We all love our cats, dogs and other companion animals. We want to keep them healthy and around as long as possible. Are we limited in our understanding of how we can encourage this? Below are five easy ways to encourage longevity and avoid trauma and tragedy for our animal friends as well as our families:

1)      Observation- When we study Eastern Medicine, we will find that part of the method of ongoing health maintenance is called observation. This is the practice of examining our animal when he is healthy so that we are in immediate recognition of the moment any aspect of his health falls out of the norm. This can be done by the animal’s person as opposed to a professional doctor. It is our job to note how our animal companion behaves when he is healthy so that at the very first sign of a shift, we are able to recognize it. By practicing this, we can understand our animal’s warning signs when they first appear and react accordingly. Imagine how many terminal illnesses or surgery can be avoided if we had just noticed the early warning signs? When we observe our animals in a healthy state, we are looking for redness in the whites of eyes, normal tongue colour, healthy bathroom habits, healthy poop, healthy eating habits, skin texture, hair/fur texture, the way they walk (so we can note if they start to limp or overcompensate), among other aspects of their bodies and behaviours. We may also want to palpate our animal’s bodies while they are healthy so that any sign of a shift such as a lump, bump or swelling will be immediately evident should it appear. We must also keep in mind that these aspects of our animal friends’ bodies and behaviours are relative to each animal and breed. Some breeds of dog, for example, have naturally different coloured tongues than others. Some animals have different fur textures. This is why it is always important to note how your animal friend looks, feels and acts like when he is healthy.

2)      Regular Checkups- Whether you choose a western medicine practicing veterinarian, an eastern or both, it is important to schedule regular check-ups for your animal friends. Especially as they age, having a doctor examine them regularly will help to prevent painful organ dysfunction, blood borne illness, poor circulation leading to arthritis and kidney issues, severe dehydration, malnutrition and the rest of the spectrums of illness that can be caught at the early stages. Too many people wait until they see something “wrong” with their animals before taking them to the vet. Many of these painful experiences for animals can be completely avoided simply by scheduling regular visits to the vet. And though a trip to the vet is not altogether fun for our animals, in the long run, this practice will encourage longevity and a much better quality of life. As a side note: if something that a veterinarian recommends that does not intuitively feel right for you and/or your animals it is perfectly acceptable to do your own research on the subject and get a second opinion. There have been insurmountable cases that doctors have recommended foods and medicines that have been meant to treat a certain health issue and have caused quite a lot of damage to the animal. Listening to your vet is important, but doing your own research and getting a second (or third) opinion is paramount to granting your animal friends a healthful and pain-free life!

3)      Feed Whole Foods- JUST LIKE FOR PEOPLE feeding your animal friends whole foods is the most nutritious way to go. The “prescription diet” recommended foods are full of insoluble proteins (meaning- they do not get digested and pass right through). More often than not, feeding low quality food brands and nutrient poor brands, leads to muscular atrophy, poor digestive systems, dull coats and hair loss, early stage organ failure, and sometimes cancers. They are full of preservative salts, corn gluten and other fillers that can be quite detrimental to your animal’s health. Not only are these brands the highest in price, but they are also among some of the poorest nutrient-rich foods you can buy. There are far higher quality foods for lower prices that will help your animal friends to feel nourished and healthy. Food quality has always been and always will be the gateway to a healthful life! For more information on the quality of food that you are feeding your animal friend, READ THE INGREDIENTS!!! Take a few minutes to research the ingredients in your food-particularly the first ones on the list. Cross reference sites so that you are not reading biased information. It is also important to research where the food company factory is. If your animal food brand is has its processing plants outside of North America (some are located all the way in Asia!) consider the fact that once this food is processed and packaged it still needs to travel overseas before it gets to the stores in our country. This adds a tremendous amount of time to the already waning shelf life of the product. Because of the distance and time travelled, factories need to add more preservatives so that these products can stay “fresh”. By buying locally processed foods, we are lessening the need for extra preservatives, and we can know where the food sources are coming from.

4)      Keep Your Animal Friend at a Healthy Weight- No matter what species you are, obesity is very painful; and completely avoidable. If you feel that your animal’s obesity does not cause him distress, you are wrong. If you do not have the energy, time or will to exercise your animal, perhaps caring for an animal is not right for you. Animals need exercise for physical wellness, mental and emotional wellness AND spiritual wellness. Young animals need exercise to blow off steam, aging animals need exercise to lubricate joints, mobilize joints, facilitate proper blood flow and circulation, among many others. Keeping our animal friends at a healthy weight includes; no table scraps, daily exercise, low fat foods, no snacking between meals, feeding a specific amount of food that is perfect for each individual animal’s weight maintenance.

5)      Keep them safe!!- Some humans are of the belief that “animals will be animals”. While this is true, they are still our responsibility while we are caring for them. It is our responsibility to keep all toxic substances away from our animals. It is our responsibility to keep them on our properties so they do not wander onto a busy street, get stolen or become prey. It is our responsibility to allow them to live in warm, hospitable, safe environments. We can do this by remembering that if we choose to take on the responsibility of caring for an animal, our home is their home too. Keeping our animals safe also means being mindful of how long they are exposed to extreme weather; only allow them limited access to extreme cold or heat. Animals are incredibly temperature sensitive and any drastic change in temperature or extreme weather can cause severe damage such as frost bite, tail loss, limb loss, heat stroke and severe dehydration ; to name a few. Animals deserve to be comfortable there as much as we do. Additionally, we must remember that every time we let them outside, they have the potential to run away or go too far that we cannot find them. It is not a reflection of us, it is a reflection of their natural genetic wiring. Though they are predisposed to live in a domesticated environment, their initial predisposition leads all the way back to their species origin in the wild. They are natural hunters and predators. They love to wander off. We can avoid certain tragedy to this tune by taking steps to allow them to be outside in a secured way. We can spend some extra time building a fence, buying an extra strong leash and harness as well as anything else that is required to keep them protected!

By following these guidelines as well as paying adequate attention, we are sure to promote a healthy living environment inside and out for our very best friends; our companion animals!



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