By Dr. Cynthia Maro
Your pet can enjoy a longer, healthier life through a more holistic approach to home care and veterinary care.
Before delving into holistic care at home, it is important to gain an understanding of what holistic care actually is.
There is a widespread misconception that “holistic” is synonymous with homeopathic medicine (homeopathy is a branch of medical care that requires specific remedies for the treatment of medical and emotional health conditions) or alternative health care practices such as acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine or TCM.
Though holistic care may include the addition of the previously mentioned treatments, the term holistic simply means looking at the entire individual or big picture and providing both wellness and illness care which addresses everything from the individual’s diet to their emotional well-being and physical environment.
In Western medical schools, the training and approach to care revolves around identifying an illness, giving it a name (by confirming a diagnosis through testing), and then treating it with drugs to eliminate the disease or symptoms.
Veterinarians learn this approach, but we also learn a great deal about herd health and disease outbreaks, so vets have a more holistic outlook in treating groups of animals.
Unfortunately, the Western medical approach I was taught in veterinary college did not offer a comprehensive wellness plan for individual pets, and it provided no options for care with conditions that were considered terminal or non-treatable.
The current demand and attraction to holistic veterinary care is based on:
1. Owners are seeking natural alternatives to drug therapy, knowing that drugs may have significant side effects.
2. The bond between people and their pets is stronger than ever, since the pandemic.
3. With more reports about medication side effects, increased cancer risk with certain drugs and concern over hyper-immunization, clients are seeking more logical approaches to both home care and vet care for their beloved pets.
4. Many owners seek alternative care for serious conditions, like cancer and autoimmune disease, both of which show excellent responses to alternative options.
So how can owners adopt a more holistic, health-promoting approach to care at home on a day-to-day basis?
1. Incorporate nutritious whole foods into your pet’s diet.
2. Add raw fermented foods, including lacto-fermented carrots and raw sauerkraut into your pet’s diet.
3. Talk to your vet about which whole food vitamins and supplements are best for your pet’s stage of life.
4. Stop buying so many treats and online products, from dubious sites including Amazon, where sourcing and validity cannot be identified.
5. Improve your pet’s mental and emotional health by incorporating playtime that meets your pet’s needs and drives. For example, read about your pet’s breed and create play that engages your companion’s breed characteristics. A herding dog loves to herd, so give him play which simulates herding and lots of activity. Retrievers need to retrieve, so chasing and returning a ball makes sense.
6. Dogs love scavenging for food, so place food in areas throughout the yard, so they can have fun looking for the food, and lose the bowl.
7. Cats love catching their food, so use a food shooter and give their food movement.
8. Do regular health, ear and eye checks to catch and treat early disease signs.
At the vet:
1. Talk to your vet about reduced vaccine schedules and titer testing.
2. Increase omega 3 fatty acids, and find out about the best products (many have heavy metal, which can be harmful).
3. Look for supplementing early for arthritis prevention.
4. Use animal chiropractic care to maintain joint health.
5. Ask your vet about your pet’s weight and ways to help them achieve trim ideal weight (reduces cancer and joint problems).
6. Make lists of all your concerns, so you can address them at the vet. Long list? Ask for a longer consultation time when scheduling.
You can find holistic vets in your area by visiting AHVMA.org.
Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like to have addressed, email email@example.com.