In a world where billions of dollars are spent to convince you, your breeder, your vet, your government (all levels), and most of your pet owning friends, that there is only one pre-approved way to nurture your pet for optimal health, my approach as a holistic veterinarian can seem a bit “foreign.” Fortunately, what sets my clients apart from so many is that they are hard-wired to challenge the status quo, committed to thinking for themselves and read blogs like this one to stay informed and aware.
But for many, the mass market indoctrination of veterinary-care-as-usual is so loud, they’ve never even heard of a valid alternative option. To keep things relatively short, I’ll tackle just two specific issues that are marketed well to pet owners:
- you must vaccinate your animal every year, and
- you must feed only scientifically 100% balanced nutritional pet food, bought from your veterinarian’s office, of course.
The rhetoric backing these two statements is so pervasive, it’s easy to feel almost “irresponsible” if you do not follow this orthodox “wisdom” of caring for your animal. But, the continued and increasing interest in “natural” foods and “alternative” medicine is a sure sign that people are slowly rejecting the status quo and beginning to look for something more flexible, prescribed, and holistic.
First, Let’s Look at Diet and Supplements.
Here’s the hard truth. Just as there’s no pre-packaged food that beats the nutrition of whole foods for human consumption, there simply is no commercially produced food that can substitute for a basic home prepared diet for your pet. Whole food is what nature intended, and you know it just doesn’t pay to fool with Mother Nature.
I have been helping my patients discover a health, vitality, and joy in life that their owners never thought possible, simply by having them alter what they eat, which supplements they were given, and how they exercised.
Like most of us, I believed the genes we inherited from our parents were the cards we were dealt. But I began to discover that we have an enormous power to improve our pet’s lives, even when it comes to their genes. True, we can’t do anything about which chromosomes they got from their parents; we can’t add new genes to the mix or eradicate old ones. But the genes they got at conception are only the beginning of the story. I believe that we have the capacity to turn up the volume on some genes and silence others with nutrition, vastly improving our capacity to safeguard and promote our pet’s good health and happiness.
My work with my patients involves therapeutic nutrition. Therapeutic Nutrition is broadly defined as the use of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, co-factors, enzymes, anti-oxidants, and phytonutrients, to support the body’s immune and healing systems, thereby altering the course and outcome of a disease process.
It can be used as a preventative, or can be used as a therapy. It does not focus on food types, calories nor minimum daily requirements, but rather on metabolic and physiological effects of foods on the body’s healing and immune systems. Unlike drugs, nutritional products are not designed to address symptoms or diseases, they are designed to “feed” and “fuel” the cells of the body, using or calling upon the cells’ inherent ability to heal and achieve wellness. The goals of therapeutic nutrition fall within 3 broad categories, which directly help to enhance wellness.
1. The supply of appropriate absorbable nutrients
2. The reduction of inflammation
3. The enhancement of elimination of toxins
Now, the pet food industry has attempted to regulate and standardize commercially prepared pet foods, based upon the chemical content and analysis of food, the actual levels of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and moisture. The regulatory methodology is accomplished via the guaranteed analysis of the food. To qualify as a pet food, the following 4 categories must be listed on the label: crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, and moisture.
Think that sounds okay? Consider this: Veterinarians were able to put together a mixture containing coal, shoes, and crankcase oil. When chemically analyzed, this mixture met the minimum requirements of pet food.
Hopefully this illustrates my point that it is not only the chemical composition of pet foods that is important, but the bioavailability of the raw ingredients used.
I have affirmed — by my own first hand experience — that optimum nutrition helps slow the onset and progression of chronic disease because it restores balance and promotes healing by supporting the metabolic pathways that energize the healing system. In addition, it helps reduce the inflammation that predisposes an animal to disease. Its use, either alone or in combination with appropriate medication, contributes to the day-to-day wellness of your pet.
Metabolic Testing is a service I use with many patients. It is based upon the premise that changes occur in the blood before symptoms appear. Since Metabolic Testing identifies nutrient requirements and early warning signs of impending disease, it is the perfect tool to incorporate into an animal’s health care. It provides proactive and early warning opportunities to detect and improve health through specific and tailored nutritional therapies.
Let’s Move on To “Yearly” Vaccinations
There is a deep, ingrained belief that we must follow conventional vaccination practices to protect our animals. Unfortunately, once vaccinated there are no 100% guarantees that an animal will not contract that disease. Keep in mind that even as you’re reading this article, the conventional community, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, is seriously reviewing the subject and coming to the conclusion that present practices are may be flawed.
This is welcome news and should be taken with you to your vet should you need reinforcement against over-vaccination. All 27 veterinary schools in North America are in the process of changing their protocols for vaccinating dogs and cats.
Because some of these changes and additional research will present an ethical & economic challenge to vets, there will be skeptics. Some organizations have come up with a political compromise suggesting vaccinations every 3 years to appease those who fear loss of income vs. those concerned about potential side effects.
However, at the risk of stating the obvious: politics, traditions, or the doctor’s economic well-being should not be a factor in medical decision about your pet.
Dogs’ and Cats’ immune systems mature fully at 6 months. If a modified live virus vaccine is given after 6 months of age, it most likely produces immunity, which is good for the life of the pet (ie: canine distemper, parvo, feline distemper). If another MLV vaccine is given a year later, the antibodies from the first vaccine neutralize the antigens of the second vaccine and there is little or no effect. Therefore, the titer is not really “boosted.”
Not only are annual boosters for parvo and distemper unnecessary, they subject the pet to potential risks of allergic reactions and immune system related diseases. There is no scientific documentation to back up label claims for annual administration of MLV vaccines.
So what about our puppies?
Puppies receive antibodies through their mothers milk. This natural protection can last 8-14 weeks.
Puppies & kittens should NOT be vaccinated at LESS than 8 weeks. Maternal immunity will neutralize the vaccine and little protection (0-38%) will be produced. Vaccination at 6 weeks will, however, DELAY the timing of the first highly effective vaccine. Vaccinations given less than 3 weeks apart may SUPPRESS the immune system.
A series of vaccinations can be given starting at 8 weeks and given 3-4 weeks apart up to 16 weeks of age. Another vaccination given sometime after 6 months of age (usually at 1 year 4 mo) will provide lifetime immunity.
If you’re in pursuit of optimal health for your pet, there is no substitute for fresh, wholesome food, clean water, exercise, plenty of fresh air and avoidance of chemicals and drugs to the greatest extent possible.