BOOKS: The New Holistic Way for Dogs & Cats

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2010:

The New Holistic Way for Dogs & Cats
by Paul McCutcheon, DVM and Susan Weinstein
Random House (1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019), 2009. 256
pages, paperback. $18.99.

“In the new holistic perspective, a truly healthy dog or
cat will have all systems functioning in the home that is her
body–her own living terrain,” write Paul McCutcheon, DVM, and
Susan Weinstein.
Holistic medicine traces back to the ancient Chinese method
of treating diseases with herbal remedies. In recent decades the
holistic approach has crossed into western veterinary medicine. A
holistic practitioner treats the whole body; a holistic veterinarian
treats the whole animal. McCutcheon and Weinstein contend that all
living creatures can heal themselves from most conditions. Pet
owners can aid the healing.

For example, a dog came to McCutcheon’s practice with a skin
rash. McCutcheon asked the owners about recent changes at home.
Indeed there had been major changes. The dog’s family recently
brought home their first child. The dog’s skin rash, McCutcheon
assessed, was most likely a physical manifestation of stress.
“Insecurity about place in the pack is a primal source of anxiety for
a dog,” say the authors. The dog’s people began spending more time
with their dog, and added a flower remedy to the dog’s diet. In a
few weeks the dog’s rash cleared up.
Dog and cat health often depends on how they handle stress.
Some cope better than others. McCutcheon once treated a cat who
developed a stress-induced urinary tract infection after the cat’s
person moved into a small basement apartment. The cat had less room
to move around and little access to the outdoors. The change of venue
upset the cat’s immune system. Neither herbal remedies nor
antibiotics cleared up the cat’s infection. What worked? Extra
playtime in the hallway along with a heavy dose of extra affection.
Diet and wellness in humans interconnect. It’s no different
with pets. Pets have always been fed in part on the remains of
animals deemed unfit for human consumption, and on body parts that
humans choose not to eat. This may not be harmful, but some
commercial pet food is now also loaded with dyes, additives and
McCutcheon and Weinstein suggest feeding dogs and cats
unprocessed food. That’s debatable. Many dogs and cats live well on
high quality nutritious commercial pet food–but it is worthwhile to
compare labels.
The authors bring up many cogent points about pet care that
affect wellness, both physical and emotional. Yes, domestic pets
have feelings too. Cats need their claws and dogs should not be
chained. Confinement for long periods is cruel and inhumane. So is
screaming and yelling at your pets. Positive behavior is shaped by
rewards and praise. A maltreated pet is not a happy healthy pet.
To restore health and well being in sick, injured or abused
pets, the authors recommend acupuncture for pain, flower remedies
for anxiety, and glucosamine for arthritis. But use supplements
sparingly. Otherwise, they may be ineffective when needed.
Exercise and fresh air improve human health, and does the
same for pets. Expose them to the same good habits that you develop
for yourself. Take the dog on a daily walk. Open your windows (but
make sure they are screened, to prevent pets from escaping.) Don’t
smoke–secondary smoke may be as deadly to pets as to other humans
who share a smoker’s home. Maintain a clean healthy living
environment. Take pets to a veterinarian for regular check-ups.
The New Holistic Way for Dogs and Cats is filled with
excellent ideas and sources about holistic living for pets. It is
ideal for those who are unfamiliar with alternative medicine.
Holistic medicine should not replace traditional veterinary medicine,
but rather should complement it. A dog hit by car may need emergency
surgery to repair a ruptured hip, but acupuncture may help to ease
the dog’s pain during recovery. Although the authors believe that
some pets are over-vaccinated, and there is evidence to suggest they
are right, owners should abide by local or state law regarding
rabies vaccinations. Most states now allow vaccination against rabies
every third year.
Pet keepers may not agree with every point the McCutcheon and
Weinsten present, but they offer plenty of useful information to
help keep pets well. –Debra J. White

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