Surveys show that more and more people are turning to organic foods in an effort to improve their health and that of their family members. This in spite of the fact organics are often 50% more expensive than conventional foods.

The same is true for organic pet foods, and often pet owners will find even fewer choices when shopping organic options. So, it is worth it? Organic dry foods for pets are as much as double the cost of good quality conventional brands, but pet owners today are likely to look at the investment as a small price to pay for their pets’ health.

Ask anyone shopping organic and they’ll mention the benefits of more nutrients, fewer pesticides and no GMOs—benefits that also serve their pets well. Some information regarding these benefits may help if you are struggling to balance the advantages of an organic diet with the additional cost.

Nutrients

Organic human foods do contain more nutrients than their conventional counterparts, but how much more also is dependent upon the soil in which it is grown, growing conditions and temperatures, and even shipping conditions. Very small increases in antioxidants, phosphorus and omega-3 fatty acids will have no impact on one’s health, human or animal. An organic pet formula that supplies only minimal increases in these nutrients will not be worth the additional cost purely for the health benefits.

Fewer pesticides

Organically grown plants are produced without the use of synthetic materials, but this does not mean no pesticides are involved. Pesticides certified for use in organic gardening are in fact used, and the fact that a product is organic does not mean there will be less pesticide residue. The safety and health implications of any pesticide can be specific to the individual, so it’s important to understand what you are buying when you choose organic.

No GMOs

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are organisms whose genetics have been changed in a laboratory, usually to resist insects or weeds that can negatively impact growth of the crop. Plants grown this way cannot be classified organic and meat options now exist that are labeled no GMOs, meaning these animals did not receive feed containing GMOs. Currently no studies have shown that GMOs are harmful to humans or animals, but research continues, and many consumers are choosing to avoid these products. Conventional pet foods will contain meat and meat byproducts, vegetables and fillers, all of which may contain GMOs unless otherwise labeled.

What is best for my pet?

Pet foods in general are designed to be well-balanced so conventional or organic, they will satisfy all the nutritional needs of your pet. With regard to the unknowns of pesticide use and GMOs, however, organic foods may provide some benefits if you feel strongly about keeping them out of your pet’s diet.

The regulations governing organic pet foods are the same USDA guidelines used for human foods. A food is certified organic if it contains at least 95% organic ingredients. It can be labeled “made with organic ingredients” if it contains at least 70% organic ingredients. Your veterinarian can help you with understanding labeling.

Most veterinarians will suggest that a good quality pet food made with conventional ingredients will generally be just as good for your pet as organic ones. Read the ingredients and look for those that list specific meat proteins (chicken, turkey, salmon) as their first ingredients. Fillers such as corn and wheat are okay, but not as the first ingredients, and foods that are primarily fillers (corn bran, oat hulls, cereal byproducts) should be avoided.

Consider also your pet’s specific needs. Animals that have dietary restrictions should be fed based upon a veterinarian’s recommendations, as an organic product may not address those specific needs.

Overall, the most important thing you can do for your pet’s health is provide plenty of exercise, keep him at a healthy weight, and get regular check-ups and vaccinations. The veterinarians at Lake Cable Animal Hospital can help you make the best choices for your pet.