For thousands of years, the world's dogs and cats ate a constantly hanging variety of fresh, whole foods. Cats hunted rodents, birds and other small prey while dogs went after larger game and developed a more omnivorous diet. As they became part of the human family, these animals accepted anything tossed their way. Depending on where they lived, that might include fish, seafood, milk, eggs, poultry, raw meaty bones and anything left over from their human companions' food gathering, butchering, meal preparation and table scraps. Most of it was served raw, and all of it was produced locally and in season.
When pets needed medical attention, which wasn't often, they were treated with home remedies.
In the twentieth century, everything changed. Large-scale agriculture replaced small farms, chemicals became an industry, and storage methods such as freezing, refrigeration and canning made it possible to eat food grown thousands of miles away long after its harvest. Convenience foods replaced traditional cooking, and throughout Britain, the United States, Europe, Australia and other countries, pets began eating grain-based foods from cans, bags and boxes.
At the same time, home remedies gave way to modem Western medicine, and veterinarians rather than owners decided when and from pets would be treated. Annual vaccinations, antibiotics, steroids, anti inflammatories and other pharmaceutical drugs became as routine as commercial pet food. Dogs, cats and other domestic animals received the best that modem medicine and scientific research had to offer.
One would expect this trend to improve health and lengthen life. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
Statistics from veterinary organizations and dog and cat registries show that the life span of America's companion animals is now half what it was in the 1950s and 1960s. Forty years ago, the average Golden Retriever lived to be fifteen or sixteen, while house cats routinely lived into their twenties. Today the Golden Retriever's life expectancy is seven years. In fact, some American veterinarians consider a three-year-old Golden to be middle-aged. Similar statistics are given for Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Rottweilers and other popular breeds, as well as for cam of every description. For centuries, dogs and cats were only reaching their peak at age seven to ten; now they're lucky to be alive.
And what kind of life is it? Our pets are plagued by allergies, skin and coat problems, tooth and gum infections, ear infections, urinary tract infections, parasites, chemical sensitivities, behavioral problems, arthritis, hip dysplasia and heart disease. Cancer, unheard of in animals a century ago, is now a leading cause of death.
The world's growing fascination with holistic pet care is a direct result of these problems.
The term "holistic" or "wholistic" refers to the entire patient. That's obvious, but what does it mean? We are so indoctrinated by Western medicine that it takes a moment to shift mental gears. If a dog has arthritis, hot spots (weeping eczema) and bad breath from infected gums, a conventional veterinarian will focus on each of these as though they are unrelated phenomena. Giving the dog anti-inflammatory drugs for his arthritis, steroids such as cortisone for the hot spots and antibiotics for his gum infection may suppress these symptoms and bring immediate relief. But suppressing symptoms doesn't make an illness go away. All three conditions are likely to recur and in fact grow worse, while the drugs used to treat them create new problems.
In contrast, a holistic veterinarian looks at the whole patient and explains to the owner how the arthritis, hot spots and gum infection are related. In addition to prescribing nutritional supplements, medicinal herbs or a homeopathic remedy, the holistic vet puts the dog on a fresh, mw, home-prepared diet. A few weeks later, his patient seems younger, happier and more lively. He sheds his coat and grows a gorgeous new one. His eyes are bright, he no longer limps, his breath smells sweet, he's calmer, and he stops stealing food from the kitchen counter.
In our quest for good health, we have come full circle. At one time, our ancestors gathered medicinal plants and herbs to create home remedies for illness. Scientific advancement has led as to believe that we must now place our wellbeing into the hands of the medical establishment. There is a pill for ailments of every magnitude. As a result, we've lost touch with what is truly needed to maintain health and prevent illness and disease. What we've lost touch with is nature. We've only learned to repair ourselves when we are broken rather than to prevent ourselves from breaking its the first place.
This dilemma is not merely confined to the human population. As we began to domesticate various animals, we also started to subject them to the same process that we were putting ourselves through. We went to the doctor; we took our animals to the vet. We received antibiotics for minor illnesses, and so did our animals. We fed ourselves and families convenient processed food, and we did the same to our animals, feeding them dry kibble or an incomplete variation of what their natural diet should have been.
The consequences of our actions can be seen in the large percentage of humans and animals with illnesses ranging from allergies and digestive problems to cancer and immune disorders... and just about anything else you can imagine in between. One out of every four people in the United
States will develop cancer in their lifetime.' In the 52 years between 1935 and 1987, the number of Americans living with one or more chronic diseases doubled from 22% to 45%.5 A 1932 study by Dr. Francis Pottenger proved that animals fed various cooked food diets in lieu of their natural raw food diets developed degenerative health conditions that were magnified in further generations? While the specifics of this study have been questioned, it has nevertheless inspired both veterinarians and animal nutritionists to more carefully examine the benefits of natural raw food diets and supplementation instead of dry baked kibble.
Luckily, natural and holistic therapies are enjoying a rebirth in our present day and age. In July 2001, Pet Age Magazine reported that "More and more, owners are treating their pets as members of the family. With this in mind, it is not surprising that their interest in all-natural pet products is growing. 'Pet owners have become increasingly interested in maintaining the good health and wellbeing of their pets,' says Funda Alp, director of communications for the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. 'They are using products containing natural ingredients and exploring altemative or nontraditional options in current health services."
Modem medicine does not treat the entire animal or human. It directly addresses the problem, aiming to correct it as quickly as possible. In contrast, holistic therapies address the health of the entire organism by slowly and surely balancing the systems of the body, strengthening the immune system, and preventing disease.
In conventional veterinary practice, allergies may frequently be treated with antihistamines and steroids, with little emphasis given to assessing the cause of the allergies or managing the dog's diet or environment. A holistic veterinarian will ask, "Why is this animal exhibiting allergic reactions in the first place?" This net will then begin to address various environmental influences in the animal's surroundings, such as diet, allergens, and cleaning and grooming supplies. Holistic treatments can take on many forms. Herbs, nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, flower essences, and energy healing are just a few of the various modalities that a holistic veterinarian might commonly use in their daily work.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Acupuncture & Acupressure (200)
Gem Therapy (25)
Original Texts (231)
Therapy & Treatment (144)
Tibetan Healing (132)
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend