California Natural Grain Free Limited Ingredient (Dry)


Rating: ★★★½☆

California Natural Grain Free Limited Ingredient Diet receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3.5 stars.

The California Natural Grain Free Limited Ingredient Diet product line includes 5 dry dog foods.

Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

Important: Because many websites do not reliably specify which Growth or All Life Stages recipes are safe for large breed puppies, we do not include that data in this report. Be sure to check actual packaging for that information.

  • California Natural Grain Free Lamb Meal (3 stars) [M]
  • California Natural Grain Free Chicken Meal (5 stars) [M]
  • California Natural Grain Free Salmon Meal and Peas (4 stars) [A]
  • California Natural Grain Free Venison and Green Lentils (2.5 stars) [M]
  • California Natural Grain Free Kangaroo and Red Lentils (2.5 stars) [M]

California Natural Grain Free Lamb Meal was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

California Natural Grain Free Lamb Meal

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 23% | Fat = 12% | Carbs = 57%

Ingredients: Lamb meal, peas, green lentils, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pea fiber, natural flavors, salt, taurine, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), vitamin E supplement, 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), rosemary extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis21%11%NA
Dry Matter Basis23%12%57%
Calorie Weighted Basis21%27%52%
Protein = 21% | Fat = 27% | Carbs = 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 includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

The third ingredient lists lentils. Lentils are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, both peas and lentils contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

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.

The fifth ingredient is pea fiber, a mixture of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber derived from pea hulls. Aside from the usual benefits of fiber, this agricultural by-product provides no nutritional value to a dog.

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 Grain Free
Limited Ingredient Diet Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, California Natural Grain Free Limited Ingredient Diet looks like an above-average dry product.

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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 23%, a fat level of 12% and estimated carbohydrates of about 56%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 28% and a mean fat level of 12%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 52% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 45%.

Near-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas and lentils, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

California Natural Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of named meats 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.

California Natural Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.

Get free dog food recall alerts sent to you by email. Subscribe to The Advisor’s recall notification list.

Dog Food Coupons
And Discounts

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A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

We rely entirely on the integrity of the information provided by each company. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the specific data a company chooses to share.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

We rely on tips from readers. To report a product change or request an update of any review, please contact us using this form.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

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.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

However, we do receive a fee from for each purchase made as a direct result of a referral from our website. This fee is a fixed dollar amount and has nothing to do with the size of an order or the brand selected for purchase.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

11/17/2017 Last Update

  • disqus_SBl7sCuYS7

    I also had another dog ,years ago, that got into something toxic (I suspect), the young vet wanted to schedule a complete GI workup after labs etc. Labs didn’t show anything abnormal.
    I declined and instead took her to another vet the same day, she gave her a bolus of sub-q fluids, I took her home, the vomiting and diarrhea stopped and she slowly recovered.

  • disqus_SBl7sCuYS7

    I hope your dog is feeling better this morning. It is not unusual for a senior dog’s labs to be a little off. But, the vomiting, diarrhea and poor appetite are concerning, if it continues. It could be an acute attack vs chronic and he’ll spring back (wishful thinking)?
    He may sleep a lot for a few days as he recovers. You have to get some rest and take care of yourself too.
    I hope today goes smoothly for both of you. Let us know what happens…

  • Chrissy

    Our boy is a senior and is 14 years old. It all started with him vomiting up his food – a little during the day, but most of the time he does it hours after his dinner in the middle of the night.

    Before Christmas, we spoke with our vet. She did a lab work up, gave anti-nausea shot, as well as fluids at this time. However, we were not given anything at this time in the way of meds or anything really – she was waiting on the labs.

    When the results came in, she knew we were very worried, but told us not to be too worried because at that time she was not. It came back that he had high inflammatory numbers and his kidney test was slightly off. She set up an appointment for us to have an ultrasound done right after Christmas.

    When he went for his appointment our vet along with another vet were really concerned about the weight he was losing – as were we.
    During the ultrasound – they found his bowels were very swollen and inflamed – they could tell right away he has IBD. Also, they took a look at his lymph nodes and a few other places including kidneys. It was discovered that he is in the very early stages of kidney dis. Also, they checked his urine at this time and that all came back ok.

    I did not know much about IBD until I began researching. Through research, the IBD diagnosis made complete sense to me. The past few years we have discovered he is allergic to many things – a big portion of his allergies come from food. He also has had some skin breakouts off and on – which I believe now it was and is all related.
    Those tests were all done before New Years, so we were told to get him some bland foods and baby food to feed him.
    Then they would be sending us recipes specifically for him. This is when everything has started to take a toll….because the shot of anti-nausea had worn off, he is allergic to many different things (which can aggravate his gut) and he began vomiting again.

    We took him to the ER vet and they were helpful. They gave him the shot again, but this time we were able to get a 5 day supply of anti-nausea pills, told to do 5 mg of pepcid and they gave us a few cans of food to try with him. We are all hoping that he will be able to eat and hold that down. This is where I was surprised they did not give him fluids.

    He is interested in the idea of food, but just not eating enough….finally we tried the syringe feeding and so fat he has held that down.
    If he gets worse or something is not right then we are to immediately bring him back, which we will definitely do.

    I know he is a senior and 14years. However, prior to all of this suddenly happening – he was doing well. He was getting around very well for his age, always alert, always follow us around the house, barks for his food and treats, all of his tests that we have done during his wellness exams (2xs a year) always came back great, etc.
    The only things he had going on before this was his food allergies (which we thought we had them under control) and his skin out breaks off and on.

    All of this just happened so suddenly. Now, they say that his kidney dis has just began – and that this is in the early stages. They were definitely more concerned with the way his bowels looked – told us to try and get that under control first – stabilize him better and then move into the kidney stuff.

    I will definitely be asking more questions about this….and also will not hesitate to take him back to the ER.Vet. All of this happened so suddenly, especially his weight loss – I do not want him getting any worse. I just hope this latest course of treatment will help calm his gut enough to where he can eat and keep it down. I think the anti-nausea meds will help more this time, since we were actually given the 5 day course of treatment to help calm things.

    I really appreciate all of your help and advice – sometimes it is hard to think about certain things….helps a lot!
    I am sorry this is so long (and if I am repetitive at times…I have not slept well at all and am very worried).
    I just thought I would try and explain more of when this all started and what happened more in the beginning.

    I sure hope he turns a corner. I want to thank you for everything….I appreciate all of the advice and suggestions – it helps me a lot and I am always open to them <3

  • disqus_SBl7sCuYS7

    How old is the dog? They may be treating him like he is “care and comfort” (no aggressive treatment).
    However, a bolus of sub-q fluids helps relieve nausea, therefore I don’t think of it as an aggressive treatment.
    Did his lab work come back normal? I don’t understand why they wouldn’t try it…
    Don’t be afraid to call the vet that treated him at the emergency place, leave a message for him to call you back when he has a minute, have your questions written down and ready.

  • Chrissy

    We went ahead and took him this morning. The ER vet gave him another anti nausea shot, but this time gave us a 5 day supply of the same thing in pill form. That is what was NOT done when our vet gave him the shot awhile ago….we were not provided with any medications. The ER vet told us to give the pills for 5 days, also for him to take pepcid and try this specific diet until we get him eating again. He is allergic to a lot of foods, which they said is what is irritating the gut. His IBD is caused from his food allergies, which are extensive. That is what is making it hard to feed him a bland diet – he is allergic to chicken, beef, lamb, all forms of potato, etc – the list is quite long. We will feed this diet until he stabilizes, then we will be consulting with a dietician, as well as someone who can look at his allergies in a more detailed fashion. They did not give him fluids- I was completely shocked by that. They said he was going to the bathroom regularly, so to them it means he is holding the water in….however, if things get any worse to bring him right back at no charge. They said to give the regimen 3 days – if not working, or things continue as is then bring him right back. I am not big on Vet prescribed diets, but at this time whatever it takes to make him turn the corner – once things are going in a better direction for a bit then we can tackle and address that. I thank you so much for the help and assistance. I am definitely going to be monitoring this closely. If things do not seem like they are working, then he goes back asap. I really appreciate the suggestions and advice….it definitely helps a lot! I appreciate everything. We shall see how this works…..<3

  • disqus_SBl7sCuYS7

    Ask the vet for a referral to a specialist, Veterinary Internal Medicine (for best results)
    Bland food, to me, means, boiled chicken, chopped up with a little white rice and a splash of water added, small meals as tolerated. Offer bathroom breaks every 2 hours (if possible)

  • disqus_SBl7sCuYS7

    I’d call the vet, see what he recommends, withholding water could lead to dehydration.

  • Chrissy

    Our senior dog was just diagnosed with IBD….he is having a really hard time keeping anything down. We are to keep him off of food and minimize his water for 24 hrs due to the vomiting. Then, we are to feed bland foods to him, but we have no idea what to feed? Also, he is losing a lot of weight. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated – thank you so much!

  • aquariangt

    Have you checked with a local store? Distributers often can get stock in over an online ordering (I see amazon has a 1-2 month delay on that kangaroo, and chewy and petflow don’t have it at all)

    Petflow has Sojos Vension in stock. Addiction also has some novel proteins. Solid Gold has a new quail recipe, I’m about to email them to see where it’s manufactured.

    What proteins CAN you use? Are Venison and Kangaroo the only ones? What about Pork or Wild Boar, or some non chicken/turkey poultry?

  • Katie Deuschle

    Unfortunately not in stock enough to get it within a week though

  • aquariangt

    Zignature has a new Kangaroo formula

  • Katie Deuschle

    If the kangaroo and venison had more meat content would it be rated higher and is the low analysis amounts the only downfall? I know there is Zwi peak, only natural pet, real meat company, and natural balance with novel proteins but this one was the most novel lower price option (no potatoes like natural balance). We need a novel diet but don’t want to break the bank doing it.

  • Crazy4cats

    Little over halfway through a 30lb bag of the Pork recipe. It is going well. I like the fact that it is lower in fat than the average high protein food. Also, woo Hoo, the second ingredient is peas and my dogs don’t seem to be having a negative reaction to them. A while back, I thought they might have a problem with peas, but I think it was the parasites not the food. Finally got brave enough to try again now that they have been “clean” for a couple of years. California Natural has a few less ingredients than a lot of Kibbles. I like that feature. I also like that it was 30% off on Pet Flow last week. So far, I would feed again, but I’m not to the bottom of the bag yet! Sometimes things go bad after I give a good review!

  • theBCnut

    Does the pork and sweet potato formula belong in this review? Or have I missed it elsewhere?

  • francesca

    Try They have the kangaroo food and a lot of other food as well, plus it ships rather quickly.

  • Rachelle Richards

    I am having the same problem. I had mine on raw for years, but finally tried the kangaroo kibble and they have not had any reactions. And now I can’t find it anywhere 🙁

  • gredmore

    I got a bag of CN Kangaroo from a week or so ago. btw The cost is reasonable and the service is excellent. Our springer had scabs on his body and a continuous ear infection. His ear is clearing up and I can only find one small scab. This is the only food he gets. Any treats are a few pieces of this food. We also put green beans in it. So far, so good.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Good to hear you found something that works. Annamaet is a wonderful company and they have some great foods.

  • Kathi Crawley

    Thanks for the recommendations. Tried both Nature’s Variety and Nature’s Logic – did not work. My little havanese has a sensitive stomach/skin issues and can really only handle limited ingredients in a dog food. I am now feeding her Annamaet Option – three days – skin on belly is looking better and she is not vomiting which are both good signs!!! Thanks again.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    With only 24% protein it’s way lower in protein than anything I’d feed or recommend. If you’re looking for a venison based food I’d recommend Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost with Venison and Lamb or Nature’s Logic Venison. ZiwiPeak also makes a great air-dried venison based food – it’s a bit pricey though.

  • Kathi Crawley

    Would you please take a look at the new venison formula on their website and give me your opinion (grain free venison and green lentil). I was advised by a rep to refer to the nutrient analysis not guaranteed for protein and fat levels. Thanks!

