Bone Up on Holistic Pet Care

From fleas to food choices, explore effective and safe alternatives for your furry friend’s emotional and physical well-being.

| January/February 2019

  • It's important know all of your treatment options and to stay up to date on general pet health knowledge.
    Photo by Getty/Anchiy
  • Using coconut oil can help getting vitamins and supplements into your pet a little easier.
    Photo by Getty/filadendron
  • Cats cannot take treatments that involve garlic oil or oregano.
    Photo by Getty/Chalabala
  • Over vaccinating your pet can be more harmful than helpful.
    Photo by Getty/adamkaz
  • Exsessive scratching is a clear indicator that your pet has fleas.
    Photo by Getty/anurakpong

Your family’s health and well-being are important to you, including those of the four-legged members of your clan. So when conventional veterinary methods keep you on a tight leash, it’s a relief to know that there are alternative ways to keep your pet healthy and happy. The best ways to make sure your pet is receiving prime health care is to know all of your treatment options, and to stay up to date on general pet health knowledge.

More Than Just Chow

Good pet health starts with a healthy diet. This means buying foods free of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, fillers, and byproducts, as well as foods that are organic and non-GMO. This can be a tricky task to manage; because there is still no regulatory definition for marketing terms such as “natural”, some detective work on your part is in order. You must become a proficient label reader to make sure the information on the front of the package lines up with the ingredients listed on the back.

Sometimes food, particularly herbs, can be a better solution than conventional veterinary medicines, especially when dealing with minor gastrointestinal issues, yeast infections, and inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. For example, giving 1 tablespoon of pure pumpkin purée to a dog (or 1 teaspoon to a cat) is effective against diarrhea and stomach upset because it’s high in digestive enzymes. Olive leaf, either the powder or liquid extract, is also an effective alternative to antibiotics because of the presence of oleuropein, a phenolic compound that has been shown to inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines. Oleuropein also exerts potent antiviral and antimicrobial effects, and counters a number of pathogens, such as salmonella (Salmonella enteritidis), E. coli (Escherichia coli), and ringworm (Microsporum canis). However, you shouldn’t use olive leaf extract as a regular treatment method; constant use for more than three months could lead to negative long-term issues for your pet.

Because a large part of the immune system resides in the large intestine, you can also consider adding a probiotic supplement to your pet’s food. A dollop of coconut oil contains essential fatty acids that enhance digestion and benefit the skin, coat, and brain. Hiding medicine capsules in coconut oil can also make getting supplements into Fido or Fluffy a lot easier.



Those Doggone Pests

Frequent scratching is a sure sign that your pet has picked up a few hitchhikers, namely fleas and ticks. Conventional products formulated to rid your pet of these pests may contain chemicals with known carcinogenic and neurotoxic effects that not only impact pets, but also people, especially children. For instance, flea collars — one of the most common methods of flea control — often contain tetrachlorvinphos and propoxur, insecticides associated with a significantly increased risk of neurological disorders in children, who often hug the family pet around the neck. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, flea collars leave nearly 1,000 times the pesticide residue on pet fur than what the Environmental Protection Agency determines to be a safe level.

Fortunately, some plant-based flea and tick formulas have been proven to more effectively eliminate fleas and ticks, as well as the risk of toxicity. Studies have shown that the essential oils of thyme and myrtle are more effective at repelling fleas than either diethyltoluamide (DEET) or permethrin, two standard ingredients found in insect repellents. Geraniol is another common ingredient in natural flea and tick products that is superior to DEET. The compound is found in the essential oils made from rose geranium, lemongrass, and citronella. Other botanicals, such as clove and cinnamon, contain eugenol, an agent that blocks the activity of an insect neurotransmitter called “octopamine”, causing the insect’s central nervous system to crash. Because mammals and vertebrates lack adequate octopamine receptors, eugenol is safe for people and wildlife. Nancy Brandt, a holistic veterinarian at Natural Care Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada, recommends combining 1 tablespoon of salt with 1 cup of water for an Epsom salt poultice, and applying it three times a day to combat the itch from flea bites.



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