Pet Food Frequently Asked Questions
Here you’ll find the answers to our most frequently asked questions regarding pet feeding guidelines, pet food ingredients and other pet care topics. Browse the FAQs below listed by category, and click any question to see an answer.
What is the cooking temperature of your food?
Pet foods are manufactured by one of three different methods (baking, canning or continuous extrusion cooking) and the cooking temperature can vary depending on the method. Cooking does not influence our guarantee that all of the essential nutrients are available in the appropriate amounts in the final product.
Are any of your pet food ingredients genetically modified?
Whenever possible, we avoid the use of GMO ingredients in our wholesome and natural foods and treats. Therefore, we avoid the two most commonly used GMO carbohydrate sources used in pet foods today: corn and soy.
What is meant by the word “meal” in a pet food ingredient listing?
“Meals” are created through the process of rendering, which is a cooking process used to reduce the moisture and fat from animal tissue. You should look at the word that precedes the word “meal” to determine the protein source that is being used.
Why isn’t taurine added to all of your products?
Due to the high inclusion of meat proteins, it is not necessary to supplement taurine in every formula. Taurine supplementation is generally focused on cat foods and/or non-poultry- containing dog foods.
Do I need to add supplements to your food?
No. Our pet foods are not deficient in any essential nutrient. Our formulas meet or exceed the minimum requirements of the Nutrient Profiles set by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). Therefore, supplements are not required for a normal, healthy animal. If you do wish to supplement, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian, who can help you to determine the recommended way to do so.
What are Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Both probiotics and prebiotics work to enhance the normal, healthy flora or bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics (also known as “direct fed microbials”) are live microorganisms that are added to the kibble, after the product has cooled during the coating step of kibble production. Probiotics or “good bacteria” are thought to improve the intestinal balance of microbes by introducing more, healthy bacteria into the gut, while inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria or “bad bacteria.” This is very similar to the live cultures that are present in yogurt.
Prebiotics are typically soluble fibers (oligosaccharides) that encourage the growth of “good bacteria” in the gut. They are not bacteria themselves, unlike probiotics. Prebiotics are typically added in small quantities during the dry mix step of kibble production. Common prebiotics include certain fiber sources as well as chicory root (inulin), fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and mannanoligosaccharides (MOS).
How are your pet foods preserved?
Our pet foods are preserved with Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols – alpha, beta, gamma and delta isomers) and Vitamin C. We do not use any chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin.
Why use chicken or turkey broth instead of spring water?
Broths add more flavor than water and an amount of very highly digestible protein.
Describe the grade of meat used in your natural pet foods.
Rather than relying on the “grade” of meat, we focus on the specific nutritional qualities of the meat. We only use meat that fits our strict specifications for protein, fat, moisture, and ash. All animals have received ante- and post- mortem inspection at approved facilities with no evidence of systemic disease of animal and human health significance.
Why use meals instead of fresh meat?
The high-quality meals that we use, such as chicken, herring, lamb or salmon, are concentrated sources of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids. Due to product design and finished product characteristics, it is not possible to use fresh meats exclusively in the dry foods. Using a high-quality meat meal adds important nutrients without adding a lot of additional moisture.
Are the fish in your pet foods wholesome?
We use only the highest quality and safest wild-caught or farm-raised fish in our products. When our products contain fish meals, they are naturally preserved and are shipped with natural antioxidants that are compliant with United States Coast Guard (USCG) requirements.
Our rigorous ingredient and product testing procedures extend to all product lines, including fish formulas, so our customers can be assured of the safety, freshness and consistency of our products. We support sustainable fishing practices, government regulated fishing requirements and quotas, and the use of only high quality fish species low on the food chain to reduce the risk of potential contamination with pollutants.
As an extra safety and environmental precaution, we also promote fish harvesting methods that protect dolphins and all other non-target marine species.
What does the Guaranteed Analysis (GA) tell me?
The guaranteed analysis is a specific set of nutritional information required by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to be printed on pet food labels. The guaranteed analysis states minimum or maximum nutritional values for a particular set of nutrients for a specific product. This provides information that pet owners, professionals, retailers, and veterinarians need to know when making decisions about the food and the amount to offer.
When should I switch my small breed puppy to an adult dog food formula?
You can switch to the adult food when you feel your pet has reached their full body frame size. This typically occurs around 12-16 months of age for smaller breeds. However, if you are concerned, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian to find out if your dog is ready to make the switch to an adult formula.
