Responsible Health Care for Your Dog
How you can make sure that your dog stays in optimal health, by preventing disease and using professional health care services diligently...
In a natural environment, only healthy individuals will survive and get offspring. For all species, it is a constant fight against the prevalent challenges, and with modern research, you have far more tools available than ever before. However, almost all of those tools can turn dangerous when misused in the wrong situations and for the wrong purpose.
"Leaving everything to Nature" is a very cruel approach that is unacceptable to most dog owners - for good reason. On the other hand, blindly "trusting the professionals" is much worse....
Maintaining good health for your dog is a matter of balance - and you can only create that balance by making informed decisions. There is no way you accomplish anything positive in this area by refusing to educate yourself... On the other side, it is very tough to find where to start - but you found it! J
The elements of good health care
There are really only three principles you need to use in order to achieve the optimal health for your dog:
Nice and simple, eh? Well, it is not quite as easy when you want to apply these fundamental rules in practice.... Let's discuss some of the details:
Supplying adequate nutrition
Nutrition is more for the body than fuel is for your car. Nutrition is also the tools the body needs for proper maintenance and for establishment of an effective immune defense against disease, so using the car analogy, it includes all the tools and spare parts in the service shop.
It is tempting to assume that this challenge is taken good care of by the pet food manufacturers, at least the better ones.
Unfortunately, this assumption is wrong. No matter what a pet food manufacturer (or the veterinarians that are paid for saying this) will claim, kibble cannot be a biologically adequate food for dogs. Some of the most important reasons are these:
Canned food is not much better. Although it generally is moist and matches natural food fairly well on the water contents, the other problems are no less prevalent. The cooking and the addition of hazardous chemicals is even more important, because the moisture in the product will quickly allow growth of micro-organisms if the entire substance isn't made so poisonous that they cannot live on it without killed themselves.
Please check this guide for more information about dog food and feeding.
You might also want to check this article to understand why the melanin contamination in March-April 2007 cannot be resolved by an "oops" followed by returning to "business as usual" for the pet food manufacturers, licking their financial wounds after reluctantly recalling over 60 million packages from the market...
Another important aspect about food that most often is ignored is that dogs are not supposed to eat many small meals a day. They are built for eating big meals only a few times a week! And they are not programmed for catching prey "on time".... In fact, the common practice of serving two or three small meals per day to an adult dog, almost at the same times every day, is outright harmful for its body, because it creates conditional reflexes that make the dog dependable on such regular supply of food, and it makes the dog extremely vulnerable to change! (For more information on this, please see this article.) On top of this, such a "humane" procedure will leave the dog constantly hungry....
You should seriously consider the benefits of letting your dog work for its food. You support great mental health for your dog by letting it accomplish things that get seriously rewarded. Food is the ultimate reward for a smart hunter. You do not need to use live prey animals to make this happen. You can challenge the dog with all kinds of exercises - and then reward its performance by serving the food. If you want more detail on this, you should check out Mogens Eliasen's great e-book "BrainWork for Smart Dogs" - it will give you all the instructions you need - plus several dozens of very detailed descriptions of practical exercises you can teach the dog.
Avoiding poisonous chemicals and other unnatural substances
By eliminating kibble and canned food from your dog's diet, you have made a major step in a positive direction of avoiding poisons and unnatural substances. But there is more...
You must understand that all synthetic medicine is poison. Many times, it works by killing micro-organisms, just as preservatives in food do - although some other micro-organisms than those you will find in food. Sometimes medication is used also to kill other species, such as parasites. The main principle behind the use is that, yes, the medicine is poison, but it is more poisonous to the organisms we want to fight than to the dog. Other times, the medicine is supposed to either replace chemicals the body does not produce in sufficient amounts, or to stimulate it to do so. We will come back to this in a moment.
So, where could your dog be exposed to poisonous chemicals, other than in food and medication? Here are some examples:
They really should be pretty obvious, but they sometimes come as a big surprise because your dog might do things you wouldn't do yourself, such as licking your kitchen floor when you washed it!
Another very important aspect of this rule is that you can only expose the dog to poisons for some time. At some point, the exposure will accumulate and cause visible damage, in the form of an allergy or a malfunction of certain organs. When this happens, you might not be able to reverse the situation back to good health any more, so this is really a matter of not taking it lightly, because you will rarely get any warnings of "getting close" - you might not observe the damage until it is impossible to undo it.
