We all want our dogs to live the longest, healthiest, happiest lives possible. After all, they’re members of our family, and deserve only the best.
When it comes to our dogs’ health, animal trends tend to follow human trends. So, it really is no surprise that, over the last decade, many have chosen to go a more natural route when it comes to care. And that’s great!
Ready to make the move to natural dog health? It may seem scary at first, but trust us, there are plenty of changes, both big and small, that you can make right now that will have a huge impact on your animal’s life.
Natural Dog Health
From what you feed to how you treat, there are plenty of ways to go natural with your pet’s health.
#1 – Food
Food is the biggest investment you make in your pet’s health. We all do the best we can when it comes to food, and there are plenty of options out there. And going natural with your dog’s food doesn’t have to mean going raw. It can mean all kinds of different things, based on your level of comfort and ability.
Here at Veterinarious, we’re big fans of raw diets. Dry and canned pet food are heavily processed, and feeding raw allows you to monitor exactly what your animal is eating. Raw food is alive, meaning that there are natural bacteria and enzymes in the meat. That’s a good thing. These aid in digestion and absorbing nutrients. Cooked and heavily-processed foods, like kibble, don’t have that helpful, live bacteria and enzymes.
A raw dog food diet typically consists of:
- Muscle meat
- Organ meats
- Fruits and veggies
Now, you can make your pet’s meals at home, or buy pre-made raw food from one of the many companies out there. Just do a little research to see what’s in each one. If you’re making your dog’s food, make sure you’ve done your research here too – you want to make sure the meals are balanced with all the nutrition your animal needs to thrive!
Not Ready for Raw?
Sometimes people are nervous to start on raw because of the cost or because kibble is more convenient, and these can be valid arguments. That said, raw food can be very affordable if you’re sourcing your own meats, and many pre-made brands are even comparable to some high quality kibbles. And as for convenience, sometimes it just takes a few more minutes than usual – it doesn’t mean spending hours in the kitchen every day! Plus, isn’t your dog’s health worth it?
If you feed kibble, that’s ok, there are lots of things you can change. First, look for a product that features at least 2 named meats as the top ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order by weight – so if the protein is way down on the ingredient list, it doesn’t make up a high percentage of the food. Try to get as limited an ingredient list as possible (without synthetic chemical preservatives). If you can’t read (or understand) what all the ingredients are, your dog doesn’t need them! Also, try adding fresh foods to your dog’s bowl – fruits, veggies, eggs, sardines – for an added healthy boost.
#2 – Flea & Tick Prevention
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, every single registered chemical flea and tick product has been documented to have caused adverse reactions. Some pets react very poorly to these chemicals, suffering symptoms like skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. When it comes to natural dog health, opting for more natural, low-risk alternatives is never a bad idea.
Now make no bones about it, we get that fleas can be a major pain in the A$$. And ticks can carry with them some nasty diseases that we really don’t want out dogs to get. But, as we mentioned, those preventatives also come with major risks. When it comes to natural dog health, opting for more natural, low-risk alternatives is never a bad idea.
The nice thing is, there are plenty of ways you can reduce the risk of fleas and ticks without having to resort to those risky flea and tick products. Sure, it may take a little more work, but it’s worth it!
Often dogs get fleas from their own yards! After all, most are spending the majority of their time outside in them. Here’s how you can make the outside environment less inviting for those pesky pests:
- Use cedar mulch – fleas hate cedar, so use it in your gardens and around your home as a natural barrier.
- Mow the lawn – don’t let your grass grow too high, as fleas and ticks prefer to breed in tall grass. Just don’t go too short, or you’ll repels ants and spiders – fleas’ natural enemies.
- Keep it tidy – fleas and ticks thrive in dark, damp areas, so remove dead limbs and prune thick shrubs to allow sunlight to permeate your yard. And get rid of any leaf litter hanging around.
- Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around. Diatomaceous earth is sharp and will cut holes in the flea’s body. It is also extremely absorbent and will dehydrate the flea, killing it. Just let it settle a while before you let your pet out to avoid having them inhale the dust.
There are also several foods that help make your animal’s body less attractive. Consider adding these to your dog’s bowl:
- Coconut oil: add 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight twice daily to food or offer as a special treat. Bonus – coconut oil moisturizes skin and helps kill yeast, too.
- Crushed garlic: give your dog 1/2 clove per 20 pounds of body weight daily, with a maximum of 2 cloves for any size of dog. If you have a pet with a history of hemolytic anemia, it would be safest to avoid using garlic. Do not give garlic to cats.
