10 Steps to Keep Your Dog Happy and Healthy
With more and more information surfacing about the dangers of our unnatural lifestyles, many dog parents are taking a long, hard look at their pet care and wondering if there’s a better way. You’ve probably heard the term “holistic” thrown around and wondered what it is, and if it’s feasible for you and your pet. Today, we’ll be focusing on our dog friends, but don’t worry… we love cats too! (We’ll share information about them in the future.)
As a loving pet parent, you want a healthy dog who will live a long and happy life. Raising a happy, healthy, holistic hound isn’t as difficult as you might think. When you understand the underlying concept of a holistic approach, it’s easier to make decisions to improve your pet’s health and well-being.
What Is Holistic Pet Care?
Whereas traditional care focuses primarily on the problem at hand (itchy skin, diarrhea, etc.), holistic care looks at the whole body and how each part interacts with the others. There is a strong focus on prevention, keeping the immune system strong and paying attention to not just the physical body, but also the mental and emotional aspects of health. Holistic practitioners believe that the natural state of the body is healthy, and if given the right tools, it can return itself to that state.
Traditional vs. Holistic Care
Choosing a holistic approach doesn’t mean that you’ll never incorporate Western Medicine into your pup’s treatment. Traditional Veterinary Care will likely be necessary at some point during your pet’s life. For example, nothing beats Western Medicine when it comes to emergency care. If your beloved dog is ever hit by a car or helps himself to a chicken carcass in the trash, he or she may need to have a bone reset, or even undergo surgery. This is not the time for an herbal remedy or a diet reboot.
Western Medicine is also amazing at diagnosing what’s wrong with your fur baby. Tools such as x-rays, blood tests, and MRI’s can identify what is wrong with your pet and help you make the decision as to whether traditional veterinary care or a holistic approach (or a combination of the two) is the best course of action for your 4-legged child.
10 Steps to Keep Your Dog Happy and Healthy
There are a number of steps you can take to help your dog live more naturally. Some of these require the assistance of a professional while others, you can easily do yourself. Read through the list and see which ones resonate with you before you dive in deeper to learn more.
Little known fact: When Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” he was actually talking to his dog.
Okay, that’s not true at all, but it may very well have been. A healthy, natural diet is probably the most important thing that you can do for your fur baby (and for yourself… but don’t eat their food). Tossing a cup of supermarket kibble in your pup’s dish is basically the animal equivalent of picking up your dinner at the local drive-thru… filled with chemicals and preservatives, and seriously lacking in real nutrition.
Not every pet parent has the time to cook for their pups or prepare a raw diet. Thankfully, there are high-quality pet foods on the market that contain real meat, plenty of vegetables, and few (or no) grains... exactly what your pooch needs to thrive. When you shop for your pet’s food, make sure you avoid any brands with by-products, fillers, and chemical preservatives.
To answer your next question… yes, a healthy dog food will cost a bit more. However, when you feed your pet better food they’ll:
- Actually eat less
- Visit the vet less
When you factor in a healthier life for your pet with fewer trips to the vet for avoidable problems, you can’t afford to feed them cheaper food!
If you live in the Las Vegas area, stop in to Mooch’s Munchies, a healthy pet food store and doggie bakery. We carry only top-quality brands and can help you make sense of the label and find a food that fits your fur kids’ needs.
While a quality food will provide a strong base for their nutritional needs, supplements may sometimes be required or helpful to keep them as healthy as possible. This is especially true if your pet is experiencing an illness or recovering from an accident. If this is the case, speak with your veterinarian about adding supplements to their treatment plan.
If your dog is healthy and thriving, there are a variety of supplements that can help keep them that way. Two of the most common are:
- Probiotics and prebiotics support a healthy gut, and a healthy gut supports a healthy dog. Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” that may have anti-inflammatory and or anti/cancer properties and keep your pup’s digestive system flowing smoothly. Prebiotics are sources of fiber that are nutritious and beneficial for your baby’s tummy.
- Fish oil has numerous benefits for your pup including supporting their heart health, promoting a silky coat, and relieving allergies and joint pain. It may also contribute to strengthening their immune system.
We know… lying on the couch cuddling your dog may just be the best part of life. And snuggling is important for your pup’s health and happiness. But just like you, Fido needs to hop off the couch sometimes and take a spin around the block. Depending on your pup’s age, health, and energy level, this could range from a daily 30 minute stroll complete with plenty of sniffing opportunities (this can be broken up throughout the day if your fur baby can’t handle 30 minutes at a time), all the way to a 2-hour hike or playing fetch at the park. Too hot to spend time outside? Don’t underestimate the power of a treadmill or your stairs. If you’ve got access to a pool, many pups love a nice swim. (Why do you think it’s called the doggy paddle?)
