Monday, November 16, 2009

Whole Pets

Somewhere along our holistic parenting journey as we become informed about the quality and safety of the foods we eat, the risks and benefits of the healthcare choices we make and the products that we bring into our homes, we realize that our holistic perspective applies not only to our children, but also to our pets. Our beloved family pets are subjected to the many claims and products of a multi-billion dollar pet industry that may not have well-being as their guiding principle.

Holistic pet choices, like parenting decisions, should begin before the pet or pets are welcomed into our homes. According to the Humane Society, more than 5 million cats and dogs are killed in shelters each year in the United States - that's one every six and a half seconds (and several while you are reading this blog). Adopting homeless pets saves lives, reduces the profits of inhumane puppy mills, and offers a sustainble alternative to pet purchases. What's more, many animals in shelters are pure breeds. In fact it is estimated that this number may be as high as 25 to 30percent.

As a pet parent, you'll be faced with many of the same choices - how to feed your pet, how to care for and discipline your new family member, and what the benefits and risks are to vaccinations. Increasingly, veterinarians are beginning to question our vaccination recommendations as recent studies show substantial links between frequent vaccines and cancer rates. Author and veterinarian Dr. Richard Pitcairn has also pointed out the rising incidence of vaccinosis among pets, manifesting itself in a variety of common pet problems such as diarrhea, eye conditions, and skin eruptions. Fortunately, there are quite a few veterinarians who will check titres on pets rather than continually revaccinate against common illnesses. In addition, there are a growing number of holistic vets who focus on disease prevention and health through diet, as well as through the use of natural remedies and homeopathy. Other natural solutions, such as herbs and essential oils can offer holistic approaches to common challenges from skin disorders to nervousness.

Nutrition is an important key to well-being for all living things and our pets are certainly no exception. Food additives and byproducts are frequent components of commercial pet food. The Animal Protection Institute describes the commercial pet food industry this way: "What most consumers don't know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a market for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered 'unfit for human consumption,' and similar waste products to be turned into profit." To preserve shelf life, many pets foods also contain BHA, BHT, and propylene glycol, the safety and toxicity of which has not been accurately determined.

Whole foods, natural remedies, eco-friendly pet beds and toys made from sustainable, non-toxic resources need to be part of every holistic pet owner's program. Sharing out lives with pets can bring great joy, compassion, and love. Good health and well-being should also be part of that equation.

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