Many pet parents have come to believe that a holistic approach to pet care often means healthier, happier lives for their four-legged family members. For some pet parents though, time, cost, or convenience are still used as an excuse not to explore this approach. Oftentimes, what pet parents think they know about the holistic approach is either much exaggerated, or altogether untrue, so let’s debunk the myths surrounding holistic pet care first.
Myth #1 – Holistic care takes too much time and effort on my part.
Dedicating your time to prevention now may save you and your pet the time and effort of treating ailments down the road. If there’s no disease, there’s no time and effort dedicated to it. Preventative steps are as easy as adding a bit more exercise to your pet’s daily routine, making sure their food meets all of their dietary needs, and adding supplements at a young age to combat the effects of aging or breed predispositions.
More exercise benefits everyone so that’s really a no brainer, especially considering an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are considered overweight or obese in the US (per the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention [APOP]). Besides the obvious effects of an overweight pet, like lower quality of life, pets are also at risk of chronic inflammation, respiratory disorders, kidney dysfunction, metabolic and skin disorders, as well as cancer. When weighing (no pun intended) the cost of going for a walk or prioritizing play with the risks of not doing it daily, the time it takes to keep your pet healthy doesn’t seem as big of sacrifice.
Changing your pet’s food regimen to a higher-quality, species appropriate diet doesn’t have to mean you personally cook them two square meals a day. (If you do have the time, it’s an excellent option for your pets!) The priority is giving them larger amounts of meat-based proteins that reflect their carnivorous diet. Whether that means supplementing as often as you’re able or switching their food entirely, the important thing is ensuring they get adequate amounts of nutrient proportional to their dietary needs. If you are considering switching their diet or supplementing, there are a number of holistic brands that offer healthy, natural, and nutritional pet food. Serving these top-quality foods to your pet will take no more time than it does to pour a bowl of kibble, which is still convenient for you (and super tasty for your pet).
Supplementing addresses common problems that dogs and cats face as they age but they’re also meant to be used proactively. For example, if you know your pet’s breed, you can add supplements to their daily routine to combat any predispositions to disease. As you’d expect, larger breeds like German Shepherds, Labs, Great Danes and St. Bernards are predisposed to joint issues like hip dysplasia and arthritis but so are smaller breeds like Dachshunds, Corgis and Pugs. Certain breeds like King Charles Spaniels are more at risk for heart disease than others, along with Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Dobermans and Dachshunds. If you have a mixed-breed pet, genetic testing can be beneficial too. Knowing that Ivan the Adorable is a Golden Retriever/Lab mix, could help you supplement for those breeds’ dispositions, which as we now know, includes heart disease and joint issues, like arthritis. (Click here to learn more about Canine Arthritis and how to defend against it.)
Dedicating time to a more proactive lifestyle right from the beginning curbs the time you could spend treating preventable issues later. The goal really is to spend the most quality time you can with a dog who’s at their best and being proactive about their health and wellbeing is how you’re going to do that.
Myth #1 debunked.
Myth #2 – I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg when it may not even be needed.
It’s all about the bigger picture. Spending more money on your pet’s health earlier in their life means less money is spent reactively treating issues in their old age. When you have to react to joint issues or kidney dysfunction, there’s a slew of spending that takes place. Vet visits, tests, x-rays, procedures, though all a no brainer if they help your pet, are also potentially preventable.
Diet is actually much more intertwined with proactive pet care than people realize. Think about your own diet for example. Most of the time (fingers-crossed) we abstain from fast-food and junk food and opt for balanced meals with fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Most kibble is comparable to junk food for dogs- they can live on it but it’s not likely providing them with all of the nutrients they need to thrive. Fillers, plant-based proteins and the high number of rendered products that go into making kibble, make it less nutritional than the whole, real foods your dog could be eating. Yes, a raw diet that’s locally produced and humanely sourced is more expensive than kibble, but it provides the best targeted nutrition for them. Raw diets come with many options, all providing your pet with the nutrients they need. Simple pet foods, protein-based products, and even freeze dried dog food are all viable options for dogs. Although raw diets may not be the most cost-effective option available on the market it’s worth incorporating as often as you can. Even adding high-quality meats to your pet’s dish every so often is going to improve his overall health.
The takeaway here is that the cost associated with holistic pet care is comparable if not less than a more “traditional” approach to pet care. Choosing a higher-quality food or adding supplements may seem less cost-effective than throwing a 30lb. bag of generic kibble into a cart and calling it a day but if you consider the effects of those choices five years from now, it becomes more about when you’re spending money, not if. Really, taking a holistic approach to pet parenting is really quite cost-effective.
Myth #2 get outta here.
Myth #3 – It’s convenient to use the same pet care I always have, why change now?
The biggest reason people resist holistic health care is that it’s more convenient to stick with what they know. When it comes to holistic pet care though, the only “inconvenience” is the amount of time it takes to learn something new. Conventional vet care is more about treating disease, whereas the holistic approach is about nurturing health. In conventional (reactive) care, an animal will be treated for issues as they arise. Holistic care wants to prevent the issues from existing at all, by making well-informed choices from the beginning. It’s as easy as adopting a lifestyle that focuses more on health than just disease. Really, a lot of pet parents already practice certain aspects of holistic pet care without knowing it. Regularly exercising your dog keeps his mind and body sharp, feeding him your meaty table scraps provides him with much-needed nutrients, and keeping an eye on his overall health are all aspects of the holistic approach.
Myth #3 conveniently done away with.
So, what’s so different about a holistic vet?
Holistic veterinary medicine combines conventional and alternative (or complementary) medicine, so a visit to the holistic vet is a lot like a visit to a conventional vet. Your holistic vet examines your pet and discusses any issues they may be experiencing. Depending on the ailments, your vet may ask that you bring in a stool or urine sample. They may take blood from your pet, check teeth and gums, and look in your pet’s ears and eyes. They’re likely to feel your pet’s body to ascertain muscle mass, check for water retention, feel for bloat or gas, and check for any unusual lumps or bumps.
The main differences you may find during a visit to a holistic vet include:
- Non-traditional treatment recommendations
- Adding herbs, supplements, or homeopathic remedies to your dog’s food
- Changing their diet to something more natural and raw-based
- Homeopathic (natural healing) consultations
- Monthly nail trimming sessions
- Allergy testing
- Anesthesia-free teeth cleaning
- Hair analysis
This practice acknowledges that your pet’s body has the capacity to heal on its own, if the impediments to healing are cared for and removed. Through proper nutrition, regular care, avoidance of chemical toxins, and minimization of emotional stress, your pet’s immune system gets stronger and is able to heal itself. Holistic pet care tends to avoid the overuse or common misuse of many drugs like antibiotics, steroids, artificial chemicals, and vaccinations.
Traditional medicines and techniques, and/or nutritional strategies, may also be employed as part of holistic treatment. After all, holistic veterinarians are also integrative and apply a combination of disciplines to their treatment practice.
If you don’t yet have a holistic veterinarian, you can easily find one here.
The Bottom Line
Holistic pet care is less time-consuming, affordable, and more convenient, and should certainly be considered another viable option for how you approach pet care. Pet parents who take a lifelong interest in their dog’s lifestyle, including regular exercise, diet, and check-ups, tend to have dogs with fewer health problems and a better quality of life which is what’s most important.