The Natural Way to Make Healthier Dog Food

October 20th 2020 Comments
Natural Dog Food

Looking at the dry kibble in most dog bowls, dog food can seem like it is a far cry from the natural diet of a dog. Happily, looks can be deceiving, and even in the dry dog food world, there can be ways to provide your customers’ pooches with a diet formulated to help them live their furry little lives to the utmost. 

What is the Natural Diet of a Dog?

If you have ever seen a dog go after a bit of roadkill, or try to scarf down literally anything that hits the kitchen floor, you might think a dog’s natural diet is “anything.” In some ways, you are not far off. Evolving around humans and human habitation, dogs are well adapted to eat just about anything. This does not mean, however, that we should treat them like furry little garbage cans. 

It also turns out that a few thousand years of tagging along with us has not eliminated the natural need for high-protein diets that canines are built to eat. To stay healthy, dogs still need to stick close to the high-protein diets low in processed grains and fillers found in some dog foods. 

The Advantage of Adding Vegetables to Dog Food

While dogs may be designed to run primarily on real meat, that doesn’t mean you need to have an extra freezer full of whole raw chickens to toss their way. There is still a wide variety of nutrients that can be found in other vegetables and grains that are appropriate to feed our furry friends. 

Adding vegetables to human food products like pastas usually serves two purposes: adding nutritional content to the product and making it look more healthy and appealing. For dog food, these two goals also apply, though it is still the humans who are more concerned about the color of dog treats. 

Fido may not pay attention to the colors of the kibble in the bowl, but there are still reasons to pay attention to how your product looks. Helping to signify to your customers that you have gone the extra mile to replace fillers and preservatives with natural ingredients where possible can help boost sales and increase customer confidence in your products. Silva’s extensive product list provides you with a wide range of natural vegetables you can include in your formulas. Mixing in carrots, spinach, green beans, apples, peas and tomato can add a punch of color to your products. These and other healthy ingredients can bring the lively color your customers are looking for—even if their dogs themselves might not notice the aesthetic effort. You might even consider a vegetable blend.

Just like adding these vegetables to human foods like pastas and sauces, using vegetable ingredients to add coloring not only makes your product visually appealing, but these vegetables can also increase the overall nutritional value of the product. This is a key win if you are trying to keep the ingredient list of your products short to appeal to customers who are increasingly habituated to thinking long lists of ingredients are less healthy for their dogs. 

What Qualifies as Natural Dog Food

There are many terms the U.S. government regulates heavily in food labeling for both people and pets, but it turns out that “natural” is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to dog food. There is no federal regulation about what can and cannot be labeled as natural dog food. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) does provide the guideline that foods marked as natural should be a “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.” 

Keeping within these guidelines is going to help put you squarely in the center of what many health-conscious consumers are looking for. Avoiding genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in your food is not required to get that “natural” label, but being able to advertise that can only help in today’s market. 

Every year, consumers are getting pickier about what they feed their pets, though, and as time goes by the expectations of what should be found in a natural pet food are becoming clearer. Several factors are common on many different natural pet products:

  • A Short Ingredient List
    It makes sense that a natural product is going to contain a relatively limited ingredient list. Customers are beginning to associate short ingredient lists with healthier, more natural products containing fewer fillers.  
  • Organic
    The terms “organic” and “natural” often appear together, but they are actually very different designations when it comes to dog food. While organic food must adhere to the same requirements set out by the USDA or FDA for the labeling of human-grade food, “natural” is not regulated in the same manner. This means it is possible for a food to be natural without being organic, but harder for it to be the other way around. 
  • Grain-free
    Many pet owners are looking for options that have fewer grains or grain by-products in the food they give their dogs. The devil is in the details on this one, as some whole grains are better for dogs’ digestive tracts than others. 
  • High-protein
    As carnivores, dogs are made to run best on a high protein diet. Exactly what levels are best for a given breed or life stage can vary, but here again focusing on natural sources of protein is gaining popularity over more processed sources like animal by-products.

Natural dog food leaves us with a little wiggle room, but organic dog food is another story. With the stricter regulations about the term “organic” set out by the FDA, you are going to have to work harder if you are going to put that coveted term on your packaging. Here, Silva has you covered. Not only do we source organic versions of many of our most used ingredients, but we include a validated steam sterilization step in our processing to ensure pathogen-free confirmation without the use of chemicals or pesticides that are not welcome in organic products. 

Choosing the Best Dry Dog Food

Just like people, dogs need the right food to stay healthy. Wellness starts at the dinner table, or in the dinner bowl. For some humans, that may mean backing off the meat and adding in some veggies. For dogs, raw meat is going to be an essential ingredient of a properly functioning immune system, as well as being important for joint health and more. 

Trying to find out what is the best dog food is really just a question that begs more questions. The best formula for a small dog is not going to work as well for large breeds. Activity levels of a dog and life stage matter as well. Cost is certainly a factor that can’t be overlooked. You may be able to get by feeding wet dog food to a small dog, but if you have a large adult dog, it may be cost prohibitive to keep them healthy and happy on canned dog food.

Large dogs are not the only ones who need high quality protein. Small breed formulas also need a high-quality protein as the basis to keep them healthy. Seeing raw meat as the first ingredient in a dog food ingredient list is always going to be a sign selective customers will gravitate to, but starting with a high-quality protein will only get you so far. What happens further down the ingredient list is just as important.

Conventional wisdom would suggest grain-free formulas can be tough to produce if you are looking to bring a particular dog treat or dog food to market at a certain price point, but Silva’s long product list gives you options you need to pack even short ingredient lists with the nutritional punch dogs need.  

Can Natural Food Fix Food Allergies in Dogs?

Potential allergens in dog food are gaining visibility along with changing attitudes toward gluten, dairy, and other foods in human diets. There is evidence dogs may not benefit from a diet high in some grains, but grain-free dog food is likely not going to be the answer if a dog is displaying allergies to their food. 

Switching from processed to whole grain is going to improve nearly every diet. Processed grains are cheap and can be used as fillers, but they add very little nutritional value. It is true that some grains are less easily digestible for dogs, but that is usually not the cause of dietary problems for a lot of dogs. 

It turns out the protein source is most likely the allergen you need to worry about if your pooch isn’t reacting well to their kibble. Exotic meats such as venison, which can be a component of wild game, can be a problem for some dogs, so if customers are having troubles finding the right option, making a switch to organic chicken may be the answer for a pooch with a sensitive stomach. 

Putting Natural Dog Foods in your Product Line

At this point, nearly every dog food brand has an entire product line catering to the more health-conscious consumer. Some companies like Castor & Pollux, Taste of the Wild, and Merrick have gone all in on this approach. One of these that has gained particular recognition in the market is the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula. This rice formula dog food is made in several different varieties depending on the protein you are looking for. Just down the ingredient list from the meat of choice, though, the use of brown rice distinguishes this formula from some other rice formula foods that rely on cheaper white rice.

Purina’s Beyond Simply line is another example of a dry dog food that aims at the natural end of the market, though it doesn’t aim for full organic labeling. Their chicken recipe is based on real white meat chicken as the primary source of protein, and the limited ingredient list of this product is explicitly free of corn and wheat, which customers are increasingly wary of in their dog food. 

Whether you are looking to develop an entirely new line of dry dog food, or you are searching for ways to shorten the ingredient list of your current offerings, Silva has the natural products you need to round out your ingredient lists. And, whether you are looking to add the compelling color to back your health claims, or use the nutritional value of real vegetables to round out the dietary profile of your products, our customer relationship team can help you find the answers you are looking for.