Thursday, May 28, 2009

veggies aren't necessary in diets for dogs and cats, are they?

A colleague lamented to me that she had recommended a homemade diet containing vegetables, and the pet owner's regular veterinarian said that vegetables didn't contribute anything and weren't necessary. The owner apparently found that the undigested chunks of carrots in her dog's stool supported the regular veterinarian's opinion.

Here was my answer:

It is true that vegetables contain much cellulose and that if the cell
walls are not broken down by prolonged mastication, steaming/cooking,
or pulping them, they will pass out unidgested. Dogs are gulpers, and
descend from animals that got any benefits from vegetable matter
secondarily from their prey, who predigested it for them. So veggies
cannot just be given as chunks, unless you are trying to give the dog
something to chew on just for fun.

The benefits of veggies to dogs are mostly unknown, though one study
in Scottish terriers showed that dogs eating vegetables in their diets
had lower cancer incidence. In the absence of studies, we kind of
assume that the benefits are similar to the benefits for humans,
including not just some of the essential vitamins and minerals, but
also functional ingredients that may prevent cancer, like flavonoids.
In addition, vegetables are great for diluting the calories in a diet,
and with so many overweight dogs, they can be an essential part of
weight management.

I recommend that pet owners feeding complete and balanced of ANY type - dry, canned or homemade, include veggies as part of that dog's regular fare. If you start from the time they're puppies, they won't object to the taste, which helps later in life if veggies are used therapeutically in the diet.

If your vet tells you not to feed veggies or fruits, smile sweetly and reply that you appreciate the reminder and that you would never feed onions or grapes to your dog!

Monday, May 25, 2009

What is holistic medicine anyway?

Ask some people, and they confidently define holistic medicine as use of natural remedies. Others would suggest that it is the studious avoidance of conventional medicine. Professionals who don't bother to read before they use the language of another discipline believe it is synonymous with homeopathy.

Holistic medicine has been defined in alot of different ways:

Princeton word database: medical care of the whole person considered as subject to personal and social as well as organic factors; "holistic medicine treats the mind as well as the body" Alternative Health Glossary (this is the business website of a reflexologist): Sometimes called alternative medicine or natural medicine, this type of health care involves a whole mind-body approach to health emphasizing preventive medicine and often effective at relieving chronic conditions like recurrent colds, headaches, arthritis and even cancer.

From Missouri's Dept of Health and Senior Services: An approach to medical care that emphasizes the study of all aspects of a person's health, including physical, psychological, social, economic, and cultural factors.

The Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association had a discussion on their email list in 2004, and decided that a good definition was: "Holistic veterinarians are those who offer all therapies (both conventional and alternative) which are potentially safe and effective, assess and treat the whole patient's lifestyle, genetics, environment, and history, provide long term relief where possible, and who spend sufficient time educating clients so that animal owners are satisfied that they understand their animal's condition, prognosis and treatment plan."

On occasion I have discussions with new clients (and sometimes immediately ex-clients) who prefer their own definitions of holistic medicine. This usually means that they define holistic medicine as [usually] homeopathy, adherence to the single right way to feed your pet (note my inability to remove tongue from cheek) and strict avoidance of vaccines and drugs.

So where do people get these ideas that holistic medicine is so narrow in scope? Do they really believe that after all of these centuries, their chosen therapies have suddenly become more effective than they once were?