So what is healthy living? Simply, putting The Basics into practice each day... Supporting the body's systems.
Exercise, nutrition, mental stimulation, and good rest; avoidance of and/or counteracting injurious activity, dietary factors, stress, and environmental toxins. All are important for good pet health (and good human health!). Shall we take them in order?...
Okay, I'm not an exercise freak! But a sedentary lifestyle is a killer, for you or your pet. (I worked in an office for two decades, so I know sedentary.) Exercise for its own sake is something I've never enjoyed, and it's taken me years to get to the point where I exercise regularly.
For a number of years (pre-office), I was an avid folk dancer. For the last couple of years of my office life, I walked after lunch and trampolined at home. In between, I sat too much and developed stress-related disorders! Now I walk daily up and down hills, climb stairs in a three-story house, and add in other active tasks as they crop up (which they do more now, since I moved to the backwoods). My best advice is to find something active you like doing and/or need to do anyway!
I know we're talking about pet health... So who is it that sees that the animal gets exercise? I'm out walking my dogs, for the most part! And playing with them indoors (sometimes on the trampoline!). Exercising a horse means you get out there with it. Maybe letting your cat out the door doesn't take a lot of effort, but they like to play too (and I've known cats that went for walks with their owners). Your animal's exercise or lack of it might be entirely dependent on yours.
Whether your pet is in a cage, in the house, in a pen, in a corral... Make sure that if they're confined anywhere, they have the opportunity to run, gallop, fly daily. (If you're out there with them, so much the better!)
Of course, the digestion of birds is quite different from that of goats, which is different from carnivorous cats. But those basics are pretty darned accurate...
So look for the most nutritious marketed pet food - the least processed, without tons of fat and carbohydrates and preservatives and hormones. (See the Products portion of the Resources section for suggestions.) In addition, consider giving your pet raw food and/or enzymes as suitable. (And of course, organically-grown or -raised food is much safer than not.) A probiotic might also be in order for some animals (type or individual). "Superfood" concentrates can be an excellent addition to most animals' diets.
Avoid feeding them under stressful conditions (e.g., where other animals will fight for the food). If they eat too much, don't leave food out all day. Don't leave food out so long it becomes unappetizing to them. If they have delicate digestions, they might do better with a few feedings a day. My dogs like to eat when we sit down to eat - try to figure out what goes on with your pet and adjust to their needs/desires when possible.
By the way, the Pitcairns deal in their book with the question of whether dogs and cats can be healthy on a vegetarian diet... "The answer is a qualified yes." See Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, «- Clicking on this link will take you to book info at Amazon.com (Or click HERE to try Powell's used books] for the full story - and suggested lacto-ovo-vegetarian recipes (with critical supplements).
Remember, most animals need hard stuff to chew on to keep their teeth and gums healthy - soft canned food isn't enough! Good pet health includes all those pearly whites too.
Good water should be available at all times, for all creatures. Naturally, they need more when it's hot. And it should always be at a moderate temperature (not icy cold, not hot.) Chlorine is a poison (not to mention all the other awful stuff that may be in your tap water) - filtered water is so much better for you and your pets! (Distilled water, by the way, removes nutrients from the body; best to use it only for detoxing.)
"Brain food" - just about every creature needs not to be bored and lonely. Both together is much worse than only one at a time... Our pets have this in common with us!
Pets too need to find interest in life. Movement, sound, toys, interactive play will keep their brains working, provide exercise, and keep their spirits up.
Many animals are content to have companionship with animals of entirely different natures. A dog and a bird can happily keep each other company; a horse and a goat can be friends; many a cat and dog have been pals. (No, not always!) If two of one type of animal seems like too much, there are other options.
It's also sometimes possible for pet owners to find willing sitters for their critters, even without pay... Perhaps the stay-at-home people down the street with a single dog in a fenced yard would be glad to have your dog over while you're at work. A shut-in person might be delighted to entertain your cat for awhile each day. When I was dog-less, I would have loved to be asked to babysit a nice dog sometimes - I craved a fix!
Proactive stimulation can avoid many a behavior problem! Good pet health is good mental health as well as physical.
Most animals get plenty of rest - dogs and cats seem to sleep about two-thirds of the day if they're not kept awake by entertainment. But lots of rest isn't necessarily good rest. I'm thinking of creature comfort - some people aren't aware of what type of sleeping place their pets need and crave.
Dogs, for instance, need support in their beds, but (rather firm) cushioning, says animal chiropractor Dr. Daniel Kamen (his book is The Well Adjusted Dog: Canine Chiropractic Methods You Can Do «- Clicking on this link will take you to book info at Amazon.com (Or click HERE to try Powell's used books] ). They might enjoy the feel of a softer bed, but not for long.
Both of my dogs like diversity too - they move between their beds and the floor a few times during the night. And though cushioned beds feel good to the arthritic dog, and warmth is always recommended for arthritis, my arthritic dog simply gets too hot for all-night comfort on any bed I've offered her.
