The Natural/Holistic Pet Food Myth

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Most pet foods that claim to be “natural” or “holistic” are indeed not! All you need to do is look at the official definitions of these terms to understand what I’m saying.

The standards for pet food labels are set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO’s definition of natural is:

“a feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.”

I don’t know about you but that does not sound very natural. Besides, AAFCO only addresses the naturalness of ingredient processing. The statement says nothing about how natural it is for a pet to consume specific ingredients.

For example, it is totally unnatural for dogs and cats to consume grains. However, if the grains are processed according to AAFCO’s definition of natural, a pet food containing them can call itself natural.

My definition of natural nutrition is:

“A diet consisting of ingredients that a particular species has evolutionarily adapted to eat with the macronutrient (protein, fat, and carbs) and micronutrient (vitamins and phyto-nutrients) balance that is ideal for their health.”

Such a diet is by definition a balanced, raw food diet. No dog or cat evolved eating kibble or canned food.

The concept of a “holistic” pet food makes no sense whatsoever. The term holistic means that it addresses body, mind, and spirit. All pet foods address the body. I suppose some might have ingredients that affect the brain and thus could be said to address the mind. However, no pet food addresses spirit.

AAFCO has no definition for the word holistic so any pet food company can use it as they wish. Basically, if you see a pet food labeled as holistic it means that the pet food manufacturer thinks that they can sell more food by slapping that word on the label.

Don’t be fooled by pet food labels with their trendy words. Now that holistic medicine is starting to catch on, everyone is trying to cash in. The only natural pet food is a balanced, raw diet.

Do you feed a truly natural diet?

9 thoughts on “The Natural/Holistic Pet Food Myth

  1. Micki Handte

    Dr. Doug, do you consider The Honest Kitchen foods a balanced raw diet since it’s dehydrated? I use it in conjunction with raw.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      I like the Honest Kitchen products. Dehydrated raw is pretty close to raw. I really don’t know for sure how the dehydration process affects nutrients but I’m sure the effect is minor compared to processed pet foods.

      Reply
  2. Tara Stenger

    I feed a homemade cooked diet to my dog & he does very well. I use Dogzymes Ultimate supplement with added calcium I use from ground eggshells. I got the info. for the supplement from Mary who has written a lot of articles on Dog Advisor or Dog Journal. I know he should be on a raw diet. What do you recommend for a raw diet? Burton’s Total Pet sells frozen patties through Nature’s Variety Instinct & other brands. The vet I work with is concerned with me giving raw meat from the store due to where it’s manufactured (ex. China), distributed (ex. California). I do feed raw soup marrow bones. I feed Feline’s Pride Raw to my kitties, but they sometimes don’t like it & it can be pricey. Any other suggestions on feeding raw on a budget for my dog & kitties? I own an American Staffordshire Terrier who’s 72 lb. Thank you for your advice! You did a workshop a long time ago at The Western PA Humane Society when I worked there (I was there from 2003-2007). That workshop inspired me to do a natural diet for my dog & cats. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      Tara – a homemade cooked diet is way better than processed dog food so you are already doing well. I like Answers raw pet food and if you can’t afford to go all the way raw then getting some raw into the pet is better than none at all. I have seen dogs break their teeth while chewing raw soup bones so be warned about that.

      Reply
  3. Susan McCaffrey

    I have gradually switched my golden retriever over to all raw (Detailed Answers beef nibbles and patties) in the last two weeks. Since she was doing very well on it, I added small amount of Detailed Answers pork to the beef the last two days. She has thrown up twice so I backed off the pork. However, she still burps like she’s going to throw up and her stomach makes weird gurgling sounds. How long should I wait before introducing a new meat? Or is pork harder on the stomach? I have all this pork and want to be able to use it. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      If you have any of the Answer’s goat’s milk, give some of that to help get more probiotic bacteria in her gut. Then, wait 2-3 weeks and try the pork again. I don’t think pork is inherently hard to digest but your dog may have a problem with it. It’s worth trying again though.

      Reply
  4. maryanne borden

    Hi, Dr. Doug, I was blessed to adopt two siblings from the care center in St. John, USVI, 6 month old, brother and sister, black as night. Jasmine and Marley. I kept their names. The vet on island said she like the Purina products because they are “tested.” I am using purina nurture kitten chow and wet purina friskies salmon pate. Then I am reading these are not good for my little ones. Jennie Taylor ( mutual friend at ARE) suggested I contact you. Perhaps I should find a holistic vet as well? Even though I like my vet. Oh my! Guidance please! Hi to Judy as well !!! Maryanne Borden

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      Maryanne, It is great that Purina is “tested.” Pesticides, preservatives, and poisons are tested too. Not a good reason to feed them. You can find a local holistic vet at http://www.ahvma.org – Best, Dr. Doug

      Reply

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