Holistic Dog Food: Dogs Need A Balanced Diet Too

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Holistic Dog FoodAs pet owners become more discerning about the nutritional content of their dog’s food, they are increasingly turning to holistic dog food as the solution. But what does this mean? We will help you answer this and many other questions around this somewhat confusing category including what makes a dog food holistic, the difference between holistic versus grain free, and why holistic foods may be better for some dogs. We will also provide our recommendations for the best holistic dog food brands for you and your furry friends.

What Is Holistic Dog Food?

Holistic dog foods are foods that are balanced. Not only to provide dogs with optimal nutrition, but also to support overall well-being. Ingredients are selected with their unique purpose in mind. Whether it is to provide high levels of fatty acids or to include more digestible proteins. Since every individual dog has different nutritional needs, there is a significant degree of variation among types of holistic dog food blends.

What’s the Difference Between Holistic Versus Low-Quality Dog Food

Feeding a dog a holistic food versus feeding a low quality “kibble” (aka dog food) is akin to eating at a nice restaurant versus eating at a fast food chain. Lower quality dog food options focus on low-cost production costs which result in lower quality ingredients. And similar to people, when poor quality food is consumed, overall nutrition is poor and general health suffers. So when dogs are fed diets filled with poor quality ingredients and excessive fillers, the results will soon begin to show. Dogs fed low-quality kibble may appear to have dull eyes, a flat non-shiny coat, a lack of energy, excessive defecation, flatulence and digestive complaints. These symptoms (when not caused by another mitigating factor) result in a dog not receiving adequate levels of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Excessive defecation can also be the result of excessive levels of food fillers or an inability to process specific carbohydrates such as corn or wheat. On the other hand, a dog that is being fed a high-quality kibble (whether holistic or not) will be much happier and healthier (we’ll discuss more specific benefits of holistic dog food below).

Is Holistic the Same as Grain-Free?

Not all holistic foods are grain-free foods and not all grain-free foods are holistic foods. Many people are under the assumption that all grains are bad for their dogs, this is not the case. Grains can be beneficial in limited quantities. (The exception to this rule is, of course, dogs with grain allergies, in which case grain free foods are the best option). Learn more in our Grain-Free Dog Food article.

How Much Does Holistic Dog Food Cost?

Just like human food, you get what you pay for in most circumstances. Holistic foods are made up of higher quality, and more often than not, human grade ingredients which often times makes them more expensive. Lower quality kibble often includes ingredients that are not fit for human consumption, including insects and mold. To add to the low quality of ingredients, quality control is generally less important overall which can lead to mass food recalls such as the dog food recalls of 2007. While you may pay more for this dog food, you will likely pay less in veterinary bills and medications for food induced illnesses and health conditions. In addition to better health, dogs that are fed better food often experience a much longer lifespan – something that no money can buy.

Benefits of Holistic Dog Food

With the added expense that often comes with feeding holistic dog food, most dog owners want to better understand the benefits of holistic dog food. Here’s a list of these benefits.

Better Coat Health

A dog that has better coat health will have a shiny coat (unless their breed standard dictates otherwise) and they will shed less. One ingredient that helps considerably with overall coat health is fish oil and many holistic foods contain added fish oil for this purpose. Even dogs that naturally experiencing shedding will have less hair loss when their food contains healthy supplements and fewer fillers.

Improved Skin Health

Oils that are found in better balanced foods help to keep the skin hydrated and prevent drying. If you have a dog that experiences dry or flaking skin you may find that a holistic diet or a raw food diet works best to reduce and eventually eliminate this problem. Fish oil and vitamin E are great ingredients to look for in holistic foods to maintain overall skin health.

Sharpened Eye Health

Holistic dog foods often contain more antioxidant-rich ingredients which are not only good for the dogs overall health, but are also very beneficial for healthy eyes. As dogs age, many will experience trouble with their eyesight. Additionally, some breeds have a natural tendency towards eyesight trouble. Feeding a holistic dog food that supports eye health can help to minimize these types of concerns.

Greater Heart Health

Holistic dog foods tend to pay particular attention to the quality of the proteins that go into their foods. With leaner proteins, dogs experience much less weight-related issues. Much like humans eating lean meat rather than fatty meat, a dog that eats leaner ingredients will have a stronger and healthier heart.

Superior Intestinal Health

A dog that is fed holistic food tends to have much better intestinal health because these foods frequently contain probiotics. These types of ingredients are formulated to help healthy bacteria flourish in your dog’s intestines which aids in healthy digestion. Dogs that are prone to diarrhea and upset stomach from traditional commercial dog foods quite often experience better intestinal health after being switched to a probiotic-rich natural food.