Critters too might be kept awake by noise, or sleep fitfully due to it. (Though if they don't have insomnia, or don't have to wake to an alarm, it probably won't be such a problem to them!)
Of course, injury can come from other sources - be on the lookout for those! Sometimes avoiding injury is just a matter of thinking ahead.
And if it comes? ...You'd better be aware enough to notice it so it doesn't get any worse than it already is.
Poor Dietary Factors
This is the converse, really, of what I spoke of in the Nutrition section on the previous page... Avoiding the bad stuff (while taking in the good stuff).
Read ingredient labels on pet treats - many of them are loaded with stuff you shouldn't wish on a dog (!). Research what your animal does like and need... and give it that, not lots of packaged treats. (Space them far out, if you use them.) You can easily bake your own treats and fill them with yummy, nutritious ingredients.
Try to make sure the packaged pet food you buy isn't old. If bags of "chow" don't move quickly in the store, you could be feeding your critter rancid (i.e., free-radical-laden) food, no matter how many preservatives are in it. (The one time we gave our dogs too-old food, one popped out a skin polyp soon afterward - the only time in her life. Don't take a chance when it's pet health at stake! - make the store take the stuff back.) ...This is also a good reason not to buy in too large a quantity.
Don't, don't, don't give your pet "sweets"! Just don't do it, no matter how tempting it is to share something "good" (-tasting!).
Speaking of treats, some people do like to indulge themselves and share with their pets when they do. If you overload your and your cat's or dog's liver with a lot of heavy fat-laden food (fried?! sweet?!?), neither your liver nor your pet's will be up to processing the other junk it has to take care of... And will be that much less able to heal when sickness comes.
Much cat and dog food is bulked up with carbohydrates and gross "animal by-products" (i.e., offal - for the most part, it isn't healthy!). No one is done good by eating tons of hormone- and pesticide/herbicide-laden meat (even the good parts!).
Non-carnivorous animals' prepared pet food might also be improved upon with organically-grown grains and grasses.
Of course, you might not want to go this far for your pets - I don't often buy organic food for myself. But if a pet is not healthy, better food can go a long way toward supporting its ailing body with better nutrition and less toxic load. (Ditto for you!)
Yeah, just avoid it! (Ha.) Well, it's probably a lot easier to make it so that your pets can avoid it...
Too much heat or cold, too much noise, too much worry, too much reprimanding, too much confusion or upheaval, too much jealousy, not enough food or not enough time to eat it without wolfing it down, fear of being left behind... all are stressful. Try to moderate your pet's world with these things in mind.
Exercise can help "disperse" stress... But it's naturally better to exercise to keep fit enough to handle stress well, rather than to exercise only to try to deal with it! - for animals as well as people.
Stress is also communicable to sensitive pets. ...You might need to deal with yours too, for their sake.
I've mentioned pollutants in food and water - these can be major sources of toxins, but not the only ones. (...Don't forget the drugs we give them.) And environmental toxins are another form of stress, of course.
If your pet is exposed to any of the following, it could be breathing in or ingesting some poisons... Exhaust fumes. Fumes from burning plastics. Industrial fumes of many types. Excessive wood smoke. Tobacco smoke. Household cleaners (in bottles, and from surface residue; dish soap still on their water/food bowls?). Dryer exhaust from perfumed (via detergent and/or fabric softeners) fabrics. New carpeting fumes. Off-gassing rubber or vinyl. Pesticides and herbicides. Heavy metals (e.g., lead in paint, asbestos in insulation or old linoleum).
Even pollens can be considered toxins, when they might produce terrible allergic results. Dust too, and dust mites (in bedding, rugs, sleeping couch?). Mold/mildew are rampant in some areas - and can be disastrous; fungus likewise (sometimes in air ducts). Then there are those flea allergies... And what about exposure to incense, perfume, and hairspray? - they like to be near you... but keep them away when it might hurt!
Animals trapped in one place have no way to escape from many types of toxins. It's up to you to do what you can to lessen their danger from them. You can, for example, modify a dog house by adding ventilation - one easy fix is to add exhaust bathroom fans. Ventilation is also critical in your home. Fresh air is so important!
Detoxifying is possible for animals as well as people. If your pet isn't healthy and has been exposed to such stuff (which is likely, if it isn't healthy), this may be in order. See Information on Detoxifying under By Treatment Method on the Home page.
May you find that you've got most of The Basics covered! - for you and your pets.
...Though if one of you isn't healthy, discovering some areas for improvement may be just what your spirits needed. In which case, what I wish for you is that you have the wisdom to take one step at a time and not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the "to do"s... They're all opportunities!
In the breakdown of health, there was a straw (as in, the straw that broke the camel's back)... Think of each step you take in strengthening healthy living as being backward from that point, toward comfort and health.
BACK to... NATURAL
HEALING, HEALTHY LIVING...