11 Best Natural Dog Foods for Every Age and Size
We only want the best for our pets, and that starts with the healthiest all-natural food, according to vets.
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Naturally good—in every way
When it comes to what to feed your fur babies, regardless of their age or breed, natural dog food is the way to go, according to veterinarians. But what does that mean, exactly? While there is no legal definition for this term, “if a pet food label claims to be natural, it will not have any ingredients that are ‘man-made,’ besides vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients,” explains veterinarian Laura Robinson, DVM, medical advisor for Pawp. “It [also] does not contain chemicals, preservatives, or by-products.”
And that’s just one of the things that make it worth buying, despite its slightly higher price tag. “Natural dog food can be beneficial for a healthy weight, a healthy gastrointestinal tract, better skin, and a better coat,” Dr. Robinson says. This makes it an especially good choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs and skin, though all dogs will benefit from the more readily bioavailable nutrients, antioxidants, and healthy fats. It can also lower the risk of allergic reactions and other adverse health effects in your pet, not to mention taste better because it has fewer processed ingredients.
How to pick the perfect food
Of course, all pet products sound great when you read their marketing claims…but which ones really are? We went straight to the source: veterinarians, who know exactly which foods deliver, in terms of health benefits and doggy obsession. Whether you’re looking for grain-free dog food, food for large breeds or small breeds, or what vets feed their own dogs, you’ll find it on this list. These picks will have your pooches looking and feeling great in no time—and licking their bowls clean.
Best overall: Just Food for Dogs Chicken & White Rice
For the best overall natural dog food, Dr. Robinson says Just Food for Dogs leads the pack. “I have, over and over, been continuously impressed by the effort this company puts into their food. They go above and beyond to ensure it is the best fresh food out there and their ingredients are human-grade,” she says. “They also have veterinary nutritionists overseeing their recipes and can advise you on which of their foods is best for your pet.”
This high-protein pick is the brand’s most popular offering. Get ready for your mouth to water: It contains chicken, long-grain white rice, spinach, carrots, and apples, and it’s high in calcium and phosphorous. That means it’s particularly suited for growing puppies, but also great for adult dogs. Interested in making your own pet food? Try these simple homemade dog treats your pup will love.
- High in protein, with chicken thighs, liver, and gizzards
- 43 calories per ounce
Best dry food: Purina Beyond Simply White Meat
Looking for an all-natural dry food for your dog? You can’t go wrong with this chicken-and-barley Purina formulation. “Purina has been in the pet food space for many, many years,” says Dr. Robinson. “They are trusted, hire veterinary nutritionists to oversee their recipes, and have lots of years of knowledge backing them up.”
Chicken is the main ingredient here, but this dry food is additionally infused with sunflower oil and its omega-6 fatty acids, which make a dog’s skin healthy and coat gorgeous. Natural probiotics also aid in digestion. Chicken, by the way, is one of the best cancer-fighting foods for dogs.
- Steroid-free white chicken meat is the first ingredient
- Contains probiotics
- Made in Earth-friendly facilities in the United States
Best wet food: Castor & Pollux Organix Chicken and Brown Rice
This wet dog food is as nutritious as it is tasty! Veterinarian Lindsay Butzer, DVM, a spokesperson for Zesty Paws, says it’s a good choice because it’s “packed with USDA-certified organic ingredients (chicken, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables)” and “made in small batches.” It also leaves out unhealthy fillers such as corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, and preservatives. FYI, these are the fruits and vegetables dogs can (and can’t) eat.
- High in protein with organic, free-range chicken
- Includes flaxseed, blueberries, and coconut flour
- Certified organic
Best for large dogs: Nutro Natural Choice Adult Large Breed, Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe
Different dogs require different dog food, no matter how good and natural that food is. When it comes to large breeds, it’s particularly important to take certain health issues into consideration. Dr. Robinson is a fan of this natural dog food because it has a “tailored recipe for what larger dogs need, such as more healthy fats for their joints, natural ingredients of glucosamine and chondroitin for their joints, and good sources of antioxidants for aging health.”
- Supports joint health
- Includes antioxidants for immune system support
Best for small dogs: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Small Breed Dry Dog Food
Pint-sized pups might not eat all that much, but what they do eat should be packed with all sorts of nutritious goodness. This is why Stephanie Sheen, DVM, a veterinarian with Fuzzy pet insurance, is a big fan of Royal Canin. Not only is their kibble incredibly nutrient-dense to support high energy levels, but it also promotes good digestive health. Also? Your pup is going to love it. “I find that picky small dogs like Royal Canin Kibble,” she says.