  • Kathi Crawley

    Grain free venison formula has been recently changed – venison and green lentils. I was advised by a rep to look at the nutrient not guaranteed analysis on the website to determine protein, fat, fiber levels. Protein is listed at 24, fat 16, fiber looks low to me. New formula is listed on website. My havanese is allergic to almost everything – chicken, lamb, potato (will not eat anything with sweet potato), most grains. I am having a difficult time finding food for her. She needs to be on a limited ingredient diet – otherwise she vomits. Any thoughts on this new venison formula???

  • jonnny

    Same with my dog. My dog is allergic to everything else. Kangaroo is magical for my dog. I never thought the itching, ear infections, and even intestinal bleeding would go away.

  • jonnny

    Try kangaroo. Either Cal Nat, or Addiction. I tried every dog food out there and my poor dog didnt find relief until I tried kangaroo.

  • jonnny

    My dog has severe allergies and can ONLY eat kangaroo. There are only two options, this and Addiction. Both she has been good on. I strongly recommend kangaroo for anyone who has a dog with allergies. After the recalls tho, its is practically impossible to get California Naturals. Stores refuse to even special order it. CN should not have sold out to an evil big corporation who only cares about money.

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  • Storm’s Mom

    The “pork” part caught my attention, but, you’re right, the fat is far too low for my tastes, too. Bummer. Storm’s getting a pork formula next in the rotation – Wholesome Blend GF Turf Formula – 30% protein, 18% fat…but not sure if Wholesome Blend is available in the US. Been wanting to try him on it for a along time, and it’s now available in my city… can’t wait to see how he does on it!! Hopefully it’ll be the pork option in the rotation!!

  • Hound Dog Mom

    There’s a new pork formula that’s been added to the California Natural grain-free line up. While it is legume-heavy and much too low in fat for my tastes (11%), with 30% protein is does look better than most of the other formulas in the line.

  • Georgiapeach

    Thanks so much for the info!

  • agilitydogs

    PetfoodDirect website says they have
    4 bags of CN Grain Free Salmon Meal and Peas.

  • Georgiapeach

    I’ll look at it, thanks. I’m currently trying NB Legume and Duck Meal, mixed in with the Back to Basics High Protein Pork. So far, so good with a 50-50 mix. I’m not really a NB fan, due to its low protein but it’s only part of a rotation, not the only kibble I’ll be feeding. I’d like to have 3-4 kibbles that Maddie can eat, both for balance sake and also in case of these blasted recalls.

  • Storm’s Mom

    Take a look at Zignature Turkey…looks like it would fit the bill! (the other Zignature varietites have alfafa, but the Turkey doesn’t) I don’t know the answer to your CN question, unfortunately.. I think it’s back in the stores here in Canada, though…

  • Georgiapeach

    $ – bottom line. I like the CN Grain Free Salmon Meal and Peas – decent protein; extremely LID formula, which my westie mix needs.

  • Georgiapeach

    When is CN coming back on the market? I really need the CN Grain Free Salmon Meal and Peas! I finally found another kibble to rotate with it (Back to Basics High Protein Pork), but I want at least 2 kibbles to rotate. It’s very hard to find a kibble w/out grains, potatoes, alfalfa in any form, eggs, rosemary, or any type of chicken product.

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  • Hound Dog Mom

    Have you tried any of Addiction’s foods? They have a kangaroo kibble and a dehydrated kangaroo food. They also have some other novel protein based foods like brushtail and venison.

  • doglover in ohio

    Our Dane has been through almost every food on the market. California natural kangaroo has been the only food he has been able to eat in six years. I need it to come back, badly!!!! We already in one and a half months have a double ear infection, green stuff oozing from his penis, a cyst has developed on his front paw that is now the size of a half golf ball and his breath smells like rotting flesh again.. please please please hurry up and bring kangaroo back. When I go to pet stores, there are many people needing this food. Our dogs are suffering…… A huge 5 on the scale from me….. Ohio

  • Cindy

    Great that you have adopted a dog! Have you tried Horizon Pulsar; excellent for allergies. Addiction dog food makes also a version with Kangaroo and I find it excellent. Another option is Ziwipeak venison. I give my dogs also fresh frozen foods such as Northwest Natural Lamb, Primal or Darwins. No licking paws on these foods either.

  • Connie

    My Sunny was about seven when I adopted him. He was very sensitive about being petted and was always licking his feet. It took me a while to realize it was food allergies. Over the last five years I’ve tried a lot of different foods. Some made a little difference, but nothing dramatic until I tried the Kangaroo and red lentil. He was honestly like a different dog — happy, playful, and completely relaxed about me petting him. And he very seldom licked his feet. I’m trying to make him something with similar ingredients (no Kangaroo, of course), but I’m really missing that food.

  • Storm’s Mom

    What’s your guy allergic to?

  • Debbie18

    The Kangaroo and Red Lentils is the ONLY food I have found that my allergy boy can tolerate. He does GREAT on it. I hope it comes back on the market very quickly or we are in trouble! It should have 5 stars and not the 2.5. We have tried all kinds of raw feeding and at least 15 other kibbles.

  • MO

    Our Goldens have struggled with allergies- both environmental and food-based. After years of trying top-notch foods, finally found Kangaroo and Lentils–the ONLY food that has ever made a noticeable difference to them. No gas, no diarrhea, lessened ear issues, no itching and no biting themselves. Can’t wait for the kangaroo & lentils to get back on the shelves because the goldens are suffering yet again, after having to switch due to the recall!! (Tried the only other Kangaroo formula on the market by a competitor, but they refuse to eat it…the only time that’s EVER happened. Have to add yet another brand to get them to eat.) Hope the CN version is back in stock very soon!

  • Pattyvaughn

    Some one or another says that about every breed. If they are prone to liver shunts or fatal kidney disease at an early age then it might be true, but they aren’t, so it’s not. But I’m glad with all your little girls problems, you found a food that works for her. That’s what is most important.

  • Georgiapeach

    Chicken allergy is common among kibble fed dogs. Have you tried a potato free kibble? My westie mix can’t tolerate grains or potatoes. Maybe try California Natural Grain Free Salmon and Peas. It’s the only thing my dog can tolerate. Also, did you switch cold turkey? That may have upset their stomachs if you did.

  • Georgiapeach

    I have a westie mix, and she too, is allergic to nearly everything. I’ve found that she’s allergic to all grains, potatoes, grass, and any grass eating protein source. Most kibbles have at least one of these things in it (including alfalfa in many kibbles). I was thankful to finally find California Natural Salmon and Peas. It’s the only food Maddie can tolerate. I have read that westies do better on a lower protein kibble.

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  • That’s funny, because Dr. Mike does talk about the main ingredients in each food. It doesn’t sound like he’s the problem here.

  • InkedMarie

    Diana, I hope you realize that Dr. Mike, the administrator and reviewer of this site, does this voluntarily. He does not have enough time to possibly review every formula of food

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Diana –

    The chicken formula has 34% protein and 12% fat while the kangaroo formula has 21% protein and 11% fat. The chicken formula is high in meat, with the kangaroo formula you’re just paying for a bag of lentils and peas. You’ll notice a lot of brands do this. When they’re using cheaper proteins such as chicken they’ll include more meat and when they use more expensive, novel proteins they’ll pump the food up with cheap fillers.

  • Diana Williams

    Why does kangaroo have 3 stars and chicken 5? each formula needs a breakdown. some of these have potatoe and some dont. cal nat kanagroo is excellent. its low protein low glycemic and has no potatoe.

  • I have a west highland terrier who scratched and scratched. I started him on the venison formula due to the lower protein content (didn’t want stomach issues) and the scratching has completely stopped, no meds, no special shampoo no nothing. And he actually eats it and likes it. This dog food is a God send thanks California Naturals you are a life saver.

  • Shawna

    Hi Mochawirl09 ~~ as the owner of 8 toy and small breed dogs I can tell you that Hound Dog Mom is absolutely correct. Small dogs have the very exact same nutritional need for protein as does large breed dogs. My dogs range in size from a 5 pound Chihuahua to a 14 pound Papillon mix. They all eat raw diet which, depending on what I am feeding, ranges in protein from 45 to 54%. This is significantly higher than most kibbles.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Mochawirl09 –

    Small dogs do not require less protein than large dogs – this is a common myth. All dogs are the same species and, regardless of size, have the same basic nutritional requirements. Most healthy dogs will thrive on a diet high in protein, moderate in fat and low in carbohydrates. I’d suspect it wasn’t the protein levels in the chicken and the lamb that caused the issues, it was probably the protein itself. Many dogs are developing sensitivities to commonly used proteins (chicken, beef, lamb, etc.) so this would explain why your dog did well on the foods with novel protein sources (kangaroo and venison) but not on the others. If I were you I’d try a different brand that offers a grain-free food with a novel protein that’s higher in protein – Nature’s Variety has some good options.

  • Storm’s Mom

    The lamb actually has the same protein level as the venison and kangaroo, so that wouldn’t be why the lamb wasn’t agreeing with your dog. The protein level for all 3 three is EXTREMELY LOW, among the lowest of any dry dog food available, actually. The chicken has significantly higher levels of protein, but even that is at a level I would describe as “moderate” or “normal”… not high.

  • Mochawirl09

    Having read this, now I know why my Cocker Spaniel did not do well on the chicken or lamb,it had to do with the protein amount,she can not handle that amount of protein and fat. She has done well on the Venison and Kangaroo which is lower in protein and fat. Sooo…having lower fat and protein doesn’t neccessarily make it an infearier product. Whats good for one dog may not be good for another,most bigger dogs would obviously do better on more protein,but most, smaller dogs don’t need it. And it all depends on how well each dog can metabilize it’s food.

  • Prelovskymichal

    Hi, im new in this and i have a bulldog too and he has been scratching a lot lately and also his coat is not what it was before so i just started doing research about dog food, when i got him he was on health extension, in few months i started giving him orijen because it was suggested by my friends, it didnt work for him, he had diarhea so i mix pumpkin and that helped but it didnt get better so i put him on acana which is made by same company just less protein and then he seemed fine but in couple months he started having skin issues and then the scratching started and now he even has red spots i think its hot spots, i dont want to go to vet because all they gonna do is give injection
    now i started with taste of wild because is grain free as im thinking that he has allergies but i also started doing research and im reading about all the recalls so im not happy about feeding him taste of wild either and i dont know which food should i pick next.
    if you have any suggestions id appreciate it
    i dont think i have enough time for raw diet 

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Kristen W. –

    It appears to me that the higher the cost of the meat source, the less that is used in the formula. Chicken is the cheapest meat, so that formula is high in protein. The more novel proteins, such as kangaroo and venison, which are expensive are lower in protein and contain less meat. This is done to keep the manufacturer’s costs down.

  • Kristen W.

    Why are some of the proteins so low in protein?  I was considering switching my dogs to this food, but I would like to be able to rotate between the proteins and I look for a protein content of at least 26%.  So why is there such a huge difference between the varieties?

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Meghanm4 –

    Most of the California Natural grain-free foods are way too low in protein and fat to feed to a puppy. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t even consider feeding most of them to an adult dog. Their salmon formula (29% protein) is reasonable and the chicken is pretty good (36%) but the venison (21%), kangaroo (22%) and lamb (25%) are just too low. There are much better grain-free foods out there – check out Dr. Mike’s list of best grain-free foods. I’d recommend picking one out with at least 30% protein. If you have a large breed puppy make sure you pick a food with 1.3% calcium or less and feed it until the pup is about 3/4 of its adult weight as excess calcium can cause growth issues in large/giant breed puppies.

  • Meghanm4

    I just called to ask about feeding these foods to my puppy and to my surprise, the lady told me that California Natural Grain Free salmon was the only kind that would be okay for a puppy.  I asked about Lamb, venison etc and she said only salmon for large breeds until they turn 2.  Has anyone else heard of this, and have any idea why??  Thanks!

