Top 10 Best Natural Dog Foods for puppies

Top 10 Best Natural Dog Foods

Choosing the right dog food can be tough. There are so many brands out there, and between diet trends and commercial fads, it’s hard to know what’s best. One thing everyone can agree on: dogs thrive on high-quality, natural dog food.

Dr. Gary Richter, DVM and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, says, “The single biggest thing you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is to provide them with optimal nutrition.” For many dog lovers, that means looking for a natural dog food formula.

While high-quality can be a shorthand for natural and organic dog food, it can also be a shorthand for “expensive.” Don’t worry! As it turns out, it’s possible to feed your pet high-quality, natural dog food—even organic dog food—on a budget.

What Do Natural and Organic Mean on Dog Food Labels?

Before we get to the list of affordable natural dog food brands, let’s talk about what “natural” means. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines natural as “a feed or feed ingredient derived solely from plant, animal, or mined sources…not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic.”

Of course, there are quite a few substances “derived from plant, animal, or mined sources” that shouldn’t show up in dog food. When it comes to dog foods, “natural” is a marketing term that typically means you can expect the food to be free of corn, wheat, soy, food processing byproducts, and artificial colors. But it’s important to read the label closely, as there are no regulations governing the use of the term “natural.”

The term “organic,” however, requires industry certification. AAFCO explains that to be labeled “organic,” animal foods must meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s production and handling standards for organic foods for people. This article from The Bark explains that plant ingredients in pet foods must be grown without pesticides, artificial fertilizers, genetic modification, irradiation, or sewage sludge. Animal ingredients in organic dog food, including meat and eggs, must come from animals raised on organic feed, given access to the outdoors, and not treated with antibiotics or hormones.

Because the organic certification process is complex and organic ingredients are expensive, organic dog foods, or foods made with mainly organic ingredients, usually cost more than traditional foods. But there are some affordable options.

Choosing a Natural Dog Food

When searching for the right food for your dog, consider your priorities. Pet owners who care about the environmental impact of their purchases often prefer foods featuring organic ingredients, for instance.

On the other hand, if your primary concern is your dog’s health, you may be looking for a natural dog food because it contains few or no preservatives. You may also be searching for dog food made with only high-quality, single-source proteins. Whatever your top priority, look past the labels and manufacturer claims and check out the ingredients.

For this article, we define “natural dog food” as preservative-free and made from high-quality ingredients. We checked with top veterinarian Dr. Richter for his take on what defines quality dog food. He recommends looking for named ingredients—”chicken” vs. “meat,” for example. You want to see fruits, vegetables, and animal protein on the list of ingredients. He notes that when it comes to food allergies in dogs, it’s usually the protein that’s the culprit—so if your dog doesn’t do well on a beef-based food, they may be fine on fish.

Bottom line: If you have any concerns about your dog’s diet, be sure to talk with your vet. They can recommend foods based on your dog’s age, breed, and any health conditions, including allergies.

Concerns About Grain-Free and Exotic Dog Foods

The FDA is looking into a possible link between DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs and the ingredients in certain boutique and grain-free pet foods. In a 2018 article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Lisa Freeman, DVM, Ph.D., DACVN, explained the issue is not just grain-free diets, but rather, “BEG” diets (boutique companies, exotic ingredients, or grain-free diets).

“The apparent link between BEG diets and DCM may be due to ingredients used to replace grains in grain-free diets, such as lentils or chickpeas, but also may be due to other common ingredients commonly found in BEG diets, such as exotic meats, vegetables, and fruits,” Freeman wrote.

The FDA is still investigating so, for now, it’s best to check with your vet about any concerns. Dr. Freeman also recommends purchasing food from companies that employ veterinary nutritionists and other experts.

The Best Affordable Natural Dog Foods

Natural dog food doesn’t have to break the bank. We’ve rounded up some of the most affordable options in natural and organic dog food. Check them out below!

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Potato and Duck Recipe

Natural Balance is grain-free and made from a short list of premium ingredients with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Best of all, it comes in many different formulas to meet your dog’s specific protein needs. The price is a bit higher than some on this list, but it features a top-notch, limited ingredient formula that may be ideal for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities.

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

This high-quality brand offers recipes are free of corn, wheat, and soy and avoids any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Whole Earth, owned by Merrick, makes most of their flavors in both medium- and small-breed varieties—the only difference is the size of the kibble.

Ollie Chicken Recipe Fresh Dog Food

If you’re looking to upgrade your dog’s diet, you can’t do better than fresh food. This chicken recipe packs a punch with protein and nutrition, featuring whole-food ingredients like fresh chicken, carrots, and peas. Ollie’s fresh food is human-grade and completely free from fillers and artificial additives. It is also much less processed than traditional commercial pet food.

Castor and Pollux Organix Chicken and Oatmeal

Castor and Pollux went the extra mile to get organic certification from the USDA for their Organix line of dog food. This truly organic formula includes organic protein, meat or chicken meals, veggies, fruits, oils, and herbs.

Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Pacific Stream

Taste of the Wild has been a popular choice in affordable natural dog food since 2007. Diamond, the makers of Diamond Naturals, own the brand. Taste of the Wild is a great option for dogs with allergies and offers several protein sources to choose from, including bison and venison, lamb, salmon, fowl, and wild boar.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula

Blue Buffalo always features real meat as the first ingredient. The rest of the ingredients include wholesome vegetables, fruit, and grains. There are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives in this lamb and brown rice recipe, but there are the company’s trademark “LifeSource Bits,” a blend of nutrients enhanced with anti-oxidants.

Diamond Naturals Beef and Rice Formula

Diamond Naturals Large Breed Adult Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

This affordably priced natural brand contains no corn, no wheat, and no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Diamond also makes grain-free formulas at a higher price point. We like that they include probiotics for better digestion in all of their foods, too. Dog Food Advisor gives this brand an average 4-star rating and calls it “highly recommended,” which is more than many bargain natural dog foods receive.

Castor & Pollux Organix Butcher and Bushel Organic Adult Canned Dog Food

Organix Grain Free Butcher & Bushel Organic Adult Canned Dog Food uses organic sweet potato instead of grains, plus organic blueberries, chicken, carrots, coconut flour, flaxseed, and pea protein. All together, the wet dog food from Castor & Pollux is GMO-free and contains 95% USDA-certified organic ingredients. That means no artificial preservatives or chemical pesticides.

The Organix line of canned wet dog food has a variety of flavors and formulations, including “Chicken & Potato Stew,” “Turkey & Vegetable,” and “Organic Chicken & Brown Rice.” Don’t be surprised if you find bones in some cans. Select flavors, including the “Organic Chicken Wing & Thigh Dinner” include bones, which have been cooked until they are soft and safe for dogs to eat.

Organix Organic wet dog food is also available in “Tiny Feasts” trays more appropriate for the appetites of small breed dogs, in addition to a dry food version.

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Original Recipe Dry Dog Food

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food is a nutrient-dense combination of turkey and chicken meal, for a high protein option that leaves out wheat, gluten, corn, soy, eggs, and artificial preservatives. It also includes omega fatty acids, which benefits your dog’s coat.

In addition to its grain free version, Wellness CORE dry dog food is also available in raw meat, digestive health, wholesome grains, and weight management formulations.

Merrick Healthy Grains Dry Dog Food

Smaller dogs need food that comes in smaller pieces, so they can comfortably chew and swallow it. But it’s not just size that matters—small breed dogs have different nutritional needs, as well. To serve those needs, Merrick is one of the brands that Dr. Richardson recommends when it comes to natural dog foods.

Merrick lists the first five ingredients on the front of the packaging—a tip-off that you’re getting good-quality ingredients. Whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, are included as well to help with digestion.

Rachel Ray

Nutrish is a fantastic budget option that uses real chicken meat, not animal byproduct. Also included in the formula are prebiotics—the kind of food that feeds the good bacteria in your pet’s gut—for digestion. The brand prides itself on its “wholesome” ingredients, and explains what purpose the top ingredients serve in your pet’s nutrition. Not on that list? Artificial flavors and artificial preservatives.

Sundays Food for Dogs

Want something truly different? Here’s how dehydrated food works: After it’s made, the food is air dried. This preserves all the nutrients, while killing off germs. It’s a good option for pet owners who are intrigued by the idea of raw food diets, but are worried about potential bacteria in raw meat.

Everything in the food is 100 percent human-grade. That means it’s also safe for humans to eat (no gross fillers or meat byproducts included). It’s also formulated without common allergens (like chicken or wheat) and with ingredients that support digestion (like pumpkin).

Because it’s dehydrated, the food doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge or freezer, and it also doesn’t need to be heated up or cleaned up carefully after your dog eats.

JustFoodForDogs Daily Diets Fish & Sweet Potato Frozen Dog Food

Dr. Richardson recommends JustFoodForDogs frozen dog food because it’s “nutritionally well-balanced, adheres to strict quality controls, and is developed under the care of veterinary nutritionists.”

The food is cooked in California, frozen, then shipped. All of the ingredients in Just Food recipes are suitable for human consumption. The meal is low in calories, and the manufacturer notes it’s a good fit for dogs with skin-related allergies.

Instinct Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Cage-Free Chicken Recipe Dog Food

Looking to provide your dog with a primal experience that mimics life in the wild? Then you may be interested in providing raw nutrition. This Instinct raw food is chock full of animal meat protein and even the non-meat ingredients (fruits and vegetables) are GMO-free. The food is minimally processed and free from fillers, and doesn’t contain artificial colors or preservatives.

So that your dog can safely consume raw food and take advantage of the nutrients, the ingredients are frozen then cold-pressured, according to the manufacturer. Unlike some frozen food, this one is easy to serve (it doesn’t turn into one giant brick in the freezer) and easy for dogs to scarf down

Edward Hollon is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Edward has been writing for petdii for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Edward has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Edward knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.


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