On a dog food label, what is the definition of holistic?

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There is no official definition for holistic dog food – it is a marketing term. In general, look for a brand that contains meat, a minimum of fillers and additives and a quality grain, such as brown rice. You’ll need to read labels and use your judgment when determining the quality of a holistic dog food.
Another marketing term is “all-natural.” Again, there’s no legal definition but the implication is that no preservatives or artificial colors have been added and that natural preservatives, such as vitamin C or vitamin E, have been used. In addition, although these products may not contain added artificial preservatives, they can still include preservatives that are already in some items, such as meats.
Holistic dog food usually contains more protein than commercial dog food, often listing meat as the largest component of the dog food. Many commercial dog foods use grain sources as the largest component, but holistic brands will use meat—a named meat, not a by-product. Holistic dog food often contains fewer chemical preservatives, and claims to use fewer animal by-products that may be tainted with pentobarbital, a chemical used to euthanize animals.

While a holistic food, or even a raw diet, can be absolutely healthy, please be sure to check with your veterinarian or pet nutrition expert to be sure she’s getting a completely balanced diet.

At minimum, check for these things:

• The dog food label should have the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) label, showing that the food is “complete and balanced.”
• Read the ingredient list carefully: Grains should be no more than 50 percent protein should be at least 25 percent and vegetables should be 25 percent. For grains, brown rice is considered the best for dogs. Many proponents of holistic dog foods feel that meat should be the top ingredient.
• Some preservatives are very harmful. Avoid BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin, chemical antioxidants often used to preserve dog food. According to some, both BHA and BHT and known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction. Ethoxyquin is a chemical preservative not allowed in human food but used in many dog food brands.

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