A regular exercise regime will keep your pooch at a healthy weight, burn off some energy that may otherwise be used to destroy your shoe collection, and keep their joints and muscles in good condition so they don’t develop arthritis or stiffness as they age. Bonus… you’ll get healthier too!
It’s hard to think about your sweet little fur baby being stressed. They don’t have to pay bills, the kids didn’t borrow their car without asking, and they don’t spend a lot of time scrolling through social media. So what do they have to be stressed about?
Pups can experience anxiety due to aging, loud noises, separation from their humans, and here’s the kicker… being with their humans. That’s right; your fur baby might actually be picking up on your anxiety. If you notice any changes in behavior like panting, drooling or excessive licking, shedding (more than usual), or pacing or shaking, your pooch might be anxious.
Their mental and emotional health is just as important as their physical, and if left unchecked, it may negatively impact their physical health. Thankfully, medication isn’t the only way to deal with your pup’s anxiety. You’ll want to remove the stressor if at all possible, and then you can explore options such as playing soft music (don’t listen to your dog if they ask for Heavy Metal), and using aromatherapy such as soothing lavender essential oils. (Please make sure that any oil you use on or around your dog is safe for them.) And whatever you do, don’t let Fluffy watch the news.
Avoid Environmental Toxins
While chemical-laden cleaning supplies aren’t particularly healthy for our human-family’s health, they can be even more dangerous for our four-legged friends.
Pets have more direct contact with cleaning supplies than humans do. Consider when you finish mopping the floor or shampooing the carpet only to have Fido curl up on it for a quick nap. Not only do they absorb the chemicals through their skin, but they also lick themselves later, ingesting all of those dangerous ingredients. Add that to the fact that their sense of smell is 40 times greater than ours, and they are usually only a fraction of our body weight, and a household cleaner could spell disaster.
When you purchase your cleaning supplies, look for ingredients to avoid such as ammonia, bleach, phthalates, glycol ethers, formaldehyde, and 1,4 dioxane – all of which can be dangerous for your furry friends. While it may require a little bit of elbow grease, mixing your own cleaning supplies can save you money at the register and at the vet, and save your baby from suffering.
Your dog’s mental state is incredibly important to their overall health and properly training them and giving them tasks to work at, can keep them engaged, entertained, and away from dangerous activity such as the aforementioned shoe chewing.
You’ll want to teach your dog the basics (“sit,” “come,” “heel,” “grab me a beer from the fridge”) and then move on to tricks and more challenging tasks such as nosework, sports, and cooking dinner. (PSA – dogs should never use the stove). As your training, make sure you reward them with both praise and healthy training treats to keep them excited. Mooch’s Munchies has a dog bakery featuring a wide variety of delicious, all natural dog treats to choose from.
Minimize the Use of Antibiotics
Just like in the human world, our pets are being exposed to more antibiotics and unnecessary medications than ever before. While these drugs may fix one issue we are experiencing, they may set off a whole host of others. Just like Western Medicine, medications have their place. There are times when antibiotics are essential to your dog’s health. The key, is knowing when to treat with modern medicine, and when to use herbs and homeopathic remedies to relieve symptoms and heal damaged organs.
Keep a Dog Journal
If your memory is anything like ours, you’re lucky if you remember your dog’s name, never mind what symptoms he or she was experiencing three weeks ago. However, knowing what changes your pup has undergone (both to their physical and emotional health), when symptoms began, and what foods turn your pup into a fart factory, is essential to a healthy pup… and a pleasant smelling home.
Find an old notebook or order a fancy journal to log your pet’s health whenever you can. This will not only be useful for you, but when you do take your baby to the vet (whether they are traditional or holistic), they’ll want to know what’s been going on in your pups’ life.
Find a Vet You Can Trust
Nurturing a good relationship with your pet’s veterinarian is an essential part of pet parenting. Ideally, they will be your partner as you strive to give your fur baby the best possible life. Find someone that you like and trust. And, even if you choose to see a traditional veterinarian instead of a holistic practitioner, find someone who is open to you exploring holistic approaches before or alongside Western treatments. You don’t want to be in a constant battle with your vet, so finding someone who is willing to incorporate holistic elements in your pet’s treatment plan, is incredibly important.
Be Open to Holistic Treatments
From acupuncture, to massage, to chiropractic, there are a number of holistic modalities out there that may be able to improve your pet’s physical health and well-being. When your pet receives a diagnosis, do your homework and see if there are treatments available that work with his or her body’s natural ability to heal itself.
A holistic approach to pet care includes many facets. While it may be difficult to switch entirely to a holistic way of living, it’s very possible to transition slowly, and adopt the aspects that work for you and your pet. Ultimately, your fur baby is depending on you to give them the wonderful life they deserve. Educating yourself and then choosing wisely will keep their tails wagging for years to come.