Fewer Bowel Movements

One common “side effect” of switching your dog to a holistic food (most commonly a grain-free holistic food) is fewer and/or smaller bowel movements. This happens because the vast amount of fillers found in lower quality food contributes to more frequent bowel movements (as this “waste material” is simply passed through the dog’s intestines without absorption). Switching a dog to grain-free holistic food can reduce bowel movements to once or twice a day.

Healthier Feces

The digestion of a dog on a better diet will be noticeably healthy, while lower-quality dog diets can lead to diarrhea, poorly formed feces and constipation (Assuming that these matters are not the result of other health conditions such as parasites or infection).

More Energy

This is similar to how humans naturally have more energy when they eat healthier foods. When a dog eats poor quality food, the body has to expend more energy breaking it down to obtain the nutrients needed to function. When more energy is expended in breaking down food, less energy is available for play and other day to day activities. In a higher quality food the nutrients are more readily available for use.

Fewer Allergies

While this is not true for all dogs, some dogs that have allergies thrive more on holistic and healthier foods. This is particularly true for dogs with grain sensitivities that switch to a grain-free diet. These types of allergies can contribute to dry and itchy skin, hot spots, excessive licking, chewing at the skin/fur/feet, hair loss, scaly skin and flaking skin. Finding a holistic food that is rich in fish oil and vitamin E is beneficial when healing these types of skin afflictions that result from food allergies.

Where Do I Buy Holistic Dog Foods?

Now that you’re thinking that holistic is probably the way to go, you might be wondering where you can get your paws on some?  If you are looking to save the most money on a holistic dog food, the best option is to shop online.  Here are some of our recommended brands which are all available on Amazon (however there are lots of variables including flavor and age/size of dog). If you decide to buy from Amazon, keep in mind that you can save when you sign up for a subscription (“Subscribe & Save”).

Our Favorite Holistic Dog Foods

Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food

Video: Holistic Select Health Support System

This 30-second video illustrates many of the benefits of Holistic Select’s Unique Digestive Health Support System pet food.

Is Holistic Food The Way To Go?

If you make the switch to holistic food, then you (and your dog) will notice a significant difference, particularly if your dog currently eats lower-quality food with fillers. Not all dogs will thrive on a holistic diet, but many dog owners have been pleasantly surprised by switching their dog from a megastore brand to a holistic product.

Keep in mind that switching your dog’s food should be a gradual process and you may not see improvements in your dog’s health immediately. It can take weeks for poor quality food to leave your dog’s system and for nutrient levels from the new food to reach optimal levels.

We highly encourage you to consider holistic dog food as the additional cost is easy to justify when you experience fewer veterinary bills due to allergy and other symptoms of poor nutrition.

Has your pet jumped on the holistic dog food bandwagon? 

About The Author:

Amy grew up in England and in the early 1990's moved to North Carolina where she completed a bachelors degree in Psychology in 2001. Amy's personal interest in writing was sparked by her love of reading fiction and her creative writing hobby. Amy is currently self employed as a freelance writer and web designer. When she is not working Amy can be found curled up with a good book and her black Labrador, Jet.

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Marilyn from the Bronx

I just purchased a 3mth Maltese. Never had a dog in my life but want to learn how to give it the best care. Therefore I did some research on the best dog foods which do not contain gluten wheat or corn. When I saw this I knew this was the one. I learned how important it is for humans and dogs to stay away from killer foods. Wheat and gluten will hurt a puppy too. Thanks Holistic! You’re a genius.


Can holistic dog food cause weight gain? I have a bichon frise and have had him on the holistic dog food for a year and he is gaining weight. His vet says it has to be gas to be the food. Can you advise?

