California Natural Dog Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3.5 stars.
The California Natural product line includes nine dry dog foods, four claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance and five for all life stages.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- California Natural Chicken Meal and Rice Adult
- California Natural Herring and Sweet Potato Adult
- California Natural Lamb Meal and Rice Adult Large Bites
- California Natural Lamb Meal and Rice Adult Small Bites
- California Natural Chicken Meal and Rice Puppy (4 stars)
- California Natural Chicken Meal and Brown Rice Senior (4 stars)
- California Natural Brown Rice and Lamb Meal Weight Management
- California Natural Lamb Meal and Rice Sm/Med Br Puppy (4 stars)
- California Natural Brown Rice and Chicken Meal Weight Management
California Natural Lamb Meal and Rice Adult Small Bites was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
California Natural Lamb Meal & Rice Adult Small Bites
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Lamb meal, brown rice, rice, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a source of vitamin E), natural flavors, salt, potassium chloride, taurine, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), vitamins (betaine hydrochloride, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, calcium pantothenate, beta carotene, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, folic acid), vitamin E supplement, rosemary extract
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 2.8%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||23%||12%||57%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||21%||27%||52%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is lamb meal. Lamb meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh lamb.
The second ingredient is brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The third ingredient is white rice, a less nutritious form of rice in which the grain’s healthier outer layer has been removed.
The fourth ingredient is sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is nutritionally similar to safflower oil. Since these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain no omega-3′s, they’re considered less nutritious than canola or flaxseed oils.
Sunflower oil is notable for its resistance to heat damage during cooking.
There are several different types of sunflower oil, some better than others. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this ingredient.
After the natural flavors, we find salt (also known as sodium chloride). Salt is a common additive in many dog foods. That’s because sodium is a necessary mineral for all animals — including humans.
However, since the actual amount of salt added to this recipe isn’t disclosed on the list of ingredients, it’s impossible to judge the nutritional value of this item.
From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.
But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.
With two notable exceptions…
First, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.
And lastly, this food contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.
California Natural Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, California Natural looks like an above-average dry dog food.
But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 25% and a mean fat level of 12%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 55% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 49%.
Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
Free of any plant-based protein boosters, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a modest amount of meat.
California Natural is a plant-based kibble using a modest amount of lamb and chicken meals or herring as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.
Those looking for a quality wet food from the same company may wish to visit our review of California Natural Canned Dog Food.
Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.
A Final Word
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However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.
For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".
Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.
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Notes and Updates
06/01/2014 Last Update