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Pet Food & Ingredients

What Is Holistic Dog Food & Is It Good for Your Dog?

April 01, 2024 - 7 minute read by The Team at Dr. Harvey's

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Pet parents want to feed their dogs the best food possible and often look for healthy options. As they search, some turn to a holistic diet for dogs because they think it’s the best food possible.

But what is holistic dog food? Learn the answer and how to sort through all the options to find healthy and tasty food for your companion.

What Is Holistic Dog Food?

The definition of holistic dog is hard to pin down. Most people think it’s the same as “natural” or “organic,” but that’s incorrect. Regulatory standards apply to natural and organic food, but holistic food does not have the same requirements.

Holistic dog food focuses on quality ingredients that enhance a dog’s overall health—just like holistic medicine focuses on healing the whole body instead of treating specific symptoms.

How Does Holistic Dog Food Differ from Traditional Dog Food?

Holistic food contains whole-food ingredients with no fillers, chemicals, or preservatives. By contrast, traditional dog food usually contains more filler materials and fewer whole foods.

How Do I Choose the Right Holistic Dog Food for My Dog's Specific Needs?

Choosing the right holistic dog food involves assessing your dog’s unique needs and reading every ingredient in the food you’re considering. Some brands will use “holistic” as a marketing strategy, even if there’s nothing healthy about the food.

If you need additional help, check out our article that outlines how to read pet food labels.

A person cutting vegetables

How Can I Ensure That My Dog's Nutritional Needs Are Being Met with Holistic Food?

The two keys to ensuring your dog’s nutritional needs are being met are:

  • Choosing the right ingredients
  • Considering the size of your dog

The ingredients in your dog’s food directly affect their nutrition. In the next section, we discuss the importance of certain ingredients and how they benefit your pup.

The other consideration is your dog's size. How big or small your dog is will affect the amount of food needed and, therefore, the quantity of individual ingredients required.

What Ingredients Should I Look for in Holistic Dog Food?

In any holistic dog food, you need to make sure it has these five ingredients:

1. Protein

When proteins break down, they make amino acids, which create energy. Since amino acids can’t be made within the body, they must come from what dogs eat, making a high-quality protein source crucial to your pup’s nutritional balance.

Protein also helps maintain the health of muscles, skin, and fur. The best source of protein for dogs comes from other animals. Plant-based proteins don’t digest the same way and won’t fulfill their nutritional needs.

2. Fat

When discussing fat in holistic dog food, we mean good fat, another energy source. Essential fatty acids from healthy fat help reduce inflammation and maintain skin and fur health. Fat sources can include meat, fish, various oils, and flaxseed.

3. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates turn into glucose, which turns into energy for your dog. A lack of glucose in a dog’s body can impact amino acids, robbing your dog of the nutritional benefits.

Carbohydrates are also the primary source of dietary fiber in most dog food. Fiber makes digestion go more smoothly and allows dogs to have easier bowel movements. Sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains.

4. Vitamins

Vitamins assist with various functions within your dog’s body. Your dog can get a lot of vitamins from their food and only requires them in small quantities.

The main essential vitamins for dogs are split into three main categories:

  • Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)
  • Water-soluble vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12)
  • Choline

5. Minerals

Minerals help keep your dog’s organs, tissues, and body fluids functioning properly. They are also involved in the hormone and enzyme system. Without sufficient minerals, different medical conditions can appear.

Here are the minerals your dog food should contain:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Chloride
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Iodine

A woman pouring a bowl of food

What Ingredients Should I Avoid in Holistic Dog Food?

What should you avoid when looking at holistic dog food labels? Some of the key components to avoid include:


Being exposed to antibiotics needlessly can cause many problems. First, it can make it harder to treat illnesses when your dog is sick, and second, it may wipe out the good bacteria in its stomach.

This ongoing exposure can lead to a variety of digestive problems. Avoiding antibiotics in your holistic dog food is essential to your pup’s ongoing health.


Dog food manufacturers often use different filler ingredients to save money on production costs. While grains aren’t bad, too much will cause your dog to consume empty calories. It is best to check the ingredient list to avoid ingredients that your dog does not need in their diet.


Many brands include preservatives like nitrate, sodium nitrate, BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin in dog food to increase its shelf life. These preservatives can impact your dog’s digestion and skin and coat health.


Pet food manufacturers may also incorporate dyes in dog food to improve its appearance. Certain ingredients may become unrecognizable during production, so pet parents may feel reassured by the presence of appropriately colored foods. However, dyes can also cause digestive issues.


When livestock receive hormones, they often come through in the dog food. If your pup consumes hormones, they may experience disruptions in their normal bodily processes.


Pesticides used in various crop ingredients can cause illnesses in dogs. A higher exposure to pesticides may cause even more severe health problems.

How Do I Transition My Dog to a Holistic Diet?

Transitioning your best friend to a holistic diet for dogs is pretty easy as long as you do so gradually. Changing food too quickly can cause digestive issues. The basic schedule for changing from one food to another is:

  • Day One: 25% new diet, 75% old diet
  • Day Two: 50% new diet, 50% old diet
  • Day Three: 75% new diet, 25% old diet
  • Day Four: 100% new diet

However, every dog is different, so you may need to expand the process to accommodate a picky pup or a companion who struggles with digestive concerns.

A dog and a man eating from a bowl

Healthy Dog Food You Can Trust

Feeding your dog the right food is vital to their quality of life. We’ve worked hard to create healthy and delicious food for our best friends. They’re full of whole-food ingredients and contain no preservatives, chemicals, or dyes.

Feel comfortable with your dog’s meals every day. Check out our variety of dog food and see how fellow canines bark with excitement at the sight of their meals.