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The Healing Power of Holistic Nutrition

BY HEATHER DOWDY

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates, 431 B.C.

As it turns out, Hippocrates knew what he was talking about. In an age where our society depends heavily on processed foods, chemicals galore and a drug for every ailment (which often cause other ailments), human health has suffered, ultimately, for the sake of convenience. Given our predicament, it’s no surprise that many of us are returning to a more holistic approach to wellbeing, choosing whole, organic foods and natural products over their manufactured alternatives.

Of course, the very same goes for our pets. Many of us choose holistic diets for our pets, but did you know that foods, treats and supplements are able to help with specific health problems, such as kidney disease and arthritis? Of course, proper veterinary care should always be a top priority when diagnosing and treating any problem in your pet, and you should always talk with your vet before beginning any new diet or remedies. But along with vet care, choosing holistic foods and supplements that offer solutions to your pet’s specific needs can go a long way in increasing his or her wellbeing.

Read on to explore how two common pet health issues (kidney disease and arthritis) can be helped through holistic foods and supplements. Of course, there are many options out there for other pet ailments, too. It pays off to spend some time researching and talking with your vet to determine which traditional and/or holistic options are right for your pet.

Chronic Renal (Kidney) Disease

Chronic kidney (or renal) disease is a progressive loss in renal function over a period of months or years. It occurs when the kidneys become unable to remove waste products from the blood, causing a buildup of toxins in the bloodstream. Signs of kidney disease can include increased water consumption, large volumes of weak urine, lack of appetite, weight loss, dehydration, anemia and lethargy, among others. Your veterinarian can run diagnostic blood and urine tests to diagnose the disease.

While renal failure is not curable, there are things you can do to help your pet live a longer and more comfortable life while slowing the progression of the disease. Depending on if the disease is early or late stage, veterinary treatments can range from intravenous fluids to prescribed medications, such as phosphorus binders and vitamin D supplements to improve calcium and phosphorus balance and to reduce some of the secondary effects of renal failure.

From a holistic standpoint, however, there are several things you can do to help your pet fight kidney disease for as long as possible. The best diet for a pet in renal failure will be low in sodium, phosphorus and calcium. This diet will also be higher in moisture content, potassium and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 6 and 3), which are beneficial to the kidneys.

Mainstream thought has typically included a low-protein diet as part of managing renal issues as well, although many holistic veterinarians are now challenging that concept. According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, it’s more about the quality of the protein, since high-quality proteins create less waste for the kidneys to eliminate, whereas low-quality proteins require the kidneys to work harder. 

According to Dr. Jean Hofve on onlynaturalpet.com, “For many animals, a diet with high quality protein will be better than a low-protein diet. Low-protein diets, if not carefully managed, can lead to malnutrition. If a low-protein diet is necessary, bear in mind that non-prescription canned foods are much higher in protein than similar dry foods, but prescription-type foods typically contain poorer quality ingredients.”

Dr. Peter Dobias, a Canadian-based veterinarian, writer and the owner of Healing Solutions, Inc., agrees that the typically prescribed low-protein diet often given to pets with renal failure leads to “protein starvation” and could actually be the culprit of much weight loss and faster deterioration. Instead, he recommends a high-quality, raw diet as the ideal regimen. “My experience is that pets with mild or moderate kidney disease maintain good body weight, great energy level and live longer when fed a high-quality, natural diet,” he states on his website.

If a raw diet doesn’t seem feasible, a premium, holistic canned food is the next best thing. (MollyBear, our own chow mix who has early-stage renal failure, has had great success with canned Weruva.) Avoid dry kibble, as it can stress the kidneys by “stealing” water from the rest of the body, increasing dehydration. Dr. Dobias also suggests avoiding beef, buffalo and bison, as they have a higher content of inflammatory factors that can affect the immune system.

In addition to the proper diet, Dr. Dobias highly recommends giving your pet glandular supplements to support the kidneys. Probiotics may also be helpful, offering beneficial bacteria that can use an excess kidney toxin, known as urea, for their own growth.

Of course, since renal failure is a progressive disease, it is vital that your pet is monitored by your veterinarian on a regular basis. Over time, your vet can help you adjust your pet’s diet and treatment as necessary.

CONSIDER THESE HOLISTIC FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS FOR PETS WITH KIDNEY DISEASE

Raw Foods:
Answers Pet Food
Instinct 
Primal Pet Foods 
Wysong

Dehydrated Foods:
The Honest Kitchen 
Sojos

Canned Foods:
Canine Caviar 
Evangers 
Halo 
Merrick 
Weruva

Supplements:
PetAlive Kidney Support 
Pet Wellbeing Kidney Support Gold 
Standard Process Renafood 

Arthritis and Joint Pain

In humans and pets alike, certain foods, such as grains and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, etc.) can cause inflammation, exacerbating arthritis pain and swelling. Avoiding inflammatory foods in your pet’s diet can be one way to try and ease the ache. Many pets have success with a carefully planned homemade or raw food diet, but there are many high-quality foods available as well.

While pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed by your veterinarian, there are also a number of anti-inflammatory supplements that can aid in your pet’s comfort and mobility. Foremost is fish oil, a great source of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which reduce inflammation and provide healthy overall benefits to the body. Salmon oil is ideal, although many supplements use anchovy, sardine and other sources. In addition to easing arthritis, these fatty acids also support your pet’s overall health, promoting healthy skin and coat as well as a healthy heart and immune system.

Of course, one of the best things you can add to your pet’s nutritional program is a high-quality glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplement. Commonly referred to as GAG’s (glycosaminoglycan), these supplements help by protecting the joints, rebuilding cartilage and restoring synovial (joint) fluid, as well as reducing the painful symptoms of arthritis. While many packaged pet foods contain GAG’s on the ingredient list, your pet may receive more benefit from a high-quality supplement. (Our arthritic dogs especially love the Hip + Joint chews from Pet Naturals.)

Meanwhile, Bixbi Pet’s Organic Pet Superfood Joint Supplement packs the power of Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM), which contains chondroitin sulfates, hyaluronic acid and collagen—clinically proven to reduce joint and soft tissue pain. It also works to improve range of motion and flexibility and contains crucial B, C and E vitamins.

If your pet has arthritis, talk with your vet to determine which supplements make complement your pet’s current treatment program.

CONSIDER THESE HOLISTIC FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS FOR PETS WITH ARTHRITIS

Glucosamine / Chondroitin Supplements:
Athroplex 
K-9 Glucosamine and Joint Purrfection 
Organic Pet Superfood 
Pet Naturals Hip + Joint Chews or Tablets 
Synflex 

Fish Oil Supplements:
Ascenta Omega 3 Oil 
Grizzly Salmon Oil 
Nordic Pet Omega-3 

Publisher’s Note: The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or as any medical recommendation. We provide this information only as an informational resource for further consideration between you and your veterinarian. While we make every effort to feature reputable products, we cannot warrant any claims made by products, companies or experts mentioned within this article.

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