Natural Dog Remedies


Article of the Month

Reproduced from "Natural Dog" magazine
2015 Annual Volume 6 pgs. 8-13

15 Natural Tips to Optimize
Your Dog's Health

Diana Laverdure

From green smoothies and herbal remedies to yoga and meditation, more people today explore natural methods to prevent disease and promote optimum health. As we experience improvements in our own well-being, many of us also look for ways our dogs can benefit, as evidenced by the increasing popularity of "doga," or doggie yoga. If practicing downward-facing dog with your canine companion isn't your thing, don't worry. We turned to leading holistic veterinarians for tips on how to naturally boost your dog's physical and emotional health --- no mat required.

Feed his or her gut (good) bacteria
The gut contains trillions of beneficial microflora, also called 'good' bacteria, which live primarily in the colon, or large intestine," says Doug Kneuven, DVM, owner of Beaver Animal Clinic in Beaver, PA. These good bacteria play a pivotal role not only in regulating digestive health but also in fighting off disease. "Many people don't realize that 70 percent of the immune system is located in the gastrointestinal tract," Kneuven says. To keep your dog's gut and immune system operating in tip-top shape, Kneuven recommends daily supplementation with a high-quality probiotic. When taken orally in sufficient quantity, beneficial bacteria will colonize in the gut and boost the existing microflora.

Lull him/her with lavendar
Studies in people indicate many benefits of lavender aromatherapy, including reducing anxiety, improving mood and promoting relaxation," says Sandi Leonard, DVM, owner of Whole Health pet Center in Raymore, MO. Lavender can also help to relax restless, agitated dogs or calm new puppies, according to Leonard.

[Natural Dog Remedies' Recommendation]
Some dogs do not like lavendar and if you use it on them, it will only annoy them.You may need to try different calming scents to find the right one for your dog. Always test the scent on your dog by just letting them sniff the bottle. If they shy away or show no interest at all, DON'T USE IT. If it is a positive response, by all means use it. In fact, they will probably view it as a treat. Never assume that just because it's good for you that it is good for your dog. Always remember that they know more than we do about their bodies. Listen to them. After all, they are closer to nature than we are.

Keep his/her nails trimmed
According to Knueven, a dog's nails directly impact his spinal alignment, which, in turn, affects his overall health. "Long nails throw off a dog's wrist joints, which then throw off the elbows, which then throw off the shoulders, which then throws off the spine," he says. This cascade of events acts much like the domino effect. "The next thing you know, you've got an out-of-alignment dog, simply because you neglected to trim his nails," he says. Trim every two weeks.

Give him/her a massage
If you've ever indulged in a massage, chances are that afterward you felt physically rejuvenated and emotionally refreshed. "In addition to the physiological benefits, massage is documented to elevate mood through the release of endorphins, feel-good chemicals in the brain," Gladstein says. But your dog doesn't need to visit a spa to reap the benefits. "A gentle at-home massage can help relieve stiffness in older dogs, while dogs of all ages enjoy the muscle relaxation and calming effects," she says. To ensure you massage your dog safely, ask your veterinarian to demonstrate some gentle techniques, or check out one of the many books available on the topic.

Hold that needle
"Proper vaccines are essential to a dog's health, but many dogs today are overvaccinated, which can result in both acute and long-term health consequences, such as seizures and autoimmune diseases," Kneuven says. Once a puppy has completed his initial vaccination series, Knueven recommends performing titer tests every three years, prior to revaccinating. A titer test is a blood test that indicates if a dog has retained immunity to the disease in question. "If the titer shows a strong immunity, there's no need to overload the system with additional vaccines against that disease," he says. Rabies vaccination should be given as required by law.

Support strong joints and cartilage
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are two of the most widely studied supplements to support healthy joints and cartilage. "In dogs with osteoarthritis, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been found to work similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also called NSAIDs, to decrease production of pro-inflammatory compounds," Leonard says. Other benefits for dogs with osteoarthritis include reducing pain and inflammation, stimulating chondrocytes (cells found in cartilage) and serving as the building blocks of new joint cartilage.

