Rethinking Holistic Dog Food: What Does It Really Mean?

Original post by Will Winter, DVM.

Winter received his DVM degree from Kansas State University in 1975. In 1980 he created the Uptown Veterinarian-A Holistic Practice, one of the largest and most successful holistic veterinary practices in the U.S. In 1983, he co-founded the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.

Back in 1979, I had been reading books on natural cures for animals and had been exposed to information about raw, natural and balanced food for dogs and cats. I had actually undergone a complete mental "paradigm shift" that flew in the face of my conventional veterinary medicine training.

It was a dilemma. Furthermore, there was no going back to what I had been before! After several frustrating work situations where these contrasting paradigms clashed terribly, I decided I needed the freedom that could only be had by opening my own hospital. After much thought, I was determined to name it "The Uptown Veterinarian-A Holistic Practice."

When I told my friends, they were apprehensive of the word holistic; they thought it might too "scary" or may be perceived as too bizarre for anyone to come in. To make it even worse, it was spelled Wholistict. Yet, I went ahead with the title in my business and the signs on the building. I never regretted it. 

Now, quite to my surprise, it seems the word is cropping up everywhere. I have seen several labels claiming that the contents are "holistic". As a student, defender and devotee of the whole school of thought around the word, I have seen it misused more and more these days.

Being an adjective, I believe it should only be used to describe a school of thought 
such as holistic medicine or holistic architecture, where the practitioner has taken care to engender whole systems in thinking. With, say, holistic pet nutrition for example we could include the fact that we source humanely-raised animals, use sustainable production, organic production, we balanced the ingredients to meet their needs, we use reusable or recyclable earth-friendly packaging, we have designed it for longevity, and on and on.

That being said, you can't have something called "holistic food". Just like you could have holistic architecture, you couldn't say you have a holistic hammer. The tool may be hand-carved from wood you grew from your own tree, you could forge the
metal yourself, make it ergonomic for the hand and for balance, but still, the hammer has no brain, no will, no conscience. It could be used for all sorts of unholistic mayhem. Therefore, the hammer isn't holistic.

Similarly, you can't call certain foods (no matter how well made) holistic pet food or say something like "I just ate a holistic carrot". That food itself can't think. It could be given to the wrong species, given in excess, served cooked, served moldy, and so on. However, all those bad things would be impossible if the tenants of holistic pet nutrition were followed, so, saying it in that context is something I believe to be a good thing.

I believe we should use the word holistic very liberally to describe our school of thought for how we formulate and manufacture our food. I strive with every single step we take to incorporate these guidelines of holism.  

Your Cart