Natural Life Magazine

Keep Your Pet Healthy the Natural Way
by Wendy Priesnitz

Keep your pet healthy the natural way
Photo © Danila/Shutterstock

People who take care to eat well and use natural health care techniques are often equally concerned about their pets’ health. And in most cases, the issues are the same – optimum nutrition, safe and natural remedies for ailments, and avoidance of harmful chemicals in the environment.


Our pets were not meant to eat the highly processed, preserved concoctions of questionable origin that the multi-billion dollar pet food industry tries to pass off as food. Most packaged pet food is made from inferior meat (sometimes road kill and other dead animals), cheap grains (including corn and soy), fillers, by-products, pesticides, preservatives and other toxins. It is also processed at very high temperatures, which destroys vitamins, amino acids and natural digestive enzymes. Increasingly, veterinarians are finding that processed pet food is a leading cause of illness and premature death in the modern dog and cat. In 1995, the British Journal of Small Animal Practice published a paper by Dr. Tom Lonsdale, contending that processed pet food suppresses the immune system and leads to liver, kidney, heart and other diseases. This research has since been replicated by the Australian Veterinary Association and proven to be correct.

There are alternatives. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own pet food, you can buy one of the growing number of natural products and increase the amount of table scraps from your own healthy, low-fat meals in your pet’s diet. You might also want to investigate vegetarianism for your dog. Dogs are omnivores, meaning they can eat either a meat-based or vegetarian diet. Cats, however, are carnivores and require some nutrients from meat that cannot be obtained in sufficient amounts from plant foods. Cats fed on vegetarian diets are likely to look elsewhere for their preferred meat diet, and many cats will hunt and kill small rodents and birds.    

The Vegetarian Society recommends providing your vegetarian dog with plenty of variety, to avoid deficiencies. It also notes that dogs are fond of yeast products so flavoring with Marmite or Barmene might make food such as Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) more attractive to them, as well as providing extra B vitamins. Dogs often like a little honey for flavor, on cereals for example. At the same time, check that you provide sources of protein, carbohydrates, fats and oils, vitamins, minerals, etc.

Dogs generally do well on two meals daily, a smallish breakfast and a main afternoon or evening meal. For breakfast, try feeding your dog whole grain cereals like muesli, Shredded Wheat or porridge in milk. Flavor with a little honey or dried powdered yeast if necessary. For dinner, you could offer grated cheese, cottage cheese, egg, nutmeat, TVP or cooked lentils and other pulses, not forgetting baked beans. Combine that with raw (grated or chopped) and/or cooked vegetables such as carrot or cauliflower. Other suitable foods for dogs include raw, chopped or grated fruit, dried fruit, brown rice, sprouting grains, and a teaspoon of vegetable oil.

If your animal is picky about its food, switching to a new diet may be difficult. Start by mixing a small amount of new food with a normal amount of their regular food. Keep providing a little more new food while decreasing the old food by the same amount, until eventually the new food has completely replaced the old. It may take months.

If you don’t want to turn your pet into a vegetarian, but the contents of commercial pet food turns you off, you can still cook for your animal. Some vets suggest that you make meat approximately one-third to one-half of your dog’s daily diet, with the Australian veterinary surgeon Dr. Ian Billinghurst, author of Give Your Dog a Bone, recommending a canine diet that consists of raw whole foods similar to those eaten by the dog’s wild ancestors. He says, “This food will include such things as muscle meat, bone, fat, organ meat and vegetable materials and any other foods that will mimic what those wild ancestors ate."


Like low-grade processed pet food, many common pet products can cause serious health problems. Insecticidal flea collars, and tick shampoos, powders, sprays and dips can pollute an animal’s environment (not to mention yours!) and cause illness.

Many conventional medications and vaccines can also be harmful. The best-selling drug known as Rimadyl, which has enjoyed remarkable success as an anti-inflammatory medicine for pets, has been found to be deadly for some dogs. The FDA has reportedly received more than 6,000 bad reaction reports about it.

A pet is also in danger of ingesting toxins via its paws after walking on a sprayed lawn, or from breathing cleaning materials and other chemicals in your home or kennel.

Natural Remedies

A groundswell of nutrition conscious veterinarians is beginning to recommend to their clients that they supplement their animals’ diets with a daily dose of flaxseed oil or other oils with essential fatty acids, Coenzyme Q10 and other nutrients for optimum health and vitality.

And there are many alternative remedies that can be used with animals. For instance, garlic can be given to dogs (not cats) orally to help control parasites such as worms and to repel ticks. You can use garlic capsules or add freshly chopped garlic to their food.

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You can also make a concoction of 10 drops of rose geranium in two tablespoons of almond oil; put a few drops on your dog’s collar to repel ticks. American pennyroyal also repels ticks (but shouldn’t be used around women or pets who are pregnant).

Dr. Hulda Clark recommends a protocol that includes pouring one teaspoon of parsley water over your pet’s food to help rid it of parasites, followed by feeding black walnut hull tincture, wormwood capsules and cloves. A kit is available in many stores.

Many of the herbal preparations developed for arthritis in humans can be helpful for treating arthritis in your pet. Arthritis products that have been evaluated for use on animals include Seatone and Shark cartilage.

Seatone is made from New Zealand greenlip mussels. This medication is used all over the world but must be given for at least three months before improvement is noticed.

These are just a few tips for helping you get started on the road to natural health for your pets.

Learn More

The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat by Juliette De Bairacli Levy (Faber & Faber, 1991)

Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst (Self-published, 1993)

Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn and Susan Hubble Pitcairn (Rodale Books, 1995)

Veterinarians Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs by Martin Zucker (Three Rivers Press, 2000)

Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative by Donald R. Strombeck (Iowa State Press, 1999)

Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food by Ann N. Martin (NewSage Press, 2003)

Wendy Priesnitz is Natural Life's editor, a journalist with over 40 years of experience, and the author of 13 books.


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