Cairn Mom

When I was on a work assignment in Europe for 2 years, my Cairn Terrier, who is allergic to certain ingredients, such as wheat, and some other things was on a formula that was very simple, but effective in keeping him symptom free. It consisted of venison, trout, potatoes and barley, vitamins and minerals added, of course. It had 20% Protein, 10% fat, relatively low percentages but he was doing well on it. When I came back to the US, I couldn’t find this product and started him on Natural Balance Ultra…big problems – he never had firm stools and started to put on weight (I couldn’t find a calorie count on package either). I transitioned him to “Blue Buffalo” Lamb formula, as some of my fellow Cairn Terrier owners suggested…his runny stools stopped, but his coat turned really greasy, grooming was useless – and his weight did not come off, despite the fact that he ate very small portions. The Vet suggested Nutro “Lite” – also Lamb based, to get the weight off first, before finding a holistic dog food. My Cairns symptoms vanished, he lost the weight, and I transitioned him after 3 months to Nutro Ultra Holistic, adult formula. Despite the fact that I used to feed him more “simple ingredient formulas”  this food works excellent for him. It has three protein sources and several (non wheat) carbohydrate sources, fruits, vegetables. My dog is fit, healthy, no allergic reaction, firm stools, keeps his weight, has a shiny coat, and has lots of energy. Why am I writing this? Because I had a variety of dogs throughout my life and it seems that what really works well for one dog will not always work for another, even among the same breed of dog. A general “food suggestion” (e.g. this is a “five star product” for canines is similar to giving a diet suggestion to humans. What works for some causes problems for others. Some people feel energetic on a high carb diet, others on a high protein diet. And for our canine friends: One has to try a few formulas and if a dog does well on it, stick with it for an extended period.


I love that holistic foods are made so that each ingredient has a purpose. So many foods you purchase at the grocery store are made with fillers, such as corn. This does nothing for your dog but fill their belly, kind of like how fast food fills our bellies. This is why a lot of dogs overeat. They aren’t getting the nutrients they need so they eat more and more with the same results. If you love your dog, you’ll seek out the best foods.

I fed my first dog a holistic food and she absolutely loved it. What I loved about it was that it had actual pieces of dried chicken and dried pieces of fruits and vegetables. It was nothing like food I have purchased in the past. It was something I felt good feeding to my pet and is something I will definitely purchase in the future when I get another dog.

I also find it important to purchase holistic treats for your dog. While treats are meant to be a special food, that doesn’t mean you can’t give you dog a treat that is beneficial to their health. Many holistic brands of dog food also make treats. Search your local pet store and see what’s available.


My little dog struggled with flatulence for his whole puppyhood. That is putting it mildly, too. Anyone who has had a little dog around them who got gas will have some idea of what I am talking about here. My veterinarian recommended that I feed my pup a more holistic diet in order to relieve some of the digestive issues he was having that the vet said were causing the gas.

I was skeptical about this, especially since I was still using the dog food the shelter recommended for him and was very reluctant to switch over. I was also wary of my vet telling me I should buy more expensive dog food. I went to the local pet food warehouse and got help finding a grain-free holistic brand appropriate for my small dog, and then began transitioning him to the new food by mixing more and more of it in with the old food every day until there was no more of the old food left in the mixture. Unbelievably, I noticed my dog had less gas even before the transition was complete. I am not sure what it was, but overall the holistic food really worked.


All too often, I see dog owners at Wal-Mart or some big box store loading up on super low-priced forty-pound bags of dog food, and I have to wonder how the food can possibly be so cheap. Clearly, the answer is that it really is lower quality. When you look at the ingredients of these dog foods, some of it could hardly be described as ‘natural’ in any sense of the word. They are made of corn and wheat, with beef by-products that if you saw yourself you probably would not want your dog to touch. Yet the promise of large quantities of cheap food apparently are more alluring than any potential consequences your pet will suffer after eating it. No wonder so many dogs beg for table scraps– they are desperate!

I am not saying that everyone needs to radically change their lives so their dogs can eat the BARF diet. That seems a little too much on the other extreme for me at least, though if you have the time and resources, go for it. I do think that putting some effort into all natural dog food will be a benefit to everyone, though.


I decided about two months ago to switch to holistic dog food, and I have never looked back. Seeing more dog food recalls in the news is what pushed me over the edge into this decision, because before that I was on the fence about whether it would really be worth it.

In a way, I am grateful for those dog food recalls for giving me the extra incentive I needed. At first, my dog was experiencing some bloating and gas, which I thought was unpleasant to say the least, and not just for her. My first tendency was to blame the food itself, but I realized a little later that it was because I did not handle the dog food transition correctly.

Still, after those symptoms subsided, my dog looks notably shinier and has more energy. Maybe I am just reading into it, but she seems to eat more slowly and enjoy the food more, rather than gobbling it all up as quickly as possible. As far as the expense, I would say the food itself is really only a few dollars more per bag, and well worth it.

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It’s strange to think about the history of dog food. At one time owners simply fed dogs the daily scraps leftover from meals or items that couldn’t be used, such as fat and bones. When the first canned dog food hit the market, there’s a good chance that it was far from healthy. Granted it didn’t contain many of the chemicals that are available today, but when you consider the fact that even human food wasn’t regulated, it’s easy to see that dog food was probably much, much worse.