For this reason, you should be extremely cautious about using medication for prevention or to cover a possibility that might not be for real. For example: if you suspect that you dog has a parasite of some sorts, do not just administer the medicine (poison) to kill it (and to damage the dog's body), until you have a confirmed diagnosis that you do indeed have this parasite to fight! Yes, getting the diagnosis might cost you a visit to the vet - and that could be more expensive than just buying the medicine in a pet supply store. (The issue here is not to save you money, but to save the dog from unnecessary health problems that are completely avoidable through a responsible management practice from your side.)
For medicine that contains chemicals which are identical (or chemically very close) to those the dog is supposed to produce by itself, you need to exercise extreme care in the administration. First, you will have no effect of the supplementing, until you get past the level of what the dog produces itself, simply because any addition will instantly be subtracted from the dog's own production. There are mechanisms is place that regulate the dog's own production to reach a certain level, and when this level is exceeded, the production gets shut off. Second, when you do supply such a chemical in sufficient amounts, it will not only shut the dog's own production down, but it will also shut down many other productions that are connected to this one! Only very rarely do we have any good scientific understanding of what those other processes are, but the principle has been proven and proven all the time in real life, so there is no discussion possible about its validity. Third, if you continue substituting the dog's natural production with your artificial supplementing, you will eventually completely disable the dog's ability to restart this production, for good. Nature's fundamental rule, "use it or lose it" most certainly applies to organ functions...
For medicine that is used as stimulation of certain processes, the bad news is that they always also have an impact on other parts of the body and other processes in the metabolism. They never act isolated or exclusively for the intended purpose. You might hope that those side effects are not too bad, but you can never escape the damage from side effects, no matter which drug you use. Those damages might not always be well documented, especially not for dogs, for whom there is no protection from legislation and government regulation. The number of cases where doctors have prescribed first one drug to achieve a desired effect, then another one to compensate for some of the critical side effects of the first one, then a third one to make up for the problems with the second one, etc. are so numerous that you may scream... There are thousands of examples (if not millions) where people (or dogs) have experienced big relief by having all medication taken away! Medicine does make us sick - especially when we take it for long periods of time.
A special area of medicine, whose purpose is to stimulate the body's own functions, is herbal medicine or "natural medicine". There are thousands of herbs that have a documented impact of various body functions. The good news is that many of those herbs are far less damaging to the body than synthetic drugs. The bad news is that doctors and vets generally don't know much about it, so you are on your own.... However, if you are dealing with a problem that allows you to spend some time experimenting a bit, then herbal medicine should be considered a serious option, mostly because the side effects generally are much less (if even noticeable) than for synthetic drugs. The most important disadvantage is sometimes that herbs take longer time to work - but they provide a much more sustainable solution. On top of that, finding the right herbs for your dog's particular case can be quite a challenge. The classic reference for this is Juliette De Bairacli-Levy's "The Complete Herbal Handbook for Dog and Cat", which is well organized and simple to use.
When using medicine or drugs can be justified
When you adhere to the first two rules of health care, supplying healthy nutrition and avoiding unnecessary poisoning, then the dog's immune system will thrive and be able to conduct effective battles against almost all common health challenges. It is very common for people that do this to see their dogs live way past 15 years of age - with no other visits to the vet than general health check-ups and controls - maybe the odd "repair" of the damages made in an accident.
But life is dangerous. You could be faced with your dog catching a rare disease. And there are indeed some diseases that are very dangerous for dogs. Some of them are restricted to certain areas, others are pretty much around in most places. The good news is that all the common diseases are not dangerous - at least not for a dog in good health and with a strong immune system. But some of the rare ones are virtual killers, like Distemper and Rabies... (You might feel tempted to add Parvo here - but Parvo is not a deadly or dangerous disease for an adult dog, regardless the scaremonger about it... you can get more information on it here.)
But here is some seriously bad news for you: vaccines might be good protectors against some of those dangerous diseases, but some vaccines are not. And in all cases, vaccines are indeed very poisonous - some of the worst poisons you can inject into your dog's body!!!
