Just like there has recently been a greater focus on the food we eat, where it is coming from and how it was grown, the same concerns are being directed toward food sourcing for pets.

For a long time, pet products have been known to freely use additives, preservatives, artificial flavors and animal by-products including fillers, such as chicken by-product meal, ground corn and corn gluten. There have even been pet food industry-wide scandals involving regular food that has negatively affected pet health because the manufacturers used bad ingredients. The pet food industry is largely unregulated.

The best thing to do for your pet? Examine the ingredient list. Premium foods are often distinguishable from regular food by using higher-quality ingredients such as better cuts of meat. Premium foods will not have processed carbohydrates or fillers as their first ingredients.

Moving up the food chain, natural and organic pet foods are a step above premium food. Natural foods will not list processed carbs or fillers as their first ingredients. Instead, a scan of the ingredient list should show only all-natural items like beef, chicken, fish and eggs. Vegetables may be included as well to provide vitamins and fiber to animals with those dietary needs.

Both natural and organic foods should not contain any artificial flavors or colors and are usually preservative free (but some may contain naturally occurring preservatives). Also, natural pet products should be made from meat and meat by-products without growth hormones or antibiotics.

Higher-quality Protein and No Animal By-products

Natural and organic pet foods offer higher-quality proteins than the standard dog and cat food. The protein sources are often human-grade and a mixture of turkey, chicken, lamb, beef and pork. Along with these better proteins, high-quality nutrients are also being infused into an animal's diet. Scanning the ingredients list reveals a lot about the quality of the food itself. Lack of artificial preservatives, growth hormones, other chemical additives, cheap animal by-products, fillers, gluten, diseased tissues or artificial flavors are good indicators of the healthfulness of the product.

Depending on the style of food an owner is looking for, non-GMO grains may also be included; wheat-free and gluten-free options are available. All-natural ingredients make the food more wholesome.

Better Digestion and Overall Absorption

With natural and organic foods, pets will usually experience easier digestion. Human-grade meats and proteins along with easily digestible and natural whole grains, like oats, barley and others, make a significant difference in an animal's gastrointestinal tract.

With lower-quality foods, a pet may experience occasional vomiting after meals, gas, bloating or diarrhea. After checking with a veterinarian to rule out any other underlying illnesses, the vet may recommend a natural or organic diet. With a diet free of the toxic chemical additives, dyes and preservatives, the pet's stool will be better formed, and there may be less of it with less odor.

Just like humans taking a daily multi-vitamin or seeking a balanced diet with vitamin- and mineral-rich foods may benefit the pet’s health. Vitamins and minerals can help improve a pet’s skin and coat and offer clearer and brighter eyes.

Better Overall Nutrition

The higher-quality protein sourcing of natural and organic foods means more nutrients for pets. Natural and organic pet products have shown to have higher and better nutrient contents. Thus, a pet's bodily functions, growth and overall well-being benefit from these higher nutrient levels.

Fewer Food-related Allergies and Ailments

As most natural and organic pet foods are free of harmful toxins, pesticides and additives, pets will be eating more closely to their natural diet and are less likely to have a negative reaction to their food. The combination of the higher-quality proteins and the rich nutrients help promote the health of a pet's immune system. A strong immune system, in turn, can help to reduce food-related allergies and ailments, such as joint problems, digestive issues, skin irritations and other infections.

Better Weight Management

The lack of heavy, carb-based fillers and by-products means that pets can more easily maintain a healthy weight. Nutrient-rich food can help an animal owner who is trying to bring down the weight of a pet or prevent them from becoming overweight.

Better Quality of Life and Longer Life

Better-quality food can help contribute to a better quality of life for a pet. Longevity is easier with a healthy diet as the basis of a pet's lifestyle.

Just as with humans, natural and organic pet products can really help animals. Using pure ingredients without preservatives and wheat can lead to happy and healthier furry friends, which in turn leads to happy owners.