dogs would need food that’s easy on the stomach.
While buying dog food, read its packaging for details on which age group it is appropriate for. It’s noteworthy that almost all big manufacturers have natural dog food products available for every age bracket.
10 Best Natural Dog Foods (Reviews)
So, now that you’re fully aware of why you need and how to choose natural foods for your dog, let’s review the most popular natural pet foods in the marketplace.
1. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High-Protein Grain-Free
When it comes to pet food products, Blue Buffalo is a big name in the industry. This dog food contains real chicken meat. The manufacturer keeps all ethical poultry guidelines in mind while farming the healthiest and most natural chicken for this item. Also, this dog food is essentially grain-free, fulfilling its carbs requirement through healthy sources like sweet potatoes and peas. What’s more, Blue Buffalo has also added Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in this formula which are absolute gems for the skin and coat health of your pooch.
What I love about this product are the LifeSource Bits that come with this formula. These LifeSource bits contain antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that ensure the best of health for your pooch. Also, it’s great to see big brands like Blue Buffalo coming up with better and revised formulas like this.
However, there are many customers who didn’t appreciate the LifeSource Bits since their dogs didn’t like them. But you know what they say; the proof is in the pudding.
2. Diamonds Naturals Premium Real Meat
This natural dog food recipe contains no fillers like corn, wheat or soy. Also, it uses farm-raised beef in its recipe to ensure high-protein content in its formula. What’s more, this dog food contains ingredients like vitamin E, Selenium, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which are all extremely important for the overall health of your dog. Also, the probiotics in this food provide dogs with an extra layer of immunity and health.
Dog owners have reviewed this recipe to be satisfactory for its price. No major health concerns have popped up for buyers, which is always a pleasant sight.
However, one issue that keeps popping up with this food is its inconsistency. Some batches are noticeably more hydrated as compared to others while the color of the kibble also varies a bit. But it’s worth noting that Diamonds has over 6 facilities throughout the US where this product is manufactured. Since they add no artificial color to their item, slight variations are considered to be (ironically) quite “natural.”
3. Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct
If a high-protein natural food product doesn’t suit your dog, then the Purina ONE SmartBlend just might. With 30% protein content, this formula is quite easy on the tummy. Purina ONE uses real turkey in manufacturing this formula. What’s more, it contains vitamin E and A along with Omega-6 fatty acids which are essential for proper health and growth.
Customers have been loving this recipe on two major fronts:
- Dogs with weak tummies have easily ingested and digested this food
- Customers have hailed this dog food as one of the best to improve coat quality
However, there are a few filler ingredients in this natural food for dogs. These ingredients include corn and wheat which can prove to be a setback for a few dog owners.
4. Rachael Ray Nutrish Real Meat Recipe
Rachael Ray Nutrish is another big name in the dog food industry. The beef used in this product is completely farm-raised under all ethical guidelines. What’s more, the prebiotics in this holistic diet help dogs with digestive issues. Also, if fillers are a big no-no for you, then this food would be a fantastic pick since it contains no by-products like wheat and gluten. The manufacturer takes special care of upholding the “natural” label on this formula by not using any additives or artificial flavors in it.
Rachael Ray has a lot of other dog foods in its line, however, this is one of the cheapest. So, this dog food is great for those who’re concerned about the unusually high price of some other natural dog foods. Also, it’s great to see that this food manages to lower the price without having to go overboard with fillers.
However, it’s important to remember that this certainly won’t be the best dog food out there. The reason this natural food for dogs makes its way onto our list is because of its great price while maintaining respectable quality.
5. The Honest Kitchen Human-Grade Dehydrated Dog Food
This dog food by The Honest Kitchen secures the 5th place in our rundown on the best natural dog foods. If you’re looking for high-quality and are willing to pay top dollar for it, then this is the one to go for. This natural food for dogs uses turkey as its protein source. What’s more, the manufacturer advertises the turkey to be cage-free, upholding the integrity of the “natural” label on this item. All the ingredients in this formula are completely natural and devoid of byproducts.
