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Are Holistic Dog Foods Worth It?
Holistic dog food has nothing to do with holistic veterinary medical care for your dog, so if you are spending more on holistic dog food, ask yourself if it is really worth it. Spending more money on your dog does not justify spending less time with her.
What is holistic dog food?
The commercial dog foods were first invented as a way to sell the sweepings from the grain mills. Since those feeds were first introduced, the companies have spent millions of dollars convincing the dog owning public that they are too stupid and uneducated to feed their own dogs without purchasing commercial products.
You do not have to buy commercial dog food nor be a veterinary nutritionist in order to feed your dog.
In the last few years dog owners have finally learned that these commercial products are making their dogs sick, and the companies have tried to change the labels and convince the consumers that their new products are better and actually what a dog should be eating.
The holistic dog foods introduced to the dog food market in the last few years are one of those commercial products labeled to draw in naïve dog owners that have learned the sweepings are making their dogs sick. But what is holistic?
There is no definition that they have to follow, so companies can call any food “holistic” and get away with it.
Holistic dog foods claim:
• They use only whole fruits, vegetables, and grains, and never utilize by-products.
• They use only natural ingredients.
• They use only bioavailable minerals and vitamins.
Do holistic dog foods provide benefits to dogs?
Any time a company pastes the “natural” label on their product they can raise the price. If they are able to use the word “holistic”, they can charge even more. And, since they are so expensive, most people willing to spend so much money on a dog food are going to claim that it is helping their pet.
So are these “holistic” dog foods really worth the extra costs? They are claiming a lot of things, but they have no proof that any of them are true.
Holistic dog foods claim these benefits:
• Improved health
• Shinier coat
• More energy
Are holistic dog foods natural?
Natural is anything a company says it is. In the US, AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) “recommend” that natural is supposed to be a feed that has nothing artificial. Corn, wheat gluten, and bone meal are all natural ingredients, not artificial, so a company can put them in their food, charge extra, and label and sell to you as a natural diet.
Artificial only refers to artificial flavoring, coloring, or preservatives. Anything else is fine, and, since AAFCO does not inspect, anything else can be added.
Some companies also claim that natural means “whole”. As in whole grains of corn, whole grains of rice, or whole vegetables. (Some of the dog foods that are labeled as natural and holistic do not contain grains, but you have to read the ingredient list if this is what you are looking for. Do not assume that the picture on the bag is correct.)
So although the dog food with the holistic label may be natural by some definition, it does not have to be what a dog would eat naturally, nor what he needs for his health.
The best dog food is:
Are holistic dog foods worth the extra money?
Many holistic brands are out there, many claiming to be hypoallergenic, reduce cancer rates, and make your dog healthier. The latest fads are holistic diets that are supposedly better for a dog because of his breed.
But is it worth it to spend money on these diets? Not in my opinion. If you choose to supplement this industry you are doing your dogs a disservice.
Is it worth it to feed your dog correctly? I think so. I feed my dogs whole food and balance it with natural ingredients.
They have improved in several areas since their diets have changed. The biggest benefit is their dental health. By eating food with bones, they have their teeth scraped at every meal. This does not occur when you feed the “holistic” foods out of a bag or can.
They also have shiny coats, so much so that my neighbors comment on it. Their stools are small and dry, so I no longer have the clean up that used to plague my day. Most importantly, at least for my evening, the dogs no longer pass gas secondary to that grain-based commercial dog food.
How to feed your dog every day
· Give mostly meat and bones. About ¾ of his diet can be provided by bringing home chicken necks, beef scraps from the butcher, and even raw tripe.
· Some organ meat like an occasional piece of liver or kidneys. If you feed chicken backs the organs are attached to the inside of the back and it is not even necessary to worry about buying extra organs.
· Some vegetables, mixed with a few tablespoons of raw yogurt to provide bacteria to aid digestion. (In Paleolithic times, the probiotic most commonly consumed was fecal material. If you do not want your dog picking up horse droppings you should provide something else.)
· Fresh fruit. Almost all dogs enjoy fruit.
· Some areas of the world will be deficient and dogs may require some supplements—if there are local street dogs that are healthy and doing fine do not worry about this. (Commercial dog foods will not take this into account and will just provide enough nutrients to keep your dog alive.)
· All dogs benefit from the addition of fish oil and some benefit from other antioxidants like vitamin C.
What is the best option for your dog?
I will agree that most of these dog foods are superior to the sugary ingredients of Gaine´s Burgers or the Corn and Bone meal that are the main ingredients of Ol´Roy. But are they really your best option?
If you look at the holistic foods, they are considered better than average by most dog food sites, but even these “above average” holistic foods are made up of chicken meal, rice, oatmeal, and dried beet pulp. Further down the ingredient list they contain things like carrots, peas, quinoa, apples, vitamins, and probiotics. If you look at their advertising, however, they tout these ingredients as if they were the most important thing in their dog foods.
And, if you look at the photos on the dog food bags, these ingredients are what are shown to the customer.
The best option is to stay away from all commercial feeds and to feed your dog a diet based on real meat. The box to the left will give you an idea of how you can feed her correctly. This is not as easy as just buying a bag of food off of the shelf but it is well worth your time.
Take the time to learn a little more.
I found this inexpensive book easy to follow and it provides some sample feeding schedules and more details on feeding your dog naturally.
Dr. Ian Billinghurst, Give Your Dog a Bone, Warrigal Publishing, 1993.
More about your dog´s health:
- How To Buy Inexpensive Raw Dog Food
You do not need to spend a lot of money on raw dog food--you can feed a good diet for the same price as the cheapest dog food on the market. Find out what you need.
© 2015 Dr Mark