Taking good care of the family dog is a top priority in the home of just about every dog lover. For many,
that includes finding the best organic and natural dog food for your dog. When it comes to your dog’s
food choices, you want to ensure your pooch is getting the nutrition it needs to thrive. Often, that
means not just improving the quality of what your dog is eating, but also eliminating additives like food
coloring, salt, and preservatives from your dog’s diet altogether.
Organic vs Natural Dog Food: What’s the Difference?
Government agencies defined and regulated the terms “organic” and “natural”. While they
are often used together, the two words have two very distinctive meanings. When you have a basic
understanding of the differences between “organic” and “natural”, you will have a much easier time
decoding the food label and choosing the brands that are best for your dog.
What is Natural Dog Food?
The term natural describes the way in which an ingredient comes to be. According to the Association of
American Feed Control Officials, natural specifically refers to processed and unprocessed feed or feed
ingredients that come only from a plant, animal, or mined sources. Natural contains no synthetic
chemicals or additives unless they are necessary to maintain good manufacturing procedures. Both
individual ingredients and entire packages of dog food can be natural.
Added vitamins and minerals are important additives that improve the quality and nutrient density of
foods, but they are chemically synthesized, so they do not meet the definition of being natural
ingredients. Vitamins are mentioned separately on product packaging with terms
like, “Vitamin D fortified” or “Now with more calcium” or “With Essential amino acids”.
What is Organic Dog Food?
Whereas the term “natural” generally refers to the source of an ingredient, “organic” describes the
lifespan of the plant or animal. Organic ingredients are those produced by organic farming under the
National Organic Program, which is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Organic ingredients are free of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Organic dog food
ingredients are also free of genetic modifications, the genetic splicing of one plant or animal with
another species that results in a mutation or modification of the target plant or animal.
The USDA requires organic meat to be from animals that were fed organic feeds, raised without
hormones and antibiotics, and allowed to go outside. USDA-certified organic dog foods are
those that have met the minimum requirements for human food organic standards. Both human food
and pet food standards for certified organic foods meet the following USDA Organic Labeling criteria:
- Packages that have the USDA Organic seal can claim they are “100 percent organic” if they
contain 100 percent organic ingredients.
- Packages that have the USDA Organic seal can claim they are “Organic” as long as the product
contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients. This leaves room for vitamin and mineral-
fortified dog foods to retain use of the “Organic” designation.
- Packages that contain between 70 - 95 percent organic ingredients may not display the Certified
Organic seal on the packaging, but the front of the package can state they are “made with
organic ingredients” and list up to three ingredients.
- Packages that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients cannot use the word organic on
the front of the packaging.
Tips for Choosing the Best Organic Dog Food
You have the distinctions between natural and organic dog food well in hand. Now, here are some tips
for deciding which dog food brand(s) to buy for your dog.
1Don’t Fret - Remember that all dog foods - whether wet or dry, organic or processed, must undergo rigorous testing and approval by the Food and Drug Administration to ever make it to market. It is great that you are making efforts to boost the nutrition profile of your dog’s meals. Also, don’t forget that every package you see in the stores has already been okayed for your dog.
2Rely on Your Dog to Show You the Best Choice - Your dog will rely on his instincts when it comes to finding and consuming food. You should rely on them too. It doesn’t matter how great the reviews are for a particular brand of organic dog food. If your dog won’t eat it, your dog won’t reap the nutritional benefits. So look to your pooch to tell you which foods are good choices.
3Give Your Dog the Nutrition It Needs - Just as different people have different nutritional needs, different dog breeds have different nutritional needs at different stages of their lives. You can refer to resources such as the AAFCO or the Merck Veterinary Manual to learn more about what your dog needs to have in its diet right now.
4Read the Labels, Front and Back - It’s great to read the front label, but don’t forget to read the back label. The list of ingredients included on the package will let you know if you’re feeding your dog my high-carb fillers than actual meat and will let you know if there are additives in the food that should concern you. Align the ingredients of
whatever organic dog food you choose to buy with the nutritional needs of your dog. Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between natural and organic dog food, you can feel confident that you are making the best dietary choices for your dog to help him live a longer, healthier, more active lifestyle.