Things Your Dog or Cat Wants and Needs to Stay Healthy and Disease-Free
Shawn Messonnier, DVM
a practicing veterinarian, I know that all pet owners try to do their best for
their pets. However, if your pet could talk, what would he say he really needs
to stay in great health? Having worked with pet owners for many years to devise
a health plan for each pet, there are several essential components that must be
addressed to maximize health and minimize disease.
are 7 things your pet would ask for if he could talk.
me a healthy diet." Feeding the proper diet is the foundation upon which
any integrative pet care program begins. Simply put, your pet is what he/she eats.
Most pet owners feed whatever is recommended by their veterinarians, pet store
consultant, or whatever food seems good based upon an advertisement. However,
many of these foods contain by-products and chemicals which are not healthy for
your pet and which may pose a risk to your pet's health (see "What's Really
in the Diet You Feed Your Pet?" at the end of this article.) Your pet wants
to eat a healthy diet, designed to maximize his ability to fight off diseases
by minimizing inflammation in the body. The best diet is a natural food, free
of by-products and chemicals, and loaded with healthy protein, carbohydrates,
and fats, and containing antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Foods containing
enzymes and probiotics deserve an extra look as well.
me to prevent disease, but only when absolutely necessary." Current research
shows that most dogs and cats do not need annual immunizations. Most veterinarians
are moving towards an alternative approach, such as vaccinating pets every 3 years.
However, I believe a more individual approach involves the use of an annual blood
antibody test called a titer test. This test measures your pet's antibodies and
determines if and when your pet might need vaccinations. If the titer is low,
your pet can be vaccinated; if the titer is normal, no vaccine is needed. This
approach allows only those vaccines that are absolutely necessary to be given
keep parasites away from me, but only use those medications that fit my needs."
It's important to prevent problems like heartworms, fleas, and ticks, as these
parasites cause various diseases. While oral monthly heartworm preventive medication
is important (I have not found any proven natural preventives,) most pets do not
need year-round chemical flea and tick control. Short-term use of flea and tick
preventives can be used when needed, or a more natural approach may even be a
better and safer alternative.
know that you take supplements to stay healthy. Please make sure I get what I
need as well." Daily supplements can provide your pet additional nutrients
to stay healthy and help ward off diseases. Giving your pet supplements containing
antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and probiotics improve digestion, decrease
inflammation, and maintain a normal digestive tract. Depending upon your pet's
age or physical needs, giving him choline, glucosamine, fish oil, ginkgo, or ginseng
may also be helpful. Vim & Vigor by Pet Togethers (www.pettogethers.net/healthypet)
is my basic starting supplement. Your veterinarian can determine what additional
supplements will be most beneficial in order to maximize your pet's health.
like to exercise too!" Maintaining proper weight, joint and muscle function,
digestion, and overall attitude are just a few of the many benefits of regular
exercise. Most dogs can easily keep up with their owners during various exercises
including walking, jogging, or playing catch. For those dogs with arthritis, supervised
swimming is an excellent alternative that's enjoyed by many dogs. And exercising
with your dog increases the human-animal bond that strengthens your relationship
with your furry friend. Most cats also enjoy playing a game of chase with the
owners in the house.
you brush your teeth, don't forget about mine." As I mention in my books,
the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats (Prima) and 8 Weeks
to a Healthy Dog (Rodale,) dental disease is the most common infectious disease
in dogs and cats, affecting over 85% of dogs and cats 2 years of age and older.
Regular care, including brushing, is important to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Most pets need an annual cleaning at the doctor's office to remove tartar that
accumulates despite regular home care. If you neglect your pet's teeth, not only
will he suffer from the pain that always accompanies dental disease, but the infection
from his mouth will wreak havoc with the rest of his body. Don't neglect a disease
that is so easily prevented and treated.
a good looking dog. Help me stay that way." It only takes a few minutes each
day to make sure your pet looks as good as he feels. Most pets can be easily taught
to accept daily brushing, ear cleaning, and nail trimming. Doing these grooming
chores is more than cosmetic: keeping your pet's coat and ears clean and nails
trimmed can prevent skin and ear infections and overgrown nails.
love your pet and want him to live forever. Following the tips in this article
will help you keep him healthy, reduce veterinary visits for illness, and increase
the enjoyment you share with your four-legged buddy. The easiest way to get started
is to take this article with you the next time your pet is scheduled for a doctor's
visit. Your pet's veterinarian can put together a plan designed to fulfill everything
your dog wants and needs. And for an even more comprehensive health care program,
check out my book, 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog for an easy-to-follow 8 week plan
for maximum health!
Really in the Diet You Feed Your Pet?
you ever wonder what makes up the "by-products" that are in your pet's
food? Is this something your dog wants and needs, or might they actually contribute
to your pet's poor health? The Association of American Feed Control Officials
(AAFCO,) which oversees pet foods, has defined what constitutes the various ingredients
in your pet's food. Here are some of the most common protein sources that might
be listed on your pet's food label.
Clean flesh from slaughtered animals limited to skeletal muscle or muscle found
in the tongue, diaphragm, heart or esophagus, with or without accompanying fat,
sinew, skin, nerve, and blood vessels. If meat is of a descriptive name (example,
chicken,) it must correspond to that species (if the label says chicken, the meat
should be chicken and not another animal species.) This is a desirable ingredient
as it is the best source of protein for your dog or cat.
meal: Rendered (a process where the fat and water are removed) mammal tissue without
added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure and stomach contents, except
in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It can
contain meat from "4D" animals (dead, dying, diseased, or disabled,)
which comes from animals condemned for human consumption. However, meat meal can
also come from dehydrated meat (meat without the water content) and can be of
high quality (some manufacturers of higher quality natural dog and cat foods make
their own meal,) making this designation somewhat nebulous and confusing. As a
rule, it should be avoided unless you contact the manufacturer to find out what
exactly is in the "meat meal."
and bone meal: Rendered (fat and water removed) mammal tissue including bone without
added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure and stomach contents, except
in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. This is
a by-product with variable amounts of meat and bone (differing between batches)
and variable protein quality. Like meat meal, it can contain meat from 4D animals
(dead, dying, diseased, or disabled,) which comes from animals condemned for human
consumption. This is not a good source of protein for your pet.
by-product: Non-rendered (contains fat and water) clean parts other than meat,
including lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, uterus, stomachs,
and intestines freed of contents. Meat by-products cannot contain hair, horns,
teeth, and hoofs. While this protein source may be more wholesome than meat meal
or meat and bone meal (since it comes from non-rendered tissue and from slaughtered
animals rather than from carcasses of already dead animals,) there is no way to
tell by reading the label how much of which "by-products" are included
in the food. Once again contacting the manufacturer is needed to determine what
is contained in the meat by-product. Sometimes the by-product is healthy organ
meat (liver,) and sometimes it might simply be intestines (not so healthy.)
by-product meal: Rendered mammal tissue without added hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings,
manure and stomach contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in
good processing practices. This definition is used to cover tissue products that
do not meet other definitions and is not intended to be used to label a mixture
of animal tissue products.
you can see, the most desirable source of protein for your pet is generally meat
and not anything containing by-products.
Messonnier, DVM, is the author of 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog, The Allergy Solution
for Dogs, and the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs &
Cats. Dr. Shawn is the medical consultant for Pet
Togethers, a pet supplement company, and Pet
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have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and
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