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Is Organic Dog Food Better?

Nuala McHugh


Nuala McHugh
Nuala McHugh

Nuala McHugh

Content Writer

Nuala began her writing career when she studied English at Queen’s University Belfast and later earned a Master's degree in PR and Communications.

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Updated: April 4, 2024

Verified by Laura Ward

Laura Ward

Laura Ward

Pet Nutritionist

Laura studied BSc (Hons) Animal Science with an accreditation in Nutrition at the University of Nottingham, before working for eight years in the pet food and nutrition industry.

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Laura Ward

Is organic dog food better than regular dog food? We often see the term “organic” in large font on food packaging and assume it’s the healthier option. But many people aren’t entirely sure what the term means and if not understood then we can’t really determine if organic dog food is better for your pet.

Naturally, you want to know the healthiest food to feed your dog. But all dogs are unique, and certain ingredients will be suited to different dogs. So, if you’re wondering whether organic meat and vegetables are better for your dog and what the benefits of organic dog food are, then this article is here to help.

What does organic mean?

When you see the term “organic” on a food label, it’s USDA-certified which means the food was grown and processed according to federal guidelines. These guidelines consider many factors including soil quality, animal raising practice, pest and weed control, and use of additives.

This means organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible. 1

Organic farmers aim to produce high-quality food by using methods that benefit the whole food system. It’s a farming method aimed to help people to the planet and plant health to animal welfare — this is why many consider it a more sustainable alternative when it comes to food production.

What makes dog food organic?

Similarly, organic dog food is made from ingredients grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or ionizing radiation.

For organic meat, the animals must be raised in living conditions that accommodate their natural behaviors. They are fed organic food, and must not have been fed antibiotics or growth hormones.

Certified organic foods will display a USDA organic seal and must be made of at least 95% organic ingredients. 2 

What are the three types of organic dog food?

According to the USDA, there are three types of organic dog food, and this will impact how they’re labeled. They are:

100% Organic

100% organic food is what it sounds like — made with 100% organic ingredients. When reading the label, you will see the term ‘certified organic by…’ and it potentially may have the USDA-certified organic seal. Most likely, the label will be placed proudly on the front of the dog food.


This organic dog food is made with at least 95% organic ingredients and is the most popular kind on the market. The majority of the ingredients must be organic and no more than 5% may be non-organic ingredients (and these must be found on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances).

Made with Organic Ingredients

This means the food is made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% (including no GMOs). 

It’s important to note that dog foods containing less than 70% organic ingredients may not display organic claims prominently on the front of the packaging but may include them on the side.

What’s the difference between organic dog food and natural dog food?

Organic dog food often gets confused with natural dog food. Natural dog foods are free of artificial additives, like preservatives or coloring and flavoring agents. 

Organic foods are not only free of additives, but are also produced without the aid of pesticides, herbicides, or antibiotics.

Why is organic food good for dogs?

Like humans, dogs can be affected by pesticides and antibiotics, which have been linked to various health issues including diseases and digestive problems. Organic food, free from pesticides and antibiotic exposure, offers a potentially healthier alternative for you and your dog.

Is organic dog food better?

Organic dog food can be a healthy option for your pet but they don’t need to go organic to be a healthy dog. While there may be some benefits in certain nutrients such as antioxidants or fatty acids that organic food contains, there isn’t a huge difference in the health benefits between it and regular dog food.

Dog food that’s formulated according to the AAFCO requirements to be “complete and balanced” already meets your dog’s essential nutrient needs so it is not necessary to go organic to have a healthy dog.

However, organic food contains fewer pesticide residues and can be a more environmentally conscious option, so it depends on what’s important to you and your dog and what you can afford.

Is organic food more expensive?

Organic dog food tends to be more expensive than other dog foods so many pet parents understandably don’t make the switch. If you are wondering why organic dog food is expensive, here are some of the reasons:

  • Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like some conventional farmers
  • Organic farming is more costly than regular farming
  • Organic farms are typically smaller so they’re not able to benefit from the economies of scale enjoyed by larger growers. 3 

​​Ultimately, your dog doesn’t need organic food to be healthy so it’s just the personal preference. You might find the ingredients are suited to your dog and you might not — every dog is unique and the same applies to their diet.

If you’re thinking of trying organic food, we have a list of our top-rated ones here to help you.

Article reviewed by
Laura Ward

Pet Nutritionist

Laura studied BSc (Hons) Animal Science with an accreditation in Nutrition at the University of Nottingham, before working for eight years in the pet food and nutrition industry.

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