  • LabsRawesome

     Hi ashlee, for the diarrhea, you can give pumpkin, NOT the pie filling. Without knowing what they are allergic to, it’s kinda hard to choose a food to recommend. If you can afford to, I would suggest a finding a food that is grain and potato free. Brotherscompletedogfood  is a good one.

  • ashlee

     My two golden’s have allergies and I have been using the California Natural but it doesn’t seem to help. I’m not so sure that it is a food allergy. We just switched them to the grain free chicken from the venison and they have had terrible diarrhea since Thursday that won’t stop…any suggestions??

  • There are many brands to chose from to “get away from Diamond”.  Merrick, Merrick Whole Earth Farms (economy brand 30lb/$40), Earthborn Holistic, Back to Basics, Blue Buffalo, Great Life, Dogswell, Holistic Select, Acana, even Petsmart’s Simply Nourish, Nutrisource, Precise Holistic.

    I think he would get more nutrition out of a more varied diet that is animal based with various meat sources and animal based fats, and not so much grains or other plant matter.  Animal-based proteins have complete amino acids, the building blocks of life, where as you need to feed various plant matter to get the complete amino acids.

  • Kaw5885

    I’m not sure if I would do the regular CN or the grain free, but I would rotate through the different proteins either way.  The grain free looks good, but I don’t know if it’s necessary for my dog, because he’s just fine with rice.  The only thing is that 21% protein does seem a little low.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Kaw5885 –

    “Limited Ingredient” diets are generally grain-free and contain only one protein source. Limited ingredient diets benefit dogs with allergies but can be fed to any dog. In my opinion, grain-free and single protein diets are beneficial for all dogs. Grains are unhealthy and unnecessary for dogs and feeding a dog only one protein per meal and rotating protein sources every so often helps prevent dogs without allergies from developing them. My dogs don’t have allergies and they all eat a grain-free diet and only one protein per meal and rotate protein sources daily (I make their food). My only issue with most “Limited Ingredient” kibbles (including California Natural’s grain-free/limited ingredient line) are that they are way too low in protein.

  • InkedMarie

    No, it’s for any dog. There are many different varieties of Calif Natural….what one are you looking at?

  • Kaw5885

    Is California Natural intended ONLY for dogs with allergies?  I’m looking for a new food for my dog, and it was recommended to me that I go with a Natura product to get away from Diamond.  I like the look and price of California Natural better than EVO or Innova.  Is there any reason not to feed my dog this food since he doesn’t have allergies?  Is limited ingredients harmful in any way?  Would he be missing out on anything nutritional?

  • steve

    Glad you girl is better. We have two Papillon boys in the house and they were experiencing the same type of allergies as your girl. We started them on the Kangaroo also, no more chewing or itching or allergies for that matter. I think we will rotate between the kangaroo and maybe salmon or lamb every three month’s for a little variety and see what happens.

  • Pingback: Why should you choose dog food without corn. Tips how to choose, dog food without corn, and a healthy diet. | dogfoodwithoutcorn101.Your resources on dogfoodwithoutcorn()

  • I would never trust that site, as it recommends corn for dogs.

  • BryanV21

    I sent an email to Natura, makers of California Natural, regarding the diarrhea issue. This was the reply I got…

    Dear Bryan,
    you for contacting Natura Pet Products. We have not had any recalls on
    any our products or any similar issues reported to us regarding our
    California Natural Products. To better investigate the issues you have
    heard about regarding these foods please have your customers contact us
    directly if their pets are experiencing issues while consuming our foods
    so that we may better address these concerns or issues.
    If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact me at your convenience.
    Best Regards,
    Natura Product Advisor
    Licensed Veterinary Technician
    (800) 532-7261
    [email protected]

  • Quickenings02

    hey everyone, not a great fan of cali naturals but my one girl has mad mad food allergies ,Everything including dry and raw caused an ear and chewing reaction. Then with alittle help through dog food advisor I found Kangaroo and red lental formula she hasn’t scratched or shook her head for 3 weeks. Her reactions start usually right away. Lets keep our fingers crossed it works in time.

  • It only has 23% protein (dry matter) which is rather below average.  The other 2 ranked higher have 31% and 38%.

  • Dostana

    Why is the venison formula rated at only 3 star?

  • Pingback: grain free dog food reviews | All About Pets()

  • doggonefedup

     Okay, I’ll check into Brothers. I keep kibble in the mix always. I rotate through several brands so if one is missing something it should be covered by another one. I prefer to keep the carb count low and the fat below 50% of the protein level with my E.P.I.  dog.

  • Toxed2loss

    Richard Darlington, or Pierre at the Doggie Store will send you a free sample. Everything I’ve learned about Richard, his product and processes makes Brother’s Complete Fish Formula my top pick, for kibble. I prefer balanced raw, but can’t always manage it, and my husband won’t feed raw (convenience). so, I keep a kibble in the rotation. Just sayin’ you might want to check it out. :-}

  • doggonefedup

     no haven’t tried Brothers. I’m kinda stuck on physically touching the product and reading etc as opposed to mail order.

  • Toxed2loss

    O.k. I know you’ll be monitoring them closely, so let me know how they do? Have you tried Brother’s Complete, yet?

  • doggonefedup

    this computer is just so slow tonight. I just started a new bag of TOTW a few days ago and the boys seem to have that stinky butt thing starting. So no more TOTW. My food store just got Orijen in and should get Acana next week. I think I’m going to use them in place of TOTW.

  • Toxed2loss

    Yes, we do live and learn. Thank you for sharing. So sorry you lost Blitz to cancer. 🙁

  • doggonefedup

     “Artemisinin has a peroxide lactone group”  this was or appears to be part of the paper that Henry C. Lai, Research Professor did several years ago. That is were I found out about it. I was following his instrucions and keeping him updated on the entire process. That was with my GSD Blitz.

  • doggonefedup

     I learned about Artemisinin in 2008. And it was working. It slowed the progress and pretty much killed a lot of the surface cancer tumors. If I were more knowledged on what I was doing at the time I probably would have had much better results…Live and learn. I just regret I wasn’t able to save him.

  • Toxed2loss

    Hi doggone,
    Here’s what wiki had on artemisinin a synthesized derivative of wormwood. It is facinating that it creates “rust!”

    “Artemisinin is undergoing early research and testing for the treatment of cancer.[23][24] Chinese scientists have shown artemisinin has significant anticancer effects against human hepatoma cells.[25] Artemisinin has a peroxide lactone group in its structure, and it is thought that when the peroxide comes into contact with high iron concentrations (common in cancerous cells), the molecule becomes unstable and releases reactive oxygen species. It has been shown to reduce angiogenesis and the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor in some tissue cultures. Recent pharmacological evidence demonstrates the artemisinin-derivative dihydroartemisinin targets human metastatic melanoma cells with induction of NOXA (phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate-induced protein 1)-dependent mitochondrial apoptosis that occurs downstream of iron-dependent generation of cytotoxic oxidative stress.[26]”

  • doggonefedup

     Shawna Thank you, I’m always looking to learn.

  • Toxed2loss

    Hey doggone,
    Interesting info. I took a quick peek, and while the iron plays a role, sugar does too. I’m also aware of Research that highlights the anti angiogenesis factor. Cancer is SO complicated. Since the human body is so very complex, a lot can go wrong. I found an article on cancer & iron and a couple of interesting iron based treatments that I thought might be of interest to you… I’ll get back to you on the malaria drug.

    Eur J Cancer Prev. 1996 Feb;5(1):19-36.
    The role of iron in cancer.
    Weinberg ED.
    Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington 47405, USA.
    Numerous laboratory and clinical investigations over the past few decades have observed that one of the dangers of iron is its ability to favour neoplastic cell growth. The metal is carcinogenic due to its catalytic effect on the formation of hydroxyl radicals, suppression of the activity of host defence cells and promotion of cancer cell multiplication. In both animals and humans, primary neoplasms develop at body sites of excessive iron deposits. The invaded host attempts to withhold iron from the cancer cells via sequestration of the metal in newly formed ferritin. The host also endeavours to withdraw the metal from cancer cells via macrophage synthesis of nitric oxide. Quantitative evaluation of body iron and of iron-withholding proteins has prognostic value in cancer patients. Procedures associated with lowering host iron intake and inducing host cell iron efflux can assist in prevention and management of neoplastic diseases. Pharmaceutical methods for depriving neoplastic cells of iron are being developed in experimental and clinical protocols.

    “UGA scientists kill cancers with iron oxide
    By LEE SHEARERpublished Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    University of Georgia scientists have found a new weapon in the war against cancer — iron oxide, or rust.
    The iron oxide that physics professor Qun Zhao uses is not ordinary rust, but nanoparticles, extremely tiny bits with a diameter measured in billionths of a meter.
    To find out if the treatment would work, Zhao used a needle to inject about a tenth of a teaspoon of a solution containing the nanoparticles into cancerous tumor cells in mice.
    The researchers then put anesthetized mice one at a time into a plastic tube wrapped with a wire coil.
    The electrified coil generated a magnetic field that alternated directions 100,000 times per second, heating up the nanoparticles.
    The superheated nanoparticles killed the cancer cells within half an hour, but left nearby healthy cells intact, Zhao found when he examined the mice after the nanoparticle treatment.
    Xhao and his fellow researchers published their findings in the journal Theranostics.
    Doctors have been using heat as a medical treatment for years, Zhao said.
    But the promise of the nanoparticle rust is that doctors may be able to better target cancer cells without harming healthy cells, he said…”

    Iron-Regulating Protein Could Help Battle Breast Cancer
    Ferroportin predicts likelihood of breast cancer recurrence

    Last updated on: August 04, 2010 8:00 PM

    Almost all cells need iron to grow. Now, researchers have identified a link between the body’s system for regulating iron and breast cancer. The discovery could help doctors predict the course of breast cancer disease and even help them decide the most appropriate treatment. 

    Iron is a vital nutrient, but too much iron can be harmful. Researchers at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, looked at a certain protein that regulates iron and studied the amount of it in breast cancer cells.

    “And what we found is that a protein called ferroportin that removes iron from cells, that eliminates iron from cells, was markedly reduced in breast cancers when compared to normal breast cells. And in fact was most reduced in the most aggressive breast cancers,” said Frank Torti, who led the research team. 

    They found that ferroportin levels were a good predictor of the course of the cancer, specifically whether breast cancer survivors would have a recurrence of the disease.

  • doggonefedup

    his research showed a direct link to iron. cancer cells would actually absorb iron directly from the blood supply. I’m not a medical person (I’m an electrical engineer) but I was getting positive results following professor Lai’s instructions.

  • Shawna

    I’m so sorry!!!  Not that it will help now but you might be interested in Dr. William Li’s video on anti-angiogenesis??  It’s about a half hour long but excellent information..

  • Shawna

    Hmmm, should have read through all the posts before I replied :)..  From your reference I was able to find the below link but want to do a LOT more research..  I am chronically low in iron so……. :)..  Naw, just a pipe dream..  If one thing doesn’t get ya, another probably will 🙂

    Have a great night!!  I’m headin home…

  • doggonefedup

     sorry no, I had a GSD with cancer and was directed by Henry C. Lai, Research Professor on how to work on curing it. The artemisinin was working great but a surface tumor started to get infected and there were complications.

  • Shawna

    Doggonefedup ~~ I’m going to have to research the iron aspect of cancer..  I have never heard that..  Do you have any starting points you could share? 🙂

    I do believe sugar does play a big role..  The following link has MANY quotes and links to research papers suggesting sugar is a problem

    Curious, are you familiar with apoptosis and angiogenesis and their connection to cancer?

  • Shawna

    I’m sorry, I had one more thought on this and then I HAVE to go home for the night.  Hubby had dinner made two hours ago 🙂  Oops!!!!

    Cows, fed the diets they are intended to eat (aka grass) are naturally leaner then grain fed cattle..  Maybe if kangaroos ate corn and soy they would have fatty meat as well..

