Pet Health: Holistic Approaches

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“What I see commonly in dogs and cats is arthritis. So, increasing blood flow is really beneficial for the circulation and with that brings anti-inflammatory properties – and pain relief.”

Sharlene McInnes is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) consultant and veterinary acupuncturist, based in Wellington, New Zealand.

She specializes in the field of holistic animal wellness – utilizing a balance of nutritional supplements and dietary protocols, coupled with acupuncture.

Animals are receptive, emotional and highly sensitive souls – and they exhibit heart-warming responses to responsibly administered, holistic treatments.

McInnes offers a few general suggestions from her years working with animal physiology. For pets with mobility issues, herbs and supplements that can be beneficial are Boswellia (an anti-inflammatory, used to treat a number of health conditions), Calendula (reduces pain and inflammation), in addition to Omega 3 oil, Glucosamine and a multivitamin.

She says there are certain foods that you simply cannot give a dog: such as grapes, onions and garlic. As for cats, she notes, they are more cautious than dogs – who are inclined to sample anything in their path – and tend to screen their own intake. She does confirm, “Rule number one you cannot give a cat dog food.”

McInnes says when considering feline nutrition, kibble-based diets do not provide the full spectrum of dietary requirements. Cats are carnivores and do not do well when placed, exclusively, on a kibble diet.

“Cats are obligate carnivores, which means due to their teeth design, gastric secretions and bowel length, they are designed to specifically eat meat; more precisely 80% protein base and 20% fats and fiber, with this in mind they certainly are not designed to eat diets carbohydrate based- grain free diets are beside the foundational issue, cats bodies are not created for a diet high in dry highly processed carbohydrates. Some kibble-based products do announce high protein content- I would be sure to investigate the source of this protein and the temperatures at which this was cooked, as high heat naturally denatures protein.”

She says in any animal, long-term consumption of an inappropriate diet leads to malnutrition, inflammation and can cause cells to behave abnormally – the foundation for cancer and a compromised immune system.

In TCM, an inappropriate diet depletes the digestive system of energy, or Chi, leading to an inefficient metabolism. The dried nature of kibble is detrimental to the body’s fluids, encourages inflammation and puts pressure on renal (kidney) function.

For a more balanced feline dietary regime add fish, or meat, in conjunction with kibble. This satisfies their carnivorous physiology and meets nutritional demands.

When it comes to essential oils, McInnes says she can’t emphasize enough the importance of not using them on animals. Especially, cats.

“They do struggle to metabolize the components of essential oils – the lack an enzyme in their liver – essential oils, especially tea tree, become toxic to them.”

She says if we use diffusers, they should be kept out of reach of cats.

“They should always have an exit route from a room with containing oils. Generally, cats will avoid a smell if they don’t like it; but if they are in a confined space where they can’t escape it…  this is not ideal. There are unfortunate stories of cats becoming sick. People who have lost animals from exposure to essential oil diffusers.”

Dogs are not quite as sensitive as cats, in this manner. It just comes down to the how an animal metabolizes the components, or presence, of oils.

McInnes says cat nip, actually has widespread uses – for all animals – and humans, as well.

It’s commonly used in humans for headaches, indigestion, PMS and sedative effects. For humans it can be made into a tea, or eaten straight (though McInnes adds this might be a tad bitter). Used as an anti-anxiety herb, its effects are similar to Valerian Root.

In animals, McInnes says it’s sometimes euphoric, but occasionally calming. In cats, there is a gene in their physiological make-up that determines their reaction – if any at all.

“One of mine reacts and the other ones doesn’t. One goes crazy for it and the other has very little interest. They’re all different.”


Photo provided by Sharlene McInnes/4 Paws Acupuncture