holistic: setting the record straight

From cough drops to pet food, it seems like everyone is claiming their products are holistic these days. The word ‘holistic’ has turned into the ultimate buzz-word and marketing tag for all things healthy. But what does it really mean?

Webster’s defines holistic as, “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.” For example, holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body, focusing on overall health as opposed to the treatment of one symptom. That is to say, when something is truly holistic, it’s not one single product or food, but rather an entire program or method.

It isn’t defined by simply popping an herbal remedy to battle a pesky cold, but instead, it’s an overall plan of health and well-being designed to boost the immune system thereby preventing future colds. In that sense, a product can be part of a holistic plan. But is the product itself holistic? If the answer is yes, then couldn’t anything healthy be considered holistic? (I ate a holistic carrot today. I drank 8 glasses of holistic water. I went for a holistic jog today!)

When it comes to pets it’s easy to get confused when there are so many products out there claiming to be holistic. Lately it’s become especially trendy to use the term “holistic dog food.” But using the word “holistic” when advertising dog food is no more than a clever marketing ploy. With rampant overuse of the term “natural dog food”, and strict guidelines required for “organic dog food”, holistic has become an easier word for pet food companies to slap on a label. Certainly if a dog food is natural and free of preservatives and additives, then it may very well be part of a holistic regimen. However, in and of itself, natural dog food is no more holistic than taking your dog for a walk. (We took our dog on the most beautiful holistic walk last evening!)

Naturally we’re big advocates of feeding your pets healthy, whole pet food, made of human-quality ingredients and chock full of natural nutrition. But a truly holistic plan for your pet doesn’t end there. The concept of holistic pet care came to be over 70 years ago, thanks to master herbalist, author, and natural pet care pioneer, Juliette de Bairacli Levy. Natural rearing is the term she used to describe holistic pet care. We think Levy puts it best with her five basic rules, which, if followed, would together make up the whole picture for a healthy, happy pet:

1) Natural diet of raw pet foods;
2) Abundant sunlight and fresh air;
3) Two hours of exercise daily, including plenty of running outside kennel enclosures;
4) Hygienic kenneling, with the use of earth, grass, or gravel runs, never concrete; and
5) Herbs, fasting, and other natural methods in place of vaccinations and conventional symptom-suppressing drugs.

(Souce: The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, Faber and Faber Limited, 1955)