- For dogs under 22 pounds
- Good for dogs with sensitive skin and stomachs
Best for puppies: Wellness Complete Health Just for Puppies
“Puppies have different nutritional needs than an adult dog,” Dr. Robinson says. “This company does just that and has great fresh ingredients like salmon and flax seeds to ensure your puppy gets started on the right foot.” If your pup gets hooked on these all-natural delicacies, you can choose from delectable options like chicken, turkey, duck, or lamb with sweet potato when he’s all grown up. Here are more things you’ll need if you’re adopting a puppy.
- Omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- DHA to promote brain growth
- Appetizing smooth pâté texture
Best for seniors: Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Formula
When your four-legged BFF is getting older, you’ll want to look for formulations that help boost his energy. “Just like puppies, senior dogs require special formulations of nutrients,” says Dr. Robinson. “That’s why I always suggest buying a senior-specific dog food, as they have things like probiotics to ensure a healthy gut and healthy fats to help your older dog’s joints and skin.” Higher protein levels are also needed to maintain muscle mass.
This option from Diamond Naturals contains chicken, egg, and oatmeal. It’s also packed with probiotics and fiber for better digestion, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, and selenium and vitamin E for a serious dose of antioxidants. The right food is just one of the things that can help your pet live longer.
- Optimal protein and fat levels for aging dogs
- Fiber and probiotics for easy digestion
- Supports healthy joints
Best budget-friendly option: Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
All-natural pet food can cost a pretty penny, and while you don’t want to put a price tag on your dog’s health, you also don’t want to go bankrupt buying dog food. Luckily, you don’t have to. “One of the first to offer an affordable natural dog food option, Taste of the Wild has been offering high-quality, reasonably priced natural protein-based options for dogs ranging from bison to salmon since 2007,” says Dr. Butzer. Chewy reviewers rave that even the pickiest pups love this formulation and that it’s cured their dogs’ various health issues, from allergies to digestive issues. Here are more products pet owners swear by.
- High in protein, with 32 percent real fish
- Support healthy bones, joints, and lean muscles
Best dehydrated food: The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Beef
This dehydrated food from The Honest Kitchen looks good enough to eat! That’s because it’s minimally processed, made with human-grade ingredients, and created with the help of veterinary nutritionists, Dr. Robinson explains. “They cold-press, slow-roast, and then dehydrate their food,” she says. Plus, it’s easy to make: Just mix it with warm water and wait three minutes—then dinner is served! Aside from beef, you have a whole host of gourmet options to choose from, including chicken, turkey, salmon, duck, and various combinations of those ingredients.
- Low in calories and fat
- Easy to make
- Whole-food ingredients
Best fresh food: The Farmer’s Dog Meal Plan
If you had an option between prepackaged food and fresh food, what would you pick? Exactly. That’s why vets love the Farmer’s Dog. The meals are made with “human-grade ingredients, and their food is very fresh,” says Dr. Robinson. Beyond having tons of different meal-plan options, “they also have veterinary nutritionists overseeing their recipes and can advise you on which of their foods is best for your pet,” she adds.
- Pre-portioned, open-and-pour packs
- Human-grade food
- Meal-plan delivery service
Best raw food: Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Patties
How this food is made is what makes it such a smart buy. “There are inherent risks with feeding your dog raw food, such as the risk of bacteria, viruses, and parasites to you or your dog because it is not cooked. However, this company understands those risks and goes the extra mile to ensure their products are safe,” Dr. Robinson says. “They use HPP (high-pressure process) to all of their raw foods to effectively get rid of any harmful pathogens. They then send all of their food to be tested for E. coli, salmonella, and listeria and list these results on their website so you can look up your product lot number for peace of mind.”
And, of course, these freeze-dried foods are healthy—and dogs go completely wild over the flavor. They’re made with raw, cage-free chicken, as well as fruits and vegetables, and fortified with added vitamins and minerals. It’s truly the whole package…in one little patty. Whether it’s with a new natural dog food or a delectable table scrap, find out why your dog brings his food somewhere else to eat it.
- Strict safety measures are followed
- High in protein, with 95 percent chicken, organs, and bone
- Enhanced with probiotics, antioxidants, and necessary vitamins and minerals
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