If you offer adult foods that are for all life stages, why have puppy foods? What makes these foods unique?
Requirements for dogs and cats are based on life stage. There are different requirements for different life stages; the highest requirements correlate with the most demanding stages of life (i.e., gestation, lactation, and growth), while adult maintenance requirements are lower because the animal is not subject to such drastic changes in nutritional needs. In order for a product to be labeled as “all life stages” it must meet the requirements and be appropriate to feed for every life stage (i.e., puppy, kitten, adult, senior, gestating bitch/queen, lactating bitch/queen).
For example, puppy foods are truly focused on the growth and development of puppies. However, most puppy foods are also appropriate for all life stages because they have been formulated to meet the higher requirements for growth. The nutrient requirements of puppies can be up to five times adult levels, so puppy foods typically contain higher amounts of protein, fat, fatty acids and vitamins to aid in the growth and development of the animal. In addition, special attention is given to the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, for eye and brain development.
Is it okay for my dog to eat the cat food or vice-versa?
Cats and dogs have different nutritional requirements and in almost every case, the cat’s requirement is higher. Cats have the potential to become malnourished if they are fed dog food as their primary source of calories. Cats are true carnivores, requiring a diet high in meat and meat products, with a much higher protein requirement than dogs. And along with this higher protein requirement comes higher requirements for specific amino acids, fatty acids and vitamins. If cats happen to ingest a bit of dog food on occasion, it should not cause them any harm, but it should not be encouraged as a common feeding practice.
It is normally safe for dogs to consume cat foods, but this is not recommended for optimum nutrition.
My dog has loose stools. What’s wrong?
Loose stools or diarrhea can be associated with many causes. Three of the more common ones are over-feeding, switching to a new food too quickly, or a non-food related condition.
The reason that over-feeding can cause loose stools is due to nutrient density and highly digestible ingredients. Because of this, you generally need to feed less of our foods than you may have previously been feeding. When an animal gets too much food, it creates a system overload and their body reacts by producing loosely formed stools. By reducing intake to the appropriate feeding amount, the stool returns to normal in a day or two.
Switching foods too quickly often causes loose stools. It can take about 4-6 weeks for the average pet's digestive system to completely adjust to a new food. By taking up to three weeks to switch foods, you can make this transition much easier for them.
If you do not feel that either of these explanations fits your situation, we recommend consulting your veterinarian.
Is your food okay for dogs with copper sensitivities?
The copper level in our foods is formulated within the tolerance level established by AAFCO. Copper is a necessary part of some of the enzymes that help inactivate free radicals. Thus it plays a part in antioxidant protection. It is also used for making blood cells. It is active in the metabolism of iron. Copper containing enzymes are involved in immune function.
The copper levels in our dog foods are low compared to other premium quality dog foods, especially when you take caloric density into consideration. Because our foods have such a high caloric density, most dogs will actually eat less, so the intake of copper is reduced. Dogs with copper sensitivities (i.e., Bedlington Terriers and Dobermans) perform very well on our foods! Check out the Nutritional Analysis available on our Website and speak with your veterinarian if you have any additional questions.
How should I switch to a new pet food?
A new pet food should be gradually introduced to your animal by mixing it with their current food. For a nice, slow transition, replace the old food with the new food in small increments over the course of a three week period. It can take 4 to 6 weeks for a pet’s digestive tract to fully adjust to a new diet. If digestive upset occurs, transition more slowly.
Is your food suitable for animals with urinary tract problems?
Our foods are not prescription diets. Your veterinarian can help you to determine whether one of our formulas, if any, would be appropriate for your pet’s condition. Our Consumer Service Department will be happy to provide you with nutritional information for our pet foods to help you and your veterinarian to make this decision.
Why does my dog have gas after eating?
Small amounts of gas are a normal product of digestion. Some dogs produce more gas than others. Excessive flatulence may be caused by overeating, eating too fast, or a change in diet. If your pet has just switched foods, the problem may disappear on its own after a few weeks. If the pet is very young, the flatulence may diminish as their digestive system matures.
Things you can try:
- Feed smaller meals more frequently.
- Make sure the pet is being fed the appropriate amount.
- Cut out all other food supplements.
- Help your pet to eat more slowly by feeding them on a flat plate or cookie sheet, or putting a full, unopened can in the middle of their bowl, making them work around it to get the kibble.
- If symptoms persist, you may want to speak to your veterinarian to rule out any potential medical issues.
