Understanding The Integrative (Holistic) Approach To Pet Care

By Shawn Messonnier, DVM

Integrative (holistic, natural) care is becoming more common and more important to pet owners. At my hospital, Paws & Claws Animal Hospital, I integrate conventional therapies (when appropriate) with complementary (alternative) therapies that may include acupuncture, magnetic therapy, homeopathy, homotoxicology, nutritional therapy, and Chinese or Western herbal therapy. When possible, our approach is to minimize conventional medications (saying 'NO' to drugs) when appropriate. While each pet is different, the following general approach will apply to most pets.

1. 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. Minimizing harmful byproducts and chemicals is essential. I encourage clients to try any of the natural diets currently on the market. There are many choices; some that I like include California Naturals, Innova, Wysong, Old Mother Hubbard, Halo, Nature's Variety, or Eagle Pack. Alternatively, you may wish to cook for your pet; various recipes are available in my book, 'The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats'.

2. Minimize vaccines - So many dogs and cats receive too many vaccines. Overvaccinating pets does no good and may cause immune diseases and cancer later in life. I recommend an annual blood antibody test called a titer test to determine if and when your pet might need vaccinations. If the titer is low, your pet might need a vaccine; if the titer is normal, no vaccine is needed. Rabies vaccination is a different case and vaccination schedules are based upon state law in consideration of your pet's health.

3. Minimize toxins - Parasite control is important, not only to prevent disease in your pet but also to prevent disease in you and your family (some diseases are transmitted from pet parasites to people). While oral monthly heartworm preventive medication is important (I have not found any proven natural preventives), most pets do NOT need annual chemical flea and tick control (Frontline, Advantage, Advantix, Revolution, Program, etc.) When needed, natural therapies (and chemical therapies as needed) are prescribed for parasite control.

4. Basic vitamin/mineral supplement - All pets benefit from taking a daily health maintenance formula. My favorite product is the PetCentrx brand called Vim & Vigor Formula made by Pet Togethers (www.pettogethers.net/healthypet). In addition to the vitamins and minerals your pet requires, it contains colostrum (to support the immune system), coenzyme Q-10 (a potent antioxidant that also supports the immune system and supports healthy teeth and gums, the heart, and is one of many supplements useful in treating cancer), enzymes such as amylase/ protease/ cellulase (that improve your pet's digestion and absorption of nutrients from the diet), glucosamine (necessary to support normal joint function), Siberian ginseng (which helps your pet adapt to various stressors), and L-tryptophan (an amino acid included in the PM formula which helps ensure restful sleep). The Vim & Vigor formula is our basic supplement for most pets; other therapies are added on top of this depending upon your pet's needs.

5. Additional Therapies - The above protocol is for ALL healthy and sick patients. For sick patients, of course, we add additional therapies depending upon the nature of their illness. I might prescribe a detoxification protocol, an anti-inflammatory protocol, an immune-boosting protocol, or simply use various herbs, homeopathics, or glandulars in addition to the basic supplement (Vim & Vigor). Because the holistic approach is individualized to the needs of the pet, no 2 pets are treated exactly alike. Similarly, I fine-tune the therapy as needed to match the response and needs of each patient.

By following this simple approach, all pets can be well on the road to optimum health, which is the goal of every integrative pet care program!


About the author:

Dr. Shawn Messonnier is the author of "The Arthritis Solution for Dogs", "The Allergy Solution for Dogs", "8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog", and the award-winning "The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats". For your weekly dose of holistic pet care, read Dr. Shawn's column, "The Holistic Pet", in your local paper, distributed by Knight Ridder.