Organic, natural, paleo, healthy, and GMO-free are terms that get tossed around in the veterinary community these days. Are these words simply designed to get you, the consumer, to pay more for products or is there truth in preventative medicine? That’s right: Living a less chemical lifestyle is not only better for you, but in the long run, better for your dog. In this edition of Medicine Versus Mom, we’re exploring preventative medicine: What is it? Does it help? Does it work? What is included? How far is too far with prevention?
The costs of prevention are but a fraction of the cost of treating a disease or problem once it manifests to an advanced stage. Often times, when a disease reaches are later stage, the likelihood of a successful outcome decreases. Preventative medicine is way more than taking your dog for regular veterinary visits. Here are a few examples of modern canine preventative medicine. How many of these are you involved in with your dog?
- Vitamins, minerals and supplements
- Well-balanced, chemical-free diet
- Titers in lieu of standard “yearly” vaccinations
- Mental stimulation
- Heartworm prevention
We are what we eat and so are our dogs. In her book, Canine Nutrogenomics, Dr. Jean Dodds writes, “Manufacturers might bend and stretch the claim “natural” sometimes, but certainly terms like “premium,” “gourmet,” and “holistic” mean something, right? Sorry, but no. These terms have no legal definition by the FDA and are not even included as part of AAFCO’s pet feed definitions.”
So that healthy looking dog galloping through a field of grass on the front of a bag of food is not always indicative of what the contents within that bag could do to your dog. Did you ever try to do the very best for your dog and feed him or her what you think is an awesome, quality food? As a result, did the dog ever not thrive on that food but perhaps got sick or developed other issues?
Human Grade vs. Feed Grade Pet Foods: Which one does your dog eat?
Human grade refers to a finished product that is deemed legally suitable, safe, and FDA-approved for consumption by a human.
Feed grade refers to the quality of a finished product which is not suitable for consumption by humans according to FDA standards. It is only legally allowed to be served to animals because of the ingredients it contains or how it has been processed. Further, it may include by-products, chemicals, fillers, and parts from “4D” meats: animals which are dying, diseased, disabled, or deceased. (re-read that last sentence very carefully. Did you shudder as we did?)
Made with human-grade ingredients does NOT mean a finished product is actually legally, human grade. An ingredient might start off being fit for people to eat it, but once it is shipped to a pet food plant and processed according to regulations for feed grade products, the term “human grade” can no longer apply. By true definition, that ingredient is now human grade.
Quite the dose of reality, isn’t it? Click here to read more about human grade versus feed grade pet foods.
Bottom line: A quality diet that is free of chemicals and is actually good for your dog is what we use and recommend. We allow our dog kibble for his brain games and board games at night on cold or rainy evenings. For his regular diet, we feed Dr. Harvey’s veg-to-bowl and a source of protein with an oil and we rotate with The Honest Kitchen dehydrated food, Embark flavor.
Walk down the aisles of any major pet supply store and one can be easily overwhelmed by the selections. This is actually a really good thing for the pet parent, as we finally have selections. One size, color, shape, or formula does not fit all (just like the supplements aisle in human pharmacies and retail stores).
According to famed veterinarian, Dr. Patrick Mahaney, “In the veterinary community, there are many differing opinions about if a vitamin is necessary for the health and longevity of our canine companions. As most commercial dog food is supplemented with vitamins and minerals to meet after basic AAFCO nutritional requirements, usually a dog’s needs would appear to be sufficed by what’s in their food. Yet, most pets eat processed commercial diets made with added vitamins that are synthetic instead of whole food based vitamins derived from minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and other food sources.”
