Making an Educated Choice
Dog food manufacturers use a variety of marketing tactics to encourage dog owners to purchase their foods. Many dog food companies are producing products that are marketed as being “natural”, a term which resonates with many dog owners who are seeking healthy choices for their dogs. But what does the term “natural” really mean and does it equate with quality nutrition for your pet?
What Does 'Natural' Mean
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has developed a definition for the types of ingredients that can be referred to as “natural”. These ingredients must be “derived from plant, animal or mined, unprocessed or subject to physical, heat, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not subjected to chemically synthetic process.” According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “for the most part, ‘natural’ can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product.”
It's important to realize, however, that the term “natural” does not guarantee the quality of the dog food or that your dog will do well eating the food. Let’s talk about some of the things you need to consider when evaluating a dog food.
1. Is there a Balance of Nutrients?
Your dog’s food needs to be complete and balanced, providing all of the nutrients your dog needs to sustain life and thrive. There are six basic nutrient groups that need to be present in your dog’s food:
Each of these groups of nutrients plays a vital role in making sure your dog’s body function normally, and it is the ingredients in your dog’s food which are the sources for these nutrients. Each ingredient provides a unique set of nutrients. Whether “natural” or not, all the ingredients in your dog’s food contribute to the nutrient balance. No one ingredient can provide a properly balanced food by itself. However, a proper mix of ingredients will provide complete and balanced nutrition for your dog. Without the proper mix of ingredients and the resultant balanced and complete nutrient profile, your dog is at risk for potential illnesses as a result of excesses or deficiencies of specific nutrients. No one item in the ingredients list is more important than any other, even if that ingredient is listed as the first ingredient on the list. An ingredient list simply provides a list of ingredients ranked by weight.
How do natural dog foods measure up? Compare and discover for yourself.
For the complete slideshow on ways to choose quality natural pet food, visit petMD.