What to Look for When Purchasing Natural Pet Food

Posted on Jul 17 2012 - 11:00pm by Susan Bewley

Finding natural pet food can be very challenging, especially with all the different brands and pet food options available today.  From the moment you walk into a pet store, you can’t help but be overwhelmed. The last time I went into Petsmart, I was truly amazed at the variety of dog and cat food products that were available.  While there are a lot of options, there are unfortunately very few healthy pet products available, with most of the pet food sold being the equivalent of human junk food. As pet parents, it is our job to make sure our pets get the best possible food to help them live a longer, healthier life with as few trips to see the vet as possible.

Being an Educated Pet Parent: Choosing Healthy Pet Products

One of the biggest myths out there is that all the pet food out there is good for your pets. If you think about it, this is the same as saying a Twinkie is just as healthy of a snack as an apple! Contrary to what many people believe, pet food is not regulated in the United States and can technically have just about anything in it. It not too uncommon to have sick cattle and other meat products in pet food – sometimes even horse meat.  The rule of thumb I was brought up with when it came to pet food was this – if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t give it to your pets!

By using only healthy pet products, you aren’t just helping your pets overall health, but your pocket books. Just like humans, substandard food usually equates to more health problems, meaning more vet bills.  Usually the effects of poor diet don’t show up in dogs and cats until they are in late adulthood.  Giving your pet natural, healthy pet food will lengthen your pets life and let you spend your money on entertaining pet toys and trips rather than vet bills.  If you add up the difference paid in purchasing healthier, natural pet food over cheap food, you will see very quickly it doesn’t add up to expensive vet bills and long term pet medication costs.

Even though it may be tempting to some, do not put your pet on a vegetarian diet.  While most vegetarian pet food is technically natural, healthy pet food as far as it goes, it just isn’t a good option for most pets, especially dogs and cats.  They are obligate carnivores and need meat protein to stay healthy.  The argument most people make is that you can get protein from vegetable sources, especially soybean. This may seem good in theory, but many cats and dogs are allergic to soy, making it a bad option for pets.  Those who aren’t allergic, still have a very difficult time digesting these products, so it’s best to stay clear of vegetarian pet foods.

How to Choose Natural Pet Food

To help make it easier for pet parents to choose the right healthy pet products for their animal children, we compiled at list of different things you should look for in your dog or cat’s food. Finding a food that meets all these requirements is very difficult, so try finding a food that meets as many of these requirements as possible.

Natural Pet Food Requirements Notes
Complete & Balanced Diet Certified * Your pets food should be compliant with AAFCO requirements

(we listed these requirement in the next section of this article)

Named Protein * Never buy anything that only says ‘meat’

* Protein should be chicken, beef, salmon, etc

No Animal Byproducts * Never purchase food with the following ingredients: meat, meat meal, meat byproducts, meat byproduct meal, bone meal, fish meal, poultry, poultry meal, liver meal, glandular meal
Named Protein as First Ingredient Chicken, beef, salmon, sheep, etc
Check Expiration Dates You would be surprised how much expired food is actually still sold at large chains (Wal-Mart especially)!
No Added Sugar * Never purchase pet food with the following ingredients: cane molasses, sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, sorbitol, glycrrhizen, propylene glycol
No Corn Products * This includes corn meal, corn, or corn gluten
No Excess Carbohydrates * Never purchase pet food with the following ingredients: rice product, cereal, distiller grain, fermented rice, wheat, peanuts, oat hulls, soy
No Chemical Preservatives * No BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, Propyl Gallate
Avoid Soy Products * Most dogs and cats are allergic to aoy
Look for Good Carbohydrates * Whole ground rice (not the fermented or by-products mentioned above), oats, barley, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas
Named Fats & Oils * Never purchase pet food with the following ingredients: mineral oils, animal fat, poultry fat, vegetable oil
Contain Omega-6 & Omega 3 * These fatty acids are just as important for our pets’ health as our own
Avoid Dyes * Never buy food with named dyes

* Dyes Include Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6

No Onion or Garlic * Both onion& garlic are toxic to most pets
Avoid Fruit Pumice * Avoid apple pumice, grape pumice, citrus pulp
Only Named Protein Broth * Chicken broth, beef broth, etc.

