Healing your pet the natural way
Holistic health is a term we have often heard but do we fully understand the meaning. The greek meaning of the word holism, holos, is all, entire or total. The holistic approach recognises that each part of an animal is intimately connected to every other part. Also sometimes known as alternative medicine, it claims that disease is a result of physical, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental imbalances. This imbalance and disharmony manifests itself as symptoms in the body and mind which causes disease. In comparison to conventional medicine which tends to treat the symptoms, holistic healing aims to get to the root of the problem, whether it is physical, emotional or environmental, thereby restoring the disharmony. If the symptoms are ignored or just suppressed then we could expect the disease to continue, or even a bigger or different problem to arise.
All life possesses an extraordinary self-healing potential. Holistic healing uncovers this inner potential and allows it to manifest.
When we look at treating pets naturally we need look at their lifestyle, environment, nutrition and depending on their health, supplements and other therapies which may be needed to require this balance.
(“We are what we eat”)
There are many ideas out there about the right and the wrong way to feed our dogs and cats. We need to listen to all sides, modern nutritional science as well as traditional wisdom. Any steps taken towards a more wholesome diet will undoubtedly have general health benefits.
What should we look for in a food for our pet?
· Made of ingredients for human grade consumption not low grade waste.
· Complete, balanced – contains all required nutrients
· Whole, unprocessed
· Free of artificial additives, colourants and preservatives
· Highly digestible
Some guidelines as to what you feed your pet:
· Read the labels
Try and choose foods that don”t contain additives like colourings, flavourings and preservatives. Also try and choose foods that have meat as the primary ingredient, rather than a long list of different forms of cereals.
· Cut out unhealthy treats
Most treats are sugar (carbohydrate) based, and contain all sorts of colourings, flavourings and preservatives. Replace these with fresh-food treats like pieces of apple, cucumber or a bit of fresh chicken. You can even bake your own wholesome treats like liver biscuits.
· Supplement with fresh food
If feeding an all-in-one diet, add in a wide variety of fresh, wholesome scraps to supplement the diet whenever they are available. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat are all appropriate. The fresh foods can be fed raw, or lightly steamed, to retain as many of the nutrients as possible. Avoid fast-foods and ready meals entirely.
· Never feed cooked bones
If you are feeding raw, meaty bones, only ever feed raw bones to dogs and cats. Cooked bones are hard and brittle. It”s easier to break teeth, and for splinters of bones to lodge in the mouth or oesophagus when using cooked bones. Cooked bones are also harder to digest and are more likely to cause constipation or obstruction. Never feed bones that have 3 points e.g. lamb chops.
When feeding our pets we need to maintain a healthy weight. Excessive weight can lead to serious alterations in various bodily functions and limit the longevity of out pets.
Negative effects excessive weight has on the body:
· Reduction in longevity
· Predisposes and worsens signs of arthritis due to the increase stress on the joints.
· Cardio respiratory problems
· Can predispose your pet to Diabetes and cause modifications in their thyroid function.
· High fat diets can make your pet less resistant to infections thereby lowering their immunity
Do not reduce the quantity of food consumed rather use low-calorie, low fat, fibre rich
foods. It is important to always maintain the nutrient content of the food so as to prevent any deficiencies.
Types of more natural food:
1) BARF (biologically appropriate raw food diet) – raw meat and vegetables. No grain. The premise of this diet is to go back to the wild ancestry of dogs (and cats) and feed a diet that is not processed or cooked. Most of the commercial kibble diets today feature grains of some kind and are
both cooked and processed. Raw diets may include raw meat, raw vegetables, eggs, yogurt, enzymes, and other natural foods.
2) Home cooked meals : mixture of meat, vegetables and grain cooked.
3) Pelleted organic foods: Contain very little or no grains and mainly consist of organic human grade meat and vegetables. These are generally dehydrated pellets and are not heat treated to maintain the nutrient content of its ingredients.
When considering a diet change always consult your primary vet or a holistic vet before doing so. Certain illnesses require specific dietary modifications as
part of their treatment and may not be appropriate for your pet. Home cooked meals need to be made at the correct ratios and formulated by a vet or nutritionist. There are many different natural foods on the market. As with commercial pelleted foods, natural foods are not all made from the same quality of ingredients.
There are a wide range of holistic supplements and treatments on the market. Most consist of herbal or homeopathic treatments or nutritional supplements which may contain vitamins, minerals, neutraceuticals and fatty acids.
OMEGA 3 AND 6 FATTY ACIDS
(Skin, cardiac conditions, arthritis and cancer)
The benefits of long chain Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) have been well substantiated for organs and systems throughout the body, including the brain, heart, kidneys, skin and joints.
Supplementing with a natural source of these Essential fatty acids (EFA”S) can assist with:
1. Skin conditions: EFA”s are essential for maintenance of skin health. These fatty acids can be utilized by the skin when provided in the diet and when applied topically. They have an anti-inflammatory effect as well as being anti itchy and are very beneficial in allergic skin diseases such as atopy and flea allergy dermatitis.
2. Arthritis The use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements has been suggested by some for the treatment of arthritic conditions and is believed to have an anti-inflammatory effect. EPA and DHA result in the production of natural anti-inflammatory mediators (known as eicosanoids), which reduce inflammation in joints as well as reduce the clinical symptoms of swelling, heat and pain that characterize inflammation in arthritis.
3. Cardiovascular Disease These pets normally have a deficiency of Omega 3 fatty acids.
4. Cancer: High levels of fatty acids may reverse the metabolic abnormalities recognised in cancer patients. In addition, in dogs with lymphoma, high levels of EPA and DHA dietary intake have been associated with prolonged survival time, remission time and quality of life.
PROBIOTICS AND PREBIOTICS
(Intestinal health and mobility)
A pet’s wellness relies on a functioning gastrointestinal tract for many reasons. Seventy percent of the immune system functions through the digestive tract. In health there is a balance in the intestines between beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria. The beneficial (“good”) bacteria contribute directly to the maintenance or restoration of health through multiple mechanisms, including the stimulation of the immune system, the processing of nutrients, and the production of vitamins and fatty acids that support normal intestinal function. Stress, antibiotics, dietary change or indiscretions may alter this intestinal micro flora balance making the pet more susceptible to disease.
We may supplement with
Probiotics: which are beneficial live bacteria that when ingested help to
support the pet’s intestinal and overall health. Most commercially available Probiotics contain certain strains of Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacterium species and/or Enterococcus species.
Prebiotics: which are most commonly complex carbohydrates that can be used as a food source by the probiotics, especially within the large intestine. Prebiotics therefore support the growth of the probiotics within the intestinal tract and help them compete against harmful bacteria for colonization of the intestines. Examples of prebiotics are fructooligosaccharides, mannanoligosaccharides, arabinogalactans, and inulin.
GLUCOSAMINE AND CHONDROITIN SULFATE
(Arthritis and degenerative joint disease)
These supplements nourish and protect joint cartilage, maintaining and supporting asymptomatic, healthy joints as well as helping pets with arthritis.
They are believed to restore the balance between destruction and production of cartilage.
Glucosamine works by stimulating the production of cartilage.
Chondroitin sulfate not only increases fluidity of the cartilage but also inhibits destructive enzymes that may cause considerable damage to the cartilage and assists with facilitating the return to best possible function after an injury.
The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is synergistic, meaning that a greater benefit is obtained from using the two together.
Joint preparations are available from your vet. It is advisable to use a preparation that is formulated for pets.
Herbal medicine involves using plants, and plant extracts, to treat disease. The chemicals in plants (phytochemicals) have a very wide range of effects, and can affect every organ system and tissue in the body. Herbal medicines can be used totreat symptoms of disease, but they are particularly effective at supporting the body to heal itself and preventing disease.
Examples are Valerian for anxiety and behavioural disorders, devils claw for arthritis, muscle pain and inappetance.
Homeopathy often confused with herbal medicine but is actually very different. It is the use of diluted preparations which are thought to cause effects similar to the symptoms presented. The remedies are derived from natural substances that come from plants, minerals or animals.
Examples are Ruta graveolens for Sprains and strains, bruised bones and eyes.
Apis (Bee): Swelling, allergic reactions, Insect stings.
Also known as “cell salts” were identified in the
19th century by Dr Wilhelm Scheussler. They occur naturally in the human body and are the same minerals that are found in rocks and soil. If there an imbalance or a lack of one or more of these minerals we may see this as symptoms of illness or disease.
In the past these lost minerals would be replaced through our daily nutrition but in today’s world of drained and depleted soils we get little replenishment from our food. As well as the stresses of modern life which deplete our minerals further e.g. preservatives, pesticides, microwaves, lead, aluminum and contaminated drinking water.
E.g. Tissue salt NO. 4 – FERR PHOS is used for Signs of acute inflammation
It is important to note that just because a product is Natural does not mean that it can not have adverse side effects. Adverse reactions using natural supplements and products are however very rare and most are usually associated with interactions between natural and conventional medicines. Before starting any herbal or homeopathic preparations please consult your veterinary surgeon or a vet that practices in holistic treatments.
In the next issue we will look at energy and more hands on treatments such as acupuncture, reiki, tellington touch, magnetic therapy, chiropractic manipulations and the benefits of massage, therapeutic exercise,
hydrotherapy and physical rehabilitation.