Dog Food and Treats
A dog eating out of a bowl.
Share this image

3 Steps to Understanding Clean Eating for Dogs

What does clean eating for dogs mean? Dr. Ernie Ward breaks the next wave of healthy dog food into easy-to-understand, bite-sized information.

Dr. Ernie Ward  |  Nov 2nd 2017


Perhaps my favorite recent development in pet nutrition is seeing a new standard set for healthy pet foods — recipes made with real ingredients. For decades, it’s been challenging for both veterinarians and pet parents to decipher pet food labels and determine what is (or isn’t) in the bag or can. I’m excited to see pet food companies address these concerns and be more transparent by creating options made with recognizable ingredients. This subtle shift matters because wholesome nutrition and easy-to-read labels are important for your dog’s health and energy, and your peace of mind. Below are three steps to understanding clean eating for dogs and why it’s important for your pup.

1. What does “clean eating” mean?

A puppy eating from a bowl.

Puppy eating. Photography by Gladskikh Tatiana | Shutterstock.

The roots of the “clean eating” movement reach back to the 1960’s conscious health food gurus, the 1990’s organic food crusades and to the current non-GMO (genetically-modified organisms) campaigns. Until now, pet food remained disconnected from these powerful human food messages. As “organic,” “GMO,” “grain-free” and other nutritional terms became common knowledge for consumers, informed pet parents turned their attention to the food they filled pet bowls with each day. Many pet food companies have shifted to the natural space but have not pushed beyond that.

Creating “natural” pet food options, at least in my opinion and experience, was the standard until this year. The Nutro brand took this one step forward with their dry recipes and created their new standard — clean pet food that is simple, purposeful and trustworthy. The goal with clean pet food is to share what is in pet food. What excites me most about clean pet food is that pet food companies are forced to critically evaluate how they produce pet food and the ingredients that they use to do so.

2. With clean dog food, make sure purposeful ingredients are a priority

Although clean eating for humans and pets are both a lifestyle choice, there is a difference. Humans and pets need distinct nutrients in their diets that vary from one to the other. As pets are primarily fed dry kibble or canned food, it is imperative that these products are complete and balanced with all the nutrients dogs need for total health.

This means making sure what’s in your pup’s bowl gives her a complete and balanced meal with purposeful ingredients and food fortified with vital nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Feeding the most wholesome and nourishing food possible is vital for your pet’s long-term health and vitality.

3. Understand what clean eating for dogs offers your pup

The most important decision you make for your pet each day is what you feed her. Ten years ago, I often remarked that many pet food labels looked like “high school chemistry experiments” — they were hard to understand and included artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. They certainly didn’t sound clean. I’m really proud to see some pet food brands such as Nutro taking clean pet food seriously with their new Nutro Feed Clean philosophy.

Limited-ingredient diets with recognizable ingredients make it easier for pet parents to choose diets that meet their pet’s unique needs and their family’s lifestyle and food philosophies. Whether you prefer vegan or Paleo, farm-raised or fast-food, consumers deserve food transparency. That’s why this issue is so important to me. I want pet parents to have easy access to trustworthy ingredients and reliable information on what they’re feeding their pet loved ones. “Clean” pet foods can help you make decisions for your pet’s health.

The bottom line is that the clean pet food movement is a new step in pet nutrition. Since food is the foundation of health, clean dog food and clean pet food using recognizable ingredients, complex carbohydrates and high-quality protein sources can help you make decisions that fit your pet’s needs and lifestyle. I applaud the brave pet food companies forging these new and, sometimes, controversial conversations and raising awareness on the power of nutrition to enhance the well-being of pets.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Chalabala | Thinkstock. 

Read more about dog food on Dogster.com:

Interested in clean eating yourself? University Health News has a list of which organic foods to buy — and which to avoid >>