Just as we are discovering for humans, good nutrition seems to be the key to a healthy, happy life for dogs. It doesn’t only affect their energy levels and fitness, but their mood and behavior as well.
Feeding your dog the best natural dog food can make a huge difference to their quality of life.
While there are lots of different dog foods on the market promising a massive variety of different health benefits, one thing that dog nutritionists seem to agree on is that natural food, as close to nature as intended as possible, offers the best nutrition for our canine friends.
There are many different levels of natural dog food, and generally how good it is depends on how much you can afford to spend.
Fortunately, there are lots of mostly natural dog foods that are affordable and also readily available at your local pet store.
We will provide you with a list of the top 10 mostly natural dog foods available on Chewy to reveal what is available.
Our Top Pick: Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food because it uses novel proteins that reduces the change of allergies.
Our natural dog food buying guide will also help you understand what exactly natural dog food is and how to pick the best ones for your dog.
Top 10 Natural Dog Foods
1. Taste Of The Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
If you are looking for dry food that uses novel proteins that reduces the chance of setting off your dog’s allergies, then Taste of the Wild offers a great range.
Starting with bison as its primary ingredient, it combines this with lamb meal and chicken meal to ensure that the recipe is packed with protein and healthy fats.
This recipe is a little bit higher in meal meat than some dog owners would like to see, but it shouldn’t cause problems for most dogs. It is very common to see meal meat in dry dog food, while it is less acceptable in wet dog foods.
The meat is naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols, so no need for any nasty artificial preservatives. The recipe is also grain-free, with sweet potato acting as the main source of carbohydrates.
The recipe also contains a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to provide the vitamins and minerals that your dog needs naturally, including peas, tomato, chicory root, blueberries, and raspberries.
It also uses a nutrient pack to top up the vitamin and mineral content of the recipe. As some of these will be synthetic, this dish cannot be called 100 percent natural, but there is nothing to worry about in the mix that they use.
All Taste of the Wild recipes are proudly made in the USA, with ingredients predominantly sourced from within the country.
There is also a wide range of recipes available, allowing you to vary your dog’s diet.
The only downside with this meal is that it is a bit on the expensive side, but far from the most expensive food on this list.
Taste of the Wild is a trusted brand that is readily available from most pet food stores, and it is also a mostly natural food that you can feel good about feeding your dog.
Other flavors available:
2. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal & Chicken Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food
This high protein dry food recipe contains no artificial additives or preservatives and is packed full of the vitamins and minerals that your pup needs to thrive.
Starting with deboned turkey as its first ingredient and a great source of lean protein, it tops this up with turkey meal, chicken meal, chicken fat, and chicken liver to make a high protein recipe.
It is good to see added fat and organ meat, which are essential for a dog’s nutrition.
This recipe probably contains a little bit more meal than we’d like to see, but nothing that will cause most dogs digestion problems.
All this meat is naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols, and results in a pretty high protein, but also high-calorie dish, so exercise portion control.
The recipe is grain-free, relying on potatoes as its main carbohydrate source. It also includes a lot of natural fruits and vegetables as sources of vitamins and minerals including peas, tomatoes, spinach, apples, blueberries, and kale.
The kibble is coated with probiotics to support digestive health, as well as enriched with a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.
While some of these additives may not be all natural, the recipe contains nothing worrying and offers a good meal for your dog.
The main downside with such a good recipe is the price.
This is one of the most expensive dry dog foods on this list!
If you are looking for a recipe that gives your dog all the nutrition that they need while avoiding unnatural nasties, then Wellness CORE is an excellent option.
Other flavors available:
3. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Pork, Beef & Lamb Recipe Dry Dog Food
If you are looking for a healthy, natural dry dog food but you are on a budget, then Whole Earth Farms is a good alternative.
When I first picked up this recipe I was a bit worried to see pork meal as the first ingredient, but there isn’t really anything wrong with feeding your dog meal.
Meal is made during the slaughtering process and is generally a mix of muscle meat, organ meat, and skin. While this might sound gross, it is actually not bad for your dog, as these are things that they would naturally eat in the wild.
The problem with meal is that dogs need more muscle meat than other meat sources, and with meal, you don’t really have any way to control the balance.
This recipe off-sets this by topping up its pork meal with pork, beef, and lamb muscle meat, ensuring a healthy balance.
