Just as we look for natural ways to improve our own health, so we should for the animals we love. So why not try out a holistic veterinarian or pet care?
When we treat our companion animals as family, we do everything possible to keep them healthy. Just as we look for natural methods of improving our own health, so we can seek out natural, organic foods and treatments for the animals we love.
We might decide to take our pets to a holistic veterinarian, who looks at all aspects of the patient—diet, personality, behaviour, sleeping patterns, and social interactions—when diagnosing and treating problems.
Dr. Erika Raines, an associate with Tree of Life Veterinary Clinic, is a holistic veterinarian who acknowledges that no one system of medicine is necessarily best. Many conventional practitioners—veterinarians who practise Western allopathic medicine—are becoming more aware of and proactive about treating the patient rather than the condition.
Pet owners should also understand that holistic veterinarians in North America must complete a Western medical veterinary degree before pursuing alternative modalities.
Ideally, you will consult a veterinarian with a holistic philosophy when you first obtain your pet, and every discussion will include consideration of the animal’s diet. Good nutrition is the cornerstone of any being’s health, human or otherwise, so it’s worth your time and effort to do some research and find the right food for your pet.
Pet food—what to look for
Why provide a pet with expensive toys, fancy beds, and reliable daycare, but then feed it the cheapest kibble on the supermarket shelf? Cheap pet food can only be made with cheap ingredients, often from what is called “4-D meat”: animals that are dead, dying, diseased, or disabled. Grain byproducts can come from anywhere on the planet, with no guarantee of freshness.
Keep it local
Given the recalls of previous years—of imported pet food found to contain chemical contaminants—it just seems the responsible thing to do: purchase pet foods made from domestically sourced ingredients.
And it makes sense in terms of a product’s carbon footprint; more energy is required to transport something from the other side of the world than from a few hundred kilometres away.
- Animal protein will be at the top of the ingredient list in quality dog food.
- Protein should be named (chicken, beef, or lamb, for example) rather than listed as “meat.”
- Avoid meat or poultry byproducts; higher-value ingredients are more likely to be processed and stored carefully than lower-cost ingredients.
- Look for natural preservatives, such as tocopherols, vitamin C, and rosemary extract (as opposed to BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, which are artificial preservatives).
- Check the best-by date before purchasing; the natural preservatives do not keep the food fresh for as long as the artificial preservatives do.
- Avoid any cat food that lists flour, corn, or wheat products in the first five ingredients; a wild feline’s diet usually contains very few carbohydrates.
- Any cat food must contain taurine, a most important amino acid, in the recommended range of 35 to 250 mg per day.
We want our pets to enjoy long, healthy lives; natural remedies and organic diets can only serve to help.
Even the most robust of pets can develop health problems, and a number of minor ailments can be treated at home with natural remedies. Of course, you’ll want to consult your veterinarian should any of these concerns become worse or fail to respond to your initial treatment.
Here are some common problems that may occur in cats and dogs as well as some suggestions for remedies available at your natural health food store.
Animals can develop joint stiffness with age, just as their human companions do. Supplements containing glucosamine and/or chondroitin may help the animal’s body to produce better quality joint fluid, resulting in more comfort. (Even if the pet’s food contains glucosamine, additional supplements may be beneficial if the arthritis is severe.) A relatively new supplement that may offer relief is an extract of the green-lipped mussel.
Fleas appear in the warmer months, and if you find them on your pet, you can be sure they’re in your house. Thorough and regular cleaning is essential.
For a safe repellant to apply to your pet’s coat:
- To 4 cups (1 L) water, add a few drops of each of the following oils: peppermint; citrus (lime, lemon, or grapefruit); rosemary; and lavender. If you are treating dogs and have no cats in your home, you may also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil (which is very toxic to cats).
- Either spritz or wipe on your dog or cat with a damp cloth.
Because this repellant will not kill fleas it must be applied regularly for its effects to be consistent.
Some dogs and cats are allergic to flea saliva, which can cause severe itching.
- Add fish oil, with its omega-3 fatty acids, to the pet’s diet to help reduce such inflammatory reactions.
- Use homeopathic anti-inflammatory cremes or gels to alleviate the itching.
Dogs may experience anxiety when left alone, and this problem needs an approach balanced between treating the anxiety and the dog’s behaviour. To help with the success of a training program, try using a room diffuser with calming essential oils, such as lavender, or Bach flower essences.
Note: essential oils are very strong and should not be applied directly to an animal’s skin unless well diluted in water or a carrier oil.
Minor cuts and scrapes
If your pet has a small cut (not as a result of a tangle with another animal), clean the area well with a wash of goldenseal and apply fresh aloe vera, which will keep the area moist until the cut can heal.
If your pet’s stomach reacts poorly to travel, try giving it a few drops of ginger root extract before the trip and at frequent intervals if the drive is long.