Natural pet food(made by pet food machine
) isn't necessarily unhealthy for pets, and there are good brands on the market. But cats and dogs have specific nutritional needs that some of these foods may not provide, Nelson said.
For instance, a natural dog food may provide antioxidants through fruits and vegetables, but it may be deficient in other nutrients the dog needs. If pet owners opt for natural pet food, it's important to make sure pets still receive a well-balanced diet, she said。
Generally give the best assessment on how well the food performs for a specific life stage, Nelson said. Owners should look closely at the feeding statement on the label, as some foods are intended for intermittent feeding or only for specific life stages, and they could be detrimental to a pet if fed long-term.
Nelson said it is important to differentiate between terms such as natural, organic and holistic. Organic and holistic currently have no specific definitions for pet foods under the Association of American Feed Control Officials guidelines. Organic is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for human food, but the department has no definition of natural foods for humans.
The feed control association defines natural products as those that don't contain any chemically synthesized ingredients except vitamins or minerals. The labels for natural products containing any of these ingredients must state: "Natural with added vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients." Consumers should be wary of any pet food company that claims to have organic or holistic food because they don't exist by the association's definition, Nelson said.
Consumers should also pay attention to food ingredients. For instance, cats and dogs should not eat onions or garlic. While flaxseed oil can provide fatty acids for dogs, cats can't use it for this purpose. Any manufacturer that uses these ingredients should be avoided, Nelson said.
Because dry pet food needs preservatives, there is often debate about whether artificial or natural preservatives are better. Studies show that synthetic preservatives seem to work better and aren't bad for pets at the levels contained in the food. However, market demand is for using vitamins E and C because they are natural preservatives.