- Apple cider vinegar: add 1 teaspoon per quart of water to your dog’s water bowl, or mix it with water in a 1:1 ratio and spray it on your dog’s coat.
#3 – First Aid
Often, when our dogs are sick, our first instinct is to rush to the vet. And in some cases, that’s the absolute best thing to do.
But in others, if we just take a step back, we realize that there’s plenty we can do at home, naturally.
There are tons (tons!!) of remedies for natural dog health, but these are just a few to cover the most common ailments:
- Ginger – great for settling an upset tummy. Make it into a tea or a tincture.
- Calendula – use it to treat cuts, scrapes and wounds. It’s anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. The flower petals can be applied directly as a wound dressing, or make it into a tea for an antiseptic wash.
- Chamomile – its soothing anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce itching and irritation. Make a tea and use it as a rinse.
- Slippery Elm – this is another herb that’s great for soothing digestive upset.
- St. John’s Wort – great all-purpose skin oil for dogs. It can be used topically to treat skin conditions, small cuts or minor burns, and paw pad irritations.
Homeopathy is also a very valuable natural medicine that can be used to treat all kinds of ailments. These are a few of the top contenders for common issues:
- Arnica – great for muscle aches, spasms, pain, and bruising.
- Arsenicum album – ideal for digestive upset.
- Rhus tox – good for general musculoskeletal injuries.
- Hypericum – perfect if you cut your dog’s nails too short!
- Apis mellifica – great for bee stings and other insect bites.
#4 – Treats
Who doesn’t give their dog treats, am I right?
The thing is, we often forget about the junk that’s in dog treats. I mean, if you can buy them at the dollar store we’re pretty sure they’re not high quality. Here are 2 important things to remember (both with regard to food and treats):
- The “With” Rule: When you see a treat label with “With” in the name, dog treats with chicken, for example, that ingredient only needs to only be at least 3% of the product.
- The “Flavor” Rule: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for a label to say “Beef Flavor,” a specific percentage (of the flavor) is not required. The treats only have to contain enough for that flavor to be detected.
The great thing is, treats are an easy way to go natural!
When choosing treats from the local pet shop, look for:
- Only natural ingredients
- Limited ingredients
- Stay away from chemicals and/or synthetic ingredients like Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), and Ethoxyquin, Propylene Glycol, and food dyes
Another tip: dehydrated or freeze-dried treats are great because they hold in the nutrients better. Cooking can break down those nutrients, making them hard to absorb or destroying them altogether.
Or, to save money and to be sure you’re giving your dog the best, make your own!
- Dehydrate some veggies in a dehydrator or oven
- Give fresh fruits like blueberries or apples, cut up in small pieces
- Freeze some pumpkin puree for the perfect summer treat
#5 – Supplements
No matter what type of food you feed, supplements are an easy way to boost the health of your dog’s diet. Some are great for general health, while others are beneficial for certain health conditions. Optimal nutrition is critical in the development of a healthy immune system, and supplements play an important role in that.
A few of our favorites for general nutrition are:
- Omega-3s – high-quality fish oil, seaweed, phytoplankton
- Antioxidants – food sources include berries, pumpkin, green-lipped muscles
- Probiotics – great for gut health. Food sources include kefir and fermented veggies
It’s important not to overdo it with the supplements. All of the above can be found in foods, as well as buying a pre-made supplement. And rotate to keep things interesting. Feed a tin of sardines for the omega-3s a few times a week, and on off-sardine days give kelp. Add some blueberries for their antioxidant power every 3rd day. Add some golden paste every other day. Switch it up. You probably don’t need to give every supplement under the sun every day of the week. Pick a few that meet your dog’s needs and work them into the feeding routine.
Now, lots of commercial dry dog foods contain synthetic vitamins and minerals to ensure the food offers balance nutrition. But, there’s a big difference between natural and synthetic vitamins. Natural vitamins that come from whole food sources are much better absorbed and used by the body. Synthetic vitamins made in a lab are less efficient and may even be harmful.
Natural Dog Health: Do What You Can
Don’t think you can do all of these things? Not ready to toss everything you’ve ever learned out the window? Nervous? That’s OK!!
Natural dog health isn’t an all-or-nothing approach. Don’t let others tear you down for the choices you make for your pet. Even if you’re limited by what you can do, that doesn’t mean do nothing at all. Sometimes, a little goes a long way. Feel good about what you can do; don’t focus on what you can’t do. Do your best. Even a small change can make a big difference in your pet’s life ❤️
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!