Holistic Pet Health Day by Elyse Horvath Founder, Natural Paws | Humarian Health BlogBy Elyse Horvath
Founder, Natural Paws

How wonderful it is that we have a day to recognize and celebrate our pets’ whole selves!

Holistic health care, the idea that the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of a body must be in balance to prevent disease, isn’t a new idea. The principles of holistic care can be found as the earliest forms of medicine in cultures from ancient Egypt to China. Socrates has been quoted from 4th Century BC as stating that, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” It makes sense, especially when we look at the body as many parts working in unison to create one healthy, working body.

There are additional factors to consider with pets, since as their caregivers, we need to be able to read their cues in order to know their minds.

But first, there are so many things we can do to set ourselves up for success. Whatever your experience level with pets may be, it’s a great time to examine where your pet is thriving, and where improvements can be made.

Getting a Good Baseline

In examining the overall health of a pet, step one is to partner with a medical professional who shares your philosophy and get a check up for the pet. This is best done when the pet is not experiencing health troubles. That way, when something does come up, the veterinarian has a healthy baseline to reference, and the pet isn’t at a totally unfamiliar place.

Something Comes Up

When signs of physical distress appear (limping, diarrhea, excessive paw licking, head-shaking) it’s important to trace the issue back to its root. For instance, think of a dog incessantly licking her paw pads. You can do a visual examination of the paw and see whether there are any obvious causes like thorns or scrapes. If there’s nothing visible, it’s common to assume that the dog must have allergies, and that she should be placed on medications. To look at it from a more holistic point of view, consider all parts of what might be contributing to the licking.

From the outside in, where does the dog walk most often? Hot, dry pavement? Grass treated with chemicals? Does she run hard and wear down the pad skin? Is the pad skin in need of moisture replenishing? Answering yes to any of these questions means that simple lifestyle changes alone could be enough to fix your dog’s issue. Removing the culprit can often leave allergy meds behind.

Looking inside, examine what the dog takes into its body. Discordant food choices or an imbalance in gut bacteria can wreak havoc on a body, causing irritation where the dog is most vulnerable. Oftentimes, that’s the skin and bowels. And how does a dog soothe irritation? Licking! For a few brief moments, aaaaah it feels good.

Emotional Balance

Physically, finding balance in the gut, awareness of what the paws are coming into contact with, and soothing remedies can help the pet feel and heal better. But what about the emotional and psychological pieces? The stress of discomfort can also cause licking behavior to continue.

Humans are great at appreciating the emotional benefits of having pets. But in this moment, turn the tables to consider their needs. An easy way to do this is to think of the five senses and address how each one can be tapped to improve mental health.

Taste: We discussed this briefly regarding diet. Healthy, allergen-free treats and tasty supplements can provide instant gratification as well as nutritional benefits.

Sight: Visual stimulation can have a direct impact on overall happiness. Seeing other creatures can really change the course of problematic behaviors related to boredom.

Sound: Like visual stimulation, sounds can be a very powerful source of pleasure. Think of how a favorite song can alter your own mood in an instant. There’s a whole new genre of music specifically designed with dogs in mind.

Touch: Massage is an incredible tool in emotional well-being. From simple petting to a full paws-to-tail massage session, touch is crucial to happiness. This sense is special because it can benefit both the pet and the human at the same time!

Smell: Aromatherapy is a powerful tool for emotional connection, and when used properly, it can be a tremendous asset for mood enhancing and relaxation. Many essential oils also benefit the physical body and can provide a very holistic experience! Always be cautious regarding the oil and dilution for your pet, as not all oils are safe at all dilutions for every species.

Worth the Effort

Taking the time to make some simple changes, and most importantly, watching the cues and behaviors of our pets can make a huge impact on their well-being. They give us so much unconditional love. It’s really the least we can do for them!


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