We live in times of considerable transformation. I’m not talking about politics or current world news, but rather the inclusion of integrative medicine into our society.
Holistic medicine with complementary treatments such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, and nutrition focus on healing the body as a whole, not just the physical symptoms of the disease. Understanding how to heal the body in its entirety has begun to modify the way that we view our pets.
My primary focus is Nutrition, using food as therapy. In viewing what we feed our pets as a means of warding off disease and illness, we allow the body and organs to heal themselves. There are countless opinions on what is the ‘best’ nutrition for your dog. Consequently, the internet is full of diets, ranging from commercial fare to raw feeding and even includes vegan and vegetarian meals. Although your dog may survive on all of these unique food options, the goal of great nutrition is to thrive and to provide for longevity and wellness. Each dog is different, so the nutrients provided should be different as well.
Here are some common ways food is used as medicine.
A dog diagnosed with diabetes can live a long and healthy life just by altering their food.
A specific diet can be created to improve glycemic control. For example, a dog suffering from insulin dependent diabetes receiving insulin injections may be able to reduce the amount of insulin needed daily. Adding fiber to the diet as well as being aware of the glycemic values of the food given can improve the quality of life as well as add longevity. Food can be used in the prevention of diabetes as well. Feeding meals that contain low-carbohydrate, species appropriate foods that contain considerable amounts of protein can help to prevent a diabetic pet.
Chronic kidney disease is another example of a disease that uses food as medicine.
Dietary therapy has been used for decades in the management of this prevalent disease. Nutrition works to both prevent and control symptoms while improving the quality of life. Protein reduction has been shown to slow the rate of kidney disease in the early stages of chronic kidney disease, although the subject of much controversy. Conversely, dogs fed a potassium deplete diet can become affected with naturally occurring kidney disease. Water is also a major factor in preventing chronic kidney disease, and this primary nutrient should always be supplied to maintain a healthy fluid balance.
One of the most common diseases in dogs is cardiac disease.
This disease is perhaps the best example of how food is used as medicine, as traditional medical therapy focuses on controlling the clinical signs rather than dealing with the cause or condition. Careful attention to diet is crucial for the management of this disease. Mild sodium restriction with the inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10, and antioxidants can contribute to lengthened lifespan. Obesity is a major contributor to cardiac disease. Therefore, feeding your dog a healthy, species-appropriate diet that works to keep the pet slim will prevent the onset of cardiac disease.
Even though the debate over ideal feeding will always exist, when illness does occur, nutrition is a valuable tool to help treat disease and promote healing. As the shift in prevalent thinking continues to change, I envision a future where nourishment will go hand-in-hand with veterinary practices to prevent, support, and in some cases, cure common maladies. After all, you are what you eat.
John Frierson is founder of LivelyPet, a companion pet health and lifestyle website. LivelyPet is dedicated to consulting pet owners in achieving quality health for their pet through proper nutrition. Working in conjunction with their veterinarian, John’s goal is to help pets and their owners achieve the healthiest and happiest lifestyles possible. He firmly believes that a big part of this starts at home, and most importantly, in the kitchen. Growing up with a diverse collection of pets, some requiring special diets, he developed his passion for nutrition. He is currently working on completing his Certified Pet Nutritionist certification (almost done!), and resides in Cape Coral, Florida with his wife, four children, and three Min-Pin fur kids. John can be reached at livelypet.net. Also look for him on Facebook at facebook.com/livelypet, and twitter @livelypet!