What is holistic food for dogs and cats?

by | 15 January 2022 | Lifestyle

Animal diet is one of our passion since we own dogs. It’s been more than 10 years now and we were always wary to gather the best information from experts in the field who are often not recognized at their true value: agronomists that specialize in pet alimentation.

We quickly realized that, as it is for the human food chain, the pet food market is full of choices and trends.

One of these trends that is very popular nowadays is the holistic food industry. Who knows, you might have already bought some holistic pet food.

But, what does that really mean? And when comes the time to buy your best friend’s food, shouldn’t be appropriate to make that selection on more than a label on the bag?

Let’s clarify it all in this article.

Holistic’s definition

The word holistic is derived from the greek “holos” which mean “whole”. This means that the animal is considered in its entirety.

Holistic pet food is elaborated in order to interact with all the animal’s metabolic processes and systems to achieve optimal health. According to the holistic philosophy, every ingredient’s nutritive value is selected to contribute to the animal’s global health. That’s what claim those who label their products as holistic.

The issue here is it’s easy to use this word to one’s advantage. In fact, an holistic product isn’t necessarily good for your animal’s health.

There are many elements that you need to analyze when it comes to choosing your animal’s food product and you shouldn’t base that important decision on labeling only.

Holistic pet food versus normal pet food

So, let’s talk about all those designations because, as we said earlier, the trends we see in the human food industry (gluten free, fat free, etc), are also found in the pet food industry.

Beware of trendy words

Grain free, gluten free, vegan, GMO free, 100% natural, etc. You probably have already read these words on products that were destined for pets. None of these expressions are bad, but…

It all depends on the way they are used and publicized. Because petfood industry is not regulated like human food industry, they can be used in many misleading ways.

You must consider these pet foods in a whole and analyze their ingredients, their origins and, most importantly, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact the companies to get answers to your questions.

What should you look for when buying pet food

Being called trendy doesn’t mean that the ingredients that are used to process the food are quality ingredients. There are many points to check before selecting your pet’s food wether it’s a complete formula or supplements.

Search for natural ingredients

Many companies claim using natural ingredients. Heck, we are one of these companies. But what is our definition of natural ingredients?

Sometimes, even if it’s called a natural formula, it’s possible to find synthetic ingredients because many of these synthetic ingredients are approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Therefore, it’s important to know what really is a natural ingredient.

Moreover, it’s not because an ingredient is natural that it’s organic and it’s not because it’s organic that it is necessarily good for your health. Even a natural ingredient might not be good for your health.

We did our homework to find an appropriate definition of a natural ingredient because we stress the importance that our products be less transformed as possible and we wanted to be able to use the terms with a clear mind. The definition we support is the one from the CFIA that states that to be called natural, the food must:

  • not contain, or have ever contained, an added vitamin, mineral nutrient, artificial flavouring agent or food additive
  • have not had any constituent or fraction thereof removed or significantly changed, except the removal of water
  • have not been subjected to processes that have significantly altered their original physical, chemical or biological state

Unfortunately, in the pet food industry in Canada, manufacturers aren’t obligated to submit to the CFIA rulings but they must only respect their provincial agency rulings.

One should also be wary with description of ingredients such as “made with real chicken” because it’s possible that the “real” ingredient appears far down the list of ingredients and even though it’s real, it might not be of good quality. So, don’t base your selection on the description, but rather dissect the list of ingredients.

We understand that it’s not always obvious what you should be looking for when reading the ingredients list, so here are 4 elements that will help you decode it:

  • Choose a product with a narrow list of ingredients.
  • Choose a product with ingredients you know.
  • Avoid products that include additives, artificial flavors or food coloring.
  • Learn to read between the lines. For example : chicken by-product might come from chicken, but let’s admit that the original product has been over-transformed. Ever worse, know that chicken by-product is not really made from chicken wings, thighs or breasts!

The food’s origin

Once you’ve dissected the ingredients list, another important point to be considered is the origin of the ingredient. Especially in the pet food industry. To pursue with our chicken analogy, the chicken meat may be of suspect quality depending on its origin. Does it come from a free roaming breeding facility or from a rendering plant?

Are the ingredients from a foreign country? Since the rules applying to the food industry vary a lot from one country to another, this detail is also important.

In short, there are many questions to be asked and the best way to find answers is to contact directly the manufacturer and simply ask them to answer your questions. Most of them will be happy to assist you with answers.

Retailers often contact us to learn more about the origin of the ingredients we use. We are always more than happy to help them with the answers.

Because no food is really complete by itself…

We already mentioned this in a previous blog article: we don’t believe that complete formulas exist. This is why it is a good practice to add supplements to your selected pet food, but here again, the same principles that made you choose the ideal formula for your pet must apply to your selection of supplements.

Supplements to the rescue!

Before you ask yourself what would be the best supplement to add to your pet’s bowl, you have to ask yourself FIRST what are the benefits you wish to gain from such supplement.

Remember that you don’t just add supplements to your pet’s diet by pleasure. That’s why it’s important to be well informed of the supplement’s benefits.

As for food, if a supplement is not synthetic nor denatured, it will present different benefits.

And should you have questions regarding the recommendations provided by the supplement manufacturer, just contact them for more informations.

The same rules apply

Now that you have chosen the supplements your pet needs and according to the benefits you want to achieve, you’ll probably end up with 4 similar products from 4 different manufacturers. How do you determine which one is the best? Well there are the obvious qualities such as the way it is served and the preservation process of the supplement.

But, in our opinion, the first thing to consider in your selection process would be to dissect the list of ingredients, their origin and their transformation process. We cover this subject in more depth here if you’re interested in learning more, but all the principles we mentioned earlier in this text also apply to this selection.

We sincerely hope this article shed some light in all these matters, but remember that we don’t want to discredit anyone in its way of feeding his pet because there are so many other considerations that simply the list of ingredients and their origin when time comes to choose a product (cost, availability, serving method, preservation mode, etc.). If, amongst all these considerations, you avoid the trap of trendy marketing labeling when searching for the right ingredients, well, this is a giant step in the right direction. The direction that will improve or maintain your pet’s health.

And, if you have any question regarding our products, their ingredients and their origin, please feel free to contact us. We LOVE hearing from you!