Cats Only

* Taurice is an essential amino acid for cats
Named Vitamins & Minerals  


What are the Complete & Balanced Label Requirements

Even though it doesn’t get the attention it deserves, pet parents should look for the Complete and Balanced Label on all pet food, no matter if its natural pet food or not. Food that has this label must:

  • Pass Feeding Tests for Pets Current Life Stage
  • Meet or Exceed Nutrient Levels Set by the AAFCO
  • Use Only Natural Preservatives
  • Not Encourage Weight Gain

Most pet food on the market cannot meet these standards, so look at your pet food carefully.  If you aren’t for sure if the food you are using meets these standards, check out the manufacturers website. They should be very happy to display with information!

Best Healthy Pet Food Brands

Buying natural pet food really isn’t as difficult as you may think, especially with all the different brands that are available today.  You can find healthy pet product in nearly any form, including wet and dry food. If you are decided to go with wet food, just make sure you don’t keep out all day, since it is very easy for water to evaporate from the food. Most pets don’t get enough water, especially cats, so try to keep it as moist as possible.  In general, it is usually best to pick up any food that is not eaten after a short time, even for cats, which are “known” to eat only until their hunger is satisfied.  Most cats, especially if they are started out as strays and were rescued, will overeat just like dogs.  Instead, encourage your pets to drink more water.

One of the best parts of being natural pet food today is that you can find options in just about every retailer.  Petco, Petsmart, and Amazon.com sell just about every type of natural pet food that is on the market today.  Sometimes you can even find options at your local Wal-Mart or Target! Some of the brands that are known for having high quality natural pet products include:

While these brands do have a wide selection of products, make sure you still check the bag. Some of these do sell more cheaply-made pet foods as well, so make sure you go with one of their more healthy options. Price is not a good way to tell if food is good for your pets or not.  Every so often, it can be the exact opposite of what you would expect! Usually the best foods are grain free, so try looking for these options first. You may have to experiment to find the right food for your pets, but once you have found it, your pets will thank you for it, enjoying a long, happy life with your family!

Budget Earth & its writers did not recieve compensation or products from said company for this post and it’s completley the opinion of the writer.


Susan Bewley is a professional writer who has been writing content online & in print format for over 10 years. As well, she is an alumni of the University of Louisville with a Masters Degree in Special Education. When not working as an online business consultant or ghost writing, she can be found writing on Budget Earth, on her own novel, or working with various entities in the pet industry.

34 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Anna August 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    What great info. This helped me out alot.

  2. MamaBreak August 27, 2012 at 9:43 am - Reply

    With all of the recalls of pet food, this is a great article!

  3. Melinda Dunne August 27, 2012 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Thanks for the helpful information!

  4. julieann r August 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the info…I would have never thought about expiration dates on pet food.

  5. Ashley S August 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the info! Good to know next time I'm picking up dog food.

  6. Boston dog lover August 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Great article and good advice for all dog lovers 

  7. Genny August 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    We have one dog so this post helps…

  8. Tamara August 30, 2012 at 11:11 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I use Blue so its good, I never knew the rest of the stuff that was so bad for them that is found in the other foods.

    • Susan Bewley August 30, 2012 at 11:23 am - Reply

      It’s very frightening! My vet scared me with most of it.

  9. Alaina Bullock August 30, 2012 at 11:30 am - Reply

    This really helped me out! I have been wanting to switch my cat over to an organic food, but wasn't sure what to look for, now I have a better idea! Thanks!

    • Susan Bewley August 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      Glad I could help! I went into a research frenzie when my baby got sick with allergies! 🙂

  10. Sue Invegas September 9, 2012 at 11:24 am - Reply

    Awesome info to know for every pet lover! I know I am always researching info to stay on top of whats good and bad for my babies. Thanks for posting!