What is the food’s shelf life?
Every product has an expiration date printed on it, which indicates one year from the date of manufacture for the dry foods, and two years from the date of manufacture for the canned foods.
The expiration date is located on the bottom seal of the front panel on the larger bags. On the smaller bags, the expiration date is on the top of the back panel, or the top of the front panel. And for all cans, the expiration date is stamped on the bottom of the can.
After opening a bag, we recommend using it within 3 months. Once a can is opened, refrigerate any unused portion and use within 72 hours.
How should I store the food?
For our dry foods, we recommend that you keep the food in the original bag with the top tightly rolled down, and store in a cool, dry, preferably dark place. If you want to store it in another container, we recommend storing the entire bag in the container rather than dumping it out of the bag and storing the container away from excessive light and heat. We do not recommend freezing the food.
For canned foods, they should also be protected from excessive heat. Opened cans can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days (72 hours).
What is a kcal?
The abbreviation kcal stands for kilocalorie. It is more commonly known simply as a Calorie. The Calorie is a measure of energy and is a standard part of most nutrition facts labels. When you see the term kcal on a label in a dietary context, it is simply referring to the caloric value of the food.
What are feeding recommendations based on?
While every animal is different, general feeding guidelines can be calculated based on the current life stage, weight of the animal and how active they are. These three factors determine how many calories are needed to meet their daily requirements. The recommended guidelines are suggested as a starting point and should be adjusted if necessary. Feel free to call our Consumer Service Department for specific product guidelines and always remember to consult your veterinarian when making any diet changes.
Can I feed the adult formula to my puppy or kitten?
Many of our adult formulas are balanced for all life stages, and can therefore be used for puppies and kittens as well as adult dogs and cats. In some cases the feeding charts on the packages of adult food, however, are calculated for the adult animals only. If you are feeding a puppy or kitten, please contact our Customer Service Department to obtain the correct feeding instructions.
When should I switch my large breed puppy to the adult dog food formula?
You can switch your large breed puppy to the adult formula when the dog has achieved its full adult size and weight. This age can vary depending on the breed, but typically occurs around two years of age.
What are the specific concerns with large breed dogs?
We define a large breed dog to be any dog with a mature size of approximately 60 lbs. or more. The growth and development phase of a large breed dog (as well as any size dog) is the most critical and important phase of their life. Large breed puppies typically have a genetic tendency to grow too quickly and this can sometimes result in incomplete skeletal development and lifelong joint issues. Thus, it is crucial to control the growth rate of these larger puppies with the appropriate amount of calories and tightly regulated levels of calcium and phosphorus (the main constituents of bone).
As with any size of dog, it is important to keep large breed dogs lean and at an ideal body condition. Excess weight puts unnecessary stress on the joints of the animal and can cause a multitude of joint issues as the animal ages. The use of foods with lower levels of energy and minerals can be helpful in managing these larger breed dogs’ growth; therefore, large breed puppy foods are typically recommended or suggested as the best option.
What natural dog food should I give to my large breed puppy?
One of the most important considerations when selecting the best puppy food for a large breed dog is avoiding excesses and providing well rounded nutrition. The right balance of highly digestible nutrition in the formula means less food wasted and more nutrients available to your dog to support and maintain healthy skin and coat condition, strong bones and joints, and a healthy immune system. Large breed puppies typically have a genetic tendency to grow too quickly and this can sometimes result in incomplete skeletal development and lifelong joint issues. Thus, it is critical to control the growth rate of these larger puppies with the appropriate amount of calories and tightly regulated levels of calcium and phosphorus (the main constituents of bone).
For these reasons, we recommend California Natural brand Chicken Meal & Rice Formula Puppy Food. It is appropriate for large and giant breed puppies.
Do you offer prescription-type diets?
We do not provide exclusively veterinarian prescribed diets. You can, however, review the average nutrient analyses of our pet foods on our web site to see how the nutrient levels compare to a specific prescription diet. You should also consult with the Veterinarian who prescribed the diet for your pet.
Should I switch my pet to a “senior” food?
The majority of our adult formulas are balanced for all life stages. A healthy, older dog or cat can use the adult formula throughout their lifetime.
If difficulties develop such as digestion problems, joint problems, weight gain, and/or lower activity level, it may be necessary to switch to a senior, low fat, or weight management formula. These formulas are balanced for maintenance, and can be used for any pet that is past the growth stage.
What if my pet doesn’t like your food?
