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As there is no clear definition for natural dog food, I'll first explain by which definition it has entered Best-Dog-Food-Guide.com.
I see this category as human grade dog food. It consists of human grade ingredients and is free of artificial preservatives and colorings.
The food is processed to a minimum to keep the nutritional value of the ingredients intact.
Do you want to go and feed your dog a raw meat diet?
Read this e-book and find out how to start.
By this definition natural dog food therefore includes:
I consider home made dog food a special category, though this could fit in this category just fine.
Several dog food companies, mostly the small ones, focus on these kinds of quality dog food products. These products appeal to the "Back to Nature" trend. Ingredients for these types of dog food differ in the way they are grown, handled and processed.
Don't go by the dog food banners, but have a look at the dog food ingredient list. The AAFCO Nutrient Profiles list minimum required amounts and don't mention anything about quality, but here's how to recognize quality as far as you can go by looking at an ingredient list.
Look for high quality proteins such as named meat and fish or concentrated named meat proteins such as chicken meal and lamb meal.
Avoid the cheaper protein sources such as poultry by-products, meat and bone meal and also keep away from protein fillers corn gluten meal, egg product meal and wheat gluten.
Look for whole grains and starches (brown rice, barley, sweet potato) and whole vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, alfalfa etc).
Avoid refined and processed carbohydrates such as refined flours, mill runs, brewer's rice, dehydrated potatoes, tomato pumice and alfalfa meal.
Again look for named sources so chicken fat, lamb fat, herring oil, sunflower oil etc. In all of these examples the exact source is mentioned. This is one simple method to differentiate dog food by quality.
Avoid fats from non-specific sources. You'll recognize names like poultry fat, animal fat or vegetable oil on the dog food label.
Natural dog food of course should have natural preservatives. These include mixed tocopherols or vitamin E. Shelf life will be shorter compared to artificial preservatives, but I suppose you wouldn't want to buy two years of dog food upfront anyway.
Avoid synthetic preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin. Ethoxyquin is approved as preservative for pet food but not human food, so that says enough I think. We're here to find the best dog food, not the cheapest.
Andrew Lewis wrote this survival guide that makes your dog live a longer, healthier life, so you'll enjoy each others happiness and companionship longer than statistically predicted.
Who needs them? Your dog certainly couldn't care less. Typically a case of "less is more".
No claims or guarantees can be given that foods from this category are better for your canine friend than dry extruded kibbles. The choice for a holistic or organic dog food can be a decision of morals.
Suppose you don't want meat that comes from animals that are given antibiotics or growth hormones. When you also don't want to be involved in artificial methods like bio-engineering or ionizing radiation than organic dog food certainly is a good choice.
Note that natural and organic are not interchangeable. A food can only be labeled as "organic" when at least 95% of the ingredients are organic.
But the proof is in the pudding: how well is you dog doing on it and does he like the smell and taste of the food? That's what matters most.
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The "Confidential Dog Food Report" is an e-book written by Andrew Lewis. Now for those of you who know him, you know that he doesn't think highly of commercial dog food. In fact he likes homemade dog food diets. But commercial dog food is not always bad of course.
You just need to find the best food for YOUR pet. Andrew has listed the top 9 dog food brands that are just better-than-good, which is a good starting place for you. After all homecooking can be nice on occasion, but commercial dog food is very convenient. Just find the right one!