3 Meaningless Words on Dog Food Labels

Dog food is sold to humans, not dogs. So it is important that dog food manufactures use language that makes their product sound appealing to dog owners. Unlike human advertising, dog food makers have much more freedom with the language on labels. The three following words are the most popular at this time.

  • Holistic
  • Wholesome
  • Premium

Labels with these words sound fantastic. They all imply some special quality to health that other foods do not have. But these words have no legal meaning. There are no criteria that a dog food with these descriptions must meet to distinguish it from other foods.


Holistic is defined as consideration of the whole rather than the separate parts. What does that even mean when it comes to food? The word is a spiritual quality rather than a nutritional one. Any well balanced dog food provides nutrition for the whole body. No specific ingredients or combination of ingredients have been identified that gives dog food this spiritual quality.

The meaning of wholesome probably varies from individual to individual. The dictionary defines it as “conducive to or suggestive of good health and physical well-being.” Again, any balanced diet would meet that definition. Beyond that, there are no legally defined ingredients, ingredient handling or ingredient production standards that make one food more wholesome than another.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO allows the use of the word premium on dog food labels despite the fact that the food does not have to meet standards any higher than regular food. The price is definitely different. But the quality does not have to be.

It is the Wild West with regards to dog food advertising. Be careful out there. The words are not what they seem. If you want to know more, contact us for an evaluation of name brands. Another way to really know what is in your dog’s food is to make it yourself.

~Dr Ken Tudor


Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

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