The Secrets Behind Natural Dry Dog Food: What You Need to Know

Dog Food Ingredients
October 3, 2023
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The Secrets Behind Natural Dry Dog Food: What You Need to Know

The dog food market is often rife with misinformation that makes it easy for dog owners to feel confused and overwhelmed when trying to choose the right food for their pets. Choosing dog food with natural ingredients and shopping exclusively with all natural dog food brands may sound like a great idea on paper. However, there are always elements that dog owners need to watch out for when choosing a new feeding option.

Let’s take a look at the secrets behind natural dry dog food to give you a comprehensive understanding of what it really entails. We’ll discuss the ingredients commonly found in natural dry dog food, such as real meat, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, and why they are beneficial for your canine friend's health. 

Additionally, we provide helpful tips on how to choose the best natural dry dog food for your pet. Whether you're a long-time advocate of natural dog food or just beginning to explore this healthier alternative, this article aims to equip you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about your dog's nutrition.

Benefits of Natural Dry Dog Food

Many dog owners make the switch to a brand of dog food with natural ingredients for the health benefits that natural dog food presents. Some of these benefits include the following.

  • Improved digestion: Natural dry dog food is known for its positive impact on a dog's digestive system. The high-quality ingredients, such as real meat and whole grains, promote better digestion and help reduce the occurrence of gastrointestinal issues.
  • Enhanced nutrient absorption: The ingredients found in natural dry dog food are carefully selected to provide optimal nutrition. This leads to improved nutrient absorption, ensuring that your dog receives the essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they need to thrive.
  • Reduced risk of allergies and sensitivities: Many commercial dog foods contain artificial additives and fillers that can trigger allergies and sensitivities in dogs. Natural dry dog food, on the other hand, avoids these problematic ingredients, reducing the likelihood of your dog developing adverse reactions.

Disclaimer About Natural Dry Dog Food

While natural dry dog food is generally considered a healthier option compared to some heavily processed commercial dog foods, it is not without potential risks or dangers. Here are some ways in which dog food with natural ingredients could still pose risks. (3)

  • Contamination or Spoilage: Natural dry dog food may not contain the same preservatives as commercial dog food, making it more susceptible to spoilage or contamination. This can happen if the food is not stored properly, or if it's past its expiration date.

  • Imbalanced Nutrition: Natural dry dog foods may not always be formulated to meet all of a dog's specific dietary needs. For example, homemade diets might lack essential nutrients like calcium, which can lead to health issues if not supplemented properly.

  • Allergies or Sensitivities: Even natural ingredients can cause allergic reactions or sensitivities in some dogs. For instance, certain proteins, grains, or other ingredients might not agree with a particular dog's digestive system.

  • Ingredient Quality: While natural dog food often boasts high-quality ingredients, not all brands or products are created equal. Some may use lower-grade ingredients, or even contain contaminants. (2)

  • Toxic Ingredients: Natural does not necessarily mean safe. Some natural ingredients can be toxic to dogs. For example, certain plants, fruits, and nuts are harmful to dogs. It's important to research and be aware of which natural ingredients are safe for dogs before buying dog food with natural ingredients.

  • Lack of Regulation: The term "natural" isn't strictly regulated in the pet food industry. This means that there's no standardized definition, and different manufacturers may interpret it differently. This can lead to inconsistencies in the quality of natural dry dog food.

  • Digestibility: Some natural ingredients may be harder for dogs to digest. For example, certain high-fiber ingredients can lead to digestive upset if introduced too quickly or in large quantities.

It's important for dog owners to consult with a veterinarian before making significant changes to their dog's diet. This includes transitioning to a natural dog food diet or making homemade meals. A vet can offer guidance on what specific nutritional needs your dog has and help you select a diet that meets those requirements safely.

Ingredients to Look for in Natural Dry Dog Food

Even if you’re selecting dog food from an all natural dog food brand, it’s important to research your options thoroughly. Much like you’d do when searching for any type of dog food, you’ll need to take a close look at the ingredients list for each option to make sure the dog food you choose has all the right ingredients. For example, high-quality animal protein, whole grains, vegetables, healthy fats, and natural preservatives. (1)

  • High-quality animal protein: A key ingredient to look for in natural dry dog food is high-quality animal protein. This can come from sources like chicken, beef, or fish. Animal protein is essential for maintaining healthy muscles, supporting the immune system, and providing energy for your dog.
  • Whole grains and vegetables: Whole grains, such as brown rice and oats, are a valuable source of carbohydrates and fiber in natural dry dog food. They provide sustained energy and aid in digestion. Additionally, vegetables like sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots contribute essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Healthy fats: Healthy fats, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are crucial for your dog's overall health. They promote a shiny coat, support brain function, and help maintain a healthy weight. Look for natural dry dog food that includes sources of healthy fats, such as salmon oil or flaxseed.
  • Natural preservatives: Natural dry dog food may contain natural preservatives, such as tocopherols (a form of vitamin E) or rosemary extract, to maintain freshness. These alternatives to artificial preservatives are healthier for your dog and still ensure the food stays safe to consume.

