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Are “Holistic” Dog Products Worth The Money? A Vet Answers

When it comes to pet products, it seems like everyone is putting a natural, organic, or holistic sticker on their product, and raising the price at the same time. So what exactly is holistic? Does it save you money?

Dr. Katy Nelson, Veterinary Contributor to Pet360.com and petMD.com, is an associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, Virginia, as well as the host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on Washington DC’s News Channel 8.

Dr. Nelson answered the following questions you should ask yourself, before you buy something simply because its label “holistic.”

What does holistic mean?

Holistic medicine is a form of healing that considers the creature as a whole – body, mind, spirit – in the quest for optimal health and wellness.  According to the holistic medicine philosophy, one can achieve optimal health by gaining proper balance in life.

Holistic medicine practitioners believe that the whole animal is made up of interdependent parts and if one part is not working properly all the other parts will be affected. In this way, if people, or animals, have imbalances in their lives (physical, emotional, spiritual), it can negatively affect their overall health.

When it comes to dogs, is this regulated at all?

A handful of states do not have provisions specifically addressing CAVM (Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine – such as acupuncture, herbal therapies, chiropractic’s, etc.). In these states, be sure to read carefully the state’s general definition of veterinary medicine, as well as the definition of scope of practice of other licensed professions such as chiropractic and physical therapy.

About 20 states follow the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act by including CAVM in the definition of veterinary medicine, while another 20 states or so have enacted specific or general exemptions for regulated therapies, generally requiring some type of veterinary input such as supervision or referral.

 Are these foods really holistic? Photo Credit: @jbpetgroom via Flickr
Are these foods really holistic? Photo Credit: @jbpetgroom via Flickr

What does it mean when a food says it’s holistic? Is it worth the extra money?

When a pet food is termed holistic the company is making a promise to the consumer that they pledge to use only the finest quality, all-natural human grade ingredients.  The products are touted to not contain fillers, chemical preservatives or by products.  All products are made in USDA and FDA approved facilities in the United States.   As a general rule, I feel that you get what you pay for with pet foods.  Just like we feel differently when we eat a cheap fast-food low quality meal as compared to a healthy, balanced meal made of high quality ingredients, our pets’ bodies will notice the difference as well.

What about a product (shampoo, supplement, etc) that says it’s holistic? Is it worth the extra money?

As a mother of two human kiddos and three pets, any time I can avoid products with harsh chemicals or artificial ingredients, I jump at the chance.  I don’t know the effect that many of the ingredients of products that we come into contact with daily, and I just am not willing to take that chance with the health of my children and my pets.

What should dog owners “watch out for” when they are looking at things claiming to be holistic? Are there giveaways that let them know the product might not be what it’s claiming to be?

The biggest point I like to make with my clients is that there is really no single perfect food for a pet. Have the conversation with your vet about the disease/conditions if any, your pet has, as well as an honest assessment of their weight. Use this info to find appropriate food choices.

Don’t buy a food because of the pretty picture on the label or because it is cheap. Saving a few dollars on food now might end up costing a lot more in the long run if that food contains unhealthy ingredients or is simply not a good fit with your pet. Always ask yourself, am I feeding the right thing for my pet? Lastly, keep in mind that it is possible that you might need to feed each of your pets something different.

I am also suggesting that my clients become more aware of the ingredients and macronutrient profiles of their pet’s food. Both dogs and cats require diets higher in meat and fish protein and lower in carbs which can lead to improved digestibility with less fat storage and waste.   I also recommend foods that have little or no artificial ingredients- things like artificial preservatives or colorings that at best offer no nutritional value and at worst can be harmful to your pet’s health. Fresh food over processed food.

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of, A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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