Savvy Guide to Natural Pet Health Care, Part II
- Friday, 29 August 2008
Animals suffer from diseases, just as humans do. They can develop arthritis, cancer, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, auto-immune diseases, digestive disorders, back problems and other conditions. While nutrition is the cornerstone of animal health, a variety of alternative treatments may contribute to the healing process.
Homeopathy is based on the theory that “like cures like,” and it has been used for almost 200 years to treat health conditions experienced by animals. More than two centuries ago, Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, discovered that substances which cause symptoms of an ailment in a well person can affect a cure for that ailment in a sick person.
Homeopaths believe the immune system can ‘take a hint,’ that the mere suggestion of something that induces illness is all that the body actually needs to trigger its natural defenses against a disease. Homeopathy, like many other alternative procedures, does to rely on pharmaceuticals that can produce dangerous side effects. Homeopathic remedies can be made from almost any material, both toxic and nontoxic. However, regardless of its properties, the material is diluted to the point of being totally safe with no toxic effects.
Dr. Hahnemann discovered the more a remedy for a particular problem was diluted, the stronger its curative powers became. This led him to develop a system for diluting various substances to the point where they no longer retained whatever toxic qualities they may have originally possessed. Today, the form of alternative medicine known as homeopathy encompasses a vast array of such remedies. They have also been incorporated into holistic veterinary practices. The actual amount of the original substance involved may be minuscule, but it is still be enough to trigger an effective immune response.
Homeopathy has become quite popular in many countries. The World Health Organization reports it to be the second most commonly used medical treatment in the world. It is also becoming increasingly popular with pet owners as a way of helping restore health by stimulating the body’s natural immune responses.
All types of animals respond to this gentle form of therapy—pets, farm animals, and wild animals. Organic farmers rely on it as effective, safe medicine without adverse side effects. Furthermore, homeopathic remedies do not leave drug residues in meat, milk or eggs. Competition horses and dogs can be treated with homeopathy without violating ‘doping’ rules.
Animal conditions that are treated with homeopathy include arthritis, allergy, autoimmune disorders, diarrhea, parasites, eczema, kidney and liver problems, and cystitis.
Wellness expert Kim McClelland has been treating her horses, dogs, cats, and even her pet squirrel, with natural and herbal remedies for years. She asserts that herbs may be given to animals for treatment of many symptoms. “If they have joint problems, you can give them glucosamine.” Sage may be used to sooth intestinal gas and inflammation, while comfrey can help treat diarrhea. Nervousness may be treated with the natural sedatives like Skullcap or Valerian.
Herbs may be used for digestive disturbances, diarrhea, nervousness, arthritis, liver problems (hepatopathy), sinusitis, chronic cough, skin problems, respiratory problems, heart problems, hoof health and kidney problems affecting dogs, cats, horses, ponies, and many other animal species.
McClelland suggests animals, especially cats, are spiritual beings and are quite sensitive to their environments. “They respond to our emotions and resonate at a higher frequency than humans. If they are living in a stressful environment, or are around human negativity, this may impact on their immune system.”
Flower essences prepared from wild plants, bushes, and trees can help stabilize an animal’s emotional state and behavioral problems. The preparations do not directly treat physical disease, but instead are used to resolve strong emotions such as aggression, fear, loneliness, and jealousy. They are completely safe, without adverse effects or risk of overdose. The effect of these remedies is cumulative, and they can be used as an adjunct with any other treatment—allopathic or complementary.
In the 1930s Dr. Edward Bach, a British physician, immunologist and bacteriologist, created another class of holistic healing remedies that are similar to homeopathic ones. His contribution to the field, known as Bach Flower Essences, has since proven itself to be especially beneficial to companion animals. Nearly all of the 38 essences he devised are derived from various wild flowers and tree blossoms. Each of these remedies is used to treat a specific emotional affliction like anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and aggression.
Judging from their popularity, many pet owners have apparently found these easy-to-administer, and totally safe, preparations to be quite helpful in modifying both the moods and behavior of their dogs and cats. For example, essence of snapdragon curtails a tendency to snap and chamomile reduces excessive barking.
Rescue Remedy, one of the best known Bach Flower Essences, is a calming concoction of cherry plum, clematis impatiens, rock rose and star of Bethlehem. Also known as the “emergency first aid remedy,” Rescue Remedy is a popular preparation which quickly diffuses panic and promotes calm during any type of emergency, stress or trauma such as accidents, illness, birthing, visits to the vet, car rides, a new pet or baby, or moving to a new home. It works for both your pet and for yourself!
Choosing which of the individual essences to select can be done by consulting a summary of Bach Flower Remedies and their uses. They can be found in many holistic pet-care books (ex. Twisted Whisker: Solving Your Cat’s Behavior Problems by Pam Johnson).
Star of Bethlehem may be given to animals who have endured abuse or trauma, such as an accident, loss of a companion, or weaning. For animals that tend to bite and snap, Tiger Lily helps them release hostility and learn to co-operate with others. Olive can be used for exhaustion or following a long illness. Pink Yarrow helps protect animals from negative emotions in their environment, such as during a divorce, or stressful family situation.
Flower essences should not be considered as a substitute for veterinary care however. Once a physical condition has been diagnosed, flower essences may be used to calm the animal and hasten the healing process.
McClelland believes that many of the illnesses our pets experience are the result of inflammation, due in part because pets are not eating what they are meant to. In their natural environment cats and dogs eat raw meat.
“I feed raw organic meat, along with the organs and bones, to my dogs. Non-organic meat contains hormones and antibiotics," she says. "Pets are also not equipped to digest cooked foods. Cooking destroys enzymes in the food. It’s important that dogs receive the benefit of eating organs such as the heart, kidney, liver, and thyroid gland. I feed fish oil or flax to my dogs for the omega-3 which is good for calming inflammation and for promoting a healthy coat and skin. Dogs are also meant to eat greens which clean the gut.”
Fish oil provides omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, and support the immune and nervous systems. Supplement your pet’s food with omega-3 daily.
Although these remedies can help advance your pet’s healing, they are not a replacement for veterinary care. Look for a vet who integrates these treatments with traditional veterinary medicine.