The main carbohydrate in this dish is potatoes, coupled with peas and sweet potatoes. It does not contain many other natural sources of vitamins and minerals but does include a quality vitamin pack that also contains probiotics to aid digestion.
As a result of the use of meal, this is one of the more affordable dry foods on the list, and is a great choice if you are looking for an affordable option free from nasty artificial additives.
While this recipe may not be as good of quality as the other foods on this list, it is affordable and does the job, making it a good option if you are looking to feed your dog naturally on a budget.
Other available flavors:
4. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Life Protection is a mostly natural recipe that is an excellent choice if you are looking for something high in antioxidants to protect your pooch against deterioration.
Starting with deboned chicken as its first ingredient, providing a low-fat source of protein, it tops up the fat and protein in this recipe with chicken meal and chicken fat, naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols.
While I don’t really like to see a lot of meal in my dog’s food, it is normal to see a bit of meal in dry food and this is nothing to worry about.
The recipe uses healthy, whole grain brown rice as its main source of carbohydrates and includes flaxseed, tomatoes, peas, chicory root, blueberries, and cranberries as natural sources of vitamins and minerals.
The recipe is also topped up with a vitamin pack, known as LifeSource Bits, that ensures your dog isn’t missing out on anything.
The resulting formula is high in antioxidants for your dog’s overall health. While this means that the meal is not all-natural, there is nothing to worry about hidden in the list of added nutrients.
Made by the same company as Taste of the Wild, it is a brand that is widely available and also widely trusted, but it comes with a pretty hefty price tag.
The Blue Buffalo Life Protection formula is designed to protect your dog’s long term health with antioxidants without adding anything worrying to their recipe.
Other flavors available:
5. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Sweet Potato & Venison Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
If your dog has a sensitive stomach, then this limited ingredient recipe from Natural Balance is exactly what they need.
Often when dogs have digestive problems, it is not the grains in their diets that are causing the problems, but rather sensitivities to the meats that they eat the most, such as chicken and beef.
This recipe actually starts with its carbohydrate, sweet potato, as its first ingredient to ensure that the recipe is not too high in hard-to-digest protein. It couples this with venison as its main protein source.
As a novel protein, dogs are less likely to have an issue digesting this meat.
Instead of adding animal fat, the recipe uses canola oil for the fat it needs, and this is naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols.
While this is no problem, animal fats are a better source of fat. They have probably chosen this in order to avoid adding chicken fat, which may be a source of allergies.
This recipe aims to have a limited number of ingredients to make it easier to eliminate anything that might be upsetting your dog’s stomach.
This means that rather than sourcing its vitamins and minerals from natural sources, they are all provided by a vitamin pack.
The pack contains everything that they might need, and while it does mean that the recipe is not all-natural, there is nothing to worry about here.
The main drawback of this recipe is the cost. It is one of the most expensive dry dog foods on this list.
But if your dog has a sensitive stomach, it may be just the lifesaver that you are looking for.
If your dog suffers from sensitive digestion, even after cutting artificial ingredients, then a limited ingredient recipe that uses novel proteins, like this one, is the next step.
Other available flavors:
6. Castor & Pollux Natural UltraMix Grain-Free Red Meat Recipe With Raw Bites Dry Dog Food
If you are looking for a natural recipe that is also very high in protein to satisfy the needs of big dogs, then Castor and Pollux Ultramix is the dry kibble for you.
With beef as its first ingredient, this recipe manages to be very high in protein thanks to the addition of pork meal, lamb meal, and salmon meal, as well as pork fat, lamb liver, and beef liver, all preserved naturally with mixed tocopherols.
While this is great, especially for large dogs that need a lot of energy, what sets this recipe apart is that it contains pieces of raw meat that have been freeze-dried for longevity.
There is a strong argument for feeding dogs raw meat. It is what they would eat naturally in the wild, and meat loses much of its nutritional value when cooked.
While it would be great to put fresh cuts of meat in our dog’s bowl every day, it would also be expensive.
By adding freeze-dried meat to this recipe, Castor & Pollux offers an easy way to introduce some raw food into your dog’s diet.
It does mean that this kibble is more expensive than other options on the market.
The main carbohydrate in this meal is sweet potato, and it uses a few natural sources of vitamins and minerals including apples and blueberries.
However, most of the added nutrition in this dish comes from the recipe’s vitamin pack.
