I often get asked how someone can incorporate healthier options into their dog's daily life. Let's go through some common care choices that most dog owners consider every day.
This medication is used to prevent a serious and potentially fatal worm infection in the heart. States that have hot, humid weather are those most affected. Common sense tells us if our dogs do not get bitten by a mosquito (the carrier of the heartworm microflaria) they cannot become infected. What you need to be aware of is at what temperature, based on the state you live in, does heartworm become a threat or not. Most states have cool enough winter months to warrant having your dog off this pesticide during the colder months. Some holistic veterinarians recommend medication be stretched to 45 days vs. 30 days and it will still provide needed protection. I use topical herbal products to keep mosquitos from biting, that way I avoid the medication all together for my dogs. I live in Maine where the threat is minimal.
Flea and Tick medication: This one can be trickier as fleas can live in the home environment if they are not addressed, regardless of the outside temperature. Ticks are not easily killed off by severe cold but tend to be more prevalent during certain seasons such as spring and fall. For ticks, I only recommend using topical medication, if desired. Check your brands for known bee killing toxins (neonicotinoids) and avoid those type of products. Try using topical chemicals only in the spring and fall, if at all, and incorporate herbal options in the less severe months. There are many non-toxic herbal and cedar sprays for topical use. They also make granules and powders to apply in the home for fleas. Nematodes (a parasite that naturally kills the immature fleas) are also another great option for your yard. Also, don't underestimate combing and vacuuming as effective flea tools, too.
This is a controversial subject both in people and pets. One thing I will tell you without a doubt in my mind is: less is best. Period. Do as few, as infrequently as possible. The rabies vaccine is the only vaccine required by law. Some states now allow medical exemptions for ill or allergic pets, which is very important. How can you protect your pet without vaccination? Hygiene is key, along with providing clean water and fresh, species specific foods. Do your research on how effective a vaccination is before giving it, and don't rely on the manufacturer for this information (which is what your vet will provide you with). Ask around; check with holistic providers; ask your fellow dog friends what their knowledge or experience is; opt for vaccine blood titers if you are especially concerned. Remember one thing, once a vaccine is in, you cannot take it out, so be very sure about every decision.
Another touchy subject. One that really doesn’t have to be such a heated debate. Dog are what they eat. Fresh, species specific diets are best; common sense tells us that. What you choose to provide for a fresh diet is where the fun comes in. Just like us, not all healthy things agree with all bodies (my body really complains when I eat fresh green peppers, for example). There are dozens of resources to help us provide a good fresh diet. One thing you must be sure of is that the diet is balanced. A dog cannot live on chicken backs and fish oil alone. They need their diets to provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbs in order to flourish. You may choose a fresh frozen prepared diet, you may consult with someone about making your own fresh balanced food, or you may decide upon a dehydrated style that offers more convenience. Feeding a diet that your dog looks forward to at each meal can bring both you and them joy like no other. Who doesn't want to look forward to the meals they eat?
One can find a supplement for just about any condition. Some of these supplements are far more useful and worthy than others. For general care, I rotate a good oil of some type (coconut, salmon, cod liver, olive, walnut) into my dog's fresh food. I also add a whole food sourced multivitamin, an enzyme and a pre/probiotic. For more specific conditions, choose brands that incorporate the NASC (National Animal Supplement Council) seal. This helps ensure that you are paying for what is written on the bottle. Cranberry really can support the bladder, glucosamine really can help the joints and curcumin really can reduce pain. So try to incorporate healthy items such as these when needed to reduce or omit some of the pharmaceuticals. Of course, with natural products, the earlier you give them, the better, which is always key.
Perhaps this has given a little insight on these five daily dog basics. Integrative medicine is on the rise for pets and people which is a great indicator people are looking for more options that "Do No Harm."