So, "vaccinating, just to be safe" is very far from being safe. It is actually very often a certain ticket to some very, very serious health problems that very often will kick your vet bills into the thousands, and cut your dog's life expectancy in half or less. You cannot expect your veterinarian to tell you the truth about this. First, veterinarians do not learn much about this in vet school. Second, veterinarians make much more money on vaccinations (and the consequences of them) than on any other professional activity they perform. Third, the veterinary associations do not allow them to speak their mind - speaking the truth can (and most often will) cost a vet his/her license to practice! (For more about this dilemma for vets, please see this article.)
But, having said this, we should also keep in mind that if you live in an area where a certain dangerous disease is known to prevail (or could quickly arrive), then vaccinating against this particular disease is a responsible option you should consider. However, you need to understand that vaccination does not protect the dog against the disease. It only provides a (hopefully) controlled challenge to the immune system, so the immune system gets a chance to develop a prepared defense against the disease in a matter of 2-3 weeks after the vaccination. Before you ever let a vet inject another vaccine into your dog, you should get a solid understanding of how vaccines work. This overview gives an overview of some excellent articles on the topic, with everything explained in layman's terms. Please read those articles carefully.
Considering the fact that vaccines are dangerous and also that the threat of a serious disease could be dangerous, then you are put between a rock and a hard place. There is no "safe" solution to this. You cannot avoid the risks. All you can do is reduce the risk something you feel you can manage. Risk management is all about carefully investigating the possible consequences of your options, including not only the possible "worst case scenario", but most definitely also a serious assessment of the likelihood of the "bad event" happening. Once you understand your options fully, you pick the one you dislike the least.... (For more help on understanding the concept of risk management, please see this article on health risk management.)
Now, a word about the duration of vaccines. If a vaccine works, it generally works for life. There is no justified reason for ever repeating a vaccination, no matter what your veterinarian wants you to believe! The concept of "yearly vaccinations" of dogs is nothing more than a fraudulent plot that serves no other purpose than making veterinarians and vaccine manufacturers wealthy. No veterinarian in North America can agree to this, though - without risking their livelihood! But here is proof from a group of British veterinarians that have more freedom to speak their mind - and do so in a polite and well-worded way...
Finally, let's be clear about the immune system and the basics for how it works. It is a very complex combination of processes, including cell activity, chemical reactions, and possible many components we have no idea of what are when it comes to attempting a detailed description. But please acknowledge that even if we do not fully understand the details, that lack of understanding does not stop Nature from working. For comfort, you can just consider gravity. Nobody, including all physicists, fully understand what exactly causes two masses to attract each other, but we all live with the consequences of gravity every day - and most likely, we don't think much of it! We have accepted the fact of its existence.
Same thing with the immune system. The way it works is this: it constantly checks on all the body's functions, and if anything is out of order, it gets reported. The immune system will then assign "forces" to help re-establish the balance all cells in the body are genetically programmed to strive for. These "forces" can take the form of accumulation of white blood cells, of changed output of certain organs, of a temperature change, of modified blood supply etc. All of this with the purpose of bringing back balance. Some of these actions might be visible as "symptoms of disease". Understanding that they are what they are, you can also appreciate that trying to reduce or eliminate those symptoms is madness in terms of responsible health care! If anything, you should try to make them stronger, so the body could better fight the disease! (This is the basic principle of homeopathy - but it is not for laypeople to use without supervision. One of the best introductions to this is Donald Hamilton's book, "Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs".)
When foreign organisms invade the body, the immune system will take measures to have them defeated and eliminated. The nature of such an immune response will very much depend on the nature of the infection - and on the tools the body has available! (This is where good nutrition is extremely important...) A strong and well-supplied immune system will, of course, be much more effective that an immune system that is weak and lacks the tools it needs.
The immune system is like a muscle. There are two aspects of the way it reacts to challenges that are important to know:
The first rule is simple - yet tough for most people to understand. "Using the immune system" means exposing the dog to disease!!! Sure, hopefully not the very dangerous ones, but still - it is hard to swallow. It is nevertheless a fact that dogs that are exposed constantly to all kinds of risks of infection are much healthier than those that are kept in a sterile environment...
For more information on the immune system and how it works, explained for layfolks, please check this article.
