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ALTERNATIVE CARE FOR YOUR PETS

Moxie was dying. The three-year-old cat was in kidney failure, and the best efforts of her veterinarian to save her were not enough. A biopsy revealed kidney stones, but an attempt to remove the stones surgically failed. Her family was told she had only days to live. But they were not ready to give up on the smallest member of their family.

They brought Moxie to see holistic veterinarian Robert Silver, D.V.M., M.S., who is the Director of the Holistic Wellness Center in Boulder, Colorado. Dr. Silver gave Moxie subcutaneous fluids, prescribed two Chinese herbal formulas (Rehmannia 6 and Passwan), and treated her with acupuncture.

Today, three years later, Moxie is a happy, active cat. Dr. Silver still sees her monthly to administer subcutaneous fluids and acupuncture treatments, but the stones are gradually dissolving, and Moxie is very much alive.

Moxie's story is not uncommon. The new trend toward the use of alternative treatments in veterinary medicine mirrors the trend in human medicine. Natural pet products represent an increasing percentage of the pet care industry--with sales exceeding $27 billion in 1995. Veterinarians and human doctors alike are using such alternatives as homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and nutritional supplements to treat chronic illnesses that do not respond to conventional treatment. Alternative treatments are also options when conventional treatments make an already ill patient feel as bad or worse.

Holistic veterinarians and pet owners find that alternative therapies often are more effective and less expensive than traditional methods, and have fewer, less severe side effects. Pet owners also recognize that nutritional and herbal supplementation, advocated by holistic veterinarians, can help prevent many diseases we see in our pets. But why do our pets seem to be suffering from more chronic problems these days? There are more than 110 million dogs and cats in the United States, living in over half of all US households. To many people, pets are almost as important as children. In fact, according to a 1994 survey conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association, 69% of those polled said they give their dogs as much attention as they give their children. We know that processed food and food additives are bad for our kids, and that chemical contaminants are toxic to wildlife. Few people realize, however, that these problems also affect our dogs and cats. But awareness is growing.

Do You Know What Your Pet Is Eating?

Holistic veterinarians assert that proper nutrition is essential for the health of pets. They believe there is a link between the dearth of nutrients and abundance of chemicals in pet food, and the increase in such chronic pet ailments as cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, skin disorders, and allergies. And, unless you hold a degree in chemistry, pet food labels can be difficult to decipher.

So what exactly is wrong with commercial pet food? First of all, pet food ingredients are often of poor quality, with little nutritional value. Cheap ingredients such as brewer's yeast (a beer production by-product of poor nutritional value), sugar, meat meal, and meat by-products (poor quality, highly processed meat products of dubious origin), salt, and dried blood meal (a poor quality protein source which is not easily digested) usually make up the bulk of commercially prepared pet food.

Pet food meat sources often come from animals considered unfit for human consumption (those diseased or dead before reaching slaughter). These animals are exposed to powerful drugs in addition to antibiotics and hormones found in most commercially raised meat. We wouldn't eat such things, and legally, food manufacturers can't sell these items for human consumption. But we may be feeding them to our pets.

Harmful chemicals are added to pet food to preserve and mask the taste of the inferior ingredients used. Many contain artificial flavors and colors (which can be toxic and cause allergies); artificial preservatives (BHA, BHT, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, propyl gallate, propylene glycol, and ethoxyquin) which are carcinogens; and flavor enhancers (monosodium glutamate, and phosphoric acid). Finally, the processing that pet food undergoes destroys many of the nutrients that were there to begin with.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. In response to public concern about pet food, new products have arrived on the market that use only human-grade meat, raised organically without hormones or antibiotics, and organically grown grains and vegetables with no chemical additives. Such products are now widely available in mail order catalogues and specialty stores. These foods are certainly better for our pets than chemical-laden products, but you may need to do even more to ensure that you provide your pet with proper nutrition.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE -->Written by: Lisa Morton


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