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20-Feb-2012  
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Think natural health is for the dogs? You’re right! But it’s for cats, too, and just about any furry friend. It’s Responsible Pet Owner Month. Keep Fido and Fluffy healthy with these natural pet tips...

For many people, pets are family. So it’s no surprise that owners want the best for their four-legged companions, and that may mean sharing their natural lifestyle.

“Millions of pet owners are realizing that a more proactive approach to pet health has a lot to offer," including preventing disease and optimizing health and wellness, says veterinarian Carol Osborne, founder of the American Pet Institute in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and author of Dr. Carol’s Naturally Healthy Dogs and Dr. Carol’s Naturally Healthy Cats (both Marshall Editions).

Many everyday pet problems – such as skin infections and arthritis – can be eased naturally. Lifescript asked animal experts for some common holistic health solutions:

1. Herbs
Herbal remedies can heal many pet irritations and illnesses.

They help the body to eliminate and detoxify, veterinarian Richard H. Pitcairn, Ph.D., says in his book Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Healthy for Dogs & Cats (Rodale Books).

Used properly, herbs can help get rid of fleas, relieve itching and more.

Fleas: Pet owners often tout the flea-repelling power of garlic and brewers yeast, Osborne says. In theory, after eating these herbs, the pungent odor released in the animal’s sweat keeps the biting critters away.

But the remedy may not work because dogs and cats have sweat glands only in their foot pads. They don’t perspire through skin to reduce body heat – they pant.

Plus, brewer’s yeast can bring up an allergic reaction in many pets, Osborne says, and garlic can cause anemia in dogs and cats.

Instead, combat fleas with these tried-and-true natural tips - but be sure to keep an eye on how your four-legged pal reacts to them:

Wash your pet with a shampoo containing chrysanthemum flowers, Osborne advises. The active ingredient, pyrethrin, kills fleas but won’t hurt Fido.

Make your own flea drip: Mix two cups fresh rosemary or peppermint – both flea repellents – in five quarts of warm water. Steep the solution for 30 minutes. After it cools, dip your pet in the mixture.

Fill pet beds with cedar chips – fleas don’t like the smell.

Repel fleas from the surroundings by sprinkling chrysanthemum flowers, lemon grass, mint, sage, lavender and basil.

Vacuum floors and wash pet beds frequently.


Itching: Is your dog or cat scratching more than a kid with chicken pox? Try Osborne’s holistic anti-itching remedy: Mix together five drops of licorice, five drops of dandelion root (a natural diuretic) and five drops of cat’s claw (a natural form of the anti-inflammatory aspirin). Give your pet five drops of the solution by mouth once a day for 14 consecutive days.

"You give it as needed when it's flea season or when your pet is itching because of allergies," Osborne says.

Licorice, a form of cortisone, also reduces the urge to itch, Osborne says. “But because cortisone is a steroid, talk to your vet” before using it.

If your pet doesn’t gobble it up, try disguising the licorice with tastier flavors such as clam juice, baby food or chicken.

Car sickness: Love to take your dog on car rides, but hate cleaning up vomit on the backseat? Good news for dogs, cats and their owners. Liquid ginger root – a natural motion sickness remedy – works like a charm, Osborne says.

Don’t happen to have any on hand? No problem. Give Fido a ginger snap cookie to relieve nausea.

Indigestion: An upset stomach can be uncomfortable for your pet and turn you into a 24-hour cleaning crew.Osborne suggests holding food and water for eight hours, instead giving your four-legged friend cool or lukewarm peppermint tea to settle its stomach.

A word of caution: Before using herbal treatments, talk to your vet.

“Some herbs and supplements can be toxic if given in large quantities or to a species that cannot tolerate it,” says veterinarian Deirdre Chiaramonte of Animal Medical Center in New York.

For example, some herbs prescribed for arthritis can cause bleeding, which could be disastrous during routine surgery or dental procedure.

“You need to find a veterinarian who is familiar with natural therapies in pets so the outcome will be successful, safe and effective,” Osborne says.

2. Nosodes
Routine vaccinations can save your pet’s life, but some experts believe they also can contribute to cancers, autoimmune illnesses and allergies.

The alternative? Nosodes – or homeopathy oral vaccines – may offer protection against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvovirus. (A nosode doesn’t exist for rabies.)

Like traditional vaccines, “they stimulate the immune system to protect the body from infection,” Osborne says.

They’re made from a dilution (one part to 90 parts alcohol) of the virus causing the illness.

“Nosodes are safe, but their efficacy varies,” she says.

Even if you stick with conventional shots, your furry friend may not need them every year. An antibody titer blood test can determine if your dog’s or cat’s vaccines are still effective.

3. Nutritional Therapy
Foods can cure or prevent illnesses in animals too. "Feeding your pet a healthy diet from the beginning will prevent many serious health issues down the road,” says Jean Hofve, a retired veterinarian in Denver, Colo.

So what should your pet be eating?

A homemade diet of organic raw meat and whole foods is ideal, Hofve says.

She suggests a commercial raw diet (look for pre-made frozen or freeze-dried varieties) or canned food with a little fresh meat added a couple times a week.

Brands such as Instinctive Choice, Newman’s Own (organic), Merrick, Nature’s Variety Prairie, BG (Before Grain), Wellness, Innova, Evo, Blue Buffalo, Wellness and Avoderm are good, Hofve says.

They can be found in specialty stores, some feed stores, pet superstores, many grocery stores and online (www.onlynaturalpet.com).

If your budget doesn’t allow anything more than kibble, add fresh meat (and steamed or puréed vegetables for dogs) to give dry food a nutritional boost, she says.

Besides a diet that’s “as close to nature as possible,” Hofve recommends four nutritional supplements for all pets:

Omega-3 fatty acids for healthy function of the nervous system, immune system, skin and coat

Digestive enzymes to help pets digest food fully and get the most nutrients possible from food

Probiotics (“friendly bacteria”) to keep the gut balanced and deter disease-causing organisms

Antioxidants for a healthy immune system, normal cellular maintenance and anti-inflammatory benefits


Skin allergies, ear infections and hot spots: These skin-related irritations can be combated with omega-3 fatty acids in dogs.
 
 
Source: Lifescript
 
 

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