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Reading the health claims on a pet food package is like reading the headlines from the tabloids that line the checkout aisle at the grocery store – you can’t always believe what you read. Pet food manufacturers do their best to make their products as appealing to pet owners as possible and they use some pretty clever tricks to encourage you to pick their brand over another brand. One of the tactics pet food manufacturers use is plastering their product labels with words and health claims and that give you a positive impression of the product – the word “holistic” is an example. Keep reading to learn what holistic means in its application for pet food and to receive some tips for shopping for a holistic pet food product for your dog.
What Does Holistic Mean?
The FDA has a long list of specific definitions for the words food manufacturers use on their packaging. The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) performs a similar role for animal feed and pet food that the FDA performs for people food. They monitor and regulate the manufacture and sale of pet food products, including the use of certain health claims. What many pet owners don’t know, however, is that pet food is much more loosely regulated than people food, especially when it comes to what a manufacturer can put on their packaging. Some of the words you see plastered across pet food bags don’t actually have a set definition according to the FDA or AAFCO – this means that pet food manufacturers can pretty much use them however they like. But what does this mean for you? It means that you can’t always believe what you read and you need to take the time to make your own evaluation of a pet food product before you buy it.
Though the word “holistic” doesn’t have a specific definition according to the FDA or AAFCO, it does have certain connotations. According to Merriam-Webster, the word holistic means, “relating to or concerned with wholes or complete systems rather than with the analysis of or dissection into parts”. To put it into context, holistic medicine involves practices that attempt to treat the whole person, both mind and body. Keeping this context in mind, you might understand holistic pet food to include products that are designed to support your dog’s total-body health and wellness – products that go beyond just meeting your dog’s minimum nutritional requirements. The ingredients in holistic dog food are selected carefully and with a purpose to ensure that your dog gets all of the essential nutrients he needs and nothing he doesn’t.
What Should You Look for in a Holistic Dog Food?
Because holistic dog foods are designed to nourish your dog’s total body health and wellness, it is generally safe to assume that they are high-quality products. Just remember, however, that you should always take the time to evaluate the quality of a pet food for yourself before you buy. The beauty of holistic dog food is that it doesn’t just meet your dog’s needs for energy and nutrients – it ca provide other benefits which may include the following:
- Improved skin and coat health
- A stronger immune system
- Healthy and regular digestion
- Improved heart health
- Strong, healthy teeth and bones
- Sharp vision and hearing
In order for a holistic dog food to provide these benefits, however, it needs to be made with high-quality ingredients. When shopping around for a holistic dog food formula, that is exactly what you need to look for – quality ingredients. It is always a good idea to start evaluating a pet food product by looking at the guaranteed analysis to make sure that it doesn’t just meet your dog’s bare minimum requirements for protein and fat. Generally speaking, the higher the protein content of a dog food formula the better. Higher fat content is usually a good thing as well, but only if it doesn’t lead to an excess of calories. Your dog will need more fat in his diet while he is a growing puppy but his metabolism will slow down a little as he ages, causing his need for calories to decrease slightly as well.
Once you’ve determined that the dog food you are looking at has the right protein and fat ratios, you should move on to examining the list of ingredients. Holistic pet foods should always have a high-quality source of animal protein as the first ingredient – consider it a bonus if the first two or three ingredients are all premium proteins. You also want to see digestible carbohydrates near the top of the list, though they don’t necessarily need to be grain-free. If your dog struggles with an allergy or sensitivity to grains you should by all means avoid those ingredients but whole grains can be valuable ingredients to include in a holistic dog food formula. You should also look for high-quality animal-based fats like chicken fat or salmon oil – these ingredients provide a concentrated source of energy as well as essential fatty acids to support your dog’s brain, skin, and coat health.
In addition to knowing what ingredients to look for in holistic pet food products, you should also know what ingredients to avoid. If a product contains artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives it probably isn’t a holistic recipe. You want to see all natural ingredients, no chemicals or by-products. Holistic foods also tend to be free from hormones, antibiotics, and steroids as well as GMO ingredients. It is not necessarily a requirement but a bonus if the product includes organic or certified ingredients. Don’t be too concerned if the brand doesn’t qualify as a “human grade” pet food. In order for a product to truly qualify as human grade they need to use human grade ingredients and manufacture their products in human food facilities – there are only a handful of brands out there that meet this requirement. All in all, a holistic pet food should start with a high-quality source of protein and carbohydrate then be supplemented with other natural ingredients and beneficial supplements.
What Are the Top 6 Brands of Holistic Recipes?