The second rule is about allergies. Allergies are simply an over-reaction in terms of the immune system's response to a perceived threat from an invasion of foreign matter. As explained in the article on vaccines, the most common reason for allergies is not a dirty or polluted environment, but irresponsible administration of vaccines... An allergy is created when the immune system is cheated to believe that it did not do a good enough job on a certain occasion. Just as the case is for vaccinations, the immune system is a fast learner... One experience is generally enough to set the path for the rest of the individual's life. One successful victory over a disease (most often also in the form of vaccine) will be remembered so well that, next time, the response will be very fast and very effective, thus dramatically increasing the odds of success.
The same unfortunately goes for allergies.... If you one time get the immune system tricked into seeing a big threat in something that really is quite harmless, you cannot stop the immune system's over-reaction to this exposure. You have two ways of dealing with the problem:
The first option is simple - there are drugs on the market that will do this job. But it is also an irresponsible solution, long-term, as you can understand now.
The second option is much more difficult to use - but it is the only responsible long-term solution. If you need support with it, this overview of some relevant articles might help you.
What if your dog suffers from some health problem that won't go away?
Even when you do everything you possible can to keep your dog healthy, you might be forced by circumstances to make some choices that aren't really the best for your dog. Vaccination is a sad example of this, with governments requiring completely unnecessary vaccinations against rabies, for instance, forcing you to either damage your dog's health, disobey the law, or cheat.
But there can be all kinds of other reasons, including many you have no control over (you could have "inherited" the problem from someone else, like a previous owner).
You could also just be plain unlucky! Many times, when we discuss health, we are playing on likelihood, not certainties, and, once in a while, someone is going to "pay the toll" for this.
Finally, you could have made a decision at some point that was based on "insufficient knowledge". However, our knowledge is always incomplete. What is "sufficient" is a matter of risk management - because you cannot afford to spend the time and energy and money on getting all answers to all questions, before you make your decision! If you try, you will end up choosing the worst option of all: letting completely go of all control you have over the situation! Remember, whatever you did in the past, you did on the basis of the information you had back then. Don't beat yourself up over that. You did not do it in an attempt to hurt or harm. You did it with the expectation of doing good. That doesn't mean you would do the same if you had the opportunity to make a different choice now. It is OK to make mistakes - when you learn from them.
But maybe you feel you are running out of options? Maybe the options you are being given by your vet just don't cover anything you like?
In such cases, it can be very helpful to obtain someone else's opinion about the situation and what options you have available. Preferably from someone who has a completely different approach to the problem - that gives you the best chances of opening new avenues of hope.
If your dog is sick...
First of all, you must comprehend that being sick means that "things are out of balance". The objective is to bring everything back to balance. It is not to make the symptoms that makes your dog appear sick.
Example: when your dog is itchy, the objective is not to stop the itching. It is to correct the imbalance that causes the itching! Itching is nothing but a symptom. And a symptom that appears as a result of a ton of different medical problems that all are to be dealt with completely differently. Trying to suppress the itching without dealing effectively with the underlying reason can actually be outright dangerous....
When the dog is sick, the natural thing to do, of course, is to take your dog to the vet's and have an exam. However, before you do that, you should always
In addition to this, it is also a good idea to read up on some of the problems you perceive as possible candidates to the problem. But this can be a difficult or tedious task, so do not delay your vet visit because of this.
When you are at the vet's, there are several things you need to take charge of - because not all vets respect this:
You need to understand that your vet does not know everything there is to know about dog diseases, diagnosing them, and treating them. Nobody does. If you vet does not acknowledge this, you have a far bigger problem than what you have with you vet telling you that he/she does not know the answers to some of crucial questions. When you admit that there is something you don't know, you at least have a chance of finding the missing information from someone else. But if you believe you know "it all", you won't even ask - but plunge right into mistakes...
Some of the important areas that very few vets truly know much about are these:
It is utmost important that you know at least enough about those to be able to identify if any of these alternative medical sciences could have some meaningful answers to you, particularly if your vets does not have a very clear and very logical reason for his/her diagnosis. There are millions of examples where traditional western allopathic medicine have proven ineffective compared to these alternatives - but the veterinary associations do not want to admit that, and they do not allow their members to do it either! Be careful about managing this conflict, so it does not end up being you and your dog that pay the price for such stupid ignorance and arrogance.
The most important thing at all times is that, if your vet's explanations do not make sense to you, then it makes even less sense for you to follow his/her advice! If you do not understand, then you must ask. If your vet cannot explain things so you can understand them, then chances are than he/she does not understand them either!