  11. Shauna October 5, 2012 at 8:45 am - Reply

    Thanks for the info… my FIL has taken my dog and feeds him so much cr@p… it drives me nuts!

  12. Trisha G. October 5, 2012 at 9:13 am - Reply

    This is a great post for pet owners! We just found out that my mom's dog has allergies so she is looking to switch to a natural food brand for him. I'm def going to need to refer her to this post!

  13. Brooke Adametz October 5, 2012 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Really thorough information! Definitely sharing this!

  14. Lorayne Gothard February 13, 2013 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    wow this is a lot of great information and very in depth!! I will use it for my future purchases

  15. Cindy Merrill March 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Both of my cats are almost 8, right now I feed them Purina Sensitive Stomach formula- it's the best I can afford, wish I could switch them to something better.

    • Susan Bewley March 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      Have you checked Amazon? I know they sell pet food pretty cheap – as well as Pet Mountain.

  16. Leah Lucas April 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    I have been using Halo and have found that my dog loves it! I feel great about it as well!

  17. Kathryn Finn April 29, 2013 at 4:26 am - Reply

    Thanks for this great research.  I knew a few things, but it's nice to be able to go to one source.  Didn't know that vegetable oil or soy was bad.

    • Susan Bewley April 29, 2013 at 11:25 am - Reply

      So glad you enjoyed it! I am one of those people who love to constantly learn and share it (guess its from my days of being a teacher). A lot of people make the assumption that because humans can eat something – pets can too. Its always important to read the back of pet food since there is a lot of garbage companies throw in the food.

  18. Becky Schollian May 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Great review!! My little doggy has sever food allergies so we have to bee extra careful. I can't thank you enough for posting this important info your our beloved pets. Their lives do depend on it!! Awesome guys!!

    • Susan Bewley May 23, 2013 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Thanks Becky! My poor elderly kitty, Lucie, has severe allergies too. I am just amazed at all the terrible things in food!

  19. md kennedy June 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Not only are your tips great for buying natural pet food, but most apply to "regular" pet food as well.  Thanks so much!

  20. Christina Strapp June 6, 2013 at 3:53 am - Reply

    This is a really great article, thank you for sharing!

  21. Tina June 16, 2013 at 2:47 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. I often wondered if I was feeding my dogs the right food and after reading this I can honestly say that I am not. I have heard some wonderful things about the Blue Buffalo food so I think that I will switch over to that so that way my dogs will be healthy and happy.  Thanks again for the wonderful post. You have helped me out so very much!

  22. McDonuts June 30, 2013 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Well this is info I NEEDED since we are trying to look for a new food for our Louise!


    I recently heard that you should check the label and make sure the first ingrediant is a real meat. Chicken beef etc. But this is more great advice! Thank you!

    • Susan Bewley June 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      So glad I could help! Its hard finding quality dog food. We have an Alaskan  Malamute and its even worse finding puppy food that is high quality. The garbage they put in food is terrible!

  23. Gabriel Rossi July 31, 2013 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Good information! 
    Here in Brazil pet food is not regulated also and I read an article about it saying that all dog food are not right. My shih-tzu loves cocked broccoli, cauliflower and some vegetables, I think it helps.

  24. Sara Theissen September 10, 2013 at 11:11 am - Reply

    The first thing I did was print this out!! It is very helpful. I'm guilty of buying the cheapest food, which probably isn't the best. I will definitely take this shopping next time.

  25. Sherry Compton September 17, 2013 at 12:04 am - Reply

    It's important to feed your animals the proper nutrition and to watch for ingredients.  Many ingredients in food are irritants, fillers, or just junk.  Chicken products is a lot different than chicken.  Stay informed, read labels, and talk to people that know.  Our groomer/local pet store is a great source of reliable information.

    • Susan Bewley September 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      Exactly! You have to be so careful with pet food! I stay clear of anything that doesn’t say straight ‘chicken’. Chicken byproducts are another biggy to look out for!

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