Shawn Messonnier DVM – Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs

1. Diet
The basic part of any health care program begins with diet. Diet is something you can totally control, as you decide what you feed your pet. There are many decisions to be made, and sometimes it’s easy to be swayed by fancy ads or advice from well-meaning friends and family members. I prefer to go with the science and feed foods that are devoid of chemicals, by-products, and artificial ingredients. I also appreciate the concept of feeding the most natural diet possible, and for many pets this means a raw diet. The concept of the raw diet is that it mimics the diet our pet’s ancestors ate:wholesome ingredients in a fresh, minimally processed state to ensure living nutrients. Raw diets provide nutrition the way nature intended, and are generally formulated like the diets eaten by your pet’s ancestors, composed of mainly meat, organs, and raw ground bone, with a small amount of fruits and vegetables, and little to no grain. Additionally, raw diets are also about 60-70% moisture, serving as an excellent source of dietary water.

2. Minimize Vaccines
While vaccines can be beneficial, too many vaccines can do more harm than benefit. Over the last 10 years, several veterinary organizations, including the AVMA, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Association of Feline Practitioners have changed their recommendations for pet vaccines. In general, their recommendations are for fewer vaccines for all pets, with doctors and pet owners working together to determine the vaccines most likely to protect the pet based upon various factors, including the age of the pet and its lifestyle. And for those pet owners who want to be as natural as possible, I recommend a simple blood antibody test called a titer test to determine exactly which vaccines are most likely to benefit the pet.

3. Practice Preventive Care
Preventing problems is easier and less expensive than treating disease. The best way to prevent disease, in addition to feeding a great natural diet and minimizing the use of vaccines, is to visit the veterinarian BEFORE your pet becomes ill. In our practice, this means annually for pets under the age of 5 and twice annually for pets 5 years of age and older. A simple but thorough physical examination, and testing of the blood, urine, and feces, will often discover serious problems in their early stages. This is the best time to intervene and literally save the pet’s life.

4. Don’t Forget the Teeth
Dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats. It’s easily diagnosed and treated. Don’t ignore your pet’s teeth, as infection in the mouth can easily spread to other parts of the body, causing serious problems. Regular dental cleanings can be done safely under light anesthesia and will not only save the pet’s teeth but keep its entire body healthy.

5. Minimize Toxins
I believe that my healthiest patients are those that get the least amount of chemicals and medications. When medications are needed, they are used at the correct dosage and only as long as needed. Natural therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal medicine often work equally as well as conventional therapies without the risks of side effects or toxicity.

By following my simple suggestions, you can begin your pet on a program geared towards health and longevity. Feed your pet the best food possible in its natural state, practice preventive care, and only use vaccines and medications when absolutely necessary to help maintain health and prevent disease!