About Whole Pet
Promoting Health to Prevent Disease in your Pet
Disease prevention is where it all begins. Incorporating traditional Western medicine practices with various Eastern therapeutic complements, as well as nutritional supplements, is one great way to achieve this goal. At Whole Pet Veterinary Clinic (in central Madison), we discuss nutrition with pet owners at almost every visit.
Nutrition is the primary factor contributing to good health in your pet over their lifetime. Since more than 60% of the entire immune system lives in the gastrointestinal tract (the “GALT” lymphatic system), keeping the body well-nourished with high-quality food, will likely do more to keep your pet healthy than any other single factor.”
Good nutrition for pets does not mean spending a fortune; there are numerous ways to achieve this healthy lifestyle for furry family members. By simply avoiding certain ingredients, such as meat by-products and corn, and steering clear of chemical preservatives, a pet’s level of nutrition is greatly improved. Supplementing a well-balanced pet food with about 20% fresh “real food” also gives pets a huge leg-up on staying healthy. If steamed fresh green beans are on the family menu for dinner, be sure to add some to the furry family member’s dish too. In the summer especially, there is nothing better to supplement our canine or feline friends than fresh garden and berry fare! In most cases, if you're scooping up a bowlful of yogurt or pouring yourself some kefir, you shouldn't forget a serving for Sparky!
The old school approach for cats was to avoid wet food to spare the teeth. However, that will get the kidneys into lots of trouble as cats get older. Absolutely go with wet foods for kitties! -- Give them wet food daily, with water added as possible over their life, and their kidneys will live longer (and prosper)!
Alternative ways to enhance the nutrition of your pets include “raw” foods (home-made with a recipe, or purchased commercially). A simpler method is to start adding high-quality canned foods daily to supplement the dry kibble. The process of extrusion required to produce kibble is such that the heat intensity depletes a large part of the real nutrition. Manufacturers therefore are reduced to spraying nutrients, vitamins, and minerals back onto the kibble after processing to meet basic requirements.
For a more balanced and nutritious diet, MIX IT UP! If kibble comes from the same bag day in and day out, pets will surely be short-changed on something! The more variety (different brands, different flavors), the more likely they will get a well-rounded assortment of what they need to stay healthy. Not all cats and dogs will tolerate this type of diversity of nutrition, but many will thrive on the variety.
Nutritional supplements are another potential way to help maintain a healthy immune system. Keeping the GI tract healthy will help to maintain good bacteria in abundance, promote nutrient break-down and absorption, build a healthy mucous layer lining the intestines, and avoid “leaky gut syndrome” (which may allow toxins into the body). Digestive enzymes, probiotics, and a high-quality nutritional supplement added into the diet daily will go a long way to maintain GI happiness and a healthy immune system.
Lastly, vaccines can not be ignored as a component of health in our companion animals. Although clearly designed to improve health by preventing disease, vaccines may, in certain animals, do more harm than good. Since all things encountered by the immune system have an impact on overall health, the key is assessing risk versus benefit of exposure. A “correct set” of vaccines should be tailored to each specific dog or cat. Determining the type and frequency of vaccines to prevent illness depends upon life stage, lifestyle, and even breed. At Whole Pet we will make vaccine recommendations for a one-year-old hunting Labrador are typically quite different from that of a 14-year-old Pomeranian. Similarly, even certain breeds are more likely to have problems following vaccines than others, so it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of vaccinations accordingly.
Maintaining health by eating healthfully and treating the body with respect is a common idea for people. Applying the same holistic principles to pets is not difficult, nor is it expensive, to do.