    Per nutrition data grass finished beef has 4 grams of fat per ounce with 1 of that being saturated fat.

    Grain finished cattle, unless the fat is skimmed off” have 8 grams of fat per ounce with 3 of that being saturated.  They also have a higher omega 6 to 3 ratio.

    Grass fed

    Grain fed (fat not removed)

  • doggonefedup

     It took a few minutes to find it but here is the person that authored to paper that I got my information from.
    I can’t find the actual paper since it was from 2008.

    Henry C. Lai, Research Professor
    PhD (psychology), University of Washington, 1978

    Research Themes: 
    Molecular and Cellular Engineering

    Research: Biological effects of electromagnetic fields; cancer treatment using artemisinin
    and synthetic compounds
    Office: Foege N251A • Box 355061
    Contact: (206) 543-1071 • email

  • Shawna

    LOL LA!!  You make me laugh too!!  I really liked your previous post (the one right before this)..  Very nice!!  Couldn’t agree more with everything you said!!

  • doggonefedup

    cancer cells feed on iron. Extensive research was done on that very subject and the malaria drug Artimisinin was found to bind to iron and effectively “burn-out” the cancer cell before it could multiply.

  • LA

    If you are thinking of doing raw this is a pretty good website with Faqs

  • LA


    You go girl – you make me laugh –  I can not believe VETTECH&PETSTOREMANAGER called the owners that want Higher Protein Anal ! Wow – then I must be one of those anal people and I don’t have dogs that are working dogs,  in fact they are the opposite –  I call them my second husband cause that is how they act – they sleep, eat, snore , fart and watch TV they are Bulldogs!  And when I feed raw they were more lively, clear eyes and a full coat.   I questioned my vet about protein and kidney problems and he said not to worry as current studies show high protein does not cause kidney failure or problems.   Also if yourself ever had surgery or you are getting cancer treatment the one thing they will tell you to do is up your protein as it helps in healing.

    So all I can say –  is this from one anal person to another anal person Vet Tech Store Manager.

  • LA

    Grains are not a natural food for dogs. It
    is not something they would eat in the wild. I don’t is it just me but I never came across Peas and lentils in the wild.  Those grains they would have access
    to would be in small quantities eaten from the stomachs of prey animals who had
    (in the right season) eaten some grasses that had seeded. These grains would
    also not look like our modern grains – more like wild rice (check it out at the
    supermarket and compare to domestic types).

    Grains are also full of carbohydrates which
    can be easily converted to sugars. Cancer cells feed on sugars and it is
    believed that by decreasing the amount of carbohydrate in the diet, we may
    greatly reduce the risk of cancer (which is a growing problem among modern

    Grains are not a natural food
    for dogs; dogs do not, in fact, need carbohydrates; carbohydrates are easily
    converted into sugars which feed cancer. Remove the carbs and the cancer has
    less/nothing to feed on; and grains are one of the major causes of allergies in
    dogs, and can also cause flatulence (gas..PHEW!!!)!.

    I am very lucky my Vet who is a personal friend believes in Raw feeding and never recommends Hills Diet – his office doesnt even have it. 

  • Shawna

    This is from Purina’s website..  Please note the “nutritional requirement of carbohydates” in dogs.

    “Dogs have different nutritional needs from humans and cats. Dogs are classified
    as omnivores and although they don’t have a necessary requirement for
    carbohydrates in their diet, they are an important source of energy and
    contribute greatly to overall gut health.”

    Dogs may be classified as omnivores for the benefit of pet food manufacturers — but I would have to assume, in the real world, that any omnivore would have at least some carbohydrate requirement??

    ASPCA “While there is no minimum carbohydrate requirement, there is a minimum glucose requirement necessary to supply energy to critical organs (i.e. the brain).”

    Glucose can very efficiently be derived from fat.

    Quoted right here from an article on DFA.  “You see, according to the National Research Council and compared to the other two major nutrients — protein and fat — no carbs are considered essential for a healthy canine diet.1”

  • Shawna

    Vettech ~~ have you been introduced to the term biological value?

    A protein is only as good as the amino acids in it that are utilizable by the body..  Plant based protein will ALWAYS have a lower BV then “quality” meat based proteins.

  • Shawna

    Again I have to laugh…  Sled dogs require higher protein but it is FAT in their diet that is their fuel.. 

    From “Mushing” magazine
    “From these studies we found that dogs trained on high fat diets were able to generate more power from fat than dogs fed a high carbohydrate diet.”,,8,620

  • Toxed2loss

    FYI The B.A.R.F. (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) diet,which was developed by a nutritional vet. Have you actually looked into it, or are you against it because if more people fed it,it would mean a drop in sales? You do get that it was developed to be appropriate to the specific biology of domesticated dogs, right? Look it up.

    Then you seem to be under the impression there are Fundamental differences in dog digestion to that of the wolf. There aren’t.

    You said, “raw diets expose your pets to the possibility of bone splinters, foreign bodies, salmonella, Protozoa, etc.” I’m sorry but bone splinters are far more likely in cooked bones… Something raw feeders don’t do, all dogs are at the same risk for ingesting “forgein bodies” regardless of what they’re fed, and salmonella, e. cola & Protozoa are all found in healthy dogs, and their levels are regulated by a healthy immune system.

    As for nutritional deficiencies the research shows that grain and carb rich protein sources are less bio available, less nutrient dense and have an incomplete nutrient panel as compared to animal protein based diets. Of course raw feeders add “supplements.” The B.A.R.F. Model calls for complete and balanced nutrition? Just like all responsible pet owners, we’re making every effort to provide the best we can afford to our pet, to the best of our understanding. Kibbles supposed to be full of supplements too. So it’s kind of ineffectual to use that as an argument.

    Shawna more than adequately covered the kD.

    Cross contamination due to ‘all those rotting meats from several unknown, & different sources’ (to paraphrase you)…

    Huh? I’m sorry, that’s the description of large scale dog food manufacturing plants. Have you seen the research from the FDA, on behalf of the AVMA, about phenobarbitol in pet food, or Dr. Mike’s article on what’s really in Dog & cats food?

    As for not knowing where the raw meat comes from, that’s silly. I raise, butcher and package my own. Most of the raw feeders are as aware as I am. They aren’t feeding the trash that’s in a lot of dog foods. They’re buying human grade, past due meat… Not road kill or rotten stuff. We feed raw & balanced because we think nutrition is important. We are also not a bunch of slobs, living in swill. I feed my dogs the same meat that I eat. I clean up after feeding the same way I clean up after cooking. You make it sound like we’re dirty. That we don’t clean knives, cutting boards, surfaces and bowls. O wait. I clean up after every meal, manufacturers clean after so many batches… Hmmm which is cleaner?

    Now here’s the part that I just love… You have your own personal colonies of salmonella and e. Coli already in residence. So, you could infect your own dog and any other kids, dogs at the dog park, or your store! by improper bathroom hygiene…

    If all those alleged safety regulations and “testing” worked the Diamond recalls wouldn’t have happened. And we didn’t kniw about it in time to save thousands of sick dogs or hundreds of dogs that died. That proves the system you are relying on doesn’t work.

    You are entitled to your opinion, but I would caution others against believing it.

  • LabsRawesome



    just to add that dogs are omnivors…. and there is nothing wrong with added high quality and bioavalable protein by peas and lentils.


    Kangaroo is a lean red meat. Think: ANIMAL THAT CONSTANTLY  JUMPS THROUGH RUGGED OUTBACK. This animal is pure muscle….next to nadda for fat content much like venison. People say there is little meat, but really the meat itself is very very lean. If she is worried about feeding a house dog more protein she shouldn’t, very high protein levels should be saved for canine athletes. Maybe turkey or fish might be a better option to rise that protein level just a bit.

  • hounddogmom12


    I agree with Shawna. In fact, there was a study done at the University of Georgia in the 1990s that demonstrated that feeding protein levels of 34 percent to dogs with chronic kidney failure and dogs with only one kidney had no ill effects. The same study proved the mortality rate was greater for the dogs fed 18% protein than for the ones fed 34% protein. When the study was done with dogs with only one kidney it showed that protein levels up to 44% had no harmful effect on the remaining kidney. (Cited from The Whole Dog Journal).


    High protein diets have been formulated for working dogs. Because its these anal owners who cried for different foods. Yes they are much better for dogs that are highly active, burning alot of calories and using their muscles. Dogs that do search and rescue, sled pulling, policing, herding, agility, etc Thrive on these high protein diets. GO WITH WHAT YOUR VET SAYS.  Your average house dog does just fine on 18-22% protein.

  • Shawna

    Ohhhh Labs!!!!  You just made me cry!!!  THANK YOU!!!!

    Truth be known — I need Audrey just as much as she needs me :)..  She has TOTALLY and irrevocably taught me exactly how beneficial raw food can be..  I knew it before she came into my life but now……….she has taken it to a whole new level :).

    PS — I noticed you mentioned that you are now feeding grain free kibble!! Two thumbs WAY UP :)…

  • Shawna

    You wrote “ONCE YOUR DOG GETS SALMONELLA (whether they show signs of bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever etc or not) they are a carrier for life. Infecting YOU, YOUR KIDS, YOUR OTHER PETS, and even those unknowing pets and owners at the doggy park or day care.”

    Since many “kibbles” have been recalled due to salmonella contamination — are you suggesting that dogs not eat at all as they might acquire salmonella and pass it on to family members?

    The current salmonella recall is with a variety of kibbled foods not a raw food after all..

  • LabsRawesome

     Shawna, your little Audrey is so lucky to have you. If she was adopted by most other people, that might take a vets advice and put her on KD she would probably passed away a long time ago. I’ve heard you get the dog you need, in your case I think you got the dog that needed you.  🙂

  • Shawna

    I also find it amusing that you would link higher protein diets to issues in large breeds as they have now debunked protein as the cause.  It is actually excessive calcium and over feeding of ANY food — not high protein :)..

    They have also known (through science) that dogs with kidney disease actually need MORE protein then healthy adult dogs.. 

    Here’s a couple examples of the science

    “Kidney Failure from the Iams nutrition symposium “’For years, physicians and veterinarians have treated renal failure by reducing protein levels in diets,’ said Gregory Reinhart PhD, an Iams researcher. ‘After working with leading universities, we have now found that restricting protein in a dog’s diet may do more harm than good by potentially putting the companion animal at risk of protein malnutrition.’”

    Protein Restriction and Kidney Disease Extracts from Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy XII, with links to a number of abstracts “In perhaps the most noted clinical trial examining effects of high protein diet on progression of CRD, groups of dogs diagnosed with CRD were fed either high protein diets or low protein diets. No significant difference was observed in the rate of progression of CRD in the high-protein group compared to the low protein group. Therefore, excess protein in the diet did not appear to compromise renal function even in the presence of high endogenous levels of protein associated with the disease. In fact, on an individual basis some of the CRD dogs in the high protein diet group faired better. This finding was postulated to be associated with the fact that protein is required for cellular repair and function.”

  • Shawna

    OMGosh!!!  I LOVE that you mention protein and kd.. 🙂

    As a matter of fact, I would and DO feed a dog with kidney disease a high protein and RAW diet :)..  My pup, pictured in my avatar, has congenital kidney disease.  She showed polyuria and polydipsia at just 6 weeks of age and was officially diagnosed at her one year checkup with chronic kd. 

    She has been on a HIGH protein raw diet since weaning.  She turns 6 on the 30th of this month — let me repeat that — she will be 6 years old.  She has never had even one sub q fluid, she is not on any pharmaceuticals she actually doesn’t even go in to the vet except to get blood drawn.  She doesn’t get ill… 

    By the way — my vet didn’t test her for kd earlier because per my vet “her coat is beautiful and her eyes are bright, puppies drink more and therefore urinate more”.  That is why the official diagnosis didn’t happen before her 1 year checkup.. 

    PS — six years with living with kd (and five years after diagnosis) she still only exhibits polyuria and polydipsia.  No other symptoms..  She does get nutraceuticals and extra whole food vitmains on top of her “complete and balanced” commercially prepared raw diet however.

    Also she has been exposed to (via my foster dogs) giardia, kennel cough, coccidia, whip worm, round worm, ring worm and probably things I am not even aware of and has never required veterinary intervention for any of it..  She either doesn’t get sick or her immune system kicks in with just a little at home support.. 

    Yep, I’ll keep feeding raw…

    PS — I was hired by a local dog food store to teach nutrition classes to their patrons. I’ve been doing the classes for over two years now. I also do consultations for that store owner as well as another store owner in my local area.


    Interesting since Raw food diets also known as BARF diets (for good reason) are actually harmful to your domesticated and pampered pooch. Although wild ancestors ate raw meat, most of our domesticated dogs are a far cry from the wild… and their digestive systems as well. Raw diets expose your pets to the possibility of bone splinters, foreign bodies, salmonella, protozoa etc. Not to mention nutritionally inadequate since you have to add additional vitamins/nutrients/minerals etc to make it balanced for growth and maintenance. Which also risks your pet to nutritional imbalances which can even be deadly. Yes there is such a thing as too much as well as too little. You wouldn’t feed a dog with kidney problems high protein… even puppies should have slightly less protein (you dont want a large breed puppy to grow too fast with protein as it will risk him to joint disease.)Raw food is so risky for your pet.  Actually, Raw diets are considered a public safety hazard. Why? Because regardless if the meat you feed is ‘human grade’ or not, the meats are coming from unregulated sources or shotty at best. These companies are small and therefore cannot do the necessary quality testing that name brand foods can. No scientists or veterinarians on those payrolls…. I wish there was. The sad thing is that all of these Raw meats are handled near other raw meats and bacteria and harmful or even zoonotic protozoa can easily accumulate. ONCE YOUR DOG GETS SALMONELLA (whether they show signs of bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever etc or not) they are a carrier for life. Infecting YOU, YOUR KIDS, YOUR OTHER PETS, and even those unknowing pets and owners at the doggy park or day care. I say stick with what works, and everyone has an opinion. If your dogs are fine as many would be on random chunks of meat from god knows where, then keep them on that. I for one want as much testing and regulations for safety and nutritional completeness that PROVE the food is A1.  At least if there is an outbreak of salmonella at a manufacturing plant… we will know about it and it will be heavily documented and righted.

  • Hi Stevfontenot,

    Pea fiber is a mixture of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber derived from pea hulls. And it surely isn’t something that should be considered toxic or dangerous in any way.

    Just the same, aside from the usual benefits of fiber, this agricultural by-product provides no real nutritional value to a dog.

    For this reason, some object to its use. And so I’ve only recently tagged it as a red flag item.

    More current reviews mention this. And future updates to my reports should reflect this expanded description of this ingredient.

    What’s more, due to a glitch (adding an extra space) in the way pea fiber in California Natural Grain Free was originally entered in my database, this recipe got by the watchful eye of my red flag software. But obviously not by yours!

    So, it’s now been fixed.

    Thank you so much for catching that longstanding error. I truly appreciate the tip.

  • LabsRawesome
  • Stevefontenot


    Why is pea fiber not a “controversial” ingredient in Cal Natural but you have it listed as one in the Orijen line of foods?

    Also, why is it controversial if it is?


  •  I spoke with Nurta Foods (which is now a division on P&G) and they stated that Innova is the food to use if you want mineral boosters and probiotics and California Natural is a food for those who don’t want to feed that. It seems like they are hitting two different customer bases with Innova & California Natural. CN is just a good basic dog food with nothing special added. This can be good for dogs with allergies, etc.

     Nutra said their food is still made in the same factories that it was before the P&G buy out. They don’t make any other P&G foods their either. They claim they still have control over the entire process.
    So far so good, I haven’t seen any recalls yet from Nutra Food products (makers of Innova & CA Natural).

     OTOH, Natural Balance is made by Diamond Foods. They have had 3 or 4 recalls this year alone due to salmonella & other related problems to their foods.
    I wouldn’t feed a Diamond Foods product to a dead dog.

  • Lisa

    Thank you. 🙂 What symptoms did this food help your pets with? What formula do you use? So far my beagle can only tolerate Taste of the Wild pacific stream and it doesn’t have peas. It does have the friendly bacteria. 

  • Tiffanihallan

    I believe no probiotics are added to keep the food as simple as possible for sensitive dogs. For my Darby any other foods with extra ingredients like that cause her misery. And believe me , I’ve tried dozens of foods.

    Also i haven’t noticed any changes nor have the dogs had any issues whatsoever on this food.

  • Lisa

    Any idea why this wouldn’t have any probiotics? I don’t see it listed on the website either. 🙁

  • Lisa

    This is good to know. I have a beagle with terrible allergies. She used to get yeast in her paws and ears and it was so completely out of control and then I stumbled on Taste of the Wild pacific stream and she finally started improving. No more yeast. With that recent recall, I don’t want to feed her food from that plant. I seen a few negative reviews. Did they change the kibble at all do you know? Thanks 🙂

  • Sandy

    wow! disqus is a bit past due w/some of its comments! There are several linked to me from some years ago about politics, which I did not make; and, I just joined a few days ago!…PLEASE if you see anything about a topic other than dog food…I did NOT make it! Thanks!

  • Jlosey

    I think they’re stupid! Kibble was square. Now it’s round. Somebody changed something. Soon as my dogs started eating the new round kibble – they all started have food allergy reactions. Sneezing, diarrhea, vomiting.
    Terrible ear infections.
    P&G is stupid. They did the same thing when they bought out Iams and Euk.
    This makes me sad.
    My dogs are now sick! Very frustrating!

  • LabsRawesome

     Hi Jlosey, Innova, California Natural, and Evo are the 3 product lines that were bought out by P&G in 2010. (Originally owned by Natura Pet) They have promised not to change the ingredients, and they would have to be really stupid imo, to change them because they are making millions off these foods.

  • Jlosey
  • Jlosey

    I think Innova is now owned by P&G. BEWARE!
    Read this:

  • Jlosey
  • Jlosey

    Trying the Natural Balance sweet potato food now. Seems to be good. The California Naturals venison one isn’t good anymore. See my comments above.

  • Jlosey

    I’ve recently been feeding my 3 dogs the California Natural Grain Free Venison and Potato.
    All 3 have food allergies and this food was really working out well. The most recent two bags I had received had kibble shapes that were round. In the past the kibble shapes were square. After some long research it appears that P&G has changed either the ingredients, formula, or quality of ingredients. P&G purchased this company in 2010. I contacted them and they had said the were NOT changing the formula. It now appears they have. NOT good! My dogs are now having symptoms of food allergies: Sneezing, vomiting, & diarrhea. Plus my one dog has a really bad ear infection.This only started occurring after the kibble changed shapes. I’m very concerned the quality of this product and the other brands that were purchased at the same time (Innova, EVO, and a few more) have changed.
    Since I’m such a true believer in your website I wanted to let you know so you can ensure your ratings are current to P&G formula changes.
    This is very sad!
    I’ve just changed to Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison. Seems like a good company. I’m staying positive for the new food!

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  • Shamrockmommy

    The grain free line has done wonders for my bichon who has suffered for years from ongoing yeasty skin infections. It would affect her ears, feet and lip folds, which would get red, swollen, painful and ooze yellow fluid.  She would scratch her ears, rub her face on the carpet and chew her feet. The poor girl was miserable.   I have so far tried the Chicken and Salmon foods on her and it’s darn near miraculous!  No feet chewing, no ear scratching, no face rubbing.  The yellowy yeasty ooze is gone and she’s feeling much happier!  I see that the various flavors are rated between 3 and 5 stars, but I also hope that Natura doesn’t add any fancy gimicky things like probiotics or the like, because it would be likely Darby would react to that.  I have read labels and visited pet stores and researched and there is NOTHING like California Natural Grain Free lines.  I love it and I Hope they don’t change a thing about it, it’s perfect for Darby!

  • Ploomay

    Please review Innova Prime

  • steph

    No – but I have to trash my last two bags purchased (venison and potato and lamb and potato) because within two days of starting the new bags, my dog has a rash. Have you tried Natural Balance?  We’ve had good success with that one – and I think you can get it at most good pet stores.

  • steph

    Hi!  I have a very allergic dog who was great on the Venison and the Lamb (grain free) for a good 18 months.  One day we bought a new bag of each (post buyout) and he develped hot spots within two days.  Back to Natural Balance – we have had luck with that brand.

  • melissa


    “Unique” is going to be different for every animal. I feed chicken, beef, lamb, fish, duck foods-therefore, buffalo, bison, kangaroo and anything else would be considered a unique protein source for my dogs.And I can achieve a “unique” protein source without lowering my requirements in quality. Why would a food garner a “better” or “higher” rating simply based on the fact that some would some would consider the protein source unique? If I never fed chicken based foods, that would be unique for my dogs-

  • RJ,

    In disagreeing with my lower rating for 3 of these California Natural products, you said, “Obviously you have some sort of hidden agenda”.

    Did you actually read this review – or visit any of the links it contains?

    My agenda here is certainly not “hidden” but out in the open for all to see. Every one of the 600+ reviews on this site contain a link to my article, “The Problem with Dog Food Reviews” which clearly explains:

    “We tend to dislike dog foods made with by-products of any kind (plant or animal). And we downgrade recipes that use controversial chemicals or non-meat protein boosters.

    “Yet we shamelessly favor dog foods rich in meat.
    In general, a five star dog food is one that is high in meat content and free of any by-products, suspicious chemicals or plant-based protein boosters.”

    My reviews have absolutely nothing to do with “eliminating food allergies”. And they’re never “intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in specific health benefits for your pet.”

    Where did you get such an idea?

    Based upon the company’s own label (and nothing else), the Adult Chicken Meal recipe contains a whopping 65% more meat than the Lamb, Venison or Kangaroo formulas.

    So, as I clearly summarized in “The Bottom Line” section of this review…

    “However, compared to the higher protein content of the chicken (38%) and salmon (31%) recipes, the venison, lamb and kangaroo products (23% protein) appear to include only a modest amount of animal protein.”

    Sorry, RJ. But the specific recipe you exalt in your comment as an “alternative protein source” cannot make up for the fact it’s overloaded with carbs.

    And on this website (at least), considering their notably below-average meat content, not one of these three recipes is entitled to a rating greater than the 3-star one it received.

  • RJ

    Kangaroo & Red Lentils gets 3 stars while the Chicken variety gets 5? Oy vey. Alternative protein sources r the key to eliminating Food allergies. Chicken is the most common Animal Protein allergen & u are all over it while dismissing a really unique food. Obviously u have some sort of hidden agenda. Glad I can see it even if oblivious other can not.

  • Shawna

    I just read an article written by Dr. Cusick that suggests dogs should not eat a raw food diet…  He just totally lost my respect right there…  I have no interest in anything else he might have to say after that..

  • Dog Food Expert Ann

    That’s pretty funny! I had 100% success with his recommendations. His recommendations are not bizarre or unusual so calling him a quack sounds like something a person would say who has no nutritional expertise. He basically recommends feeding holistically and naturally including feeding the correct ratio of protein/carb/fat. There is no quackery there. It is basic nutrition. Obviously those who say such things have no experience with large numbers of dogs and breeds to base their opinions on. Example, I found that while most dogs are allergic to wheat, the Australian breeds such as the Heeler and Border Collie thrive on it. When I corrected the diet of Pug Dogs to include only Barley and to increase fat/oil, their allergies totally went away, as well as their shedding, Demodex, and eye tearing. The Labs I work with completely stopp shedding on a fish/duck based diet as well as losing their hyperactivity and regaining their focus and obedience. I can’t count the number of Huskies and Malamutes that lost weight, lost their cranky attitudes and regained energy/vitality based on his recommendations. All I can say is that someone who dismisses his work as quackery must be a troll and is probably someone who has not even ordered a book. I work in the Pet food industry seeing thousands of dogs a month and receiving hundreds of thank yous from people who claim I saved their dog’s life with the simple recommendation that they follow Dr. Cusick’s advise. I will never stop being a fan of his. By sheer volume, I think my opinion is a little more reliable than a person who libels someone and then doesn’t give the reason why we should believe them. 🙂 All I can say is it is their loss, as you probably already know. For those who take head, God bless them for enriching their pet’s life no matter what the nasayers claim. 

  • Mike P

    Expert Ann.I told people on his site about Cusick and pretty much all the people agreed he is a Quack.

  • Shawna

    Julie Santos ~~ Your vet needs to review the newer research.  They now know that senior dogs actually need MORE protein not less.  They are generally not as efficient at digesting — hence the need for added protein.  This is scientifically proven.  Even dogs with kidney disease are no longer recommended to be on a “low” protein diet but rather on a moderate protein but high quality diet.  So no vegetable protein (pea, potato, soybean etc), no by-products etc.

    It kinda bumbs me out that vets aren’t required to do continuing education.  Or, if they are, they aren’t taught the new scientifically proven data like the low protein myth.

  • Shawna

    Dog Food Expert Ann ~~ if you have an older breed that hasn’t been manipulated with other breeds to make a new breed, this could work.  But, if you have a newer breed or a mixed breed this is at best  hit and miss information.

    I take this from my own experience.  I am part Cherokee.  Native Americans are supposedly more sensitive to developing dairy allergies then some other groups.  I, by the way, am allergic to the casein protein in dairy (both cow and goat but can have sheep dairy).  Toxed2Loss is also Cherokee (and has a stronger Cherokee heritage then I) yet she has no issues with dairy at all.  Richard, whom I don’t believe is Native American, is also allergic to dairy..

    I do think, and have mentioned here before, that there is some relevance but that there are just too many factors to make breed specific dieting of little use for most dogs and dog owners.

    I’m also curious, after reading some of your posts, about your thoughts on grain versus grain free diets?  I feel grain free is a better options as manufactures (most) no longer prepare grains in a manner to deactivate the phytates and enzyme inhibitors as well as make the proteins (specifically lectins and gliadin) easier to digest (and less allergenic/problematic).

  • Dog Food Expert Ann

    As Melissa said, allergies are usually the result of grain type, not protein. Protein type has more to do with muscle mass, weight gain/loss. To resolve your confusion, please do as I have advised others, look up your breed of dog at this web site to determine which meat type your dogs needs before you even start looking at brands. While California Natural may be an excellent food, it doesn’t matter if your dog requires venison, and CN doesn’t carry that meat type. When you figure out what meat type your dog needs, you will have no problem finding a food that satisfies the protein level needed. Nutrition is so extremely complicated that not even vets get the right kind of education in veterinary school. They focus on clinical nutrition (fixing the problems, not preventing them.) Look up any Veterinary University website curriculum and you will not see any nutritional courses. At most they get a seminar/sales pitch from the one or two food companies that make disease specific diets. I pray this changes in the near future, and I suspect it will as judging by the large pet food conglomerations that are buying out small holistic companies like Naturapet (Calif Natural.)

  • Bob K

    Dog Food Expert Ann – What a great plug, buy my book and spend $100.00 for some dog food analysis thats 20+ years old.  Sounds like the  gumball machine that you put in a quarter and get your fortune. Where does it lists the Drs. credentials?  Is he still alive?  There are few recognized studies that are breed specific.  

  • Bob K

    Dog Food Expert Ann – Get Real – This guy if he is still alive is just plugging his  books and his $100.00 analysis for you.  I wonder if the Dr. is still alive.  It almost appears to be a bit of a scam. 

  • Dog Food Expert Ann

    Great idea to resolve protein levels by mixing brands of foods. Just make sure you are mixing brands with the same grain type. As you probably know, duck (usually fed to hunting dogs), is the highest in fat, with meats like Venison being lowest in fat. My favorite website for learning exactly which protein and grain type to feed each breed of rescue I deal with is Dr. Cusick spent 20 years of his life performing scientific research on all AKC breeds to arrive at his conclusions. A person can’t go too wrong with such diligent work like that (blood, fecal and urinalysis.) As you can tell, I am a big fan of this gentleman because his advise has saved me thousands, if not more, in veterinary bills for my rescue group. 

  • Dog Food Expert Ann

    Mike P – Mixing has everything to do with what breed of dog you own and nothing to do with standard smart practice. The only reason you mix dog foods is to obtain two meat types (not grain types) because your breed of dog requires it. To know this, you must consult a website specializing in ingredients, not brands. There is only one I know of to date. I have followed the advice at this site on numerous breeds (rescue) and have solved 95% of the problems from seizures to shedding. Visit for a directory of all AKC breeds. For example, several Asian originated breeds have been historically fed horse meat. To obtain the same meat profile as this requires mixing Beef and Pork together. The author at this website spent 20 years doing blood, fecal and urinalysis to obtain scientific evidence of the enormous nutritional differences between the breeds, hence the diverse medical issues common to certain breeds. To get the whole picture on food quality, don’t forget to visit the Cusick home page. This scientist also provides custom recipes if you have a sick dog and you don’t want to go with horrifically low quality Veterinary brands of food.

  • Dog Food Expert Ann

    WOW, does this statement from P&G sound like world domination or what? (quote from This move [to buy out Naturapet] enables P&G to expand into the attractive “holistic and naturals” segment of the pet food category, complementing P&G’s current Iams and Eukanuba brands and helping the Company advance its overall growth strategy of “reaching more consumers in more parts of the world more completely.”  New Dog World Order!

  • sandy

    While the grain free chicken meal rates 5 stars, I would chose a non limited ingredient diet to feed her if she does not require one – like Amicus.

  • sharron


    i just started feeding lexee california natural chicken grain free adult dog food – she is a 3 yr old yorkie/chihuahua, and prone to weight gain – she is currently at 9 lbs. 
    Is this a decent food to be feeding her.

  • melissa


    I used the Cal natural pre buyout and never had issues. I rotated back to it a few months ago, and after a few bags, had diarrhea and vomiting in the dogs.Some of my dogs are fat sensitive, but since the fat content on the bag was around 11-12 percent, it was not the issue-so not sure what the problem was this time.

  • Anonymous

    Just out of curiosity, is anyone still regularly using the Cal Nat lines? I used the product pre-buyout a few times, but haven’t been as up on how things are going with kibble since switching my adult dogs to raw.

    I’ve got a new pup now that I’ve started on a mixture of Honest Kitchen/Raw, but he’s not taking to it as well as I would have hoped. I’m thinking about putting him on a good kibble until he’s a few months older.

    ToTW is first on my list, but I noticed the Salmon GF version of this is supposedly adequate for large breed pups (GSD), and has just a hair more protein. 
    Curious on how people feel about this new line.

  • kaya

    We were very excited to try the Kangaroo recipe for our lab mix, in hopes that it would help us solve some allergy related ear infections. But ever since starting her on it, her bowel movements have been runny and large. She is not absorbing this diet, so we are having to switch her off of it. Too bad — the theory behind it is really great, but in practise we believe our dog  needs more fruit and veggies in her diet, more protein, and maybe some probiotics (lacking here). 

  • sandy

    Ahh!! I actually try not to buy chicken products for the most part since it is alot of times mixed in with other foods, like Amicus. The only “chicken” as the main ingredient food I’ve bought (ordered) so far is the Brothers Chicken, otherwise I like to buy duck, fish, rabbit, red meats sometimes.

  • monkey

    They talk about it on where it says “Gelatin Combats Canine/Feline Epilepsy and Arthritis”.

  • sandy

    Epigen Fish. I was wondering what the “gelatin” was in the 90??

  • monkey

    Which epigen? 90 looks better to me..

  • sandy

    I top my kibble with epigen as well.

  • Dave M

    When I mix kibble it is usually Epigen with Natures logic – light on the Epigen to get the protein up.

  • Mike P

    Hi Melissa. By mixing several brands of food together are you not worried about everything being balanced? Mike S told me months ago you should rotate different brands but did not recommend mixing brands.I know you have tons of experience with dogs but could you give me an example of what foods exactly do you mix? I’m wondering if I should go with 3 or 4 15lb bags instead of a 25 lb bag at a time.It takes us about 6 or 7 weeks to empty a 25lb bag of food.

  • melissa


    I have never seen protein levels cause allergies, rather the protein sources themselves, so I am not sure what your vet is referring to? I have heard about the protein effecting seniors healthwise, but personally have not experienced it. Same as Sandy, I usually stay in the range of 29-30 percent protein, and I have dogs of all ages. I resolved the higher fat content usually associated with higher protein foods by mixing several varieties together-then the mix is roughly 30 percent protein and 15-16 percent fat

  • sandy

    Julie Santos,

    30% is “average” and there are many dog foods in this range. 18-22% is low and I wouldn’t use it unless medically necessary. I personally don’t feed less than 30% as I use kibble and raw food but here’s some that around 30%:

    Great Life varieties 27- 30%
    Amicus 30%
    Canidae Single Grain Protein Plus 29%
    Nutrisca GF 30%
    Solid Gold Sundancer 30%
    Castor & Pollux Organix and Ultramix GF 30%
    Castor & Pollux Ultramix Poultry Free GF 30%
    Blue Buffalo Wilderness Healthy Weight 30%
    Infinia Turkey & Sweet Potato 32%
    Before Grain 32%
    Canidae Pure Sky 32%
    TOTW Wetlands 32%
    Honest Kitchen Love 31%
    Honest Kitchen Embark 29%
    Grandma Lucy’s Artisan Venison 28%
    Grandma Lucy’s Artisan Bison 30%
    Natures Select Hi Protein 27%

  • Julie Santos

    I am so confused. Checking out this California Natural food I was thrilled at the low protein content as my vet told me that dogs should only have anywhere from 18 to 22% protein. All the other high end dog foods have way up in the 30’s. Now this lower protein dogfood gets a lower rating. AUGHHH…..She said high proteins can cause lots of problems in senior dogs and that many of the allergies come from the protein content rather than the grains. HELP….

  • sandy


    How about rabbit for a novel protein? Grandma Lucy’s Pureformance is grain free/potato free and comes in rabbit. Addiction also has a rabbit can food.

  • Nona Switala

    Thank you very much for the suggestion.

  • monkey

    If you are interested in a Kangaroo based kibble maybe take a look at Addiction Wild Kangaroo and Apples. It is a 4 star kibble.

  • monkey

    It looks like a lentil and pea based kibble with very little meat. The food is only 21% protein, peas and lentils are both high in protein. After the water is removed from the Kangaroo it would be moved way down the ingredient list, putting lentils and peas in the front.

  • Hi Nona… In The Bottom Line section of my review, I mention, “… the venison, lamb and kangaroo products appear to include only a modest amount animal protein”. So, these three recipes do not contain enough meat to qualify for a higher rating. Hope this helps.

  • Nona Switala

    Anyone know why the kangaroo only gets three stars?

  • sandy


    First, thanks for adopting. I’m a foster mom myself. I only have small dogs but I do actually change from Brand to Brand since there isn’t one perfect food out there. All brands have different vitamins/minerals/fatty acid profiles along with protien/fat content so I rotate so my dogs don’t get too much from long term use Brand X or not enough. But my dogs have all done well on grain free foods ranging from white meats, red meats, to fish and at least 30% protein. I’ve used Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, Core, Brothers, Nutrisca, and Horizon (Amicus line for small dogs) and will be rotating in Great Life. I actually have 2 flavors of food mixed together so the dogs don’t need to transition into another flavor of food when one of their bags runs out. For instance, I have Brothers Allergy (turkey) and Nutrisca Salmon together currently. When one runs out I will start a bag of Great Life Buffalo. When the next one runs out I will start a bag of Brothers Chicken, then maybe Instinct Duck, etc. TOTW has a couple different formulas and Instinct has several formulas to choose from if you’re thinking about rotating with the same brand.

  • Jen

    Good Karma Rescue suggested I check out this site to choose a dog food for the chocolate lab we’re about to adopt. He’s 6.5 years old and about 90 pounds. I would call his activity level “typical.” I’m a little overwhelmed by the choices and information. We plan to feed our dog dry food, and our local farm supply store, Kenyon’s, carries many of the four- and five-star brands. What is the ideal amount of protein, fat and carbs and lab should intake? I know dogs should not bounce around from one brand to another, but what’s the best why to find THE best food for our dog? I would like a brand that at least gives choices in flavor to prevent boredom. A woman at Kenyon’s suggested Holistic Select because they have several meat flavors. Any other guidance would be appreciated.

  • sandy

    How about buffalo or whitefish or tuna or rabbit or pork or quail or pheasant?

    Honest Kitchen Zeal – just whitefish and grain free

    Great Life grain free buffalo in Great Life and Dr E’s Limited Ingredient Buffalo and Vet Preferred grain free pork

    Grandma Lucy’s Artisan Pork or Bison

    Grandma Lucy’s Pureformance Rabbit, and Addiction canned rabbit and Primal frozen raw rabbit.

    Primal frozen raw quail and pheasant

    Weruva Human Style Cirque de la Mer – grain free tuna

    Back to Basics Pork

  • Chester

    I have three dogs with very different needs. I am trying to stay away from Cal. Nat because of the buy-out. However, I broke down and had to try their new kangaroo. I have one dog that’s allergic to everything including Evo, Arcana and Orijen. I am wondering if anyone else has tried their Kangaroo and has any opinions on it, or if you know of a food that is suitable for a dog that is allergic to basically everything?

  • Jan (Mom to Cavs)

    Thanks Sandy, I looked at the links. I already know about the SM in Cavaliers. I’ve researched this breed thoroughly since I own 3 of them. In fact, eventhough she hasn’t been tested, I’m suspecting my oldest Cavalier, Stella, has a mild case of SM. Hazel may also, but I don’t really think so. She does have a mild heart murmur (heart disease, MVD, is prevalent in the breed as well :(). Hazel is quite healthy, otherwise, and is asymptomatic at the moment. Laverne is the healthiest of the three. The breeder that gives to me is quite responsible. I’m not really sure about the vinegar link, except as info. Thanks, in any case. I already know about vinegar’s properties…miracle product lol.

  • Alan

    I purchased California Natural Grain Free Chicken and found a small concentration of black ant pieces with one intact ant in the center of a 30 lb bag.
    I sent some of the contaminated food to Natura so their lab could analyze it. They said it was “insects” blaming it on post manufacturing distribution etc. It was in the middle of a factory sealed bag with no evidence of ants anywhere but in the center of the bag. I asked how that was possible but received no reply.
    I’m afraid it looks like that corporate monster P&G has ruined another company.
    This time it’s very important to concerned pet owners that want to buy the best food possible.

  • Hi Jan (Mom to Cavs)… You make a good point. It’s true, the CN Grain Free Chicken recipe is a 5-star food. And I wish there were some way for our system to see this one recipe as a “5”.

    But unfortunately, as Gordon noted, we rate by product lines (averages). And the reports are sorted according to our website’s code by 2 criteria: they each possess a “grain free” tag and they each receive a rating of 4 or more stars.

    California Natural Grain Free Chicken does have a “grain free” tag, but 2 of the line’s recipes have just 3-star ratings.

    So, our site is not able to “see” and list this one recipe with the rest of our 5-star ratings. 🙁

  • Gordon

    Jan – I think Mike usually chooses the medium or the average formula in a range or series to review, hence the 4 star Lamb Meal, which is between the other 3 star and 5 star that you mentioned.

  • sandy


    I left you 2 links at TOTW.

  • Jan (Mom to Cavs)

    Hi Mike S. I know that the CN grainfree chicken is on this site as a 5 star, and I understand why they are rated this way. I was wondering, however, if the CN grainfree chicken could be included in the list of 5 star dog foods. Someone could overlook this one if they are interested in only feeding 5 star foods. I know this is minor and you are sooo busy…..just wondering and not a big issue. Thanks for all you do, Mike S. I love this site!

  • sandy

    The lamb and venison grain free versions are lower in meat content than the chicken one.

  • Carrie, the rating of 4-stars is an average of the line. Two 3-star products and one 5-star product. The lamb and the Venison products they make are woefully low in meat content, hence the 3-star rating. If they all had a GA like the chicken version, this would be a solid grain-free brand.

  • Carrie Coulter

    image = imagine lol

  • Carrie Coulter

    So, does California Natural Grain Free get 3 stars or 4?? At the top of the page, it says they get 4 stars, but where it lists each formula it says the lamb and the venison formulas get 3 stars and the chicken formula gets 5. That must be a typo for the lamb and the venison ones because I can’t image any grain-free dog food getting 3 stars!

  • Michelle

    Casey, here is a list of hypo- allergenic dog foods. Look through these brands, they shouldn’t have the things you listed, that your dog is allergic to.

  • sandy


    Natures Variety has a limited ingredient diet in turkey or lamb that does not have those ingredients you listed.

  • Casey

    I have a three year old Golden Retriever. He has been breaking out in hives on his stomach and legs. Our vet says it’s due to allergies. I had him allergy tested, and he can up positive to beef, soy bean, eggs, oats, and peanuts. We know he reacts to Earthborn, Natural Choice, and Royal Canine, and will not even eat Blue dog food. I am wondering if California Natural is the best choice. It seems that all dog foods have at least one thing he is allergic to, so I’m having a lot of trouble finding food he wont react to. Please help us, we have got to get rid of the hives and itching!

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for the comments. After many investigative attempts I figured out she had a food intolerance to corn. She is doing great on the California Naturals and loves it. I did speak with my vet today and they suggested keeping her as is on the dry and I may add puppy wet food to help (or try a supplement). She is healthy and I hate to make any more changes to her dry but I appreciate your feedback.

  • sandy

    I can’t help you with the puppy question, but I do know Nature’s Variety Instinct LID is for “all life stages” so it would be ok for puppy. That is of course if it’s not one of the 3 you’ve already tried. Does she eat too fast? That could lead to vomiting. Slowing down her eating time could solve it or maybe more frequent smaller meals.

  • Hi Jennifer… According to the company’s website, California Natural Grain Free is designed to be fed to adults only. Not puppies. Since your dog is a large breed, she is not considered an adult until at least 12 months of age. Unfortunately, you’ll need to find a food that’s rated for puppies (recipes that meet AAFCO profiles for growth or all life stages). Hope this helps.

  • Jennifer

    I have an 8 month old german shepherd mix and after going through 3 types of dog food because she threw up alot I finally selected California Naturals Grain Free. She does great as far as no more throwing up after she eats. My concern is a realize this is an adult food. She seems healthy, but how can I make sure she is getting everything she needs as a puppy? At what age is adult food OK? I hate to switch her food again but am not sure what else I should be doing to help her get puppy requirements?

  • Hi Ashima… Unfortunately, due to the biological uniqueness of each pet, I cannot provide customized product comparisons for each reader. For more help, please check out my reviews and visit our FAQ page. Look for the topic, “Help Me Choose a Dog Food”. Or check back for a possible response from one of our other readers. Wish I could be more help.

  • Ashima

    Hello Mike,

    My dog was on Hills prescription G/D for awhile now till i did some research and saw the quality of the food. I haven’t had the chance to speak to the vet yet but i wanted to switch him to a better quality food. Any 4-5 star that i have found is high in protein for starters. I was told California Natural grain free lamb formula would be good for him because it is without all the bi-products and such and also low in protein like his G/D but i am not all that familiar on what to look for so just wondering what you thought about going from Hills G/D to California N. or if you know of another good quality food with the same G/D benefits?

    Thank you so much in advance.

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  • sandy

    It does not, but it does have barley and oatmeal. The herring & sweet potato is not grain free.

  • Kevin

    Does california naturals Herring & Sweet Potato Dry Food contain dairy, eggs or soy?

  • Hi Linda… These reviews have been posted over a 2+ year period. Some of my earlier reviews fail to mention the protein content of the peas. As a recipe changes and I update its report I try to re-write some of the descriptions of the ingredients. Hope this helps.

  • Linda

    I am just curious as to why you make this comment about peas when reviewing the CN grain free foods. “The second ingredient includes peas. Peas are considered a quality source of carbohydrates. What’s more, peas contain about 25% protein… protein that must be counted toward the total protein content of this food,” but make no such mention on several of the other foods I have read reviews on like Acana and TOTW? I am just curious as to the difference in the reviews.

  • Spencer May 8, 2011 at 7:30 am

    Here is part of an e-mail that I received yesterday from a VERY reliable person: “I know someone who lost her dog to CA Naturals recently – the sweet potato diet. She’s been fighting through all the testing and worry. Trying to do the right thing for her dog. It’s just sad”.
    P&G is all I am going to say, don’t ever trust this co.

    —–Original Message—–

  • Hi Bryan… This is one of those worries many of us share. Some for good reason. And yet most (so far) are unjustified. P&G’s history of profit-first mass marketing and subsequent recipe changes gives pause for concern.

    Yet so far, I haven’t seen any factual confirmation of the numerous rumors currently in circulation. To my mind, the company would be shooting itself in the foot to tamper with Natura’s well-earned reputation and long history for producing quality products.

    In any case, since I haven’t personally observed any conspicuous changes, I’m still keeping a watchful eye on the company’s actions. And (like most everyone else) I’m looking for any tangible evidence the manufacturer has made any important changes. Until then, everything’s only speculation. Wish I could be more help.

  • Bryan

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been exhausting myself over the past few months in search of the perfect kibble for my Jack Russell. My JRT has a very hard time digesting potatoes and gets very bad skin from eating them. Peas are okay and so are sweet potatoes. It is difficult locating a grain-free kibble that doesn’t use potatoes as a main starch though. I’ve been using California Naturals Grain Free Chicken Meal Formula Adult (LID) and it seems to be helping. It uses only peas. I also like the higher protein rate of 34% (even if the peas boost it some). This is great compared to most LID kibbles that seem to stay around 21%. People are starting to freak me out over the change of ingredients (that may or may not ever happen) since the take over/sale out last May. I know most people say that if your dog is doing well on it then don’t change it. Many people in my dog community are starting to make me feel like a bad dad around here. People seem very confident P&G has already destroyed this food and just haven’t told anyone yet. I’ve already quit feeding Natura products to everybody else except the JRT because of the inability to find a grain-free, LID food with high protein. Any ideas? Should i change products? If so then what would you switch to? Am i buying Iams in a bag that says California Naturals? Many years ago we fed Eukanuba. When I opened the last bag it smelled exactly like it. My wife even asked, after she smelled it, if I had lost my mind switching back to Eukanuba??? =/ Are we all just paranoid???

    p.s. a friend mentioned Nature’s Variety Instinct has a new LID food. This tends to be outrageous in pricing where I live, well exceeding $3 per lb. California Naturals is about $1.75 per lb.

  • Meagan

    Jacquelyn-Does she strain when she is going poop? Or can she just go with no trouble?

  • Hi Jacquelyn… It depends on what you mean by firm. Firm can be normal. In any case, since I’m not a veterinarian, it would be inappropriate for me to provide specific health advice or product recommendations. You may wish to check back for a possible response from one of our other readers.

  • Jacquelyn

    I used California Natural Grain Free Venison for my Morkie (Yorkie/Maltese mix) because it appeared to not have many of the ingredients she’s allergic to. She did great on it & my only concern was how firm the stools are – very firm! Is that okay? I just switched her to try another food, & she’s already getting allergic reactions, so I’m now headed to pick up another bag of Calif. Natural! I guess… “If it works, don’t fix it!” 🙂

  • sandi

    If a dog food does not contain probiotics, it can be purchased in the human section like a Walmart etc.

