National Holistic Pet Day (August 30) comes once a year, but pet owners should take measures to prioritize the health of their pets from a holistic perspective on a year-round basis. Dr. Patrick Mahaney VMD, CVA, CVJ shares his perspective on some holistic ways to promote your pet’s best quality of life.
Prevent Obesity by Employing Caloric Restriction and 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 preventable with a holistic wellness strategy.
When pets maintain a healthy weight on a lifelong basis, health conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disorders can be avoided or minimized. Dogs consuming calorie-restricted diets have been proven to live two years longer than those lacking calorie restriction, and are less prone to developing conditions related to inflammation, like arthritis.
During a pet’s annual wellness exam, 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, provides behavioral stimulation, and satisfies a pet’s need for interaction. 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 process nature’s ingredients to create 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 unfit for human consumption and are permitted to have a higher level of toxins, such as mold-produced mycotoxins. Only small amounts of mycotoxins need to be ingested to damage the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, liver, and immune system, and are even 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, whole-food, commercially available or home-prepared diets having undergone minimal refinement should replace processed diets as often as possible. A quality diet is the best health insurance you can buy for your pet.
Reduce Your Pet’s Need to Consume Medications with Potentially Serious Side Effects
Many medications are prescribed to treat infection, reduce inflammation, minimize pain, and kill cancer cells. As we strive to cure, the potential exists for side effects to occur, so it’s crucial to reduce your pets’ reliance on prescription medications.
When a holistic approach to whole body health is taken, many ailments can improve or resolve. For example, pain from arthritis, trauma, surgery or cancer can be managed by taking a multimodal approach:
- Environmental modification (making your home, yard, and car ‘pet-safe’)
- Healthy weight management (dietary modification, exercise, calorie restriction)
- Supplements such as omegas, joint support, antioxidants, and probiotics
- Physical rehabilitation (massage, stretching, acupuncture, laser treatment)
When whole body health is maintained, medication requirements can be minimized regardless of a pet’s age or history of illness.
Vaccinate Judiciously and Pursue Antibody Titers
Health consequences can be associated with vaccine administration, and more so when a vaccine is administered unnecessarily. 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
Dr. Mahaney recommends that owners take a judicious approach to the administration of canine and feline vaccination so our 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
- Administer vaccines individually, in case of a VAAE
- Perform blood tests called antibody titers to determine if a pet’s current level of immunity produced by previous vaccinations. When antibody levels are sufficient, your 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.” More resources on antibody titer testing can be found at Dr. Becker’s website and Protect The Pets.
Our animal companions’ health isn’t guaranteed for life. Therefore, owners should take a holistic approach from the beginning to promote longer, healthier lives.