California Natural Dog Food Review (Dry): Evidence-based Analysis

California Dog Food ReviewCalifornia dog food review has evaluated this brand for an excellent A rating. It scored 90/100 points on our scale.

Highly recommended brand.

The below NextGen Dog’s California Natural dog food review analyzes product’s ingredients and nutrition, sourcing and manufacturing, any certifications and marketing claims used.

This dog food review was hand-written by a certified veterinarian and used an evidence-based evaluation approach for accuracy.

California Natural dog food is manufactured in the USA, and all main ingredients are sourced from USA and Canada.

The following California Natural dry dog food recipes are available:

  • California Natural Chicken Meal and Rice Formula Puppy
  • California Natural Lamb Meal and Rice Formula Small and Medium Breed Puppy
  • California Natural Lamb Meal and Rice Formula Large Bites Adult
  • California Natural Lamb Meal and Rice Formula Small Bites Adult
  • California Natural Herring and Sweet Potato Formula Adult
  • California Natural Brown Rice and Chicken Meal Formula Weight Management Adult
  • California Natural Grain Free Salmon Meal and Peas Formula Adult
  • California Natural Grain Free Kangaroo and Red Lentils Formula Adult
  • California Natural Grain Free Chicken Meal Formula Adult
  • California Natural Grain Free Lamb Meal Formula Adult
  • California Natural Grain Free Venison and Green Lentils Formula Adult

For this NGD California dog food review, company’s California Natural Chicken Meal and Rice Formula Adult Dog Food recipe has been chosen to represent their line of dry dog foods.

Ingredients

California Natural dog food meets AAFCO nutrient profile requirements, which ensures adequate nutritional value for canines.

Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Rice, Sunflower Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, a Source of Vitamin E), Flaxseed, Natural Flavors, Potassium Chloride, Salt, 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.

Most Important Ingredients

Chicken Meal: This refers to chicken that has been ground or reduced in particle size.

Meat meal is a dried product made through rendering. It can be a highly nutritious and concentrated source of protein that improves the amino acid profile of dog food [1, 2, 3, 4].

Rendering is the process of separating the components that make up chicken, allowing the protein portion to be more concentrated. It’s considered a good source of protein [5, 6, 7].

Brown Rice: This is unpolished rice after kernels have been removed.

Brown rice is a highly nutritious complex carbohydrate source that’s high in vitamin E and fiber [8, 9].

Rice: Milled rice with the husk, bran and germ removed is considered (white) rice.

White rice is less nutritionally dense than brown rice, but can be a good source of carbohydrates [10].

Sunflower Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols): Sunflower oil is the only source of fat in this dog food recipe.

Any balanced commercial canine diet will contain fat, which is critical for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins.

Sunflower oil has been shown to be safe for canines and may have several health benefits for dogs [11, 1213].

Sunflower oil is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that may have beneficial health effects for canines [14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19].

Mixed tocopherols are a Vitamin E compound derived from sources like vegetable oils, fish and nuts and used for preserving foods. They are safe to use [20, 21].

Vitamin E itself has several health benefits for dogs as an antioxidant helping with absorption of free radicals and may be beneficial in cancer and cardiovascular disease [22, 23, 24, 25].

Flaxseed: Flaxseed contains omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and both soluble and insoluble fiber.

This is a healthy source of essential fatty acids for dogs that can improve dog’s coat, hair and skin [26, 27, 28].

Natural Flavor: The FDA defines natural flavor as a substance obtained from a plant or animal source.

Natural flavors can also be derived from chemicals “naturally” in a laboratory setting. The term is very vague and sources of the flavoring can be varied.

The origin of the natural flavor is not specified in this dog food. However, flavors are usually added to make a food more palatable and don’t have a large effect on the nutritional value [29].

Potassium Chloride: Potassium chloride can be used to lessen the amount of sodium chloride used for palatability.

Both potassium and chloride are necessary electrolytes for dog’s normal body function.

Salt: Salt is sodium chloride and is often added to dog food for palatability [30, 31].

Salt’s presence in the top ten ingredients may be concerning to owners since ingredients are listed by weight. However, it is important to note that this diet has a very limited ingredient list and the actual amount of salt (0.45%) shouldn’t be of any concern.

Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate): These minerals are all important parts of a well-balanced canine diet, but how much of these minerals can be absorbed from food remains debatable [32, 33, 34, 35].

The source of vitamins is not made clear, but the levels are all appropriate for canines according to AAFCO’s guidelines.

Vitamin E Supplement: Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and it can be used as a natural food preservative as well.

Studies have repeatedly shown the benefits a diet rich in daily vitamin E [22, 23, 24, 25].

Other Additives

California Natural dog food has no additives listed in the ingredients.

Suspicious Ingredients

California Natural dog food has no added problematic ingredients.

The Bottom Line on Ingredients

Overall, the ingredients in California Natural dog food are average.

