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Caring For Your Dog the Holistic Way

November 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Dog Health and Nutrition

For many people, Western (or conventional) medicine seems to overuse drugs and technology.  Many people prefer the Eastern (Asian) approach offering nature’s own remedies.  If you’re someone who appreciates the natural approach for yourself, you may want to check into holistic care for your dog, as well.

According to Dr. Gerald M. Buchoff from Holistic Pet Care  in Little Falls, NJ, “holistic medicine treats mostly with proper diet, natural whole-food and herbal dietary supplements, homeopathic treatments, and alternative “ages-old” treatments.”

Daily holistic care for your dog 

For every-day care, Dr. Buchoff recommends a daily brushing to stimulate circulation and detoxify the body.  He advocates tapping the dog’s sternum between the dog’s front legs 5 – 10 times each day to stimulate the thymus gland, which is important in maintaining immunity.  In addition, stress can be minimized by providing exercise, love, and aromatherapy.

Raw food is the diet of choice for holistic pet care.  Dr. Buchoff’s recipe is as follows:

70% meaty bones (bones are needed for calcium), including raw beef, chicken, turkey, lamb or fish.  One quarter of the meat portion should be made up of organ meats such as liver, kidneys, and pancreas.

30% raw vegetables.  Half of the vegetables should be rich in carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes and squash.  The other half should be green vegetables including spinach, cabbage, collard greens, and Swiss chard.  Throwing in a few carrots and some cauliflower now and again is also recommended.

Holistic care at the vet 

Rather than treating your dog with pills and shots, a holistic veterinarian is likely to use chiropractic adjustments to properly align the spine to relieve the pain from arthritis or other joint problems.  Acupuncture is used to improve organ functioning.  Your dog’s diet and nutritional needs might be assessed and herbal supplements recommended.

Dr. Shawn of Paws & Claws Animal Hospital  in Plano, TX recommends an integrated approach, “combining the best of conventional medicine with the best of complementary and alternative therapies.”  He states that this provides “true healing rather than simply treating a problem.”  He also speaks to the value of herbal remedies as a way to minimize the side effects from conventional therapies.  (Medical marijuana, anyone?)

Goals of a holistic health plan

Dr. Shawn outlines five goals to be used when developing a holistic health plan:

  1. Preventing disease
  2. Saying no to drugs
  3. Healing the pet rather than treating disease
  4. Offering hope for the hopeless
  5. Saving money on pet care

He also offers, speaking from the dog’s point of view, a list of seven things your pet wants and needs to stay healthy and disease free.

  1. Feed me a healthy diet.
  2. Vaccinate me to prevent disease, but only when absolutely necessary.
  3. Please keep parasites away from me, but only use those medications that fit my needs.
  4. I know you take supplements to stay healthy.  Make sure I get what I need as well.
  5. I like to exercise too!
  6. After you brush your teeth, don’t forget about mine.
  7. I’m a good looking pet.  Help me stay that way.

Homeopathy and herbal supplements are two holistic approaches to dog care you may choose for your dog.

Dr. Larry Bernstein of Natural Holistic Health Care in North Miami Beach, FL, offers a primer on the history of homeopathy, as a way of understanding the science and art behind the practice.  Although some of the techniques used by holistic vets date back to the ancient Greeks, the father of modern homeopathy, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann practiced inAustria in the late 1700’s.  In response to the barbaric conventional medicine practiced in those days (think bloodletting and “treatment” by arsenic poisoning”, Hahnemann looked for a more natural method of curing patients.

Hahnemann’s big breakthrough came when he realized that symptoms are not the disease, but rather an expression of the disease.  While most conventional medicine treated the symptoms, no one was working on healing the disease itself.  Homeopathy seeks to restore a balance to the patient’s vital, inner force, rather than simply relieving symptoms.  For example, if a dog lives in a home with smokers, the second-hand smoke will cause stress to his body as the vital force tries to protect his health.  The stress is expressed as symptoms of disease.  Although conventional medicine would simply treat the symptoms, it is only when the stress (i.e. second-hand smoke) is removed from the environment that the dog can be truly said to be returned to good health.

In “Holistic Care for Our Animal Companions,” Dr. Bernstein lists several symptoms that might indicate an underlying chronic disease state:

  •  Eye or nasal discharge
  • Dull or greasy coat
  • Allergies
  • Food sensitivities
  • Too thin or too fat
  • Upset stomach at the change of food
  • Loose stools or constipation
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive thirst
  • Temperature intolerances
  • Reactions to medications
  • Gum and teeth problems
  • Bad breath
  • Emotional problems
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Inappropriate fears or behavior
  • Aggression

Branches of holistic medicine 

Although any vet may incorporate holistic principles into his or her practice, there are actually several formal branches of holistic medicine, as well as many related fields including the various massage therapies.  Chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal therapy / nutrition are the four main branches of holistic medicine proper.

Chiropractic and acupuncture for dogs is pretty much the same as it is for humans and is relatively widely understood, so we won’t cover those disciplines here.  Likewise, we have covered canine nutrition in many articles on  However, homeopathy may not be as well understood, and is worth reviewing.

The basic concept of homeopathy is that Like Cures Like, also known as the Law of Similars.  The idea is that if symptoms are caused by exposure to a certain toxin, the body can be trained to fight off that toxin by regularly exposing it to very small doses of the toxin.  This is the whole basis behind allergy shots.  The allergist gives you a very low dose of whatever it is that you’re allergic to, in hopes of training your immune system to react more appropriately to the allergen.

Some of the remedies used in homeopathy were developed in the 1930’s by Edward Bach, an English homeopath who believed that the dew on flower petals retained the healing properties of the plant on which it was found.  The original 38 Bach flower remedies are still widely sold, each containing a very small amount of the flower material, diluted in a mixture of 50% water and 50% brandy.  These remedies are often used for the treatment of emotional disturbances such as anxiety.

If your dog isn’t responding to conventional treatments, or even if you’d just like to try something more natural, why not consider the holistic approach.  You may be surprised at the improvement you see in your beloved pet.


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