Natural Dog Food

How to Choose Organic, Natural Dog Foods

Cats shouldn’t get all of the fancy food treats - dogs like to have a tasty meal, too! But conventional dog foods can be full of preservatives, additives, and filler ingredients that aren’t that healthy for your pooch, and they may support an unsustainable agriculture industry as well. So we are here to help you choose healthy, natural dog foods that are better for your animal companion and kinder to the planet as well.


Knowing your dog’s nutritional requirements

Though the nutritional requirements for dogs varies wildly by breed, age, and gender, there are some general dietary guidelines that will help you in determining a balanced meal plan for your dog:

  • Animal fats: Necessary for a variety of bodily functions, essential fatty acids (omega 3s and omega 6s for instance) are needed by dogs just like humans. The recommended daily fat intake for a puppy is 21 grams, adults 14 grams, and pregnant/nursing dogs 29 grams / 67 grams respectively. Fats should make up a minimum of 5.5% of your dog’s food by weight.
  • Carbohydrates: This is a bigger portion of a dog’s diet and will account for about 50% of your natural dog food. They digest white rice quite well, but corn, wheat, and oats are less well absorbed (and may cause flatulence).
  • Proteins and amino acids: Like most animals, dogs are not able to make their own essential amino acids (that’s why they’re essential), but unlike cats, dogs can be healthy with both animal and plant-based proteins in their diet. Your dog will need a minimum of 10% protein by weight in his or her diet. Just be sure they’re high-quality proteins that are well-balanced so that your dog gets all of the necessary amino acids (arginine, histidine, lysine, methionine, phenyalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, isoleucine, and leucine). Puppies need 56 grams of crude protein daily, adults 25 grams, and pregnant/nursing dogs 69 grams / 158 grams respectively.
  • Minerals: Dogs have very specific mineral needs in order to maintain healthy bones and teeth, nervous system and digestive health, as well as enzymatic reactions. There are 12 minerals in particular you should pay attention to (daily recommended allowances for adult dogs):
    • Calcium - 0.75 g
    • Chlorine -150 g
    • Copper -1.5 mg
    • Iodine -220 µg
    • Iron -7.5 mg
    • Magnesium -150 mg
    • Manganese -1.2 mg
    • Phosphorus -0.75 g
    • Potassium -1 g
    • Selenium - 90 µg
    • Sodium -100 mg
    • Zinc -15 mg
  • Vitamins: Dogs need to have a diet with adequate amounts of certain vitamins, including vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and B-complex vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, choline, and B12). Of importance, but less crucial, and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • Water: Necessary for life, water is important for your dog’s overall health. Although there are no specific requirements for water content in your dog’s food, having some in your dog’s food is beneficial.


What to look for in natural dog foods

When examining nutrition and ingredient labels, there are a few basic characteristics to keep in mind as you search for the healthiest, most natural dog foods for your pooch. For instance:

  • Look for certified organic ingredients, where you can to minimize your pet’s exposure to harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Seek out foods that are made with free-range and organic animal proteins to ensure that the animals raised to feed your pet were not treated cruelly and to avoid exposure to growth hormones, antibiotic feeds, and rendered meats.
  • Select brands that have developed formulas without the use of artificial color, flavor, or preservatives. The food should contain specific claims regarding these ingredients.
  • Avoid things like animal “byproducts” and “meals” and go for whole animal proteins instead.
  • Ensure that grains like corn, peas, potatoes, tapioca starch, and oats are low on the list of ingredients (grain-free foods are even better).
  • Choose natural preservatives like vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) and vitamin C instead of synthetic preservatives like BHA, BHT, or sodium nitrate. Be aware though that this may reduce the shelf life of the food - check labels.


Recommended natural dog food brands 

Labels can be very misleading without a guide, so we’ve put together a list of some of the most reliable natural dog food brands to make your search a little easier:

For more options, see the EcoBusinessLinks site for more natural and organic dog food manufacturers. You may just find one in your own town! Also check out ecolife's recipe guide for making homemade dog food


Vegan and vegetarian dog diets

Unlike cats who are obligate carnivores (they generally cannot live without animal protein), dogs are more adaptable to a vegetarian diet. Though you should always consult with your vet regarding a switch from a meat-based diet to a veggie-based diet, it is not nearly as complex as the same transition for cats. You can try vegetarian dog food brands like Evolution Diet, Natural Balance Vegetarian, or V-dog. PETA has many other cruelty-free pet food brands you can try in the Companion Animal Food Guide.


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