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How To Choose A Natural Pet Food - 8 things to look for

How To Choose A Natural Pet Food - 8 things to look for

Choosing the right food for your pet can be tricky so here are some helpful tips.

We believe that a high quality, high protein, all-natural diet is vital for pet health and this is the standard for all Pure and Wholesome pet food. 

1. Check the protein in the pet food

A high quantity of high quality protein in your pet food is really important.  Cats are obligate carnivores which means they need to eat meat to survive (click here for more info and alternative views). Dogs are omnivores which means they can survive on a plant or animal diet as long as it is varied and balanced but for dogs to thrive and not merely survive however, they need a high protein diet.

Vegetable proteins are often cheaper but they also provide much lower nutritional value and are less easily digested.  When choosing pet food, look for a high proportion of meat or fish listed first on the ingredients list.  Ideally you should look for single source, clearly specified proteins, for example “Beef” or “Chicken”.  If the protein description is vague like “meat by-product”, “meat meal”, or “animal derivatives” the proteins used are likely to be cheaper, lower quality, offer lower nutrition and may not be considered fit for human consumption (so why would you feed it to your best friend?).

2. Check the quality of the pet food ingredients

The label is the best place to start.   By law pet food ingredients must be listed in weight order.  A named meat or fish (or meat meal or fish meal) should be the very first ingredient listed.  Pure and Wholesome doesn’t sell any pet food with ambiguous descriptions like “meat by-products”

A lot of economy pet foods as well as some premium foods are made from cheap ingredients, chemicals, additives and by-products that we don’t believe are great for any pet.  These low quality and artificial ingredients are harder than natural ingredients for your pet to digest and therefore the nutrients that are present often pass right through your pet’s digestion without being absorbed.  A number of now common pet allergies, skin and digestion problems are thought to be a result of poor quality food.

While high quality, natural pet foods are more expensive at face value, because they are more nutritionally concentrated smaller amounts are needed.  Economy foods may actually cost more in the long term because you need to feed your pet much larger portions of lower quality food to provide the same nutrition as a high quality food.

3. Wet vs dry pet food

There are pros and cons to both wet and dry pet food but we believe it’s best to provide your pet with a varied and balanced diet so don’t be scared to use both wet and dry food and mix things up a bit.

Pets often enjoy wet food more.  Dogs and cats have fewer taste buds than us and so food with a stronger flavour, as wet food often has, is much more attractive to them.  Wet food also provides much needed hydration and is a great choice if your pet is a reluctant drinker. As pets get older they can also lose their sense of smell, (which explains their passion for stinky wet food!), their teeth get brittle and they are less able to cope with dry food.

High quality dry food on the other hand can be more nutritionally dense, is much more convenient and tidier to feed with, keeps better and some are formulated to clean your pet’s teeth as they eat.  Dry food can often be a more economic choice however it’s worth remembering that whole meats like chicken, beef and lamb contain 75% water which evaporates in dry food.  So if a whole meat is listed first, then make sure that the next ingredient listed is a specified meat meal (for example lamb meal or chicken meal) to ensure that the protein in the food comes from an animal source and not grains.  If the dry food lists a whole meat first, followed by a grain this means that most of the protein in the food derives from grains which is less nutritionally available to your pet.  Requiring carnivores to get their protein amino acids from grains is considered to be a contributor to pet obesity and allergies.

4. Age appropriate pet food

Your pet will need different things from their food depending on their stage of life.  Kittens and puppies need high energy, protein and fat diets for their development, and so do pregnant and nursing animals.  Just like us, unless they are super active, adult pets need to watch what they eat and keep to a healthy weight and so a lower calorie diet is better.  Older animals need less calories too as they slow down a bit and their need for easily digestible proteins with higher moisture content increases.

5. How to understand pet food labels

A high quality pet food will tell you a lot about what’s in their food.  The lower the quality of the food, the less information is given, so if nothing else this is a good guide of quality!  Here’s how to decipher what they’re telling you.

Composition – this just means the ingredients.  The composition section lists in all the ingredients in descending order by weight.  It allows you to check the quality of the ingredients used.

Analytical Constituents – this is the nutrient analysis of the finished product - the amount of protein the amount of fibre, the amount of fats and so on.  This is a list of quantities, not quality!  The amount of meat listed in the Composition section does not equal the protein intake in the finished product.  It’s important to check the Analytical Constituents to see the final composition of the food.

Ash is often listed here and this refers to minerals.  If you were to completely incinerate the pet food, everything would burn away leaving only the food’s minerals (zinc, calcium etc).  This is what is referred to as ash.

Nutritional Additives – this is not as bad as it sounds!  All Pure & Wholesome pet foods have only natural vitamins and minerals added because they are essential to your pet’s health, and this is where they are listed.  However other brands include additives such as artificial flavourings, colours and preservatives.  Not so good!

6. Cost of pet food

Yes, high quality natural pet food does cost more than mass produced, low quality foods, however the price difference is not as much as you think.  Because pet foods that use high quality ingredients are so much more nutritionally dense, pets need much less of it than cheaper brands. 

Pure and Wholesome has carefully sourced high quality, all-natural pet food for every budget. Harringtons is our all natural entry level premium brand.  A family company offering 100% natural food free of dairy, wheat and soya at an exceptional price.

Wellness Core is our five star premium brands of natural pet food.  They are super high in protein, most are and made from free range, naturally raised animals and they use only the highest quality ingredients backed by vigorous research into the optimum diet for cats and dogs.  

7. Grain free or not grain free?

Not all pets have a grain or gluten allergy and grains are not necessarily bad in pet food.  Grain free foods do however more closely resemble dog’s and cat’s natural (ancestral) diet.   Dogs and cats have a limited ability to extract nutrients from non-meat sources so we believe that the key is ensuring a high quality protein diet, that any grains included have excellent nutritional value and are in proper proportion to meat.

Grains are much cheaper than meat and many lower quality pet food brands use grains as a filler to help pets feel full but with little or no nutritional value.   Corn and wheat are still the most common cheap fillers used.

Some pet owners choose to avoid grains altogether as pets do find them difficult to digest and some pets develop a grain allergy which can lead to digestive lining damage, leaky gut, bowel inflammation, increased flatulence and skin irritations.

8. Providence

Who are the people who make your pet food?  Do they care about your pet and do they care about what they make?  Do they have a positive or negative impact on the environment?

We think it’s really important to use our buying power to support people who make good things, treat their staff and their animals well, and care for the environment.  Pure and Wholesome only sells natural pet food brands that tick all these boxes so you can trust that your spending decision is a positive one.

So lots to consider!  But much of choosing a great pet food is common sense.  In a nutshell, it’s best to think about:

  • High quality protein
  • High quality, natural ingredients,  free from artificial ingredients
  • Food that’s appropriate for your pet’s age
  • Cost
  • Grain free or not grain free?
  • Does the pet food company care about what they make, your pet, the environment and the people that work for them?

At Pure and Wholesome we’ve put a lot of time and research into choosing our natural pet food range.  We have selected some of the best pet food on the market, and just as importantly, our pet food is also made by people who do good in the world.


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