We are so confident that you will see a positive difference with our pet food, that we offer a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. If you need to return the pet food for any reason, you can return it to the store where it was purchased. Depending on the store's return policy, you can get a refund of your purchase price, a store credit, or exchange for another product.
How much does your healthy pet food cost?
Pricing information varies between different locations. The individual pet food retailers in your area can provide you with their current prices and product availability. More information can be obtained from a retail store in your location.
Can I order your pet food online?
We have a number of retailers engaged in online and e-commerce sales. We support our internet retailers in the same manner that we support our traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Every retailer must follow our date code system to insure the consumer of the freshest product possible, participate in technical product training, and support our Product Satisfaction Guaranteed Policy. We encourage you to support businesses in your local area, but if you choose to use an internet retailer you can expect to receive the same great quality, freshness and service that all of our retailers provide.
Do you offer a breeders program, or puppy packs?
We do not have a national breeder program or puppy packs at this time. We have always dedicated our resources to obtaining the best pet food ingredients that money can buy. Many breeders agree that funding is better allocated to our state of the art processing, food safety, and quality control to produce natural, healthy pet food.
You can inquire with retailers in your area that carry our products to see if they offer any quantity discounts for breeders and large volume users. If not, they still may be able to help breeders with literature and samples.
What does the Nutrient Analysis (NA) tell me?
The listing of the NA is much more comprehensive than the guaranteed analysis (GA). It often mirrors the AAFCO nutrient profiles. Some companies may also provide an abbreviated listing of these nutrients or computations to express the nutrients on a different basis, e.g. dry matter or metabolizable energy basis.
Will the Guaranteed Analysis and the Nutrient Analysis be exactly the same?
This listing of nutrient information may look slightly different than the GA. For example, the GA may list minimum protein % as 24, but the NA reports 24.53%. The difference is due to the fact that the formula is predicted to be slightly over the minimum so that the consumer gets equal to or more than they are guaranteed to receive.
In nutrients that are guaranteed to have a maximum amount in the GA, the NA may show levels lower than the guaranteed Maximum amount. These are nutrients or elements such as crude fiber and moisture for which amounts are measured in each formula, but where the pet food may contain less than the maximum estimated amount.
Will the Nutrient (Proximate) Analysis for protein, fat, ash, fiber, moisture, starch (NFE) and ash always add up to 100%?
They might not add up to exactly 100%. There are a couple of reasons for this:
1st – There can be rounding considerations (rounding up or down to the second decimal place) are common when dealing with nutrient information.
2nd – The nutrient information for the ingredients that go into a formula and the final product are based on both laboratory chemical analysis and calculated values.
- Chemical analysis: Most nutrient information is generated from laboratory chemical analysis and compiled over time into mean values in a nutrient database. There is variation associated with the ingredients, chemical methods used, and between laboratories. This variation in values is something that pet food companies learn how to manage in order to achieve the most accurate values possible.
- Calculated values: Some values, such as starch or NFE (which stands for Nitrogen Free Extract) are calculated from other nutrients; NFE=100 -(crude protein + crude fat + crude fiber + moisture + ash). This is where the idea of the 6 different components summing to 100% comes from. Depending upon when it gets loaded into a nutrient list, it may differ slightly from what would be required to yield 100% upon summing the 6 proximate components.
- Also, some ingredient suppliers and pet food companies will utilize a chemical analysis of starch. This has inherent variation associated with the outcome and would lead to an even greater chance for the sum of the 6 nutrients to deviate from 100%.
- What does all this mean?
- Since there is variation, and since the methods for the different components have their own inherent differences, the final sum may be slightly different than 100%.
What should I do if there is a nutrient change that I have questions about?
Please check our website, send us an email or call our customer service line. We will provide you with a timely answer to your questions with the most current information we have available. We want our customers to be confident that we provide the absolute best in foods and nutrients for their pets.
My pet is eating grass and feces. Why is this?
Pets sometimes eat things such as rocks, wood, grass, etc. which can be a learned behavior, a sign of boredom, a sign of nervousness, anxiety or being kept in small, confined areas. Eating items like these is not connected to a nutritional deficiency.
Coprophagy or coprophagia is the consumption of feces and is believed to be more of a learned, emotional, or attention getting behavior, rather than the result of a dietary or nutritional deficiency. There are products available in the form of dietary supplements that make the feces less appealing. Behavioral training and removing the fecal material as soon as possible are also recommended.