If you want to give your big dog dry food that is high in the animal protein they need, then this kibble will tick all your boxes.
Other available flavors:
7. Instinct By Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Dog Food
The first wet dog food on this list, Instinct by Nature is made with only named meat ingredients and packs a high protein punch.
Using chicken and turkey as its protein sources, along with chicken liver, makes up 95 percent of the recipe.
This means that the recipe is full of meat with no unnecessary filler, and no animal meal or animal by-products. The chicken used in the recipe is also cage-free, which will appeal to any animal lover.
The recipe is very low in carbohydrates, with only trace amounts present from the fruit and vegetables that make up the remaining five percent of the recipe.
This includes carrots, artichokes, cranberries, pumpkin, tomatoes, blueberries, and broccoli. The recipe is also enriched with a vitamin pack to ensure all-round nutrition.
One ingredient that the recipe does include which I wasn’t overly excited to see is montmorillonite clay, which stops the food from caking.
The evidence that it might hurt your dog is anecdotal rather than scientific, and the small amounts in dog food probably don’t pose a health risk.
However, I still consider it an unnecessary ingredient that I’d rather not see.
Unsurprisingly, considering the high quality ingredients, this is one of the more expensive canned foods on this list.
The high meat content means that it is also high in calories, so exercise portion control.
If you are looking for a canned dog food that is full of the high-quality, natural protein that your dog needs to thrive, then Instinct by Nature’s Variety is a great choice.
Other flavors available:
8. Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Hearty Beef Stew Natural Grain-Free Wet Dog Food
If you are looking for a more affordable wet dog food that also prioritizes fresh meat as its main ingredient, then Rachael Ray is a nice alternative.
This recipe is packed full of protein from beef, chicken, eggs, and peas. The recipe is thickened with a bit of carbohydrates from potatoes and ground tapioca as well as guar gum, which means that it is gluten-free. It is then enriched with the mixture of vitamins and minerals that your pup needs to thrive.
This line comes in a wide range of flavors, so it is easy to mix up your dog’s diet and get them eating different things. However, it is worth noting that there is a fair bit of chicken in every recipe.
This is not a problem per se, but if you are trying to avoid your dog developing an allergy to chicken by feeding them alternative meat sources, this won’t help.
Rachael Ray is an affordable and healthy way to give your dog good, clean animal protein.
Other flavors available:
9. Wellness CORE RawRev Gain-Free Original Recipe With Freeze-Dried Turkey Dry Dog Food
Based on the same great kibble found in Wellness CORE’s standard dry food (above), this recipe supercharges it with raw meat bites.
As already mentioned, there is a lot of talk about the benefits of raw food for dogs. It more closely aligns with their natural diet in the wild, and when meat is cooked it does lose some of its essential vitamins.
But feeding your dog a fully raw diet is both expensive and messy and not as easy as it looks.
Adding raw bits to their kibble is an easy way to include a bit of raw food goodness in their diet.
The raw bots are freeze dried for preservation, so no need to worry about artificial preservatives.
The resulting recipe, which is based on a kibble made from turkey with turkey and chicken meal as well as potatoes as a source of carbohydrates, is high in protein but also high in calories, so be careful when portioning it out.
It is also pretty expensive. Worth every penny, but not always feasible.
If you want to give your dog some of the benefits of raw food without the mess, then this kibble is worth experimenting with.
Other flavors available:
10. Nature’s Recipe Easy-To-Digest Chicken, Rice & Barley Recipe Homestyle Ground Canned Dog Food
If you are dealing with a dog with a sensitive stomach that you think might struggle with high protein natural food, then Nature’s Recipe Easy-To-Digest line is ideal.
Made with chicken as its first ingredient, this is enriched with chicken liver and mixed with soybean meal for a dish that is relatively low in protein and higher in carbohydrates.
While this is not a balance that is generally recommended for dogs, if your dog has digestion issues, they can benefit from a little less protein (which can be hard to digest) and a little more carbohydrates.
Again, in an attempt to keep the meat protein down, the recipe has canola oil added for fat, rather than chicken fat.
While for most dogs animals fats are a preferred source of fat, for sensitive dogs, canola oil is a reasonable alternative.
The recipe includes carrots as a potent source of vitamins and minerals, but in an attempt to limit the ingredients in the recipe, and therefore, the potential number of irritants, most of the additional nutrients in this recipe come from a vitamin pack.
