National Holistic Pet Day may come once a year, but owners should take measures to prioritize the health of their pets from a holistic perspective on a year-round basis.
As the body functions best as a sum of its individual parts, it’s crucial that all systems are kept working optimally for consistent day-to-day health to be achieved.
Having been in veterinary practice for 16 years, my focus has shifted as a result of my clinical experiences and continuing education. I am now more aware of how each body system functions as an individual unit and collectively after witnessing the downward spiral that occurs when one or multiple parts don’t ideally function.
To promote your pet’s best quality of life, I’ve put together my top holistic pet tips.
Prevent Obesity by Employing Calorie Restriction and Engaging in Daily Exercise
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) reports that 98 million pets (54% of dogs and cats) living in the United States are overweight or obese. Obesity has a variety of potentially irreversible health consequences, but the condition is very preventable with a holistic wellness strategy to keep the body from accumulating excess weight.
When pets maintain a normal body condition on a lifelong basis, arthritis, cardiovascular disease (heart failure, high blood pressure, etc.), metabolic disorders (diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, hypothyroidism, etc.) and other conditions can be avoided or minimized. Dogs consuming a calorie-restricted diet have been proven to live two years longer than those lacking calorie restriction are less-prone to experiencing conditions related to inflammation, like arthritis.
During a pet’s annual wellness examination, owners should become aware of their pet’s Body Condition Score and have their veterinarian determine an appropriate weight-loss or maintenance plan. Exercise burns calories and provides behavioral stimulation that satisfies a pet’s need for interaction and strengthens the pet-owner bond. As a result, weight loss or maintenance benefits both pets and people.
Feed Whole Foods over Processed Pet Diets and Treats
Nature creates food for people and animals in a format that maintains the structural integrity of the nutrients. Humans then process nature’s ingredients to create nutritionally complete and balanced diets for dogs and cats that can be conveniently dispensed from a bag or can.
Most pet foods and treats are made with feed-grade ingredients that have been deemed unfit for human consumption and are permitted to have a higher level of toxins, such as mold-produced mycotoxins (aflatoxin and vomitoxin). Only small amounts of mycotoxins need to be ingested to damage the gastrointestinal tract (stomach, small and large intestine), kidneys, liver, pancreas, and immune system. Mycotoxins are even carcinogenic (cancer-causing).
A variety of chronic ailments correlate with the regular consumption of grain and protein ‘meals and by-products’, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, and other ingredients found in many commercially-available pet foods and treats.
Human-grade (such as food from The Honest Kitchen), whole-food, commercially available or home-prepared diets having undergone minimal refinement should replace processed dry (kibble) or canned pet foods and treats. Such is the way nature intended our pets to eat.
Resolve and Prevent Periodontal Disease to Protect Whole Body Health
If your dog or cat’s mouth exudes an unpleasant odor, then periodontal disease is likely present.
Millions of bacteria thrive in the mouth that can enter the bloodstream through inflamed gums (gingivitis) and other mouth structures (fractured teeth, open sores, tumors, etc.). The heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, joints, and other body systems are susceptible to potentially irreversible damage from oral cavity bacteria.
Like in humans, periodontal disease in pets is very preventable. Unfortunately, most pet owners make little to no effort to regularly clean their dog or cat’s teeth. Failing to prevent or resolve a pet’s periodontal disease actually indicates neglect on behalf of the pet owner.
Seek your veterinarian’s guidance about the best way to address your pet’s current periodontal disease. Anesthetic or non-anesthetic dental cleaning and daily home care are common options. Gently brushing teeth with a moistened, soft-bristle brush safely and inexpensively reduces mouth bacteria and protects internal organs from bacterial damage.
Reduce Your Pet’s Need to Consume Medications Potentially Having Serious Side Effects
Many veterinary and human medications are prescribed to treat infection, reduce inflammation, minimize pain, and kill cancer cells. As we strive to cure, the potential exists for mild to severe side effects to occur. Therefore, it’s crucial that owners reduce their pets’ reliance on prescription medications.
When a holistic approach to whole body health is taken, many ailments can improve or resolve. One example pertains to dog’s pain from arthritis, trauma, surgery, and cancer, which can be managed while reducing reliance on prescription medications by taking a multimodal approach, including:
- Environmental modification (making your home, yard, and car ‘pet-safe’, etc.)
- Healthy weight management (dietary modification, exercise, calorie restriction, etc.)
- Nutraceuticals (fish oil-derived omega fatty acids, joint support products, antioxidants, etc.)
- Physical Rehabilitation (massage, stretching, range of motion, acupuncture, laser treatment, etc.)
When whole body health is maintained, then medication requirements can be minimized regardless of a pet’s age or history of illness.
Vaccinate Judiciously and Pursue Antibody Titers
As pertains to preventing potentially life-threatening diseases, I’m pro-vaccination. Yet, health consequences can be associated with vaccine administration. Even a single vaccination can cause a Vaccine-Associated Adverse Event (VAAE), including:
- hypersensitivity (‘allergic’) reactions
- worsening of inflammatory conditions (skin, digestive tract, etc.)
- emergence of immune system diseases (immune-mediated disease, cancer, etc.)
- organ system failure
- seizure activity
I recommend owners take a judicious approach to the administration of canine and feline vaccinations so pets incur less risk for VAAEs, including:
- Only vaccinate when an animal is healthy and exhibiting no detectable signs of illness on physical exam or diagnostic testing (blood, urine, and fecal tests, x-rays, etc.).
- Administer vaccines individually. If VAAE occurs and more than one vaccine is given then determining which vaccination is the culprit is impossible.
- Perform blood tests called antibody titers to determine a pet’s current level of immunity produced by previous vaccinations. When antibody levels are sufficient, a pet will likely be able to fend off future infections. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “revaccination of patients with sufficient immunity does not necessarily add to their disease protection and may increase the potential risk of post-vaccination adverse events.” VacciCheck offers veterinarians a means of testing their canine patients’ antibody levels for Canine Distemper Virus, Infectious Hepatitis, and Parvovirus that takes only 30 minutes and can be done before a vaccination may be unnecessarily administered.
Consideration of whole-body health is vital in determining the most appropriate vaccination protocol for our canine and feline companions.
Our animal companions’ health isn’t guaranteed for life. Therefore, owners should take a holistic approach starting in the puppy and kitten months to promote the healthier lives of adult and senior pets.