Dry kibble is a staple in most stores and homes around the world. It’s cheap, you can buy it in bulk and pets love it. However, as we begin to feed ourselves more natural ingredients and whole foods, many people are beginning to look for more natural alternatives for their pets too.

Pets are our children, we love them, lean on them and they provide us with a companionship that cannot be beat and for some, spending a little extra money on premium, organic pet food is worth it. If you haven’t already started feeding your pet all-natural foods and treats, why should you make the jump?

All-natural and organic pet foods and treats tend to be fresher. When using less preservatives, the shelf-life on these foods is not as long. The fresher the food, the more nutrients are in them. Most non-organic pet foods are over-processed and cooked under high heat, which burns off a lot of important antioxidants that fruits and vegetables could provide for your pets. Antioxidants are beneficial in preventing disease and they counter the effects of free radicals in their bodies. They are also essential in helping your pet maintain a strong immune system.

Raw pet food processed by freezing, dehydrating or freeze-drying are great all-natural alternatives for pets. The way in which they are processed doesn’t compromise the nutrients in the ingredients as much as other processed pet foods. Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are easily rehydrated with as little or as much water as you’d like, which can be helpful if you have a pet that may not always drink enough water throughout the day. This is especially helpful for cats.

Most organic or all-natural pet foods are great for digestion. They are easier on pets’ tummies. With less fillers and artificial ingredients and more protein and whole grains, they can help pets with digestion issues. Regular and healthier bowel movements are a positive effect of better digestion. These natural pet foods can also give you more bang for your buck; pets will feel fuller on these foods and will remain satisfied for a longer period of time.

Pet owners who have to deal with pet allergies know the everyday struggle of trying all of the different shampoos, lotions, creams and medications to help alleviate their pet’s symptoms. Some allergies are environmental, while some are directly related to food. All-natural pet foods have helped both cases. Without all of the artificial ingredients, there is less for your pet to have a reaction with; and with more antioxidants and nutrients, your pet has a better chance at strengthening its immune system to fend off environmental allergens.

Many people feeding their pets all-natural foods have found they have a lot more energy than before. High-energy foods such as meat and rice, as well as nutrient-dense ingredients, are usually the top ingredients in all-natural and organic pet foods and treats. The more energy your pet has, the more active they will be, resulting in a healthier weight and better agility.

All of these improvements to your pet’s diet could help them live a longer and healthier life. With fewer illnesses and ailments, weight loss and more energy, you may even find yourself working harder to keep up with them! Not only could your pet’s health improve, many notice improvements in their pet’s appearance as well, with a healthier shiny coat and cleaner teeth and gums.

When picking out a new food for your pet, it is important to always check with your veterinarian first to make sure that the change will be a good choice, especially if they have any existing or underlying issues.

It’s also important to make sure you read the labels when choosing a new food for your pet. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) makes sure that all labels are easy to read and that all pet food companies follow the same rules with providing information on ingredients. Ingredients are in order by weight — the first listed are usually what makes up most of the food, and the last ingredients contain the least or smallest amounts in there. When checking these labels, you will want to look for foods that have whole meat and whole unprocessed grains. The top ingredient should be meat. Grains and healthy fats are good for your pets, too, but you should try to avoid foods with large amounts of grains or other types of fillers.