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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ask the Vet, with Dr. Pat: What EXACTLY is Holistic Dog Food?

by Pat Bradley, DVM
(c) Carrie Boyko
Healthy Food = Happy Pups
Dear Dr. Pat:  

My vet sells a holistic food in their practice. I asked the nurse what makes it holistic and got a blank stare. The doctor's answer was not much better, but he's not a natural doctor. Can you help me understand what makes food holistic? I thought holistic meant treatment that involves both mind and body.  Thank you, Petra

Dear Petra:

What a great question!  And oh, how I wish I could have seen her face!  How many times have I had that blank stare on my face after a client asks me a question that I realize I should know the answer to?  The veterinary profession owes people like you a lot for keeping us on our toes.  Our clients and patients are always our very best teachers!

You’re right about “holistic”. For humans, it generally means that “body, mind, and spirit” are taken into account.  I admire you for asking what it actually means, but the fact is it means different things to different people. 

“Holistic”, “wholeness”, and “healing” all come from the same root word, so you can get an overall sense of the direction this is going. In general, when a pet food manufacturer uses the term “holistic” it means “Our company understands there is more to making pet food than just putting the ingredients together into a can. We know and care about the newest research in nutrition as well as the impact of the whole manufacturing process on your pet, the environment, and other people.”

The term, “holistic” has a “feel good” quality to it currently, so people are more likely to buy a pet food when this term is on the label.  When you read the label carefully, you might find such things as:
  • “natural” ingredients and preservatives, such as vitamin E
  • organic ingredients (no pesticides or chemicals have been added)
  • human-quality ingredients
  • protein from animals that have been treated humanely, such as free-range eggs
  • recyclable packaging
  • above-average treatment of employees
  • donations to animal welfare organizations
  • “antioxidant” fruits like blueberries
  • additives for health, such as glucosamine and chondroitin for joint problems
I recommend buying and feeding “holistic” pet foods, if they really are holistic.  Great quality ingredients cost more, so the price will likely be higher. But always read the label to find out what that company actually claims. You may or may not agree that it’s worth the extra cost.

(c) courtesy P.Bradley

Have a question for Dr. Pat? You can reach us at

For a personal consultation about your pet's needs, visit Holistic Veterinary Services.
Dr. Pat's opinion or advice does not replace an actual exam with a veterinarian

Helpful Resources:
You may wish to check out All Things Dog Blog's Food Choices for Every Fido, a page where you can find many holistic, organic or natural dog foods to investigate. All Things Dog Blog does not sell or profit from this information; we simply provide the resource for your convenience. We encourage you to visit the websites of the products you are interested in and read their ingredients. Good luck--Carrie

Have you visited 5 Minutes for Fido lately? Tanner and Oliver like today's blog topic and Dr. Pat gets kudos from them. Woo hoo!
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