This recipe is pretty affordable as far as wet dog food of this type goes, so it should go easy on your dog’s stomach and your wallet.
Other flavors available:
Buying Guide: Natural Dog Food
According to Dr. Gary Richter of the Ultimate Pet Health Guide:
The single biggest thing you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is to provide them with optimal nutrition.
That is all well and good, but what is optimal nutrition?
While individual opinions differ, and it may depend on the breed and other health conditions of your dog, one thing that experts can agree on is that it is best to feed them natural food, as close to what nature intended as possible.
Why? A huge range of artificial ingredients, especially those used in the preservation process, have been shown to be carcinogenic as well as posing a threat to the liver and kidneys, this represents a clear and major risk to your dog’s health.
Moreover, artificial ingredients have been shown to be difficult for many dogs to digest.
Not only can this mess with their digestive system in unpleasant ways, but it can also make it difficult for them to absorb the good nutrients in their food.
That means that while you might think that you are feeding your dog a nutrient-rich meal, they just aren’t getting much of the good stuff in their food.
While different dogs will respond differently to artificial ingredients, for the overall health of your dog, they are best avoided.
The easiest way to do that is to invest in natural dog food.
What Is Natural Dog Food?
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, natural dog food is:
A food or feed ingredients derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state of having been subjected to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis, or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur in good manufacturing practices.
Thus, natural dog foods won’t contain ingredients that are chemically synthesized, such as vitamin ingredients, mineral ingredients, preservatives or special-purpose food additives, such as chelated minerals, mineral amino acid complexes, calcium ascorbate and other preservatives such as BHA and BHT as well as artificial flavors and colors.
It should be noted that fully natural dog foods are pretty hard to come by. Almost all dog foods are now enriched with ‘nutrient packs’, which are a mix of synthetic vitamins and minerals, usually specially formulated by nutritionists for dogs.
These are a necessary part of most dog foods as the processing needed to create dry kibble or wet food that lasts robs the natural food of some of its vitamins and minerals.
This means, that while it might seem like the recipe has everything that it needs, it may not be in sufficient quantities. The nutrient packs help bridge that gap.
These aren’t particularly problematic for your dog, but as a general rule, look for mineral packs that contain things that you recognize, such as key vitamins and minerals like magnesium and zinc.
Natural dog food is different from organic dog food, which has a stricter definition. Organic dog food is exclusively made from plant ingredients that have been grown without pesticides, artificial fertilizers, genetic modification, irradiation, or sewage sludge.
The animal ingredients in the recipe must come from animals raised on organic feed, given access to the outdoors, and not treated with antibiotics or hormones.
The regulations around calling a food organic are much stricter than for natural, which means that organic foods are less available and usually more expensive.
Many foods list some of their key ingredients as organic or say that a percentage of their ingredients are organic. This is generally more affordable and still represents great, healthy, natural nutrition for your dog.
Key Features Of A Good Natural Dog Food
As well as being natural, and preferably containing some organic ingredients, there are a number of other key features to look out for when selecting a natural dog food.
Just as we know that it is important to ensure that our plates have the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, the same is true for our dogs. Ideally, dog food should provide 40 percent of its calories from protein, 40 percent from fat, and 20 percent from carbohydrates.
While the sheer number of ingredients included in dog foods can be simply baffling, fortunately, you can gain most of the information you need from looking at the first few ingredients, as ingredients should be listed in the order of the quantity in the food.
In good quality dog food, the primary protein should be listed as the first ingredient, and it should match up with what is advertised. It just isn’t funny the number of times I have picked up a duck recipe to discover that the first ingredient is chicken!
The main protein source should be a named meat, such as chicken, beef, or fish. Avoid foods that list meal, or worse animal by-products, as the first ingredient.
These are rendered from animal tissue as part of the slaughtering process and are more difficult for your dog to digest, putting an unnecessary burden on their system, especially their kidneys.
If your dog food is natural, it should mostly contain ingredients that you recognize as actual foods! Those long words you can’t pronounce are the artificial additives that we are trying to avoid with natural food.
In particular,avoid butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), both of which are artificial preservatives that have been shown to be potentially carcinogenic for dogs.
When it comes to the nutrient packs that form part of most dog foods, look out for vitamins and minerals that you recognize.
