Introduction

Holistic Select has been making pet food in Indiana for almost 20 years, and in that time they’ve developed a large range of wet and dry dog foods, as well as cat foods. We’re going to look at their Chicken Meal and Brown Rice Recipe.

Ingredients

Holistic Select has an ‘uncompromising’ ingredient selection process and requires high standards from all their suppliers. This includes aiming to not purchase from GMO sources, but they do not currently buy to any welfare standards.

Protein

At 27% protein on a dry matter basis, Holistic Select Chicken Meal and Brown Rice sits comfortably above the AAFCO minimum of 18% for adults and 22% for growth, without being excessive. The proteins in this recipe mostly come from chicken meal. Some pet parents might be suspicious of the term “chicken meal,” but it simply means chicken that has been rendered, dried, and ground. It actually provides a high-quality and consistent protein and may also contain bones to provide calcium. There is also a small amount of pork meal in this dog food.

Fat

This recipe contains just over 16% fat on a dry matter basis, which is about average for dog food and well within the minimums set by AAFCO. While not an especially low-fat diet, it’s certainly lower than many on the market, and this might make it more suitable for dogs on a weight loss program. However, it isn’t low enough to be suitable for dogs suffering from pancreatitis.

The fats in Holistic Select Chicken Meal and Brown Rice come from a variety of plant and animal sources, including chicken fat, flaxseed, and salmon oil. This mixture is likely to provide a good range of fat-soluble vitamins including omega fatty acids.

Carbohydrates

Rice, brown rice, oatmeal, and oats provide carbohydrates in this dog food. Some might worry that these are ‘cheap fillers,’ but dogs can get valuable nutrition from these grains including energy, fiber, and a range of vitamins that are hard to come across elsewhere. Between the carbohydrates and the fruits and vegetables (below), the maximum crude fiber content is 4.44% on a dry matter basis. This is on the higher end for a non-prescription diet, so may be a good choice for dogs with soft stools or anal gland problems.

Fruits and Vegetables

Pumpkins, apples, cranberries, papayas, and several other fruits and vegetables are also included. Those toward the end of the list are likely included in such small amounts that they make little difference nutritionally, but pumpkin is added in large enough quantities to be an excellent source of fiber. The cranberries are probably included for their anti-urinary tract infection properties.

Other Ingredients

The rest of the ingredients listed are mostly vitamins and minerals, but there are some interesting additives you might not recognize.

  • Contains a number of probiotics (‘good’ gut bacteria) including Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Bacillus subtilis.
  • Aspergillus oryzae, Trichoderma reesei, and Rhizopus oryzae provide digestive enzymes.
  • Inulin is one of the most important prebiotics, providing a food source for the ‘good’ gut bacteria.
  • Glucosamine hydrochloride is a building block of joint cartilage, added to support healthy joints.
  • Rosemary Extract is a preservative.
  • Yucca Schidigera Extract is a plant compound that improves the odor of dogs’ stools. 
  • Green Tea Extract is added as an antioxidant
  • Mixed Tocopherols are compounds related to Vitamin E which act as preservatives. 

Health Benefits of Holistic Select Chicken Meal and Brown Rice

Holistic Support mainly markets this product as being for ‘better digestion’ due to the combination of prebiotics, probiotics, natural fiber, and digestive enzymes. But how true is this claim?

Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Live Yogurt Cultures

Some studies have shown that feeding prebiotics and probiotics can change the bacteria living in the gut. And live yogurt cultures are a good source of probiotics in humans. It’s still unclear whether this makes a clinical difference, though, especially to dogs with gastrointestinal disease. So, the addition of these ingredients won’t harm your dog, but they might not help, either.

Natural Fiber

Fiber is known to regulate gut speed and change the types of bacteria living in the gut to favor the ‘good’ types. In addition, specific gastrointestinal diseases like fiber-responsive colitis are resolved with a high-fiber diet. There can be no doubt this diet contains lots of fiber from many different sources, and this fiber will likely help some dogs with gastrointestinal issues.

Digestive Enzymes

When your dog’s body encounters food, it will release enzymes to start to break down the bonds in the proteins, starches, fats, and fibers. This diet has added protease (a protein-digesting enzyme), cellulase (for digesting cellulose), and amylase (for digesting starch). Some very specific conditions (the most common of which is Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) are known to be improved by feeding specific enzymes, although this should also include lipase, which isn’t included in this diet. However, there’s currently no scientific evidence that adding digestive enzymes to the diets of normal, healthy pets improves their ability to digest their food, though. it’s not likely to do any harm.

Pros and Cons of Holistic Select Chicken Meal and Brown Rice

Pros

  • Well-balanced diet suitable for adult dogs that has been formulated by suitably-qualified nutritionists to be AAFCO-compliant.
  • Meets most of the WSAVA guidelines for selecting a good pet food.
  • High fiber and relatively low fat may make it a good choice for a weight loss diet for some pets.
  • Omega fatty acids and glucosamine may provide some nutritional support for healthy joints.
  • No red flags for dietary DCM (such as high levels of lentils, peas, and potatoes).

Cons

  • Some of the claims on the packaging do not have scientific evidence to back them up.
  • Some people claim their dogs did not enjoy it, possibly because the lower fat content has reduced palatability.
  • Although highly digestible, chicken is one of the more common food allergens, so this diet may not be suitable for some dogs with proven food allergies.

Conclusion

Holistic Select provides a good all-around diet for adult dogs. It’s not too high in fat, it contains plenty of fiber, and the healthy grains mean that red-flag ingredients such as lentils and peas are not needed. In addition, this food has been designed to provide nutritional support for the common issues of joint disease and unhappy guts, both of which plague most dogs from time to time. However, scientific evidence is still limited for some of the digestive claims on this packet.

Information as of 3/31/22