Saturday, April 21, 2012

Canines In A Human Environment
By Anita Chaplin

‘It’s just a dog’. I don’t like hearing that statement. To me, my dogs are family. I refer to them as my ‘furkids’ or ‘furbabies’. They are a living, breathing creation of God that have a soul that will live forever. They have emotions, can communicate, feel pain, and by my personal observation, they can reason.

Wolves and dogs in the wild are at truly a greater advantage than their domesticated relatives. They are not exposed to the environmental ‘dangers’ that Rover and Fido are who live in polluted cities and toxic suburbs. As humans, this is the environment we have grown up in, we don’t know anything any different, and simply put, we don’t stop to think about not only how this affects our health and quality of life, but also that of our beloved pets.

As a child I grew up in a household that was, well, contaminated, not even realizing it or giving it a second thought. My mom used bleach with chlorine, Mr. Clean products and an array of other cleaning products not suitable for human exposure. I don’t blame my mom. There were a whole lot of things back in ‘those days’ that majority of folk were not aware of. In our 21st Century society, ‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’, organic, natural and herbal are all buzz words that have derived from years of research and study that have concluded we need to get back to living more purely. The tide has turned and we are now more aware of our bodies and the world around us and how it directly affects us.

People are not the only ones who can benefit from better living. If something is bad for us, it’s not good for our pets that reside with us. The rise of disease and illness in domesticated animals over the last couple of decades has brought to light the need to ensure the environment in which we all dwell is not only safe, but healthy.

Dogs suffer from arthritis, cancer, and a plethora of other ailments. It’s not just us humans. Some would perhaps argue that it’s the inevitable aging process, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Not true. Are you just planning on aging gracefully, or are you going to fight it? There is great emphasis these days on appearance. We all want to look and feel younger. We need to remember, our canine friends age more quickly than we do.  They age 15 human years just in their first year of life! (See link below to view dog age chart) Smaller dogs have a longer lifespan than larger dogs. 

There are several factors that affect the quality of life for your pet: proper nutrition, exercise and weight control, health such as spaying/neutering, and environmental contaminants such as second hand cigarette smoke, cleaning products and external pollutants. Most of these we can control for them, others we cannot. That being said, we need to be proactive in our approach to the afore mentioned areas.

When I entered into the world of pet ownership and responsibility over 16 years ago, I was pretty much in the same boat as a lot of other ‘wet behind the ears’ owners. In retrospect, I knew nothing about properly taking care of an animal in my direct care. It has been the more recent years when I began fostering for dog rescue and numerous dogs entered and left through our home, that the realization of what their true needs were caused me to begin research in the area of nutrition. This arose from my background and certification in human nutrition.

Fast forward four years later, hours upon hours of research and reading, realizing how much more there is to learn about this, I continue to strive and pursue my interest in canine nutrition. It’s really just starting to catch attention, kind of like organic products have gained in popularity over recent years. There isn’t a whole lot of information out there, however, I have found and utilized many resources that have proved reliable.

I have concluded that nutrition is the first line of defense against many of the illness and disease our pets encounter due to being in ‘our world’. I have personally experienced reversing the poor health of a dog by utilizing high end nutrition, and natural/herbal supplementation. Mainstream veterinary practices rely on what most human doctors do, prescription drugs and surgery to control and correct allergies, infections and disease. Low-fat and prescription diets are popular, and vets are quick to write a script, along with the synthetic, man-made pills. I am not an advocate of ‘low-fat’…not in the human diet nor that of canines. Quality fats such as organic extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil used internally and externally are excellent choices, and are much needed in a proper diet. ‘Prescription’ dog foods to me are junk food and have no place in a proper canine nutritional program. I do not apologize for this, and this is my personal opinion, which has derived from my many years and hours of study in this area.

Most people would not consider, let alone know where to start to cook for their dogs. In my opinion, dog kibble is not enough, even when using top quality brands such as Innova or Blue Buffalo. Wolves in the wild forage herbs and vegetation along with animal prey where they obtain fats, calcium (from bones), vitamins and minerals, all necessary for good health. By instinct, they know what they need. Pretty smart! I will not go any further in depth about nutrition, as that is several other articles all on its own. (those to be forthcoming)

Let’s move on to exercise and weight control. In short, just like humans, dogs need to move! Even those who have physical disabilities need some form of exercise, fresh air and sunshine. Exercise helps to counter weight gain, which can be detrimental to a dogs health which can affect the onset of joint problems, diabetes and ultimately quality of life and longevity. Monitor this area closely. If your dog is overweight, take action to reverse this process, your dog’s life depends on it!

Spaying and neutering your pet is not only being a responsible pet owner in that it eliminates pet overpopulation, it also protects your pet against certain cancers such as breast and testicular and helps prevent uterine infections. It will not make your pet fat…that comes from overeating and lack of exercise.

Environmental contaminants. There are many and in this article I can only touch upon a few briefly, as again this could cover several articles (those to be forthcoming as well). Let’s discuss second hand smoke. This is an area we can control. Perhaps those who would not consider smoking around babies or young children don’t consider the effect it has on their pets. Dogs can get lung cancer…and other types of cancer…they breath in the contaminated air that comes from cigarette smoke, and over a period of time it can cause them to develop cancer, especially if other factors such as poor nutrition and overuse of prescription drugs are a part of their daily life. Please, do not smoke in the breathing presence of your dog and do not expose your dog to direct contact with others who smoke. (This includes cigar smoke too!)

Pollutants in the air is something we have little control over, especially outside of our home. Who knows what is in the air we breathe. Just because we can’t smell something, doesn’t mean we’re not breathing contaminates into our lungs…same for our pets. We can help counter bad air in our homes by changing furnace filters regularly and using environmental friendly cleaning products. So much of what is on the market today is synthetic and offensive to our sense of smell. Essential oils, vinegar, baking soda…all of these are more natural, better for the environment and our olfactory system. They cost less and are just as easy to use.

It is evident by just this short article that there are many factors that affect canine health and wellness. To think that we can bring them into our environment with its harmful attributes, and it not affect them is irresponsible. They are vulnerable, and rely on us to assist them in feeding, grooming, exercise and every other aspect of their daily existence. They will never ‘outgrow’ this, as most human children do. Pet ownership (or rightly said, human ownership, from a dog perspective) is a life long commitment, as some dog breeds can live as long as 20 or more years. We need to make a commitment to make those quality years, not quantity years. I feel blessed to be allowed to care for God’s sinless, blameless critters, it involves a tremendous responsibility of time and care when done properly. The bond between man and canine is unique, to be cherished and above all, it is a relationship that will leave a paw print on your heart forever.

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