A Holistic Approach to Senior Dog Care
Along with the joy that comes with owning and loving a senior dog, we often face times of uncertainty, decision and grief. As we cope with the inevitable medical challenges older dogs face, we find ourselves many times taking the vet's word as final on the condition of our dogs and forget that there are many different ways to treat and heal your dog beyond traditional medicine. In the past we have discussed alternative dog therapies such as canine massage, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and more that give senior dog owners options beyond surgery.
Beyond these physical methods of treatment however there is another approach to consider for helping to improve the health of your older dog and that is holistic care. Today we are very fortunate to share with you an interview we conducted with Nadine M. Rosin, a Holistic Pet/Toxic-free Living Consultant and author of The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood.
In Nadine's book she describes how her dog Buttons, diagnosed with terminal cancer, was saved by adopting a holistic regime; a story she was kind enough to share with us today. In our discussion with Nadine we learned a great deal about how to embrace a holistic lifestyle for our dogs, what steps we need to take and what benefits can result.
Ann-Marie Fleming: Nadine, you were able in many ways to cure Buttons' cancer through a holistic approach. How was that possible?
Nadine M. Rosin: First off, it was our well-reputed vet who gave Buttons 6-weeks to live without amputation, chemotherapy and radiation within 48 hours of her diagnosis (the lab ran the biopsy twice as the prognosis was so dire- the cancer so insidious). Instead, after much soul-searching, I implemented what I define as a holistic regimen, and after 4 months, Buttons was completely cancer-free for the next 11 years until she passed of old age at 19.
What I did not do was treat her symptoms or “fight” the cancer with natural remedies and alternative treatments in lieu of pharmaceutical drugs. That would have been the same Allopathic approach that traditional Western medicine takes...that the vet insisted I take.
Because I was already very familiar with the age old Eastern medical philosophy that the body’s natural state is one of radiant health and that anything less is due to an overburdened immune system, I took the holistic approach of clear/cleanse/build: I cleared our home of all potential toxins/causes including fabric softener, dryer sheets, chemical rug cleaners, microwave oven, monthly flea treatments, and rawhide chews to name just a few.
I cleansed Buttons’ physical and emotional bodies of residual toxins with herbs, cleansing tinctures, homeopathy and Bach Flower Remedies I built her body nutritionally by switching from the vet recommended kibble to only home-cooked organic food and treats, supplements and superfoods.
Ann-Marie Fleming: What is the best way to start to incorporate a holistic approach? What are the first steps people should be taking?
Nadine M. Rosin: Start changing your thinking. “Clear/cleanse/build” is an entirely different paradigm than “take a pill and squelch that symptom”! We actually expect out bodies to get diseased and frail- our dogs to be “old” at the age of 9 or 10! But look at people like Jay Kordich (the Juice Man) who in his 87th year is vibrantly alive, living a chemical-free, raw and organic lifestyle, and we see proof that the body’s natural state is one of health and well-being. Look at Buttons, who was running down the trail for miles at the age of 17. We are what we eat and breathe and absorb through our skin. Caffeine and sugar, chemical cleaners, parabens in moisturizers and make-up equals an eventually, overburdened immune system and degenerative disease. Processed, nutritionally empty commercial dog food, monthly flea poison, chemically treated plastic toys equals the same. Our pets’ bodies metabolize much faster than ours. They get cancer with far less exposure than we do.
Ann-Marie Fleming: What resources are available for people interested in making these changes?
Nadine M. Rosin: Many good books and websites to help start one’s research. I would encourage folks to read Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Dr. Gloria Dodd, Dr. Lisa Newman/Azmira. Also, just spend some time on the computer googling things like: “dryer sheets toxic” “What’s really in commercial dog food” “toxic rawhide chew” I am also available as a resource and information on my one-on-one Holistic Pet/Toxic-free Living phone consultations can be found on my website.
Ann-Marie Fleming: You talk a lot about a toxic free lifestyle. What are some easy changes people can make?
Nadine M. Rosin: READ LABELS!!! Just because something is sold off a grocery store (or even health food store) shelf does NOT mean it’s safe to use or consume for ten or twenty years. Remember, it’s a build-up of toxic burden to the immune system that weakens it and welcomes disease. Read and research the ingredients in things you are using, eating and drinking everyday!
Ann-Marie Fleming: What are some everyday items that people may not even realize are toxic?
Nadine M. Rosin: Plug in air fresheners is a good one along with popular brands of spray air, carpet and furniture fresheners. Same is often true for rug cleaners and stain removers. Many contain one or more of the following: Benzyl alcohol: "causes respiratory problems, nausea and vomiting, a depressed central nervous system and a drop in blood pressure." Camphor: "currently on the EPA's Hazardous Waste List ... readily absorbed through bodily tissue... irritation of the eyes, skin, nose and throat ... dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions ... avoid inhalation of vapors" Dichlorobenzene: "extremely toxic, a central nervous system depressant, kidney and liver poison. One of the chlorinated hydrocarbons that is long-lasting in the environment and stored in body fat. Banned in California." Ethanol: "derived from petroleum and is carcinogenic ... toxic to the skin, respiratory, cardiovascular, developmental, endocrine, neurological and gastrointestinal systems." Formaldehyde: "toxic if inhaled, poisonous if swallowed. skin and eye irritant."
Ann-Marie Fleming: Our audience are mainly owners of older dogs. Can a holistic approach help dogs that are already into their senior years? What lifestyle change would you say can make the biggest impact for senior dogs?
Nadine M. Rosin: A well-researched, well-informed holistic approach can help any living being at any age. In my opinion the things easiest to change with the greatest impact on senior dogs are vaccinations, flea treatments, and household toxin exposure. Food is also important, but one must be very careful when moving to a cleaner diet with older dogs.
Much commercial food is made with ingredients filled with pesticides, hormones and antibiotics (in the form of chicken/beef/liver meal, fat, etc.) To suddenly stop feeding that food could cause the body to go into a healing crisis as it starts releasing years of accumulated toxins stored in the dogs organs, skin, and tissue. You do not want that to happen especially with a senior dog. I encourage pet parents of senior dogs to find a well-reputed holistic vet who adheres to the policy of clear/cleanse/build and together create a slow and gentle change of diet plan.
I have known holistic vets who’ve had German Shepherds live into their 20’s. Buttons had more energy at 16 following a holistic lifestyle than at 6 with a standard American canine lifestyle. Human and canine bodies will live long and vibrantly when given the chance. You’ve just got to do things a little bit differently than the mainstream, chemical-laden way.
Nadine M. Rosin is a Holistic Pet/Toxic-free Living Consultant, Pet Bereavement Facilitator, speaker and author of The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood. For information about her book and consultations visit: www.TheHealingArtOfPetParenthood.com
To our readers - please feel free to share any experiences you have had as a result of taking a holistic approach to caring for your senior dog. We'd love to hear from you.