As we count down the days until the new year dawns, many of us are happy to see this year in the rearview. It also reminds us that January 1st marks a beginning of something new, something brighter. It’s a time of making resolutions and goals for the months that stretch on ahead of us.
And to us, that new and bright usually revolves around our animals. The last 2 years have taken a toll on many of us, pets and pet parents alike. They’ve played with our physical and mental health. So, looking forward, our goal is to give our animals (and ourselves) something better to look to, and that means a strong focus on pet health and how we can continue to work to improve it in the coming year.
To that end, we’re bringing you our favorite pet health tips – changes big and small that pet parents can implement for the health and wellbeing of their animals.
5 New Year’s Pet Health Tips
Here are 5 pet health tips to embrace as we move forward into this new year.
1. Make the Move to Fresh Food
Year after year, raw food diets become more attractive to pet parents as a greater number are exposed to the research and benefits of feeding whole, fresh food. And that’s wonderful. Feeding your dog as nature intended means that they will get nutrients from sources that their bodies are designed to digest, leading to improved overall health.
With kibble, the end product is the result of high temperatures and an extrusion process that requires a high percentage of starch, which animals don’t need. Additionally, those high temps kill most of the nutrients in food, meaning synthetic vitamins and minerals have to be added back in – and we can all agree that natural is better than synthetic, right?
There are so many benefits of a raw food diet:
- Healthier coat and skin
- Better nutrient absorption
- Improved digestion
- Reduced allergies
- Smaller stools (and who doesn’t love that!)
- Variety – would you like eating the same thing every day? So why would your pet?
Raw Feeding: How to Get Started
There are several different ways to approach raw feeding. Probably the easiest and most convenient is to find a pre-made, well balanced raw food. Do your research, and make sure that the contents meet the nutritional requirements your animal needs. Make sure the product contains both bone and organ meat, as well as muscle meat. You might also opt for one which contains some vegetables and fruit.
You can also make your animal’s food, just make sure that you’re balancing all the nutrients to ensure it is providing everything your animal needs. If you have questions, speak to an animal nutritionist or a holistic vet for recommendations. This requires some more effort – both in making it and finding the proper balance, so know that as you go forward.
Don’t want to go raw? That’s ok!! Adding some fresh to the bowl can really help to boost the nutritional value of what’s in your animal’s supper.
A few times a week, add one (or several) of these to your dog’s kibble:
- Sardines: fresh or tinned (in spring water) – a tin a couple times per week
- Fresh fruit: a handful of blueberries, a few slices of fresh or frozen banana, or a slice of apple
- Bone broth: here’s an easy recipe
- Vegetables: some lightly steamed broccoli florets, zucchini, or cauliflower, or a scoop of pure pumpkin puree
2. Look to Natural Solutions for First Aid and Pain Relief
There are plenty of situations that warrant a trip to your veterinarian, but there are also plenty of situations where a natural remedy will do the trick – and without the worry of side effects.
- Slippery Elm – The bark of the Slippery Elm coats and heals inflamed tissues and is good for the stomach, ulcers, bowels, kidneys, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery and colitis. You can use it externally for wounds, burns, rashes or insect bites, and internally for the lungs, coughing, vomiting, and for stomach and bowel cancer. Just mix one teaspoon of the dried inner bark with a teaspoon of honey and water.
- Ginger – Ginger can be made into a tea or tincture, and is excellent at settling a doggy’s upset tummy. Boil some water and steep your fresh ginger, then add a few teaspoons to your dog’s food, or give it to them in their water.
- Calendula – The bright and sunny flowers of this easy-growing herb are ideal for treating cuts, burns, scrapes and wounds, thanks to its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It works well as a salve.
- Goldenseal – This herb is a powerful antibiotic that prevents bacteria from latching onto the cell walls, making it ideal for fighting infection. Use it as a tincture, tea, or rinse.
Homeopathy is energetic medicine based on the belief of “like cures like” – the idea that substances that would cause symptoms in large doses may stimulate the body’s natural healing processes when given in a diluted dose.
- Arnica – If you only get one remedy, this should be it. It’s generally good for trauma, pain relief and treating musculoskeletal injuries, but it also helps prevent bruising, limits bleeding, encourages healing, and reduces the effects of shock. You can give it to your pet for anything from minor sprains and strains to helping with serious traumatic injuries such as a car accident.