Common Misconceptions About Natural Dry Dog Food

In addition to the disclaimers mentioned above, there are several misconceptions surrounding natural dry dog food that pet owners need to be aware of. Here are the most common misunderstandings people may have about natural dry dog food. (6)

  • It is more expensive: While natural dry dog food may seem more expensive upfront, it can actually save you money in the long run. The higher quality ingredients mean your dog needs to eat less to meet their nutritional needs, resulting in a decreased overall cost.
  • It lacks essential nutrients: Quality natural dry dog food is formulated to provide a balanced diet for your pet. Reputable brands ensure that their recipes meet the nutritional requirements established by organizations like the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
  • It is not suitable for all dog breeds: Natural dry dog food is suitable for most dog breeds, but it's important to consider your dog's specific needs. Some breeds may have unique dietary requirements or sensitivities, so consult with your veterinarian to find the best option for your dog.

Tips for Choosing the Best Natural Dry Dog Food

Because choosing any dog food formulation requires careful consideration and thorough research, it’s essential for dog owners to embark upon their shopping endeavor on the right track. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when shopping for dry dog food with natural ingredients. (4)

  • Reading the ingredient list and guaranteed analysis: When choosing natural dry dog food, carefully read the ingredient list. Look for recognizable, high-quality ingredients listed at the beginning. Additionally, check the guaranteed analysis to ensure the food meets your dog's specific nutritional needs.
  • Checking for third-party certifications: Third-party certifications, such as the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal or the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement, indicate that the natural dry dog food meets specific quality standards. These certifications offer added assurance about the product's safety and reliability.
  • Considering your dog's specific needs: Every dog is unique, and their dietary needs may vary. Consider factors such as age, breed, size, activity level, and any specific health conditions when choosing natural dry dog food. Consult with your veterinarian for personalized recommendations.

How to Transition Your Dog to Natural Dry Food

Even if you buy food from all natural dog food brands, your dog may have a difficult time transitioning from one dog food brand to another. As such, it’s important to handle the transcription process as carefully as possible. Make the transition a gradual one, keep an eye on your dog’s reaction to his or her new food, and reach out to your vet if you need assistance. (5)

  • Gradual transition process: When transitioning your dog to natural dry food, it's important to do it gradually. Start by mixing a small amount of the new food with their current food, gradually increasing the proportion of the new food over several days. This helps prevent digestive upset.
  • Monitoring your dog's response: During the transition period, closely monitor your dog's response to the new food. Look for any signs of gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea or vomiting. If any issues arise, adjust the transition process accordingly or consult with your veterinarian.
  • Consulting with a veterinarian: Your veterinarian is a valuable resource when it comes to your dog's nutrition. They can provide guidance on the transition process, recommend specific natural dry dog food brands, and address any concerns or questions you may have.

Choosing natural dry dog food can offer numerous benefits, including improved digestion, enhanced nutrient absorption, and a reduced risk of allergies and sensitivities. However, it's crucial for dog owners to be aware of potential risks, such as contamination, imbalanced nutrition, allergies, and ingredient quality. 

To ensure the best choice for your dog, carefully scrutinize ingredient lists, seek third-party certifications, and consider your dog's specific needs. Additionally, when transitioning to a new food, do so gradually and consult with a veterinarian for expert guidance. By making informed decisions, you can provide your dog with the nourishment they need for a healthy, happy life.

SOURCES

  1. Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM. (2022). How to evaluate dry kibble food in 5 easy steps. Only Natural Pet. https://www.onlynaturalpet.com/blogs/holistic-healthcare-library/how-to-evaluate-dry-kibble-food-in-5-easy-steps#:~:text=Look%20for%20named%20animal%20proteins,protein%2C%20are%20becoming%20increasingly%20popular
  2. WebMD Editorial Contributors. (2021, March 8). Are there natural dog foods? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/are-there-natural-dog-foods#:~:text=Most%20commercial%20dog%20foods%20contain,homemade%20diet%20might%20be%20best
  3. Finlay, K. (2017). The facts about natural dog food. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/facts-about-natural-dog-food/
  4. Sundays | Natural Dog Food: Understanding The Misconception. (n.d.). https://sundaysfordogs.com/blog/natural-dog-food-understanding-the-misconception
  5. Staff, A. (2022b). How to switch & transition dog foods. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/right-way-switch-dog-foods/
  6. Buff, P. R., Carter, R. A., Bauer, J. E., & Kersey, J. H. (2014). Natural pet food: A review of natural diets and their impact on canine and feline physiology. Journal of Animal Science, 92(9), 3781–3791. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2014-7789

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