Holistic pet care isn’t what many owners of companion canines and felines typically think. Holism is a philosophical approach to health involving the perspective that the body functions better when all parts are working their best. The whole organism (person, pet, etc.) is greater than merely the sum of its individual.
All veterinarians should practice holistic medicine by striving to address all determinable areas of illness every time their patients are examined. Here are my top recommendations for owners to adopt when pursuing a holistic approach to their pets’ health care.
1. Pair your own physical examination with that performed by your veterinarian
Owners can take a proactive, holistic approach to their pet’s health by placing their hands onto their canine or feline companion on a daily basis by performing their own version of a physical examination. Frequent examination of a pet’s body allows owners to discover areas of discomfort, heat, or swelling, skin lesions or lumps, or other abnormalities that can then be brought to the attention of a veterinarian. Additionally, the owner’s eyes and nose can make crucial observations of mild to life-threatening conditions.
When your pet undergoes a physical examinations by your veterinarian, make sure that all organ systems are evaluated. The eyes, ears, nose, mouth, heart, lungs, digestive tract, lymph nodes, skin, neurologic, urogenital (urinary and reproductive parts) and musculoskeletal systems must operate normally to achieve whole body health. Request that your veterinarian gives you a status on each body system and performs diagnostics (blood, urine, and fecal testing, x-rays, ultrasound, etc.) when abnormalities are discovered.
This combination of owner-initiated and veterinarian-furthered physical examination creates a platform to promote your pet’s holistic health. Pets should have an examination with a veterinarian at least every 12 months. Sick, geriatric, and pets taking medications should be examined as frequently as recommended by the overseeing veterinarian.
2. Feed a whole-food diet and treats
The foods and liquids our pets consume provide the building blocks of body tissues and the foundation of whole-body health. Without consuming high-quality proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, your pet’s organs will ultimately suffer and diseases can emerge.
Before feeding your pet a particular commercially-available food or treat, look closely at the ingredients and ask yourself if you’re willing consume what your pet eats. Most owners who feed their pets conventional dry or canned foods cringe at the idea of eating products manufactured for our canine or feline companions.
Why would owners pets feed something that they'd not be willing to eat? Does your pet deserve to be treated like a second-rate species that eats less than the best quality ingredients? By feeding our pets foods having been radically altered from nature’s creation, we are actually doing a disservice to their health.
The production of dry pet food (kibble) heavily alters the inherent energetic qualities of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to achieve a dehydrated morsel capable of remaining in a bag or bowl for extended periods without spoiling. Feeding pets dry food caters to owner convenience, but it provides nutrition that’s less-ideally suited to their unique requirements as compared to whole foods.
Dry food has a dehydrating effect by requiring the body to produce more liquid secretions (bile, gastric acid, etc) that aid in the digestive process. To stave off the dehydrating effect, pets have to drink water to facilitate dry food breakdown.
Canned foods can be closer to a format closet to nature’s creation if the label indicates that whole food sources are used. Some canned foods contain pieces of cooked meat, vegetables, and whole grains, so gravitate more toward those options and less toward selections that resemble pate or include protein and grain ‘meals and by-products.
Home-prepared foods provide pets with the benefits of minimally modified nutrient sources. Although feeding a complete and balanced home prepared diet isn’t an endeavor simple for most pet owners, recipes can be created under the guidelines of certified veterinary nutritionists (UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Nutrition Support Service, etc.) or nutrition companies (BalanceIT, etc.).
Pets are now showing the significant health consequences of being overfed by their caretakers, which makes us directly responsible for their illnesses. Processed pet foods like kibble are directly at fault, as they are the primary diets being fed to our canine and feline companions. Pet obesity has become an epidemic in the U.S. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) teamed with veterinarians to conduct the 2014 National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey, which established that 52.7 percent of dogs and 57.9 percent of cats are overweight or obese (nearly 100,000,000 pets).
Diseases affecting the heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, musculoskeletal system (arthritis, disc disease), urinary tract, skin, and other body parts are all associated with being overweight or obese.
Owners must always feed pets the quantity of food that falls within recommended guidelines according to the food’s manufacturer or home-prepared recipe. I recommend feeding at the lower end of the guideline, as additional calories are often consumed through treats. Although the appropriate portions may look “too small” the caloric content may perfectly meet a pet’s needs. Adding more food can quickly exceed a pet’s daily calorie requirements and lead to obesity.
My holistic, pet-nutrition take-home points are centered around a “feed this not that” approach.
- real meat: whole chicken, turkey, beef, fish, or other protein sources
- vegetables: raw as snacks or lightly steamed and finely chopped or pureed meal additives of carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, kale, spinach, sweet potato, etc.
- whole grains: brown rice, barley, farrow, millet, oats, quinoa, etc.
- fruit: apple, pear, banana, melon, berries, and others make great whole-food snacks
- portions appropriate to meet but not exceed your pet’s caloric needs
- two to three feedings per day: Binge eating one meal per day can lead to eating too quickly and indigestion and other ailments.
- processed carbohydrates: sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.
- protein and grain ‘meals and by-products’
- preservatives: BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, sodium nitrite, sulfur dioxide, propylene glycol, etc.
- artificial colors: Your pet doesn’t care about the color of his food, but the smell and taste are of vital importance.
- excessive calories
- one feeding per day
- exclusively dry food (kibble) diets
The holistic approach to pet health care isn’t really that complicated. It just involves the utmost priority on maintaining whole-body health by taking some common-sense methods in partnership with your pet’s veterinarian.
Thank you for your readership and check back soon for Part 2 of A Guide To Holistic Pet Care.