We live in an age where we have the ability to feed our dogs the best food possible. Is holistic food the best option? It depends on your dog. While some breeds can eat regular dog food, many that have allergies may benefit from holistic food. For example, those that have allergies to wheat or soy, would more than likely experience relief from eating a holistic formula.

If you do choose to switch your dog’s food, you must make sure to do so slowly. Switching your dog’s food can actually make them quite sick. Instead, mix a little of the new food into their regular food at a time, gradually increasing the amount until you’ve switched the food completely. This will give your dog time to adjust.


Well, I must admit that before I read this I never gave much thought to the idea of holistic dog food. The whole concept of holistic anything is pretty new to me anyway, and at first this just seems like another thing to add to the confusion. But the more that I read, the more I got to thinking that there might be something to this. The examples in the article really got to me, about how ‘low quality kibble’ can have such bad health effects on dogs.

I am by no means the richest person in the world, but I definitely have thought for some time now that eating right is great prevention for all sorts of diseases and health ailments, even if better food costs a little extra. In the long run, eating well saves a lot of money on doctor visits and preserves your good health, right? I mean, even my doctor will suggest dietary changes for health conditions! So it is not a huge leap to say that dogs can benefit from a good, balanced, ‘holistic’ diet just like us humans. Feed dogs well, and they will be happier and healthier, I say.


I love the fact that one of the first things in this article is a portion dedicated to the fact that holistic dog food is becoming more popular. Seriously, I see the need for the statement, but I also think it is sad that something has to become a trend before people start using common sense. I mean, before we came along and started adding chemicals to everything we possibly could, all living things were much healthier and if someone (especially your pet) was taking medication or anything, it was kind of a big deal.

Today, we feed our animals all this crap and call it taking care of them. The holistic approach is really the common sense approach to eating and living in general. Nature has everything we need, even for our pets. I am glad that some companies are starting to get on board with that and are working toward a healthier lifestyle.

Great article. I hope more people take it heart and use the information you have provided here for them. I know holistic living went out of style when pharmacies came into style, but it is time to get back to some common sense. Our pets will appreciate it.


Something that has always bothered me are those that are turned off by paying more for high quality food. Would you feed your child poor quality food just to save a few dollars? Then why would you do that to your pet? Yes, holistic dog foods cost more, but it’s well worth the expense. First of all, you’re feeding your dog food that is much higher quality. Second, you’re able to help protect your pet against numerous vet visits because they are eating healthier food.

With that said, I feel that it is also important to speak with your vet about which holistic food would be best for your pet. This can easily be done by printing out the information about the brands you are interested in. You will want to present your vet with information on ingredients and percentages.

Personally, I feel that holistic dog food is a wonderful option for pets. Not only are most brands higher quality than what you’ll find at your local grocery store, but they are usually better formulated for your pet as well. This means that you can feel good about what you’re feeding your pet instead of wondering whether or not their food is the cause for their health problems.


Holistic dog food? Really? That might just be the very coolest thing I have read today. I love the idea that you can get it to fit the specific needs of your dog too. I love my dog. He is a gentle and loving little ball of fur that is apparently going to be a lot bigger than I ever thought he was going to be. I did not plan on him being such a large dog. I don’t mind it. I just want to make sure that he is growing in a healthy manner and not just full of chemicals that are going to do him more harm than good on down the road.

I had never thought about holistic dog food before. I certainly had no idea that there were so many companies that made holistic dog food or that there were so many different options when it came to picking the specific type of holistic dog food that you need for your dog.

Whether we are talking about human food or dog food, I find it ironic that our own government tries to get us to eat unhealthy chemicals while there are so many better options. I thought of that when reading the comment about no recalls.


I’m a big fan of holistic dog food. After seeing what many companies use in their recipes, I decided to start feeding my dog a holistic formula. Not only was I impressed by the ingredients the company used, but I was also impressed that the brand had never experienced a recall, which is really saying something when you consider the amount of recalls over the past few years.

Recently, I’ve been looking at holistic brands that are either frozen or refrigerated. To me, these brands seem more like real food than dry kibble. While my dog has never been a picky eater, I feel that she would enjoy these foods better than dry foods. The only problem is that these foods aren’t convenient for me to purchase because the closest store that carries them is 60 miles away.

If you’re in doubt as to whether or not you should feed your dog holistic food, read the ingredients label of your current brand. Chances are you’ll find a lot of ingredients you can’t recognize and a lot of food dogs can’t digest properly. Then you can go online and start reading the reviews of any holistic formulas you may be interested in to see how they stack up against the competition.


Thanks for sharing this informative article… It’s good for the ones who were not aware of such things and I am one of them…