So, those are Vitamin A, B, C, D, K, and B6 and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, and taurine.
While dog foods can be processed in a number of different ways, and still be called natural, it is best to choose foods that have undergone a minimal amount of processing.
This is because processing can both remove some of the nutrients in natural ingredients that your dog will benefit from and because some processes will create carcinogens. While manufacturing processes are optimized to avoid these outcomes, minimal processing is still the best.
If your dog has a problem digesting grains, obviously you are going to want to select a grain-free dog food. But the fact is that most dogs have no problem digesting grains, and it is a valid source of carbohydrates for them (in contrast to cats, which should not be eating grains).
Grain-free is mostly just marketing speak, and dogs are more likely to be allergic to proteins than grains.
Dogs often develop allergies to the proteins that they eat the most, which is why it is important to give them a varied diet, and not the same food every day (even if it is their favorite).
The same is true for gluten. Celiac disease is very rare among dogs, and you should only need to avoid gluten if advised to do so by your vet.
Research The Company
When you think you have found a good all-natural dog food, it is a good idea to take the time to research the company to ensure that what they are delivering matches the marketing hype. A quick look at their website should be all it takes.
A good company will be working with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure the nutritional balance of their foods. Also look for their recall history. Recalls happen when there is a problem with a batch of their food.
Having a recall history does not mean that there is anything wrong with a company’s food. Problems can always emerge as a part of the manufacturing process.
What you should be looking at is how the company dealt with the problem and took steps to avoid similar issues in future. Also, look out for companies that share your philosophy on what good nutrition means for your dog.
When considering your dog’s diet, don’t forget their treats! If you spend a lot of time finding them a great natural dog food and then continue to give them treats that are packed with artificial ingredients, you will undo all of your good work.
For dog treat tips, check out our best dog treats for training.
Making Your Own Dog Food
While it might seem like making your own dog food at home will be the cheapest and easiest way to ensure that your dog has fresh natural food, it is not that straightforward. According to pet nutritionist Caitlin Heinze:
It can be done, it just takes a lot of dedication, a lot of work, and for some pets and some ingredients, quite a bit of expense.
First, it is expensive to get the ingredients that you need in the relatively small quantities that you will need to make them at home, so you may not find yourself saving any money.
Second, it is more complicated than just cutting up a steak and popping it in your dog’s bowl. Dog’s need the right balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
They also need the right balance of muscle meat and organ meat. Then, there are all the vitamins and minerals that they can get from a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other sources. Putting together a nutritious meal is sometimes best left to the experts!
If you do want to make your own, try starting with this vet recommended homemade dog food from top dog tips:
Just like humans, dogs benefit from a natural diet with foods that match what they have evolved to eat in nature.
Avoiding artificial foods is a great way to improve your dog’s health and behavior. But short of embarking on the difficult task of making homemade meals for them yourself, how can you ensure that your dog has a healthy natural diet?
There are a variety of good, mostly natural dog foods that you can pick up at your local pet store.
I say mostly natural as most dog foods use a nutrient pack designed to ensure that your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals that they need, but these will contain some synthetic vitamins and minerals.
However, as long as these packs contain ingredients that you recognize, they are unlikely to pose any threat for your dog.
If you are looking for a natural dry kibble for your dog, then Taste of the Wild from Blue Buffalo (our top pick!) and Wellness CORE both offer excellent options. Wellness CORE also offer a kibble enriched with raw meat bites if you are looking to give your dog an extra protein boost.
These kibbles are all pretty expensive. If you are looking for something more affordable then try Whole Earth Farms as an alternative.
When it comes to wet food, Instinct by Nature’s Variety is a great option packed full of the high-quality protein that dogs need.
If this is a little on the pricey side, then try Rachael Ray’s range of wet food as an alternative. In general, natural wet dog foods will be high in protein.
If this proves too much for your dog’s sensitive stomach, then Nature’s Recipe offers an easy to digest alternative.
The important thing to remember when feeding your dog is that they are what they eat.
The best thing you can do for them is to seek out foods that are full of high-quality ingredients and use as few artificial additives as possible.
This is the recipe for a happy and healthy pooch.
How about you guys?
Are you trying to feed your dog a natural diet?
If so, what dog food are your feeding your dog?
Tell us about your dog in the comment section below.
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