What impresses me the most in this product is that it is labeled human-grade. What does that mean? Well, it simply means that it’s safe enough for humans to ingest it. Although the AAFCO provides no definition for what pet food can be termed as human-grade, it agrees that a true human-grade pet food would certainly lean towards the expensive side.
6. Nutro Max Natural Dry Dog Food
Are you looking for natural foods for your large dog? If you said yes, then Nutro Max would be a great fit for you. With farm-raised chicken as its main constituent, this natural dog food fulfills all the nutritional requirements of large dogs. This recipe contains no by-product meal, corn, wheat, soy or chemical additives.
Nutro Max Natural Adult is one of the dog foods that goes a bit easy on the stomach. So, in that case, it’s a great option for senior dogs or those that have digestion issues. Overall, the customer reviews for this item have been quite satisfactory in terms of quality.
However, some customers expressed their concern over how Nutro decreased its packaging size while maintaining its price. On the other hand, Nutro justifies that in order to uphold quality, price revisions need to be considered with time.
7. Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free Food
If you hate dog foods with heaps of fillers, then the Wellness Core Natural is for you. The manufacturer advertises this adult natural dog food to contain absolutely no fillers at all. Their protein-focused formula contains a mixture of chicken, turkey, and real vegetables. What’ more, this dog food is devoid of all types of artificial flavors and additives.
This dog diet has received much praise and appreciation from its customers, specifically for its high value. Even though Wellness might not be the most famous dog food brand, it’s known to always deliver fresh batches on time. Overall, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this product.
Some reviewers mentioned that their dogs just won’t eat this food. However, there’s no particular reason behind this dislike except personal preference.
8. Hill's Ideal Balance Natural Dog Food
Hill’s Ideal Balance is the way to go if you wish to keep your dog slim and sturdy. This formula is chicken-based with added vegetables and fruits for vitamins and minerals. What’s more, the brown rice in this recipe makes for a great source of dietary fiber which helps with digestion. Living up to its “natural” tag, this healthy dog food contains no fillers or chemical additives.
Customers have reviewed that their dogs straight-away plunge for this food as soon as their bowls are placed in front of them. There seem to be no issues with the taste or quality of ingredients used in this product, which is a great sign.
However, the nutrient analysis of this dog food shows that it contains about 24% of protein which is below average. If you’re looking for a high-protein ratio, go for something like our top choice, Blue Buffalo.
9. Nature's Recipe Easy-To-Digest Dog Food
Nature’s Recipe takes good care not to add any corn, wheat or soy in this product. So, you can rest assured it boasts high nutritional value. What’s more, this natural food for dogs contains no by-product meals or artificial flavors, colors, and additives.
For those of you who have dogs with a sensitive tummy, Nature’s Recipe might just be the savior you were looking for. Since this dog food contains a mild amount of protein, it goes easy on the stomach and the digestive system. Numerous dog owners have reviewed that their sick and diarrhea-stricken dogs got a lot better after using this natural dog food.
However, the low protein content might not sound that appealing to the general audience. Since the recipe heavily relies on plants, the protein content is bound to be lesser as compared to some of the other brands.
10. Merrick Grain-Free Natural Dog Food
Merrick Grain-Free comes in a plethora of flavors including Salmon, duck, lamb, chicken, and beef. The manufacturer prides itself on including high amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which help improve coat quality and health. Also, it is completely made in the USA with high-quality ingredients which makes it perfect for all dog breeds.
Now, what’s good in this natural dog food is its high protein content. If you’re looking for something to help your dog improve and build muscle, this is what you should consider for it. Most customers have loved it, however, Merrick provides a money-back guarantee for unsatisfied customers. So, you have nothing to lose here.
Everything about this Merrick Grain-Free Dry Food is great. However, it would’ve been even better had it been more meat-based. But even with a plant-based recipe, it doesn’t compromise on quality.
Buying natural food for dogs requires a lot more work than it may seem. If you’re going the extra mile for buying healthy and natural food for your dog, make sure you’re well aware of its ingredients.
Lastly, it’s advised to always consult your vet before deciding on a natural dog food product. Most of the time, your veterinarian would be happy to advise healthier substitutes, if required.