November 4, 2009

What is holistic health?

A term that gets thrown around a great deal, the word ‘holistic’ is sometimes used incorrectly, to try to market products. So it’s important to understand what 'holistic' really means.

In its literal sense, holistic means a ‘whole’ approach to health – taking into consideration all the body’s systems, how they are inter-related, and how health choices can affect the entire being. ‘Holistic’ also refers to the fact that the body’s natural state is basically healthy, and the body has the capacity to return itself to whole health, when given the tools to do so.

What are those tools?

Good nutrition, minimally invasive health care, a moderate vaccine protocol, emotional wellbeing and complimentary medicine such as herbs and acupuncture are among the cornerstones of holistic health.

Good nutrition can mean different things for different pets. a fresh or frozen raw diet is natural, biologically appropriate – and a great option for many healthy pets, although not all. Some animals simply don’t like raw food and only want to eat a diet that’s cooked. For other pets, cooked food may be a wiser choice because they are very old, very young or have a compromised immune system. A good quality commercial food contains real meat, vegetables and few or no grains. Always avoid any food that contains by-products, fillers, and chemical preservatives. A minimally processed diet that contains real, whole-foods ingredients is always best. Check out our ‘Good, Bad and Ugly of Pet Foods’ article, or request a copy of our Pet Food Red Flag Watchlist for more information.

Choosing minimally invasive health care for your animal companion, means asking lots of questions and often doing research on your own! It’s a great idea to have both a conventional vet and a complementary or holistic veterinarian so you can get second opinions and approach health concerns from different angles. It’s often possible to avoid invasive procedures like surgery and certain diagnostics.

A conservative vaccine protocol is super important. A very general rule of thumb is to vaccinate only for life-threatening diseases that are prevalent in your area or a risk because of your pet’s lifestyle (such as frequent camping trips to certain areas).

Emotional well-being stems from lots of things. Plenty of exercise, is vital to maintaining strong muscles, lean body weight and a healthy heart. Love and cuddles are essential for almost every dog or cat, and help to strengthen the human-animal bond. Petting your pet can also lower your own blood pressure and can help to relieve stress and anxiety for both of you! In addition, many higher energy dogs really thrive when they are given a job to do, whether it’s agility, fly-ball, carrying in your newspaper each morning, or something more serious like search and rescue work. Many jobs can help provide the mental stimulation necessary for a pet to be truly fulfilled and happy. Training a dog to do tricks (as well as normal obedience behaviors) is also great for self confidence and helps a dog to stay happy.

Alternative or complementary approaches to medicine provide one of the final cornerstones to holistic health (but are not the sole basis of holistic pet care). Western and traditional Chinese herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, massage as well as magnetic and laser therapy are all modalities utilized by various holistic veterinarians and can provide a wonderful augmentation to a well rounded approach to total health.