My clients are people, but if you’ve been to my office, you know that my “colleagues” have always been canine: first Annabelle, and now Lucy. And because dogs are important to so many of us, I like to educate people about their health as well.
Nutrition Do you know how to check the labels on your pet food? Dogs should not eat a grain based diet. They are primarily meat eaters. While they can survive without meat (cats can not) they do best on a diet that is mostly meat, whether beef, chicken, duck, lamb, venison, turkey or buffalo. Veterinary research warns that gluten dramatically shortens the lives of our dogs, so please check to see if your dog food contains wheat, oats and/or barley.
You can dramatically improve the quality of your dog’s health and well-being by selecting a good base of species-appropriate food, and supplementing it with a little fresh food. That means primarily (or exclusively) meat. Whether or not you feed table scraps at the table, consider adding some scraps to your dog’s bowl.
Many dogs are happy to finish off a bit of your green vegetables and some, like my sister’s dog Scooby, consider salad a highlight of their day. Sweet potatoes are another nutritious and appealing side dish, if you don’t overdo it. In the morning, when I put coconut oil in my protein shake, or MCT in my coffee, I add a little to Lucy’s breakfast as well. Those healthy fats help maintain her coat, her vision, and her brain, and they keep inflammation down.
Some people are willing and able to prepare fresh food especially for their dogs every day, but most don’t. A great alternative is packaged raw food: raw meat mixed with organs and bones. You can buy it frozen, freeze-dried as kibble or in cans. This approach doesn’t have to be expensive, and it is considered the diet most “species-appropriate”. I use the excellent and quite economical frozen raw pet food from Wellness Meats. There are discounts for both quantity and weight, so buying 40 one pound rolls at a time and just keeping them in the freezer saves a lot of money. Switching to this form of food often helps dogs and cats eliminate allergies, aches and pains, and so many other signs of aging and health problems. Real, whole, unprocessed food is the best for dogs, just as it is for us.
Click on Wellness Meats to find superb quality and affordable frozen raw pet food that includes ground bones and organs – exactly what your dog needs to thrive. (You, too!)
Exercise Walk your dog! It’s good for both of you. Especially in rural areas like our lovely Hudson Valley, you may be tempted to simply open the door and let your dog out on its own. But there is something very special about the companionship that develops from walking together. And of course you both get more exercise that way, so get out there! The benefits to your health are immense! Walk, breathe, experience the weather, the changes in the seasons and the neighborhood, get your bodies moving and enjoy the company. You will deepen your bond with your dog and do yourself a world of good. And if you can enjoy some socializing and activities together, even better.
Fleas and Ticks Your responsibility is to safeguard both your dog’s health and your own, and while the Hudson Valley has one of the highest rate of Lyme disease in the country, no state in this country is immune. We must be proactive through all four seasons. If your dog is not protected you endanger not only her but your whole household, as ticks may drop off in the house and re-infest someone else. I have found Cistus tea to be effective at repelling ticks for both of us but, taking no chances, I also use
a topical like Frontline, plus an herbal spray each morning before our first of four daily walks in the woods.
Update: I gave up on Frontline a couple years ago both because I never liked the risks to the nervous system and the stress on the liver, but more important, because it stopped working effectively for Lucy and for many other dogs. This past fall (2015) was the worst tick season I’ve ever seen. At my holistic vet’s suggestion, we tried the prescription Bravecto, and I’m very happy with it. Of course, I wish that tea and spray were sufficient, and maybe they will be again, but for now I am happy to keep Lucy healthy the safest way possible.
I am not going to let fear of Lyme keep us from enjoying our time outside. Lucy has not only thrived, and avoided ticks, but her blood work is better than ever.
Because Frontline is somewhat toxic, if you use it, also consider some hepatic (liver) support for your pup. I recommend homeopathic drainage products for kidney and liver, and since you can simply add them to drinking water, compliance is not an issue.
Vaccinations Many vets and veterinary schools say we are over-vaccinating our pets. As with our children, I strongly encourage you to educate yourself as to the risks and benefits of each vaccine and each disease, and make a fully informed decision. It is possible to vaccinate the first year, and then either selectively vaccinate, or use titers to establish immunity, other than for rabies, which is required legally. If you board your dog, or take classes with him, you will probably be required to get bordatella. It is my understanding that the intranasal bordatella is a bit easier on their systems, and just as effective. I recommend using homeopathy afterwards, to support and detoxify.
Holistic Care I work with animals on occasion, primarily as a favor to their humans who are my clients. I have worked with dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, gerbils and a bird or two, and find them very responsive to kinesiology and homeopathy. There is an American Holistic Vet Association, and many complimentary practitioners who specialize in animal care. If you want a recommendation for a holistic vet in the area, let me know.
Our Story: Annabelle
Annabelle and I very much were a mutual rescue. In Spring of 2006 I lost my home and office, and virtually everything in both, to a fire. We were living in a rental house down the road, and I was depressed as I dealt with insurance, contractors, and the rubble that was all that was left of our material lives. We had always had dogs, but our Bessie Beagle had died, at the age of 15, two years before, and although I kept asking, the kids insisted they didn’t want another dog. At some point I realized I did. Looking idly through the paper one day, an ad for a poodle seemed to jump out at me. The woman interviewed me for about 20 minutes, and then informed me that she had exactly the right dog for me, but it wasn’t the poodle. It was a rat terrier named Annabelle. I’d never heard of the breed, and wasn’t particularly interested, but she wheedled me into coming “just to look”, with the promise that I could see the poodle as well. A few hours later I stumbled out, dazed, with Annabelle on a borrowed leash.
Annabelle was so instrumental in my healing after the fire. Depressed as I was, she got me out of bed because I had to walk her, and every day she encouraged me to walk a little further, as we discovered and explored the hundreds of acres of wooded trails behind the house. That was my practice, and my healing, that year, walking with her and appreciating both the beauty of the changing woods, and her loving and exuberant companionship. I never thought I’d have an animal in the office with me, but she absolutely insisted, and became a colleague as well. Many of my clients came to see her as much as me, for her healing dose of affection and concern. She helped so many kids, and a few adults, overcome their fear of dogs. Her open heart and enthusiasm continue to inspire me daily.
Annabelle passed on in February 2011, very suddenly and unexpectedly. I still miss her every day, but continue to feel supported by the memory of her exuberance and her steady kindness. In March of 2011 I looked for another rat terrier to adopt, and found one that seemed perfect, in Great Barrington, one of my favorite spots in the world. Well, as it turned out, she wasn’t a rat terrier, and she wasn’t in Great Barrington, but Lucy was clearly the right pup for me. The first few weeks were daunting, and it took a year for her to be trustworthy off leash, but it was so worth getting through every difficulty together. She has evolved into a wonderful participant in the office, and clients consistently remark on how calm and well-behaved she is, a tribute to her ability to learn, evolve and heal, as she had been abused, and was extremely anxious and fearful at first.
Just like people, animals are designed to heal. We are so blessed by their companionship. Take good care of your friends: they depend on you entirely.
My wonderful canine support team:
Cindy Brody http://www.cindybrody.com (animal communicator)
Joanna Seere http://www.spirit-to-spirit.net (animal healing)
Michelle Rocque our holistic vet http://www.fullcirclevethospital.com