Pet Care Goes Natural

Remember that scene in Lady and the Tramp
where Lady trots outside to pick up the newspaper, shreds it on her way through the doggie door, and then proudly presents it to Jim Dear?


He’s content to receive the tattered bits that remain—there’s less bad news, at least.
We overlook a lot for the love of our pets. And they give us so much in return. That’s why we can’t disregard ways to help them live long, strong, and happy lives. 
“The choices we make for our animals are just as important as those we make for our kids, or others who can’t choose for themselves,” says Bill Bookout, president of the National Animal Supplement Council. Cats and dogs rely on us to make the right selections when it comes to optimal nutrition, everyday care, and safe, natural remedies. Here are some tools to help you be the guardian your pets deserve.
Wholesome Food and More
Like us, animals are what they eat. If you don’t have the time or expertise to offer a balanced, homemade diet, look for high-quality commercial foods and supplement with fresh, nourishing fare and appropriate nutrients. The investment in top-notch dry or canned foods pays off in the good health and longevity of your pets. 
When selecting dog food, look for USDA-inspected human grade or organic meat as the first ingredient, followed by whole grains, specifically identified fats, and natural preservatives like vitamins C or E. You may also see a list of useful vitamins, minerals, vegetables, and herbs. Using dry food? Check the package for its expiration date, and seal food tightly after opening to ensure freshness. Look for a limited number of whole ingredients in packaged treats—or reward dogs with carrot sticks or ice cubes. 
If you choose to supplement your pet’s diet, stick to two rules of thumb: Discuss these products with your vet, and never give vitamins, minerals, or other supplements intended for humans to animals. In Nutrition and Health for Dogs, Earl Mindell, RPh, PhD, suggests filling any gaps in the diet with a canine multi containing vitamins A, C, E, and B complex. Also consider calcium, magnesium, chromium, copper, molybdenum, silicon, manganese, selenium, and zinc as part of multimineral products formulated for dogs. And make sure your dog gets adequate omega-3 fatty acids from diet or supplements—for healthy skin, coat, and more. 
While dogs are omnivores (gaining nutrients from a variety of sources), cats are almost 100 percent carnivorous. Felines require a diet of protein with no more than 20 percent carbohydrates. As with canines, it’s crucial to look for high-quality meats on the ingredients label. Pick protein-packed natural or organic wet foods over dry kibble, which is not suited for cats’ digestive systems. Pure protein goodies are also good choices for occasional treats. 
Ask your vet which supplements may be appropriate for your cat. Older cats, for example, can benefit from additional vitamins and digestive enzyme products. Those with kidney problems may benefit from omega-3 fatty acids, B-complex and other water-soluble vitamins, and coenzyme Q10. 
Holistic Wellness Strategies
Trying to maintain a clean, flea-free house while also avoiding synthetic chemicals? It’s doable. Start by checking dogs for mud, bugs, and other concerns when they come in from the outdoors, and wipe paws with pet-friendly cleansers like vegetable glycerin. Pick a gentle herbal shampoo that keeps your dog’s skin and coat tidy and helps repel fleas. Useful ingredients include bergamot, citronella, eucalyptus, geranium, juniper, lavender, neem, pine cedar, or rosemary.  
For cleaning (especially the ears), disease prevention, basic first aid, and many pet-related ailments, consider diluted essential oils. “Tea tree is great for healing, whereas peppermint and lavender are great for repelling insects,” says Troy Healy, a formulator of essential oil products made just for pets. Commonsense precautions include always diluting essential oils in a carrier oil (such as grape seed or jojoba) before using them topically and applying oils first to a small area of skin to watch for negative reactions. Healy recommends using only the highest-quality products for pets—just as you would for yourself. 
Homeopathic remedies represent a safe and effective approach to pets’ common health challenges. Keep the following homeopathic medicines on hand to address everyday ailments and minor symptoms:
  • Arnica Montana for bruising, soreness, and recovery from surgery. Available in internal and external forms.
  • Calendula (topically) for minor cuts and scrapes.
  • Rhus toxicodendron for aches and pains in joints or lameness brought on by damp weather.
  • Gelsemium for fear or anxiety (such as from an approaching thunderstorm).
  • Ignatia for stress, grief, or separation anxiety. 
  • Rescue Remedy is also useful for times of distress or trauma. This Bach flower remedy is available in an alcohol-free formula specifically for pets. 
Animal Supplements 101
Bill Bookout, president of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), offers these guidelines for being a smart consumer of vitamins, minerals, and health-supportive supplements for your pets. 
First, buy from a reputable company that formulates specifically for animals. If there’s a significant price difference within the same category, it’s usually safe to assume that the cheaper product is of lower quality. Read labels, and look for lot numbers and expiration dates as signs of good manufacturing practices. Don’t hesitate to contact the company directly with evaluative questions. 
The NASC audits member companies to verify manufacturing and processing standards, mandates adverse events reporting and truth in labeling, and maintains a scientific advisory panel. For more information, visit their website at

They are what they eat

Like us, animals are what they eat. If you don’t have the time or expertise to offer a balanced, homemade diet, look for high-quality commercial foods and supplement with fresh, nourishing fare and appropriate nutrients.