    My dogs get plain low fat yogurt, they love it

    Additionally Loyall senior has probiotics

    I am not a sales person, but, the feed and grain store we frequent due to having a farm sells Nutrena products and well, we tried the dog food two years ago, and absolutely no problem, in fact my dogs have never been healthier.

    They also make a damm good chicken and goat feed.


  • sandi

    One of my dachsies, has severe reverse sneezing, and sinus problems, teeth are cleaned on regular basis, she receives a nasal decongestant times two a day if not she to be blunt and I am a nurse so it does not bother me, green gunk from her nose . Alot of the problem began with a nasal fistula, that was treated surgically.

    Upshot, I am trying Calif Natural chicken based grain free, to see if the sounds of adnoids is related to digestion problem.

    I will also say that my other senior dogs, do , very well on Loyall Senior dog food, of all the brands I have fed and I have 6 dogs, one is on prescription foods, the other senior dogs eat loyall senior. Their energy is amazing, their digestion is good, their coats are great. Now if I can straighten out the dachsie who has the nasal problem.


  • Hi Matt… You’re reading the gauges only. These carb figures represent only the example recipe.

    Please look in the section of each review labeled “The Bottom Line”. In every report (including these), I show the average protein, fat and carb figures for all the products in each line. The average carbs for the Grain Free product line is 51% versus 55% for the regular California Natural kibble. So, there are more carbohydrates in the regular CN than in the Grain Free.

    With average carb content for all the kibbles in our database about 48%, the 51% reading is “near average” whereas the 55% figure is “above average”. Hope this helps.

  • Matt

    How come the grain free version has about the same level of carbs as the regular version but on this one it’s listed as near average and on the regular it’s listed as above average?

  • Kristen Hurley

    I was thinking of trying California Natural Grain free for my epileptic rottie. He is 6.5, and he doesn’t eat his Blue Buff with zest like he used to, and he stopped eating his sister’s Natural Balance Venison, too. His stools were great on the BB at first, but now they are terrible. I’m not sure if it’s the medicine he takes or I am just not finding the right food for him. The only foods we have never tried are the Natura Pet lines, TOTW, and Orijen. I was thinking about Honest Kitchen, too. Are there any kibble suggestions for epileptic dogs?

  • Hi Robin… You’ll find Adult Small Bites already listed in this review. Usually, the only thing different about foods for small dogs is the size of the kibble.

  • I have several clients with small dogs who have been using Innova who are unhappy and say they are making changes changes that are being made to the product. I see California natural has a product with small bites but do not see it’s rating. I would love to see small dogs added to the special needs listing.

  • Hi Deb… Never sure myself what to make of all these buyouts. Although we’re all aware of the things that can go wrong, we never acknowledge the deeper pockets and larger quality control budgets. P&G would be making a huge mistake to allow Natura to fall to a profit-first philosophy. So far, no recipe changes or any news regarding quality issues. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  • deb

    Last year California Natural (Natural Pet Foods) was acquired by Proctor and Gamble. I avoid mass produced kibble and had originally purchased this food as a quality but less expensive alternative to Wellness. Now I have concerns because I imagine the processing of this food will change if it hasn’t already. Coincidentally one of my dogs on CN is suddenly sporadically dealing with vomiting and diarrhea. May not be related, but I moved him to a bland diet and then tried to work kibble back without success. Now the 2nd dog is having issues, while the 3rd dog – on a completely different food – is fine. Any thoughts on CN now that’s it’s under the P&G umbrella?

  • Hi Jim… You have astutely identified an Achilles heel for this recipe. Notice in the ingredients list the primary source of fats comes from sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is notably more abundant in omega-6 fatty acids. That probably explains the less favorable omega-6:omega-3 ratio you noted.

    How significant is this finding? Not really sure. But it does seem a better source of fat would probably have yielded a healthier omega profile. Nothing beats fish oil for omega-3 fats. And although it’s not as “perfect” as fish oil, flaxseed makes a worthy (plant-based) substitute.

  • Jim

    Hi Mike,

    I noticed the Omega 3 level seems very low for the CN grainless foods while the Omega 6/3 ratios are very high. For example, the Chicken Meal formula has 2.38% Omega 6 but only .19% Omega 3. Additionally, the Omega 6/3 ratio is over 12:1 while many nutritionists think this number should be more like 4:1 to 8:1 to eliminate problems associated with too much Omega 6. Do you think this is a significant problem for the CN grainless foods?

  • Hi Bart… Grain free could by a good place to start. But unfortunately, since I’m not a veterinarian, I cannot provide health advice or specific product recommendations. Please see our FAQ page. Or check back for a possible response from one of our readers.

  • Bart

    My dog has terrible reoccuring yeast infections in her ear and she scratches all the time. She’s a Standard Poodle. I’m so confused about what food to feed her. I am feeding Pro Plan and I wonder if she has food allergies. Should I try a grain free food? I have asked the vet but he is no help. Thanks.

  • Hi Jim… This comment is a duplicate of your comment made on the Chicken Soup (dry) review. You’ll find my response to it there.

  • Jim

    My wife and I have a 6 yr old Jack who is not overly active. We are in the process of switching her over to Chicken Soup for the dog lover’s soul, Senior Dog formula. We have searched your site and can’t find a star rating for this product. She loves the food and is accepting it very well. Thanks for your help. Also, would you have a recommendation for a better food for her.

    Jim and Jan

  • Hi Sam… It’s no secret we shamelessly favor dog foods with apparently higher meat content (usually implied by higher protein and fat). Personally, I’m no fan of foods with low protein levels. For refernce purposes, the lowest dry matter protein content to meet AAFCO nutritional profiles for an adult dog is 18%. So, 21% is definitely toward the lower end. And you’ll notice when you lower protein and fat, you mathematically guarantee you’re dealing with a product high in carbs.

    Provided your dog isn’t allergic to milk, yogurt makes an excellent supplement. It’s naturally high in probiotics yet low in lactose. Good idea.

  • Sam Schleman

    Hi Mike;

    I have a 7 YO very large (175#) Great Dane. I’ve been feeding him California Natural grain free chicken meal with the 34% protein. However, he likes variety and I noticed the other CN grain free formulas all have a much lower (21%) protein content.

    I’m concerned about whether 34% is too high for a dog this age (fairly, but not too active) and at the same time, whether 21% is too low. Been thinking of switching to something like Canidae with 24-26%.

    Incidentally, I noticed all the comments on pro-biotics. I add 3 heaping tablespoons of organic yogurt with lots of pro-biotics to each meal and he loves it. Also cheaper than quality canned dog foods.

  • Hi Julia… I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s allergy problem. However, like with us humans, each dog responds to a particular food (or an ingredient) in its own unique way. And many times, the signs and symptoms you see aren’t even related to the food in the first place. So, it would be misleading for me (or anyone) to assure you feeding a specific product would control the allergies you describe. In each review I provide our overall star rating, I point out the relative amount of protein and (along with many other features) whether or not the food contains probiotics. By the way, most (but not all) 4 and 5-star foods contain probiotics. Since you’re looking for a food to meet so many different criteria, it would be better (if you don’t mind) for you to take the time to find this “ideal” food yourself. Hope this helps.

  • The lack of probiotics are what make this a terrible food for my 12 year old English Bulldog. She has always had very good health on Lamb and Rice Canidae until they switched formulas. CN is the food we switched to after a short stint with TOTW. She did fine at first, but her allergies are now so bad that I have to clear her eyes 5 times a day and her hair is falling out in patches. The only thing that helps is an acidophilus supplement and 2 tsps of cod liver oil on the dry food. I also suspect this is too low protein for her-she is constantly hungry. I want to switch again but I feel like I’m gambling with her health every time I do…I’m nervous about what to pick.

    Do you have a food to suggest that is:
    1. at least 4 star, preferably
    2. moderate protein, but not high-she’s always done well with lamb and rice, (before I had $ to spend on her diet, she thrived on Beneful (I cringe, I know) until about 6 years old.
    3. Must have probiotic
    4. Should I consider going back to canidae, on the GF salmon this time? She got so sick when they switched that company makes me nervous.

    Thank you for answering my question/criteria fusion! 🙂


  • Melanie

    funny / interesting how the CN grain free formula has a much higher carb content than the regular original formulas…

  • Diane

    This dog food is outstanding. I cannot recommend it highly enough. My older Bichon had been sick for more than 6 months with intestinal and bowel issues. I tried everything from multiple vet visits, to coconut, to probiotics, to pumpkin, to working my way through 8 different brands/types of dog food. California Natural Grain Free Lamb Meal is unique in that it is pure and simple, with limited ingredients. Most grain free dog foods have very high protein levels, more for “working” dogs, not older, sedentary small breeds. CNGFLM had a more reasonable protein level and within 2 days I noticed a huge difference. Within two weeks, he had done a 100% turn around. I was ready to give up, but this food brought normalcy back to my little guy and in turn to me!

  • Hi Kellie… Your best bet would be to find a chicken-based dog food that does not contain any of your dog’s known allergens. I’d love to be able to do this for you, but it would be impossible for me to personally check each dog food you’d like to try.

    You may want to consider some of the “limited ingredient” dog foods on the market. These include (but are not limited to) Wellness Simple Food Solutions and Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets. The main advantage of these types of products is that they (by design) limit the number of possible allergens in their recipes. This fact allows you to do a better job of isolating the offending components.

    Regarding your concerns about Proctor and Gamble’s purchase of Natura Pet, I wouldn’t worry too much about the situation. For now, we are keeping our opinions about their products as they are unless (or until) something in their products’ formulas changes.

  • Kellie

    I also forgot to ask about the P&G issue is that a big concern or more of a wait and see issue?
    Thanks again!!!

  • Kellie

    Hi Mike, I’ve emailed before and just wanted to ask about the chicken meal adult. It says 5 starts for this food is that right? I’d love to try it but I know chicken is often one of the foods dogs have allergies too. My dog has allergies, but when tested chicken was not one of them (lamb, rice, corn, wheat, soy, eggs, dairy). This food looks good and switching to a food that doesn’t smell like fish is very appealing. I’d love to hear your thoughts on trying chicken if he’s 3yrs. old and hasn’t had it in the past, mostly because it was hard to find chicken without the other ingredients. I know I will never find the perfect food, but would love to hear your thoughts!
    Thanks so much for your input!!!

  • Echo

    Thanks for reviewing this Mike.. hopefully the ingredients don’t change too much since P&G has recently taken them over (and they recently released this grain free product)

  • Hi Jerry… No dog food can possibly be appropriate for every dog. Without knowing more about your particular dog, I wouldn’t want to “guess” at a fix for your pet’s stools.

    In any case, Wellness Core has a much higher meat protein content than California Natural.

    You may want to try “topping” your chosen kibble with a canned meat product. My Bailey loves when we do that.

    Why not simply browse the Advisor’s database of 3, 4 and 5-star dog foods. I’m sure you’ll find one that’s ideal for your Corgi.

  • Jerry

    Hi Mike,

    I am considering between Wellness core and California Natural for my 2yr old Corgi.

    I have been previously feeding my Corgi Evo small bites and he’s been cycling through loose and firm stools. I don’t believe it is cuased by worms and any other parasites since his monthly flea medicine covers worms parasites, fleas and heartworm.

    Anyhow, My guess is that EVO’s high protein content is “too rich” for him. What would you recommend me trying next? Wellness core or califonia natural chicken? Or do you have any other suggestions? Thank you.

  • Hi Beverly… Probiotics are probably not a critical addition to any dog food. But the more processed a dog food is (like kibble) the more it can benefit from adding back these “good” bacteria to the food. If you found 2 very similar dog foods and you couldn’t make up your mind which one to buy, I’d favor the one with probiotics.

  • Beverly

    I e-mailed you earlier about your thoughts on California Natural Grain-free dog food. How important is probiotics in a dog food? I called Natura and they said that none of the Cal. Natural products have probiotics added including the new grain free.