California Natural dog food contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

The ingredient list is ordered by weight. Chicken meal is concentrated, and therefore at the top of the ingredient list indicates this is likely the largest contributor to protein source.

One important limitation of dog food labels is its inability to provide information on the quality of ingredients.

While the quality of the ingredients can’t be determined by the label, the ingredients themselves are all wholesome, nutritious, healthy and appear to be well-balanced.

Nutrient Analysis

Below is a guaranteed nutrient analysis of California Natural Chicken Meal and Rice Formula Adult Dog Food recipe.

  • Protein: 21% minimum
  • Fat: 11% minimum
  • Carbohydrates: 42%
  • Fiber: 2.5%

Calories: 3,533 kcal/kg (430 kcal/cup) calculated metabolizable energy.

Adult dog food protein content is typically in the range of 20-35% which is appropriate for most healthy dogs [36].

Fiber is beneficial to dogs in many ways but further research is required on several health benefit claims [37, 38, 39, 40].

However, crude fiber listed on California Natural dog food labels are not a particularly accurate measure of actual total dietary fiber content [41].

Certifications and Claims

Dog food manufacturers can have their foods tested and certified to meet specific regulations.

Some companies often use obscure or undefined statements. Below, we analyze all certifications and claims made by the company for accuracy and definitions.

Certifications

California Natural dog food has several certifications from various organizations including:

All of these certifications indicate manufacturer’s dedication to testing and safety.

Nutrition Claims

On their website, California Natural dog food claims to be a very limited ingredient line of dog food that delivers superior nutrition.

Limited ingredient diets can be useful for dogs with food intolerance and sensitivities, allergies, and digestive issues [42, 43].

Since their Chicken and Rice Formula portion of the label does not have a modifier, such as “-dinner” or “-feast,” per the FDA regulations this implies the diet is comprised of at least 70% of those ingredients.

AAFCO Requirements

The nutrition standards set by the AAFCO are voluntary.

The presence of a statement by the AAFCO on the dog food’s label is the most important indicator of dog food’s nutritional adequacy.

Ingredient Requirements: California Natural dog food line meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages when evaluating their diet using food composition tables of the ingredients.

All California Natural dry dog foods have an AAFCO statement on the bag.

Feeding Trials: California Natural dog food has not undergone any food trials with dogs.

Diet trials are the most stringent and costly AAFCO standard, and the highest AAFCO standard that can be met. The lack of a diet trial does not necessarily indicate that this dog food isn’t high quality.

Although the AAFCO statement claims to be adequate nutrition for all life stages, this diet may not be appropriate for puppies, especially large breed growing puppies that need very precise ratios of vitamins and minerals to calorie content.

Other Evaluations

Other factors are taken into consideration for the final assessment of this dog food brand.

“Best Use By” Date on the Label

When considering dog food’s quality control, it is important to have a “Best Use By” date present on the label to ensure proper shelf life.

California Natural dog food includes a “Best Use By” label on their packaging.

While seemingly inconsequential, the presence of this date is an important indicator of a dog food’s quality and the company’s commitment to safety.

Manufacturer and Brand

California Natural dog food is owned by Natura Pet Products, which is a part of MARS Petcare family.

Natura Pet Products also manufactures EVO dry dog foods.

MARS Petcare also manufactures the following dog food brands:

  • Pedigree
  • Whiskas
  • Cesar
  • Sheba
  • IAMS
  • Eukanuba
  • Royal Canin
  • Nutro
  • Greenies (dog dental treats)

MARS Petcare also owns Banfield Pet Hospitals.

MARS Petcare brand is one of the largest pet food manufacturers in the world, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium with companies in more than 50 countries.

California Natural dog food is manufactured in the United States.

California Natural website confirms that the main ingredients are sourced in the USA and Canada, but doesn’t offer information for the source of the added minerals and vitamins.

Testing, Safety and Quality Control

On their website, California Natural details their testing and safety parameters.

All raw ingredients are inspected and tested, as well as all final pet food products prior to being sold.

Toxins tested for include aflatoxins, melamine and cyanuric acid.

Recalls

Natura dog food brand has had recalls in the past. The most recent was in January, 2013 for the possibility of salmonella contamination. California Natural dog treats were affected by this recall.

Summary of California Dog Food Review

This brand has scored 90 points out of possible 100 points for an excellent A rating, according to our Dog Food Rating System.

California Natural Chicken Meal and Rice Adult Formula Dog Food shares many of the characteristics of a high quality dog food.

This brand does not claim any certifications, but it meets AAFCO nutrition adequacy requirements and includes a “Best Use By” date.

While ingredients listed are limited in giving insight to their overall quality, they are appropriate for dogs. There are no added artificial flavors or colors.

The manufacturer is located in the USA and undergoes standard safety testing to assure quality.

References

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