Pets are part of the family. And we want to keep them healthy and happy for as long as possible.
So what is the key to optimal health for our dogs and cats?
Holistic veterinarian, diagnostician and founder of Hemopet (hemopet.org) veterinary blood bank, Hemolife diagnostic laboratory and Hemopet Holistic Care veterinary clinic, Dr. Jean Dodds says, “The key to optimal health and longevity is wholesome nutrition and avoiding unnecessary exposures to vaccines, heartworm, flea and tick preventives and avoiding chemicals like fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.”
A veterinarian for 53 years, Dodds offers her insight on how to keep our pets healthy:
A fresh diet
The best diets are whole, fresh and nutritionally dense foods fed with variety in mind, Dodds says. The best diets, she says, are properly prepared and balanced raw diets — either fresh, freeze-dried or dehydrated. Next in line are homemade, cooked diets, followed by premium grain-free and preferably gluten-free commercial foods.
Key nutritional supplements
Even the best diets should have a few additional supplements, Dodds says.
“Prebiotics and probiotics are important as are fatty acids – omega-3 primarily, but also omega-6 — and a vitamin/mineral mixture. Cats must have more taurine than dogs, and not too much iodine.”
These supplements provide important antioxidant effects to help reduce the amount of cellular, harmful free radicals that humans and animals produce daily, which promote chronic tissue and cellular stress, infections
and even cancers, she says.
Vaccinate with care
While Dodds recommends core vaccinations be given at the right time, she says it’s important not to over-vaccinate.
Initial puppy and kitten vaccines for the “core” diseases are essential to protect them throughout life, she says, but they should not be started at too early an age — never before six weeks and preferably not until 8.5 to 10 weeks.
Earlier than that, vaccines are mostly neutralized by the puppy or kitten’s leftover maternal immunity. Plus, the vaccines contain other components and preservatives like mercury, fetal calf serum and additives, especially in killed vaccines, that can be harmful, she says.
Other non-core vaccines are optional, “and giving them depends upon the exposure risk where you live, and your lifestyle rather than current news media hype.”
Rabies vaccines are legally required and preferably given separately from other vaccines, and as late as legally allowed — 24 weeks.
“Many pets are over-vaccinated in my extensive experience, even by veterinary clinics,” she says. “Annual booster vaccines are usually not required or recommended if the puppy or kitten has truly been immunized — vaccination that actually produced immunization.”
Instead, she recommends serum antibody vaccine titers taken through a blood draw to determine the level of a pet’s immunities.
Keep your pet’s mind stimulated
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical activity for your pet. “Pets need regular exercise and playtime, which should include tasks, praise and some basic learning like sit and stay,” Dodds says.
“Part of the problem these days is the busy lifestyle we all have, so that we may be too tired or distracted to spend enough time with the animals we care for.” When pets must be left alone, she recommends leaving the TV on, or having a covered aquarium they can watch and soothing music.
“After the pets and family are fed in the evenings and on weekends, plan group activities together,” she says.
Take a holistic approach
“Please don’t use chemicals to treat your environment for pests or on your dogs, unless needed,” Dodds says. “Try more natural approaches and products.” She says to do your homework to find the most natural, safest options.
“Even antibiotics may not be needed, depending upon the case, as resistant strains of bacteria can develop with overuse,” she says. “Take an integrative, holistic approach to health and medical care, but always seek out your veterinarian when needed.”
Sources: Jean Dodds, email@example.com
Jessica Peralta lives in Aliso Viejo with her cat, Riot, and German shepherd, Guinness.