If you’re looking for a pet food product that will nourish your dog’s body from the inside out, a holistic dog food might be the way to go. Holistic pet foods may not have a standard definition but you can count on them to offer high-quality, natural nutrition in complete and balanced formulas. To help you get started with your search for the ideal holistic formula for your dog, here are some quick reviews for our top six choices in holistic dog food brands:
With a name like Earthborn Holistic, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this brand follows a wholesome approach to pet nutrition, designing each product to nourish your dog’s whole body from the inside out. Every recipe features premium ingredients for balanced nutrition that supports your dog physical health and total wellbeing. Earthborn Holistic offers an assortment of original and grain-free dry dog foods as well as several canned food formulas – they also offer moist grain-free dog treats and oven-baked grain-free dog treats. For their dry foods, Holistic Select has several life stages formulas for puppies through adult dogs as well as recipes made for small breed dogs. No matter what your dog’s needs may be, this brand has a product to match.
The Holistic Select brand of pet food has been in business for just over ten years but they have already made a name for themselves in the natural pet food industry. This brand makes it their mission to provide natural nutrition for dogs and cats, believing strongly in a philosophy that total-body health begins with digestive health. All of Holistic Select’s products are supplemented with their Unique Digestive Health Support System which includes natural fibers, prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes as well as other healthy and natural ingredients. Holistic Select dog foods come in dry food and canned food form including original and grain-free recipes. This brand also offers a selection of formulas for dogs in all life stages as well as breed size and healthy weight recipes.
The Annamaet pet food company was founded by Rob Downey in 1986 and it has remained a family-owned and -operated company. This brand offers holistic pet food products that are made in the USA using premium ingredients. Every recipe is an example of complete and balanced nutrition, formulated using the finest quality ingredients to ensure that your dog gets more of the nutrients he needs and less of the things he doesn’t. Annamaet currently only offers dry dog food formulas and there are eleven recipes to choose from. This brand uses premium proteins like wild-caught salmon, free-range venison, breast meat chicken, and fresh duck in recipes that offer anywhere from 23% to 32% protein. Annamaet offers a selection of original and grain-free recipes as well as formulas for working or performance breeds and breeds of different sizes.
Precise Pet Products offers the Precise Holistic Complete line of dog foods which they describe as, “the healthiest dog food [they’re] ever made”. Every recipe is designed to promote the health and happiness of pets throughout their entire lifetime. Precise Holistic Complete dog foods are made with real meat proteins, wholesome carbohydrates, and fresh fruits and vegetables. They offer a blend of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, not to mention plenty of antioxidants and other healthy nutrients. Precise offers a selection of original and grain-free formulas featuring premium proteins like chicken meal, salmon meal, lamb meal, and more. Many of their recipes are designed for puppies and dogs of specific sizes as well, so you can choose the formula that best suits your dog’s individual needs.
A family-owned and -operated business, Fromm follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition in their Gold line of products. This product line features recipes in three categories – Heartland Gold (grain-free red meat), Gold Coast (grain-free ocean fish), and Fromm Gold (an original recipe with duck, chicken, and lamb. Every recipe in the Gold lineup is made in small batches in company-owned facilities in Wisconsin to ensure quality and safety. Choose from a dozen different recipes for dry food products and seven canned food formulas. The products in this lineup are formulated for dogs in all life stages including puppies, adults, and senior dogs. There is also a weight management and a reduced activity recipe, plus formulas for small and giant breeds.
The Solid Gold pet food company was founded in 1974 by Sissy Harrington McGill, an animal lover who made it her mission to create a nutritious, natural food that would keep her own dogs happy and healthy. The brand’s first product, Hund-N-Flocken was a big success and the company now offers a well-developed line of natural and holistic dry dog foods. Solid Gold makes what they call “pet food with purpose” and their products are made with powerful proteins, digestible carbohydrates, and vitamin-rich super foods. Every recipe is designed to unlock your pet’s healthiest self, so they don’t use any corn, wheat, or soy ingredients and their products are free from artificial additives as well. Simply put, Solid Gold offers healthy, holistic formulas that deliver quality nutrition the way nature intended.
Dog food comes in many different forms from dozens of different brands. To some degree, the words a pet food brand uses to describe their own products should be taken with a grain of salt but brands that describe their products as “holistic” generally mean it. Holistic dog foods are made with the finest quality ingredients in healthy, wholesome formulas designed to support your dog’s total health and wellness. If you’d like to give holistic dog food a try, start your search with one of our top six choices reviewed above.