Holistic, Organic or Raw Dog Food?

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Holistic, Organic or Raw Dog Food?

Do you know the difference between holistic, organics and raw dog food?

Which one is better and more suitable for your pooch?

Read this article and find out more about these types of food.

holistic dog food or raw dog food?


The word holistic means “Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.”

In the context of dog food, it means formulating a food taking into consideration the needs of the whole animal, not just certain systems or particular features of nutritional needs.

However, no definition of the word has been generally established by the pet food industry.

So at the present moment are no regulations or legal definitions for labeling a food as “holistic”, allowing for distortion of the term and its advantages.


Natural dog food means that the formula does not contain chemically synthetic ingredients (such as artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or additives) as regulated by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials).

Because some vitamins and minerals may only be available in synthetic form, AAFCO allows pet food with those ingredients to carry a ‘natural’ label.


To be certified as organic the dog food recipe must use:

1. Plant ingredients that have grown without:

  • Pesticides
  • Artificial fertilizers
  • Genetic modification
  • Irradiation
  • Sewage sludge
2. Animal ingredients must come from animals raised on organic feed, given access to outdoors and not treated with antibiotics or hormones.

3. Producers must be evaluated by the responsible authorities regularly.

In summary, the term “Organic” refers to the way ingredients are grown, harvested, and processed.

Pet foods meeting the human standard may display the organic seal with the following boundaries:

  • “100 % Organic”: if the dog food formula contains 100% organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt may display the organic seal.
  • “Organic”: the dog food formula must contain at least 95% organic ingredients, not counting added water or salt, and must identify the organic ingredients as “organic”.
  • organic dog food

    Only products that fall into these two groups may display the “USDA (US department of Agriculture) Organic” seal, either in color or black and white.

  • “Made with Organic”: if at least 70% of the ingredients are organic. The product may display the seal of the agent certifying the included organic ingredients, however, these formulas cannot use the USDA official organic seal. Organic ingredients may be listed only on the ingredients panel. To categorize an ingredient as organically produced in the ingredient list, the word, “organic” in combination with the name of the ingredient may be used, or an asterisk or another reference mark which is defined below the ingredient statement.
  • If less than 70% of the content is organic only those organic ingredients may be listed and only on the ingredients panel.

Raw / B.A.R.F.( Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods / Bones And Raw Foods)

These recipes are formulated to offer a diet to mimic what dogs eat “in the wild”.

Though, these formulas generally include variable combinations of:

  • Raw meats
  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Bones
  • Organ meats such as livers and kidneys
  • Apples or other fruit
  • Raw eggs
  • Some dairy, such as yogurt

There are raw food benefits recognized such as firmer stools, improved digestion, healthier skin and coat, reduced allergy symptoms and better weight management.

However, there is no scientific proof that feeding a raw dog food, instead, a conventional diet is more beneficial to your dog’s health.

Additionally, raw diets have generated controversy due to their amplified risk for microbial contamination (Salmonella, E. coli).

Cautious cleaning of food handling surfaces must be practiced to eliminate and prevent microbes from contaminated foods to humans and pets.

Moreover, there is also a potential risk of gastrointestinal problems and/or injury from bones included in the diet.

An unbalanced raw diet can induce nutritional deficiencies directly resulting in illness.

My Advice is:

Lots of organic/holistic/natural/raw dog food products have been entering in the market. So it is important to know the meaning of these words to choose your dog’s food consciously.

About the Author:

Hi! I'm Dora Mancha, DVM. I am graduated for the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon (2009). My degree is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I completed my degree in Veterinary Medicine in July, 2009. Over the first years as a veterinarian my work was closely related to the animal health field. I have gained some average experience having worked in Barcelona University (UAB) Equine Hospital and by working with veterinarians in Portugal. In addition, in 2009 - 2010 I was in Madrid at the University Alfonso X el Sábio doing an internship in the equine service. I am also very interested in small animal medicine and surgery. In fact I worked in several small animals clinics in Portugal improving my knowledge about small animal behavior and health. Dogs always have been present in my life, since I was a child. At the present moment I have four dogs a Labrador, a Epagnheul Breton, a Whippet and a mixed breed dog.

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Why was the Dog Food Selector created?

Each dog has unique needs... The approach "one food for all dogs" isn't the more suitable. Dogs have different sizes, different life stages, unique breed characteristics, health conditions and a few other factors... Choosing the right food for your dog may help him or her life a longer and healthier life! We exist to make that task easier for you.

How does the Dog Food Selector work?

It's quite simple... It's a 1-2 step process. You just have to fill in the form with your dog's characteristics, like gender, age, size, activity, health conditions and a few other important data and click "search". Then, you'll see a list of dog foods with the highest review score. If you wish you can see all the detailed review of each individual dog food.