We’re all looking to lead healthier lives, and that usually includes eating a more natural diet with fewer processed foods. As pet parents, we want the same for our dogs and feeding a natural diet can offer up similar benefits. But how do you pick the best natural dog food for your pup?
First, you need to know what constitutes natural pet food. Natural pet food should contain ingredients derived from plant, animal or naturally occurring mineral sources, in their natural state or without having been produced chemically, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officers, which sets forth pet food’s nutritional standards. Though the “natural” label isn’t currently regulated by the FDA, choosing a natural dog food should help eliminate ingredients like artificial colors and flavors and man-made preservatives from your pup’s diet, making sure they get more whole ingredients and fewer chemicals.
We spoke to the experts to narrow down the options and help you find the best natural dog food for your dog. Just remember to consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pup’s diet.
Best Natural Dry Dog Food
This combination of lamb and pumpkin is a winner, according to Dr. Katy Nelson, Chewy’s senior veterinarian. In addition to the high-quality lamb, which makes up about 60 percent of the ingredients, this dry food contains oats and sorghum. Dr. Nelson recommends these whole grains as a good source of slow-burning carbohydrates for plenty of prolonged energy. Plus, “pumpkin is great for pet digestion. It’s a wonderful source of healthy fiber, and it’s a great energy source as well,” she says.
$79.99, 22-lb bag
Best Natural Grain-Free Dog Food
For a grain-free dry food option, Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, from Fort Collins, Colorado, recommends this Nature’s Recipe diet. She likes that the first ingredient is salmon, a high-quality protein source that helps support muscle development. It also contains sweet potatoes and pumpkin, which are both a good source of carbohydrates for added energy and good digestion.
$39.44, 24-lb bag
Best Natural Wet Dog Food
This canned food is made with 95 percent certified organic ingredients—including brown rice and chicken, a great combination that will give your pup loads of energy without spiking their blood sugar. “Brown rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice. I like the organic chicken. I feed my own family organic,” says Dr. Nelson. She notes that pet parents should just be aware that this is a higher-calorie food, so make sure you are feeding the appropriate amount.
$37.80, 12.7-oz case of 12
Best Affordable Natural Wet Dog Food
If you’re looking for a low-cost, high-quality natural canned dog food, Dr. Coates recommends this beef, potato and green bean blend from Purina because it’s loaded with good stuff like vitamins, minerals and Texas-raised beef. A quick look at the label will show you that this natural dog food is made with many recognizable ingredients, which Dr. Coates says is a good sign that you're feeding your pup a healthy dose of real food.
$16.67, 13-oz case of 12
Best Affordable Natural Dry Dog Food
Dr. Coates recommends this dry food as an excellent affordable choice, especially if you have a large dog who regularly goes through kibble. She likes that it lists steroid-free, white meat chicken as the first ingredient and that this limited ingredient food is also rich in nutrients and full of natural probiotics for healthy digestion. And as a bonus, it’s also good for the planet thanks to Purina’s earth-friendly manufacturing practices.
$36.40, 24-lb bag
Best Natural Dog Food Topper
If you’re looking for an affordable way to incorporate natural dog food into your pet’s diet, Dr. Nelson says natural dog food toppers are a great option. She recommends these tasty freeze-dried morsels from Stella & Chewy’s which are made from cage-free turkey and organic fruits and vegetables. “If you have picky pups, this is a really good option to give them a little extra protein boost. My dogs love it—they go bananas for it,” says Dr. Nelson. Bonus: You can feed these nuggets as a complete meal, too.
$39.99, 18-oz bag
Best Natural Freeze Dried Dog Food
If you’re looking for a quality freeze-dried diet for your pup, Dr. Nelson recommends Instinct’s freeze-dried, raw coated dry food as a good option. She notes that the kibble provides complete and balanced nutrition while the freeze-dried raw coating gives the food an additional hefty protein kick. “I like the freeze drying step because it kills the bacteria that can contaminate raw food,” says Dr. Nelson, who noted that this is an important consideration for keeping pets (and people) safe from foodborne illness.
$64.99, 20-lb bag
Best Natural Dehydrated Dog Food
Take a look at the ingredient list of this whole grain dehydrated dog food, and you’ll find a list of words you can actually pronounce, starting with chicken. “You can use this as your primary diet or as an additive to your pet’s food,” says Dr. Nelson. She also recommends it as a good option for pets who are picky eaters to give their meal a little extra flavor boost. And for pet parents who are worried that making up a dehydrated meal is time consuming or messy, the Honest Kitchen keeps meal prep easy. Simply add warm water, stir, and serve after three minutes.
$36.25, 4-lb box, which makes 16 pounds of food
Best Natural Senior Dog Food
Dogs heading into their golden years may have some specific dietary needs. “If you have a large breed dog with arthritis that is 10 years old, they’re going to have different needs than a 1-year-old Chihuahua,” says Dr. Nelson. Dr. Nelson recommends this food for seniors because it’s made with high-quality animal protein, and the formula also uses GMO-free spelt and oats to fuel your elder pup for plenty of steady energy.
$74.96, 26.4-lb bag
Best Natural Puppy Food
Similar to senior dogs, puppies have their own nutritional needs. Dr. Nelson recommends this whole grain kibble and raw freeze-dried blend for growing pups, because it’s a nutrient-rich diet to fit your growing pup’s needs. Good for both their body and brain, the formula is made with all-natural, minimally processed chicken as well as natural DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) from chicken eggs to help support their brain and eye development.
$59.99, 20-lb bag