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What You Don’t Know About Natural Organic Dog Products

cocker spaniel
Dexter recently visited the Only Natural Pet Store in Colorado during our Fidose Across America tour.

How do you know if something is truly “natural” or “organic” and actually “good” for your dog? Labeling these days can leave any pet parent, present company included, scratching our heads and wondering if what we feed is truly safe to give to our precious canine family members. Natural, organic dog products can be very confusing to many dog parents.

Fidose of Reality recently attended a very educational and very informative online webinar with the Founder and CEO of Only Natural Pet. Marty Grosjean started feeding his pets a healthier diet the way most of us probably do. “I wanted to feed my dogs the same quality of natural I was eating and discovered that there wasn’t much available. That was 10 years ago,” Grosjean says. “So then we started an online store offering all kinds of natural products from other companies, then gradually began making our own.”

If any of the following topics are of interest to you, keep reading this blog post:

  • Natural food

  • Organic food

  • Reading a pet food label

  • Safe flea and tick protection

What is “Natural” For Dogs?

According to Grosjean, there is no definition for the term “natural” as it applies to pet food or treats. “For me, and for Only Natural Pet, we have a set of ingredient standards that any product must meet to be natural,” he says. “The first thing is human grade: Meaning if something contains ingredients so nasty I wouldn’t eat it, then I’m not going to give it to my pets, and that goes for flea and tick products. If I wouldn’t put it on my body, I won’t put it on my pets.”

Think about that for a minute: Would you eat your dog’s food? Would you feel comfortable putting the protection used on your dog to prevent fleas and ticks on your own skin? I would, and this philosophy has served me well over the years in terms of my dog’s health.


Cocker spaniel
I would never do anything to risk harming my dog. Dedicated dog parents feel the same way.

If a dog’s food is natural and the body is therefore healthy, you spend much less on vet bills and other treatments for illnesses. On a side note, this entire week, Fidose of Reality is highlighting important dog health information we received at the recent BlogPaws Conference on Lake Las Vegas, where we spent five days. Human-grade food is a very hot topic, and the folks at The Honest Kitchen are one of the brands we love in this respect. Stay tuned.

Generally speaking, for a dog treat to be “natural” it should be made in the USA and made with minimal ingredients and no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives.

For food, high protein, and no “recycled” ingredients from the human food chain, according to Grosjean.

Did you know that for dry and canned dog food, a lot of the non-natural brands use cast-off ingredients like diseased or dead animals from feed lots and meat processors, even things like sawdust, peanut hulls, chicken beaks, etc.

You can’t actually say “human grade” on a label unless it is made in a human food facility, even it if is all human grade ingredients. So read that label; more about that below.

Only Natural Pet
Hanging out at Only Natural Pet store.

Is There Such a Thing as Organic for Dogs?

Products labeled “100% Organic” with the “USDA Organic” seal contain only organically produced ingredients. Products made from at least 95% organic ingredients may also carry the “USDA Organic” seal. Products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients may label those on the ingredient listing. The USDA has ruled that its organic standards do apply to pet food. Most organic pet food products fall into 70% organic category, but a few follow the higher standards.

It’s important to understand that natural and organic are not at all the same. Natural, as applied to pet food, means that the ingredients come from nature (animal, vegetable, mineral); in other words, they are not synthetic.  However, they may undergo many types of processing and still be considered natural.  Neither term implies anything about animal welfare; products from “factory” farming and confinement operations (such as battery cages for chickens), can still be organic, natural, both, or neither.

The above information is courtesy of  Only Natural Pet. Feeding organic pet foods ensures that contaminated crops treated with pesticides don’t find their way into your dog’s food bowl. You can read more about going organic and the benefits along with products that ONP sells of an organic nature on this post.

We learned a lot about pet health at the BlogPaws Conference.

Reading a Dog Food Label

This has to be one of the most commonly asked questions. Our rule of thumb is to ignore the front of a bag, box, or can of dog food and turn it around. Read the back, look at the label, and know thine ingredients. If you take one thing away from reading this blog post it is this: Reading a dog food label can save your dog’s life, honestly.

Only Natural Pet advises “The First Five” rule” : “The First Five” is the best (and easiest) rule to follow when deciphering an ingredient panel. Ingredients are listed in descending order by pre-cooked weight, meaning that once you get past the first five ingredients, the percentages of the remaining ingredients drop dramatically.”

animal protein

“Just as you’ll find quality ingredients in the “first five” of premium foods, low end and mass market foods are filled with nasty ingredients. Never buy a food with first five ingredients like animal by-product, unnamed meat meal, high glucose grains & cereals (wheat, rice & corn), corn gluten meal, or cellulose. Animal by-product is a dry render product of slaughterhouse waste; basically, this includes everything like beaks, hooves, feet, and any other undesirables. Unnamed meat meal is a collection of unspecified meat sources all mixed together, truly a mystery meat. Grains & cereals like wheat, corn & rice can spike your pet’s blood sugar levels and are not as easily digested, not to mention they lack the essential fatty acids vital to your pet’s health. Corn gluten meal is the starchy residue left after the kernels have been processed and cellulose is made from plant cell walls; both of these are inexpensive fillers with no real nutritional value.”

