Things Your Dog or Cat Wants and Needs to Stay Healthy and Disease-Free
Shawn Messonnier, DVM
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 when needed.
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.
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?
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
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
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's website can be visited
Throughout this entire website, statements are made pertaining to
the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration
and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat,
cure or prevent any disease.