And, if a professional "expert" refuses to explain to his/her paying client what the client gets for the money, then you are better off finding another expert!
Some bad news about your freedom - or lack of it...
As mentioned above, the role of your veterinarian is not a simple as you might want to believe. Veterinarians have a vested financial interest in your dog being sick, not healthy! It sure sounds absurd - and this fact does indeed also cause some absurd situations. Please think carefully about this, without mixing your emotions into it: What do veterinarians make most money on?
It takes no genius to figure out that it is neither the first nor the last option! For most people, it won't be the third option either, because a lot of not-so-wealthy people simply cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars to a vet, so they will choose euthanization in the moment the charges run too high...
So, please accept this fact for what it is: a fact. Now, this does not necessarily make your vet into a money-greedy, cruel crook that does not care about making your dog as healthy as he possibly could! But it does pay him well if he chooses to not give you the best possible advice.... Provided, of course, that you do not think so, because, in such case, you would take your business elsewhere!
In such a tricky situation, veterinarians certainly have a big advantage from the back-up they get from their trade unions, the veterinary associations! In sharp contrast to what you might want to think, those trade unions have no obligations to the public, and they are politically outside the public's control. In other words: they can do whatever they want, in regards to pursuing their purpose: making as much money for their members as possible! In North America, it even goes to the point where most state/provincial governments have delegated to them the powers of licensing veterinarians. This means that a veterinarian can have his license to practice cancelled anytime, for reasons dictated by the veterinary association, and with no way for him to appeal the decision, other than launching a civil lawsuit against the association! But that does not give him his livelihood back, until he maybe wins the case 4 years later...
But even on a smaller scale can this be devastating for your possibilities of getting the health care services you want for your animal. The veterinary associations have demonstrated numerous times that they do not tolerate when their members give people advice on how to keep their animals in good health without necessarily opting for poisonous drugs and unhealthy pet food! We know of many cases of veterinarians being fined thousands of dollars for no other "crime" than informing the public or their clients about alternative medical modalities, like chiropractic, herbal medicine, acupuncture, reflexology, homeopathy, and many more - all of which have long proven records of success in treatment of a multitude of disease, at a much lower cost than traditional allopathic medicine! "Cost" referring not only to finances, but also to the side-effects on the animal's health. Seemingly innocent things like linking to a web site like ours will easily cost a vet a $10,000 fine from his/her association! Writing an article about alternatives to poisonous flea medication cost $5,500 for one vet. Accepting an ad in his newsletter from a chiropractor has cost another vet $5,000 in fines. And yet another one got fined $7,500 for suggesting to his clients that they should consider homeopathic treatment. The list is very long....
This is Mafia tactics. Nothing less. The purpose is obvious: ensure veterinarians a monopoly on treating animals, under the full control of the veterinary association. In a democratic society, this is in outright violation of your civil rights to make your own choices for what you believe is best for you and those you are responsible for, including your dog!
Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.
A possibility for taking action
What you can do? Two things:
For links to other sites with more information on this topic, you might want to check our also
(Be aware that we do not necessarily endorse what other people write on their sites - you have to judge their information yourself!)
What is still missing?
As you understand, responsible health care for your dog is not a matter of following some "cookie cutter" advice from a veterinarian. In many cases, it is very much a matter of making some tough choices between two evils, based on some serious assessment of the information you have and can get, including what your vet tells you.
If there is a specific area in this field that still has you left baffled about how to find out what your options are and what you need to know in order to make a diligent decision, then we will appreciate hearing from you! We will try to find some answers for you and possibly later include them in the information presented or introduced on this page. Please use this form to send your comments and questions - it will make it easier for us to address them:
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Mogens Eliasen's newsletter "The Peeing Post" is full of solid advice to dog lovers. In the newsletter, he shares his enormous experience as a trainer, instructor, and education system developer - in a way that is easy to understand - and entertaining too! He welcomes input from his subscribers and is happy to give them free advice per e-mail about their concerns - if he can publish the results!
Be warned, though: his respect for Nature is profound, and his passion for dogs is contagious. There is a lot of serious thought and experience behind his views, and they are definitely not "mainstream", but sometimes very thought-provoking, if not outright controversial...
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