Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats
By Cheryl Lock
If you're interested in helping your pet lead a healthier life, going the natural route is a big step in the right direction. We spoke with Jean Hofve, DVM, staff veterinarian for Only Natural Pet, for some expert tips on how to get started down the all natural path.
1. Natural Pet Food
Food is the biggest investment you make in your pet’s health – so make it count! Unfortunately, some pet food companies have caught on to consumers’ desires for wholesome, natural food for their pets, so they have created friendly-looking packaging, brand advertising, and new claims on their products—but in some cases, without improving the ingredients inside, says Dr. Hofve.
Here are a few of the vet's general guidelines to help you choose the best natural pet food:
- Unless a corn ingredient is labeled organic, it’s going to be genetically modified.
- At least two named meats or meat meals should be among the top ingredients in a dry food, and a named meat should be the first ingredient in any other form (canned, raw, dehydrated, frozen).
- Avoid synthetic chemical preservatives like ethyoxyquin, BHT, BHA, propyl gallate and propylene glycol.
- Choose a food that is complete and balanced for all life stages rather than tweaked for a certain lifestage. Foods with more of an emphasis on natural, are ususally all life stage.
- For cats in particular, a high-protein, high-moisture diet is crucial to maintain a lifetime of optimal kidney and bladder health, as well as to prevent obesity and the diseases that go with it, like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Try canned, homemade or raw for cats. (But always make a slow and gradual transition to minimize tummy problems.)
- Often, it’s the specialty manufacturers who are doing the best job of finding good quality ingredients and making a healthy natural food for a reasonable price. Choose brands that have put their efforts into making the best food possible.
- Dry and canned pet food are heavily processed. Consider raw, frozen or dehydrated diets to get the most natural nutrition.
2. Pet Grooming
There is little or no regulation of pet grooming products, says Dr. Hofve, so companies can use perfumes, detergents and other potentially harmful chemicals. This is especially true of shampoos intended to kill fleas or solve skin problems like flaking or itching. The skin can absorb many of these chemicals, so they get into the blood and put a strain on the liver, which has to break them down, store them or eliminate them. Natural pet grooming products that use mild ingredients — including safe herbs — are gentler on the skin and less likely to be absorbed and accumulated in the body.
3. Supplements and Vitamins
Dr. Hofve warns that there is a big difference between natural and synthetic vitamins. Natural vitamins derived from whole foods are much better absorbed and utilized by the body. Vitamins made in a laboratory are less efficient and may even be harmful. Many human studies have found unexpected adverse effects from large doses of synthetic vitamins.