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Integrative and Holistic Pet Care

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Using an integrative/holistic approach to keep your pet healthy is a great idea.  By combining the best that conventional medicine and alternative medicine can offer, you can maximize your pet’s response to therapy and minimize and possibly even prevent disease.

Pet owners who use an integrative/holistic approach to their pets’ care often find that fewer conventional medications are needed when their pets become ill.  Even when conventional medications are needed, the integrative/holistic approach often allows pets to be treated with lower doses of conventional medicine.

Holistic veterinarians have several goals for their patients.  These include preventing disease; saying no to drugs whenever possible, instead substituting an alternative therapy such as an herbal or homeopathic remedy for the conventional medication; healing the pet rather than simply treating a disease; offering hope for those cases that seem hopeless; and reducing the cost of pet care.  The integrative/holistic approach most easily allows them to achieve these goals for most of their patients.

Below are some helpful tips that can get you started on an integrative/holistic approach to pet health care. Most veterinarians can help you with these steps.

  • Feeding your pet a proper diet is the foundation upon which any integrative/holistic pet care program begins. Simply put, your pet is what he or she eats. It's important to choose diets free of harmful byproducts and chemicals.  Your holistic veterinarian can help you choose an appropriate brand or provide you with recipes to prepare a homemade diet, which can be fed raw or cooked, as directed by your veterinarian.
  • While vaccines can be an important part of an integrative/holistic pet care program, they can also be harmful to your pet when not used properly.  Research indicates that few, if any, pets require annual vaccinations. In place of an annual vaccination, ask your veterinarian about doing blood antibody titer testing. These tests will tell you if and when your pet requires another vaccination. Less frequent vaccination can reduce damage to the immune system that can occur as a result of unnecessary vaccination and may minimize chronic degenerative diseases in your pet.
  • Pets under five years of age benefit from an annual visit, which includes a complete physical examination and any necessary laboratory testing, such as blood, urine, or fecal analysis. Pets five years of age and older benefit from the same visit done every six months. Early detection of disease will allow treatment before your pet develops an incurable condition.
  • Minimize unnecessary toxins. The integrative/holistic program encourages putting good things into and on your pet's body. For example, most pets do not need year-round chemical flea and tick control. When these products are needed, they can be used judiciously with other, more natural therapies as part of an integrative/holistic pet care program.
  • Giving your pet nutritional supplements is an important step to maximize its health. There are many natural products that your holistic veterinarian may recommend, including fatty acids, enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants, health maintenance formulas, and other supplements as needed based upon your pet’s regular checkup. Using these supplements can often minimize or prevent disease and is much less expensive than treating serious health problems.
  • Finally, regularly bathing your pet with an organic pet shampoo can reduce skin infections, allergies, seborrhea, and removes dead hair and skin cells.  Additionally, regularly bathing your pet may reduce your allergic reactions to the allergens contained on the pet’s hair and skin. While not every pet can be bathed on a regular basis, the more frequently you can do so, the healthier your pet’s skin and hair will be.

These tips will get you started on an integrative/holistic pet care program. Follow your veterinarian’s specific recommendations to help ensure a long, healthy and happy life for your pet.

Credit: Written and reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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