Processed foods get a bad rep for a reason -- they are full of sodium and preservatives that are not good for you or your pooch. While commercial dog foods must be nutritionally balanced to meet national standards, balanced doesn't mean all natural.
Finding a truly all-natural dog food is usually a matter of reading labels carefully; don't trust banners on the front of the bags claiming the contents are all natural. If you don't recognize some of the ingredients, it's likely the food isn't really all natural. The best food starts with a healthy protein, such as chicken or fish -- not a meat by-product meal, grain or vegetable. The list should include mostly items you could buy fresh, such as beef, peas and oats. Natural, human-quality ingredients is what makes all-natural dog food different from other commercial dog foods. At the bottom of the ingredient list, you might see ingredients you're not familiar with followed by a description, such as "Calcium Ascorbate (Source of Vitamin C)." Check with your vet to make sure the food fits with your all-natural diet plan; names that appear to be chemicals may be vitamins by another name and may supplement an all-natural diet.
Making It Yourself
Preparing your dog's food at home means you have control over the content in every bite he takes. You don't have to cook every day; make big batches and freeze them in individual portions. Your dog's food should incorporate meat and eggs for protein, vegetables such as carrots and broccoli for vitamins and fiber, and carbohydrates such as rice for energy. You also need some healthy fats, such as omega-3. Ask your vet for advice on the proper ratios for your pup. When planning the menu, stay away from potentially toxic foods such as onions, garlic, avocado and chocolate.
Just because a food is natural and unprocessed doesn't mean it's appropriate to include as part of your dog's diet. There are a few natural ingredients that may trigger allergies in dogs, so it's best to avoid them as part of your all-natural doggie diet to keep him as healthy as possible. Many dogs are sensitive to soy, so stay away from it when possible. Wheat is another allergy culprit, so opt for gluten-free carbohydrates such as potatoes if you're making his food at home. Corn may also cause allergic reactions in dogs. If you cut these out and your pup still suffers from allergies, consult your vet to find out if another food is the cause.
Some all-natural commercial dog foods include vitamins and minerals, but they might not include everything your pooch needs to stay healthy. For example, the Association of American Feed Control Officials doesn't require dog food manufacturers to include fatty acids such as omega-3 or omega-6, but these are essential to your dog's healthy skin, coat and organ function. Feeding him a homemade diet makes monitoring these nutrients, such as calcium and iron, even more difficult. Talk to an animal dietician or your vet, and share your dog food label or your homemade diet plan to see if you need to add some supplements to your pup's meals.