- Sulphur – Sulphur is best known for its ability to treat skin problems, particularly skin allergies. This includes flea allergy dermatitis and general itching and scratching.
- Arsenicum – This remedy is particularly helpful for the gastrointestinal tract. If your animal is showing signs of digestive upset, including grumbling, discomfort, vomiting or diarrhea, reach for this one.
CBD oil isn’t just for humans! Many pet parents use CBD to manage many different conditions, from joint pain to anxiety to seizures and epilepsy. As a natural remedy, it’s ideal to keep in the first aid kit, but also as a daily additional for overall health.
3. Show the Gut Some Love
Did you know that as much as 70-80% of your animal’s immune system lives in their gut? Seriously. It’s the same for us humans.
So, when it comes to pet health, you need to keep the gut healthy.
One of the best (and easiest) ways to do this is with probiotics. Studies show that adding probiotics to your animal’s diet can help with a plethora of things, including strengthening the digestive and immune systems, boosting nutrient absorption, increasing metabolism and energy. There are several ways to add probiotics to your animal’s diet:
1. Plain kefir
Kefir is most commonly made with dairy milk, but it can also be made with non-dairy alternatives like coconut milk, goat’s milk, or coconut water. These are good options if your pet struggles with dairy.
You can find it at your local health food store, or even your local grocery might carry it. Look for a brand that doesn’t add any sugars, and if you can find organic, that’s best!
Most animals don’t mind the taste, so you can feed it on it’s own or just spoon it over your dog’s meals.
- 1 teaspoon for small dogs
- 1-2 teaspoons for medium-sized dogs
- 2-3 teaspoons for large dogs
2. Probiotic-rich vegetables and fruit
Adding some of these on a weekly basis is another great way to feed the gut:
- Dandelion Greens
3. Fermented Foods
Fermented veggies are jam-packed with probiotic cultures, making them ideal as a puppy probiotic.
Check your local health food store for options like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), cauliflower, even fermented beans. But don’t just buy a regular jar from the shelf beside the pickles – check the ingredients! You can also make your own fermented veggies at home – it’s fairly inexpensive and is a great way to use up those food scraps!
You can feed fermented veggies on a daily basis. For a feeding estimate, go with around a half to one teaspoon per 20 pounds of your dog’s weight. Just start out slow, feeding a small amount at first, to give the digestive system time to get used to it!
4. Reduce the Toxic Load
Thanks in part to their closeness to the ground, along with everything in their environment, our pets are at an increased risk of toxic overload.
The skin (your pet’s skin is actually their largest organ) is a primary route of absorption. Your animal absorbs anything in his environment or that comes into direct contact with his skin. Of course, toxins can also be absorbed from the foods they eat. They can also absorb them be inhaling them, as well as just being exposed to them.
Some of these toxins include:
- Herbicides, pesticides, fungicides – either topical (flea medications) or for outdoor pests
- Chemically manipulated foods – genetically modified, for example
- Many plastics, paints and other compounds release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are extremely toxic
- Light pollution – TV, computer screens, cell phones, even certain light bulbs – can disrupt sleep patterns
- Cleaning products, bath products, scented candles
Clear out the chemicals and give your dog a simple detox be removing these things from their environment as much as possible. It’s also good for your own health! Opt for natural cleaning products. Get rid of those smelly candles and their toxic fumes. Choose organic whenever you can, or at the very least non-GMO foods. A few small changes can do a world of good.
5. Aim for More Adventure
When it comes to health and wellness, what you feed for (or add to) dinner is only part of the equation. We have to keep their minds strong and their hearts happy.
One way to do this is by doing more “stuff.” Breaking out of the routine and forging new paths and traditions often means a lot more to them than you might think.
If all you do this year is make a resolution to get out more with your pet, that’s incredible. Go on a hike. Get out for a scenic drive. Introduce your pet to new friends. Go camping. Enroll in flyball or agility classes. By giving your animal more adventure, you’ll be enriching their life, stimulating their senses, and building new bonds between the two of you.
Cheers to Better Pet Health
We’re all on different journeys when it comes to pet health. No matter where you are on that path, making moves to help your pet live the longest, healthiest, happiest life possible is always commendable. Whether you choose to adopt only one of these or strive for more and go full steam ahead, we salute you and whatever stage you’re in! Cheers to a new year and to your pet’s health!
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!