Natural, organic, or botanical: They all sound like seemingly harmless words that imply something is good for our dogs, but are they really? Fidose of Reality gets to the heart of the matter and digs up the truth on dog product labels.
The tragic outbreak of contaminated pet foods several years ago may have been the tipping point that spawned an entirely new revolution of pet products to the marketplace labeled “organic” and “natural.” With the lives of our canine family members at hand, we did a little sleuthing. Here’s what we found out about difference between the two, what advances have occurred since this outbreak, and how dog products, in general, have changed.
Organic Vs. Natural
Organic and natural are, by no means, interchangeable words. In terms of food, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, food grown and processed according to the USDA’s organic standards may be labeled as such. For people, organic food means less pesticide residue than their conventional sister counterpart, restricted use of food additives, and less pollution in growing it.
What about organic pet products not including food? According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 11.77 billion dollars was spent in 2011 by pet owners on supplies and over-the-counter medicines, representing a 7.6 percent increase over 2010. Within this domain are both organic and natural dog products.
In order to qualify as organic and receive the official USDA Organic Seal, grooming products must have 100 percent organic soap in them. Soap, however, will dry a dog’s coat and leave a flaky residue behind in skin and fur. In addition, soap may wash off topical flea applications. More fittingly, a hypoallergenic shampoo for dogs is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Read labels closely and ensure there are no fragrances or artificial colors that may tip the pH balance and cause allergic reactions.
US Certified Organic dog food means that the food has gone through a third-party certification process and proves that at least 95% of the ingredients are organic. Break the term organic down and you get “origin,” and in the case of dog food, that means the farm or field. What is organic about something our dogs eat has to do with what happens where it originates.
What about natural? According to the FDA, food that is labeled natural must be free of synthetic preservatives, be minimally processed, and be free of things like colors, growth hormones, antibiotics, stabilizers and/or emulsifiers. As it applies to things like household cleaners, natural is as it implies: no chemicals, allergy friendly, and non-toxic.
During a visit to the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Florida, the pet industry’s largest trade show and home to over 800 companies worldwide for a full two days, the number of natural and organic products ready to launch were in abundant supply. Abandoning chemicals does not mean neglecting cleanliness, as chemical-free products keep Fido safe and reduce any chance of chemical reaction.
As it applies to pet food, natural is simply a word. If you see the word natural on a bag of dog food or on a treat box, it can mean any host of things. There are no standards or regulations in place when it comes to using the word “natural” on pet products.
Botanicals deal with botany, aka plants, and they occur in nature. If a product contains anything containing botanical like licorice root, angelica root, fenugreek, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, chamomile, dandelion, summer savory, it can be labeled as botanical. This does not necessarily mean totally healthy for your dog, but it generally means something “botanical” in nature is involved.
More Dog Food Truths
While at the BlogPaws Conference in 2012, I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Daniel Aja speak to the audience. I listened to an hour of the most informative details about dog food and product labeling to date, and I invite you, dog parents, to check out the information in the dog food truth post.
What are you feeding your dog and do you read labels?
Here are a few folks I am sure give a peek to pet food labels, as this is a Wordless Wednesday blog hop: