The purpose of the review is to clarify the definition of “natural” as it pertains to commercial petfood, and summarize the scientific findings related to natural ingredients in petfoods and natural diets on the impact of pet health and physiology.
The term “natural”, when used to market commercial petfoods or petfood ingredients in the US, has been defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials and requires, at minimum, that the petfood be preserved with natural preservatives. However, pet owners may consider natural as something different than the regulatory definition.
Domestic cats select a macronutrient profile (52% of metabolizable energy from protein) similar to the diet of wild cats. Dogs have evolved much differently in their ability to metabolize carbohydrates, and select a diet lower in protein (30% of metabolizable energy from protein) than the diet of wild wolves. The inclusion of whole food ingredients in natural petfoods as opposed to fractionated ingredients may result in higher nutrient concentrations, including phytonutrients. Additionally, the processing of commercial petfood can impact digestibility, nutrient bioavailability. Future opportunities exist to better understand the effect of natural diets on health and nutrition outcomes, and to better integrate sustainable practices in the production of natural petfoods.
Source: P.R. Buff et al., 2014. Natural pet food: A review of natural diets and their impact on canine and feline physiology. J Anim Sci online, July 2014. doi: 10.2527/jas.2014-7789.