What your dog eats plays a crucial role in their overall health. If you’re considering switching your dog to an all natural diet, that’s a great idea!
When you switch over to an all natural diet for dogs, you’ll notice a quick improvement in the look of their coat, energy levels, oral health, and muscle density. A natural diet (done correctly) can help your dog live a long, healthy, and happy life.
Before we get into the details on how to switch over to an all natural diet, we need to get this quick disclaimer out of the way. It’s always recommended to see your vet before making drastic changes to the diet.
You also need to be careful when planning the diet. Dog food is designed with dogs’ health in mind. Most dog food includes all the required vitamins and minerals to keep the body functioning properly.
If the diet isn’t put together properly, it can be detrimental to your dog’s health. However, a well rounded natural diet is beneficial.
All Natural Diet Vs. Raw Diet
Before you begin thinking we are talking about the raw diet, we aren’t. Many people do classify them as the same thing, but we don’t. We believe the big difference between the two is one type of diet allows you to cook food. The other does not. Overall, cooked food is safer for both you and your dog, which is why we recommend cooked meat instead of raw meat. The raw diet is a subcategory of the natural diet, but a natural diet is not always a raw diet.
All natural diets also allow for more veggies. The raw diet (aka BARF diet) recommends minimal vegetables. I’m not saying you want to feed your dog a ton of veggies, that could cause digestion problems. But some is better than none. Veggies contain essential vitamins and minerals to keep your dog healthy.
If you’re interested in the raw diet, we’ve covered that extensively on this site. This article is NOT about the raw diet, but an all natural diet.
The Benefits of an All Natural Diet
Although a natural diet requires more thought on your end than buying dog food, there are a lot of benefits to the natural diet (assuming it’s done correctly). Some of these benefits might even surprise you!
Every dog owner knows why this is a huge bonus. There’s much less of a mess to clean up compared to soft stool. Firmer stool is also easier for your dog to pass.
On top of firmer stools, it also helps with digestion. Dry kibble can cause a lot of digestive issues that lead to gas. When your dog is on a natural diet, they won’t be nearly as flatulent…I think everyone can agree this is a GREAT benefit!
Better Oral Health
Dry kibble contains a lot of chemicals that can harm your dog’s oral health. Plus, kibble has a smell that gives dogs horrible breath. Not only will natural food be better for your dog’s teeth and gums, but the bad breath will likely go away. Better breath and less gas is a win!
Stronger Immune System
A natural diet will likely include more healthy fat than a dry kibble diet. Healthy fat will help strengthen the immune system.
Stable Energy Levels
I’m sure most of us are used to the energy spike our dogs get right after eating. The insulin spike from the carbs causes the dog to run wild. Once the insulin spike wears off, your dog will crash.
With an all natural diet, the spike in energy will be gone. Your dog should have stable energy throughout the day.
Less Chance of Food Allergies
Wheat and corn are in most dry kibble brands. Unfortunately, most dog food allergies are caused by wheat and corn. By feeding your dog an all natural diet, you’ll lower the chances of food allergies.
Healthier Skin and Coat
Healthy skin usually means a healthy coat. One of the most commonly reported benefits to a natural diet is improved skin and coat. You’ll notice a fuller, more colorful coat along with soft skin and less dandruff.
The Negatives of an All Natural Diet
After reading that list of positives, you might be excited to give the all natural diet a try. However, before jumping straight in, you need to be aware of the negatives.
There are only three primary negatives to an all natural diet, but some of these can be deal breakers for a lot of dog owners. Read them carefully and be honest with yourself about whether or not a natural diet is the route you want to go.
We can’t ignore the cost. Dry kibble is much cheaper than going the homemade/all natural route. If you’re already pinching pennies on dry dog food diet, you might want to think twice before going the natural route. Owning a dog should be a joyful experience, not a financially stressful experience.
Might Not Be Well Balanced
The biggest benefit to kibble is that it’s made with a good ratio of macronutrients and micronutrients. This means it has the proper amount of carbs, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals such as calcium. If you feed your dog the same thing daily, you’ll probably be lacking specific vitamins and minerals. You might also be feeding them too much (or too little) protein, carbs, or fats.
It’s Hard Work
When your dog is on a dry kibble diet, you can just go to the store and pick up a bag of food. When you go with an all natural diet, you no longer have that luxury. You’ll need to carefully plan out each meal, add the calories, track the micronutrients, and most importantly…cook the food!
Although there is an endless amount of benefits to a natural diet, there’s nothing “easy” about it.
How to Plan an All Natural Diet For Your Dog
Once you’ve decided the natural diet is a route you want to go after reading all the pros and cons mentioned above, your next step is to learn how to plan out a well-balanced diet that will give your dog the proper amount of macronutrients and micronutrients.
Here are some guidelines to follow when putting together your dog’s new meal plan.
Weekly Balance Vs. Balanced Meals
The biggest mistake people make is trying to ensure that every meal is appropriately balanced. It’s WAY too hard to get the perfect balance for every single meal…not to mention the fact that it’s very limiting.
You need to start thinking in terms of weekly balance and not daily balance. Not every meal has to contain the perfect amount of nutrients, but it should be balanced by the end of the week.
For example, if one meal is low in calcium, make the next meal higher in calcium. If one meal is low in fat, make the next meal a little higher. The only time every meal needs to be perfectly balanced is if you plan on feeding your dog the same thing every day.
Planning The Protein
Meat is by far the most essential part of your dog’s diet. If you think about it, dogs survived for thousands of years by eating meat almost exclusively. Make sure at least half of the calories your dog eats every day is from meat.
Here is a list of high quality meats to feed your dog:
- Chicken Breast
- Turkey Breast
- Eggs (not meat, but still a great source of protein)
It’s best if you can choose about three of the meats to rotate every day, that way, your dog isn’t eating the same exact source of protein every single day.
Planning The Carbs
Carbs help provide energy for your dog. The only problem is the fact that many dogs don’t handle grain and wheat very well. When choosing your carb sources, it’s best to choose one and stick to it for a few days to see how your dog reacts to it. For example, if you start with sweet potatoes and that upsets your dog’s stomach, try oatmeal and see if that’s better.
Here are our favorite carb sources for dogs:
- Sweet potatoes
If the dog is overweight, feel free to slightly reduce carbohydrate intake. This should help get that waistline back to normal in a few weeks.
Planning The Fats
We don’t recommend any specific foods for fat. Your dog should be getting plenty of fat from the meat they eat. However, if you’re buying lean cuts of meat, you can add a small amount of oil to your dog’s food to increase their fat intake.
What About Fruits and Veggies?
Fruits and veggies aren’t as important for dogs as they are for humans, but they still contain healthy micronutrients and a decent amount of fiber.
Be careful when feeding your dog fruits and veggies. Too much can cause stomach irritation and gas.
Here’s a list of fruits and veggies that are great for your dog’s health:
Again, make sure you don’t overfeed on fruits and veggies…With the increase in gas, you’ll suffer just as much as your dog!
Importance of Supplements on an All Natural Diet
One of the benefits to kibble is they typically include all the important vitamins and minerals. With a natural diet, you’ll likely have to use supplements to make sure your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals they require.
Below is a list of three supplements you should be giving your dog if you go the all natural route.
- Fish Oil (on days they don’t eat fish)
Those three supplements should be good enough to keep your dog healthy. Yes, it’s an added expense. But remember one of the downsides to a natural diet… it’s more expensive.
If you do an all natural diet properly, you’ll notice immediate changes in your dog’s energy level, coat, digestion, and overall health. Best of luck!
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