Keep him/her trim
Keeping your dog at his ideal weight is the simplest way to promote optimum health, according to Kneuven. "In the first-ever life span study of dogs, which ran from 1987 to 2001, Nestle-Purina found that Labrador Retrievers of ideal weight lived 15 percent, or 1.8 years longer than their overweight counterparts, while the thinner dogs remained free of chronic disease more than two years longer," he says. Kneuven's trick to maintaining a trim and satisfied dog? "Ditch high-calorie dog treats and opt instead for healthy snacks, such as green beans or slices of cucumber, apple or watermelon," he says.

Treat him/her to pumpkin
Pumpkin is an excellent source of soluble fiber, which slows digestion and bulks up the stool, making it beneficial in the management of diarrhea," says Babette Gladstein, VMD, owner of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. It's also packed full of nutrients, including beta-carotene, zinc, iron, vitamin A and potassium. Gladstein recommends starting with one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight once a day to give the stomach time to adjust. Be sure to buy plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.

Boost his/her immunity with blueberries "Anthocyanins, the phytochemicals in blueberries that gives them their deep blue hue, exhibit powerful antioxidant properties," Kneuven says. Blueberries also contain a phytochemical compound called pterostilbene, which some animal studies indicate contain potent cancer-fighting properties. Try feeding a tablespoon of blueberries per 25 pounds per day.

Go nuts for coconut oil
For years, coconut oil suffered a bad reputation as unhealthy because it contains primarily saturated fat. However, research shows that unlike the long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) found in most saturated fats, coconut oil contains primarily medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which convey numerous health benefits. "Our bodies break down and recognize MCFAs differently than LCFAs, producing very different effects," Gladstein says. Coconut oil improves digestion, promotes weight loss, soothes the skin and coat, provides a rapid form of non-carbohydrate energy and improves brain function in older dogs. Give coconut oil in small amounts at first. Use a few drops for small dogs and a teaspoon per 20 pounds for larger dogs. If the stool gets soft or runny, decrease the amount until his stool is normal again.

Detoxify his environment
Many chemical products used in and around the house can enter our dogs' systems, creating health problems ranging from neurological disorders to cancer, according to Leonard. "Pets roll around on floors, carpets and outside in the grass, exposing their skin to the absorption of toxic cleaning products and pesticides," she says. "They also accidentally ingest household toxins by licking them off of surfaces and lawns." Opt for natural cleaners such as white vinegar, baking soda and lemon, and treat lawns with pet-safe products containing natural bug-repellent oils like citronella.

Crack open an egg
Protein is necessary for life, and because the body continuously utilizes and replenishes this source, dogs need a constant supply of high-quality dietary protein to thrive. "Eggs are the perfect protein source for dogs because they provide all of the essential amino acids dogs need in a balanced, easily absorbable form," Leonard says. Feeding your dog eggs will benefit his skin, hair, coat, tendons and ligaments, and support his overall health. Feed your dog about 1/2 egg (scrambled with no salt) per 15 pounds.

Soothe his/her stomach with ginger
Ginger root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat stomach problems, including nausea, motion sickness, vomiting, upset stomach, gas and diarrhea. "The exact mechanism by which ginger aids gastro-intestinal distress is unclear, however, compounds in the root may decrease nausea at both the brain and gut level," Leonard says. She recommends offering about an eighth of a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger or a pinch of dry ginger per 10 to 20 pounds of body weight sprinkled over or mixed into food.

Get fishy
"Fish oil supplies a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are clinically proven to provide a number of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving brain and neurological development in puppies and protecting against heart disease and cancer," Gladstein says. Look for products tested for purity and manufactured from low-mercury fish, such as sardines and anchovies.

Bring out his/her inner Beethoven
Has your dog ever barked, wagged his tail or fidgeted while listening to music? If so, he's likely exhibiting an emotional response to the melody or key. "Research confirms that dogs have a defininte musical taste and that different types of music influence their moods," Gladstein says. So which types of music do dogs prefer? "In one study of shelter dogs, classical music produced a calming effect, while heavy metal music agitated the dogs," she says.


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