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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Natural Pet Care

Sep 30, 2015 09:15PM
Integrating Natural Healing into your Pet’s Health Care
by Dr. Nicholas Albano

Pets occupy a special place in our hearts as true members of our families. Their complete trust of, and devotion to, their human care-takers amounts to a great deal of responsibility for us. For those of us who balance natural alternatives with conventional medicine for our own health, it can be hard to know how to do the same for our pets, especially since it is our pets’ nature to often not show signs of illness to us. Overall, integrating natural care is a very viable and manageable practice you can start doing for your pet today.

Daily health care begins with diet. It is important that diets be balanced, wholesome, and possibly even address specific needs. There are thousands of pet foods out there, so how do we choose? Think of the advice you would give yourself about diet; the same is true for pets.

First, you’d say to eat a balanced diet, making sure you have all the vitamins and minerals you need. Most commercial pet foods meet such requirements, but we know good health is more than just a multivitamin supplement. You would also tell yourself to eat fresh, ideally organic foods, while minimizing processed foods. Minimize dry food use, add fresh meats and pet-safe veggies, and consider some raw or home-cooked foods.

Lastly, we would eat a varied diet. Tomatoes and cucumber are great foods, but you might not be in the best health if that’s all you ate every day. For pets this means it can be acceptable to change foods. Some meals can be dry food mixed with a little meat, others could be raw, canned or home cooked. It is good to feed the same mix of options for a while, but every four to eight weeks, try to slowly transition to a new mixture of foods.

Daily exercise is another way to improve your pet’s health. Exercise is an important, and often overlooked way, to improve your pet’s physical and mental health, especially if they sit at home all day while you work. Regular exercise not only strengthens muscles, but it also keeps joints limber, improves digestion, improves glucose metabolism in the body, and fosters the deep human-animal bond in your pet’s mind.

Finding a veterinary partner is very important, especially in times of illness. Veterinarians receive excellent and detailed training in science and medicine, however, not every veterinarian is as versed at natural alternatives. In fact, veterinarians receive little training in such areas unless they go out and learn it themselves. Find a veterinary practice that has experience using natural, holistic or integrated medicine. These terms have a great deal of overlap and broad definitions so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take your pet’s care into your own hands and find a practice can match your beliefs. This could include things like natural diets, acupuncture, herbal supplements, exercise therapy and Reiki.

There are numerous ways natural medicine can help with specific health problems. Perhaps your dog has arthritis. Conventional medicine often starts with pills, or some basic supplements. Many medications can result in liver, kidney and stomach problems, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad, they do serve a purpose. Is it the only way to go? Not at all. A dog like this could begin with joint supplements and acupuncture instead.

Studies have shown again and again that acupuncture can reduce pain, improve range of motion, and decrease inflammation resulting in improved muscle strength and a healthier body. Over time, carefully chosen herbal supplements can help further without any serious side effects. Research has proven that turmeric can stabilize cell membranes, inhibit inflammation in some cases, and without associated stress on other organs.

Boswellia and ginger have been shown to inhibit inflammatory mediators and reduce arthritis pain. It is possible there will be focal areas of arthritis in this dog that may need more attention. There are simple exercise techniques and manual therapies you can do daily at home to help with pain and muscle weakness in specific areas of the body, and a trained veterinarian can help show you what to do. Over time some aches and pains may start to break through a bit and medication is needed.

Certain medications are much more stressful on certain organs than others and it could be a factor in choosing which medication and what dosage. Even nature can help! Milk Thistle has been proven to not only reduce liver toxicity, but also reduce kidney toxicity and help stabilize cell membranes, which can be a great benefit to animals on conventional pharmaceuticals. Similar pathways could be traced for respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disorders or almost any other ailment.

The bottom line is that natural care for your pet does not mean denying them good quality medicine. It simply offers a way to prolong quality of life and promote overall well-being.


Dr. Nicholas Albano is trained in acupuncture, eastern and western medicine as well as rehabilitative care. He has done advanced studies in herbal medicine and food therapies as well. Dr. Albano practices at Veterinary Holistic Care in Bethesda, Maryland. 


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