As a dog mom for my entire adult life, I can attest to the power of the right supplements to produce beneficial results in dogs. I would not give my dog anything that I, personally, would not use myself. Some popular supplements at the current time, and rightfully so, include:
Organic coconut oil: Rich in a natural anti-inflammatory compound called lauric acid and medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that benefit the nervous system, skin, and joints (among other body systems). I use a teaspoon of this on my dog’s lunch meal every day based on his body weight. Dr. Karen Becker does the most amazing job explaining coconut oil here:
Joint supplement: When choosing a product, it is best to use one that is recommended by a veterinarian and has been formulated specifically for pets. Occasionally, human products have ingredients that may be undesirable for overall pet health. Additionally, make sure that the product meets Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), as such certification provides higher quality control over products. We use Cosequin Advanced Strength and have for years. Our dog has had two ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears within one year’s time. We want those joints to be coated and to have improved mobility. I use the human version for my chest arthritis. I give my dog a half to one tablet a day crushed up on his lunch meal.
Omega-3 Oil Supplement: Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are important fatty acids for both people and dogs because they cannot be made in the body. The only source of EPA and DHA for these species is through the diet and/or supplementation. Daily supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids helps support optimal health, so we do that. The supplement we have used on our dog for years is Nordic Naturals Omega-3 soft gels. I use one capsule based on my dog’s weight and puncture the capsule on his food at suppertime.
Read more about the reality of dog vitamins and supplements here.
Exercise and Weight Control
Want to avoid a ton of health problems and help your dog live a longer life? Keep his or her weight in check. According to a study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of all U.S. dogs and cats are obese. It’s an epidemic. Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your dog’s size at every check-up. Once your canine has reached maturity, ask for his optimal weight. Talk to your vet: Ask why the dog is overweight. It could be an underlying medical condition. If health issues are ruled out, portion control and rewarding with things other than treats.
Click here to read how to safely help your dog lose weight.
Don’t Ignore Your Dog
If I had a quarter for every time I heard a pet parent tell me their dog is bored or won’t play any longer because “he’s getting older,” I’d be able to buy a small chain of pet supply stores. We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing (said a famous person).
Spend at least 30 minutes twice a day in solid play, walk, or engagement time with your dog. When my dog was recovering from surgery ,we were given strict rest orders, no jumping, no playing, and certainly no long walks or running at the park. Although we had to be careful, I knew that if I didn’t keep his mind stimulated and in some way, shape, and/or form, he would become depressed. Being depressed as a human being actually weakens our immune systems and makes us more prone to illness and disease, and since dogs are our counterparts…. you know the rest of the story.
Click here to read what about activities to do with your dog. Does he need 100 toys in his basket of goodies? Probably not, but he would love if you picked up a toy or two and engaged in play time with him minus the cell phone or any interruptions.
Mental activity is crucial in the world of preventative medicine.
My previous dog had a side effect to then yearly vaccines. That side effect was cancer. We over vaccinate our dogs (and cats) in this country. Plain and simple: Overvaccination and the horrible side effects of this practice has become an epidemic of alarming proportions. We think we are doing right by our dogs by giving them vaccines and keeping diseases from affecting them. This is not always the case. I am not anti-vaccine; I am anti over vaccinating.
Vaccines are not evil. According to research Dr. Dodds shared, thanks to vaccinations, historically more lives have been saved and more animals have been safeguarded than any other medical advances. Canine vaccinations have significantly reduced endemics of canine distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus but NOT in wildlife reservoirs.
Here’s the catch: Vaccine companies make excellent products, but they aren’t one-size-fits-all for every dog.
Click here for read more about whether your dog needs vaccines or not and how often.
So yes, preventative medicine is crucial to have a healthy, happy dog. That whole ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure has a ton of merit. Preventative medicine seeks to prevent disease versus treating it. We’re all for prevention, how about you?
What Does an Experienced Vet Tech Think?
Twice a month, Rachel Sheppard of My Kid Has Paws is taking the side of “Medicine” to our “Mom” and giving you her perspective on the same issue. Please check out the vet tech side of things on vaccinations and head over to My Kid Has Paws for more information on this topic.
Note: We cannot guarantee results for your dog, but Fidose of Reality believes in sharing what works for us and then allow you to make your own informed decisions in conjunction with your dog’s healthcare providers.
In what ways are you involved in preventative medicine with your dog? What has worked for you?