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Keeping Your Pets Healthy Holistically
by Michael Dym, V.M.D.

The United States is currently seeing an epidemic of chronic disease plaguing our pets…and it's starting at younger and younger ages. The incidence of pet degenerative diseases, such as allergies, cancer, autoimmune, hormonal and bowel disorders, and seizures also continue to rise.

Overbreeding of certain pure breds plays a small role in compromising pet health, but the larger, more important role is the food and environmental toxins we unknowingly force our pets to absorb. A holistic veterinary approach considers these and all other potentially toxic factors that continuously assault our pets' bodies when offering healing solutions.

If you put any stock in the adage, "we are what we eat," then we need to start reconsidering what we feed our pets. Most vets' knowledge of pet nutrition comes during medical school, from a single nutrition- for-carnivores lecture presented by pet food manufacturers. Given the concern with both mad cow and avian influenza threats in the human meat supply, imagine the quality of meat that is making its way into common pet foods sold at grocery stores or vets' offices. The amount of pesticides, artificial preservatives, and colorings, as well as cancer-laden ingredients, in many commercial pet foods is considerable, and is a significant factor in putting pets at a much higher risk for diseases.

The ideal diet is a home-made one, such as those described in the book, Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D. There are also a few quality commercial diets made with wholesome natural ingredients— preserved naturally—that are acceptable alternatives to the ideal diet.

When reading the label, the first three ingredients are most important, as they are listed in descending order of the amounts of nutrients it contains. Two of these three ingredients listed should be either meat or meat meal and preserved naturally with tocopherols (vitamin E) and vitamin C. Avoid any by-products, bone meal, and other cryptic terms (such as meat digest, etc.) In addition, the pet food should contain NO artificial colors, dyes, or artificial preservatives, such as BHA, ethoxyquin, BHT, and propyl gallate.

Any natural diet should be supplemented with a good multivitamin, as well as digestive enzymes and essential fatty acids. I recommend antioxidant supplementation with vitamins E and C in the form of Ester-C to guard against free-radical damage and age-related changes. I have found adding a glyconutrient essential to optimal immune system function. Plus, another product that can enhance the immunity of a pet's digestive tract is a probiotic, (such as Mitomax), a supplement made withlive beneficial microorganisms unique to our pets.

As pet caretakers, we must also be aware of the pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals we regularly put on and into our pets' bodies. For example, several common flea/tick preventatives sold by many veterinarians are powerful insecticides that not only kill fleas and ticks, but can have horrific CUMULATIVE effects on our pets' bodies. They can lead to organ failure, skin problems, neurological diseases, and certain types of cancer when used long term. The overuse of heartworm medication can result in autoimmune reactions, as well as toxic stress, on the digestive tract and liver, leading to other chronic diseases.

The biggest toxic culprit of all is the annual injection of multiple viral vaccinations, regardless of need or potential harm. The duration of a single vaccination of the most common viruses can last for years, even the life of the pet. Giving parvo or distemper vaccinations to most adult pets previously immunized as babies is unnecessary and can lead to severe immune dysfunction and cancers with repeated injection.

Another factor to revisit on the pet health crisis front is the mis- and overuse of immune suppressing drugs, such as cortisone and antibiotics. By suppressing—not curing—disease, the illness only moves deeper in the body, compromising the vitality of our animal companions and, therefore, that of future generations.

If we can minimize the toxic factors and explore more curative systems of medicine, such as homeopathy, then we can truly reverse this disturbing trend in pet health. By increasing our awareness of the dangers and realizing that the path to health takes time, patience, and a truly vigilant and "holistic" health care approach, we can stop the rise of chronic disease and suffering in our pets and start building future stronger generations

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