Safer Flea and Tick Protection

This is a topic near and dear to our hearts at Fidose of Reality. A topical well-known flea preventative in a tube caused our last Cocker Spaniel a host of side effects and issues, so we opt not to prevent fleas and ticks in this fashion. You can read our safer forms of flea and tick protection here. Some of the things Marty Grosjean recommends are:

  • Look for squeeze-ons and collars that are made with “botanical” ingredients, not chemical sounding words that you can’t pronounce.
  • For flea and tick alternatives, ONP carries products that use herbs and essential oils to ward off the pests, not pesticides.
  • He also recommend brewer’s yeast and garlic tabs, and this is something we started using on our PR (Puppy Relations) Manager this month.
  • Botanical examples are geraniums, neem trees, citronella, lemon oil.
  • Marty recommends the Easy Defense tag, which you just hang on the collar like other dog tag.
  • NEVER use DEET-containing products on a dog.
flea dust
This is one product we use in our arsenal of weapons against fleas and ticks.

For more information about keeping your dog healthy along with a library of articles on healthy living in pets, be sure to visit the Only Natural Pet library of articles, and of course, stay tuned to Fidose of Reality.

QUESTION: Are you cautious about the food/treats/medications you give your dog and is natural/organic/human-grade important to you as a pet parent?

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  1. 01. I cook all Laylas food and make her treats as I dont trust much today unfortunately, its the same as I cook 90 percent of the time for myself also.

    02. You say garlic tablets, yes I put garlic on her jerky BUT the vet said in moderation so am a bit confused what kind of garlic tablet this is. As for natural flea remedies, I make for her at home anti itchy remedies but have not tried for fleas and am a little confused on this one. Plus having kids in the house I have to be careful.

    So that is Laylas two pennies on this subject cos Carol lately I feel everyone is just talking and talking and this Blonde Jewish Mom is going nuts with all the info.

    Hugs from Bossy Layla

  2. Such a well written article. You provided such a wealth of information for all of us with canine companions. I just assumed organic meant natural, little did I know there is a big difference. The first five ingredient rule is great for someone like me and a quick reminder when looking at my dog’s food label. I really appreciate you taking the time to share this info with your readers.

  3. Bravo! I use the same standards for my business and our products, which I actually use on myself and my kids frequently! Well done, very informative article.

  4. We’ve feed “holistic” dog foods for I think close to 15 yrs now. Always read the labels. I sound snooty, but someone suggested a well recognized dog food to treat an issue my dog was having, when I read the label – it was thanks but no thanks. I couldn’t identify the first 5 things on the list.

    1. Good for you, Nancy. We always have to be on the lookout for the products/ingredients that are best for our furkids.

  5. Great post! I would love to feature you on my blog as a guest blogger, because my clients who own dogs would probably enjoy reading this information as well. Let me know if you are interested. You can contact me via my website.

  6. I have to say unfortunately as a veterinarian there are some inaccurate and some dangerous recommendations in this entry.

    First, there is no legal requirement for what can be called “human grade” there’s no enforcement, so anyone who wants to call their food human grade. McDonald’s hamburgers are technically “human grade” and yet we know what kind of disgusting ingredients are used to make them.

    Also regarding flea and tick prevention – we know that some botanical flea/tick preventions are toxic, severely toxic.

    Veterinarians see animals with tea tree oil neruologic toxicity frequently because people believe since these products are “natural” they are safe. I’ve had owners come in with pets having tremoring from their “natural” tick control liquid that contains tobacco and garlic and found that their pet had sky high liver values.

    Tobacco is completely natural and botanical but doesn’t mean it’s safe.

    Additionally garlic is toxic to pets, and yet we see all these products that contain it. I wouldn’t want to eat small amounts of arsenic, why would you give your pet small amounts of garlic?

    I work with a holistic veterinarian, but even she recognizes that not everything natural is safe and is very picky when it comes to what “natural” products she will recommend.

    Unfortunately not everyone who puts themselves out there as an expert will give reliable advice, sometimes their advice is downright dangerous.

    I completely agree there are some pesticides that we know are harmful to pets and people. What many may not realize is that the pyrethrins that we used so long that were such unsafe pesticides for pets came from plants!

    Several of the newer synthetic synthetic chemicals are much safer, especially frontline plus. Personally I would be willing to put frontline on myself, because we have studies showing that when you get this product on people, it doesn’t hurt them. We can’t say the same for all the other products out there.

    1. I really appreciate your comments and feedback.

      Anything can be toxic to a pet if used in abundance or overused. I, however, do not use traditional chemicals on my pet, especially after seeing the harm spot-ons did to my last Cocker Spaniel. It was horrific and I will never do that to a dog again.

      I won’t speak to what McDonalds puts in a hamburger. I am not an expert in that field. As a veterinarian, I am sure you aren’t either.

      I, too, work with a holistic veterinarian, so I agree that not all advice is reliable.

      I would never put Frontline on myself and the fact that the packaging says to put gloves on before use says it all.

      Tobacco is natural and botanical but when smoked, it is dangerous.

      I concur with Marty on this and I stand behind his word.

      We do not dispense medical advice here but we stand behind the word of experts who have experience in their field and are able to disseminate that information to pet parents. Always check with your veterinarian before starting any sort of new product or changing, as each dog is unique.

      I have not even touched on vaccines, but those too almost killed my dog and I am now all about titers and anti over vaccine.

      Time has taught us many things, one being to question and investigate. I love the mantra that if I wouldn’t use it, neither should my dog.

      Thanks for weighing in.

  7. Thank you so much for this post. We do our best to purchase safe and healthy food and treats for our dogs but was unaware of all the nuances between “organic” and “natural” products. I will be looking into this much more and checking the labels around the house!

    Bookmarking for reference!

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