Updated: Feb 20
The mainstream approach to caring for animals fails in many respects. It is based on processed, unnatural foods and a band-aid approach that focuses on symptoms instead of the root cause. This approach doesn't result in healing. It merely masks the symptoms and potentially has long term negative side effects. This blog post explains why.
The mainstream approach to animal care
The mainstream or standard approach to animal care is based on conventional, western medicine. It can do wonders for acute conditions - those that are short and serious like broken bones, intense pain or a condition requiring immediate intervention eg a poisonous snake bite or a urinary blockage. But for conditions that have a gradual onset, the standard approach can be harmful with long term side effects.
Interestingly, something that presents as acute may have actually arisen from a long-term but unidentified condition, for example, an allergic reaction.
Let's unpack what the mainstream approach to animal care is, starting from when an animal will generally first be exposed to this system - when they're a puppy or a kitten.
Puppies and kittens
As a puppy or kitten, the first exposure to the mainstream, standard approach to animal care will be the dietary advice that you receive from either a breeder or a vet. This dietary advice will in large part incorporate processed, unnatural foods. I know of breeders who do feed and recommend some fresh food but this is usually supplemented with dry food or kibble.
The underlying problem associated with feeding a diet that is heavily processed and unnatural is that it can cause health issues down the track. These foods are akin to you or your child eating junk food for every meal, every day. How do you think your health, or your child's health, will be affected by a diet that consists highly or wholly of junk food?
This food is not health promoting. It's quite the opposite actually. If your animal eats a diet that is more junk than not, it is highly probable that they will suffer from a health condition down the track. It may start to show up as a skin condition or digestive issues, exacerbating as they get older into something more serious.
Up to 90% of health conditions can disappear when an animal is fed a fresh, whole food diet, otherwise known as a species appropriate diet or an evolutionary diet. This is because food forms the basis of good health. Get the food wrong, and it's like entering an animal health lottery. The chances of your animal being healthy long-term on a processed, unnatural diet are slim.
And yet, this processed, unnatural food is what we are told to feed our pets - by breeders, vets and the pet food industry.
Putting food aside, you'll then be encouraged to vaccinate your puppy or kitten and to treat them regularly with anti-parasite medications. Both of these things will increase your puppy's or kitten's toxic load. Your puppy or kitten will be exposed to a greater number of toxins because of the chemical nature of these medications (in addition to the chemicals in, or toxic effects of, their processed food). The higher the toxic load, the higher chance that your animal has of getting sick.
As your animal ages, you will be recommended to feed the adult version of the processed unnatural food that the breeder or vet told you to feed. This food will probably share similar traits with the puppy or kitten food, the nutrients will change slightly but the processed, unnatural nature of it will remain.
You'll be sent annual reminders to vaccinate your dog or cat and you'll be told to keep giving the regular anti-parasite medications.
If your animal gets sick (which is likely when following the standard, mainstream model of animal care), the most likely scenario is that you will be told to feed a processed food that is tailored to the health condition that your animal has ie prescription food. This food will still consist of all the features I mentioned above but the ingredients will vary to suit the health condition.
For example, a low allergy or hypoallergenic food will consist mainly of starch, contain limited ingredients and will substitute standard animal proteins with low quality proteins like poultry feathers, hydrolysed liver or GMO soy.
These foods may appear to mask the symptoms your animal was experiencing. For example, feeding the low allergy or hypoallergenic food may resolve the diarrhoea and vomiting your animal had, but at what cost?
The cost will likely be an animal who eventually suffers from an illness or disease that is more serious and debilitating than the symptoms they are presenting with. Couple that with the "standard" meds your animal has been on and any additional meds your animal is being treated with for their health issue, and your ticket to the animal health lottery has just multiplied ten-fold, increasing your animal's chance for diminished health.
A band-aid approach
A band-aid approach is one that is intended to be fast and to remove the symptom. It looks to the conditions on the surface without having regard to what is causing the symptom in the first place.
Symptoms can be clues to the condition underlying them. But just treating the symptom will not cure what is happening deep within the body - the actual cause of the symptom.
Unfortunately, a band-aid approach is commonly used in medical treatment today, whether the treatment is for humans or animals.
On the other hand, a naturopathic or holistic approach to treatment, takes into account the whole animal - their diet, their environment, their lifestyle, their individual characteristics AND their symptoms.
Take for example a dog who is presenting with diarrhoea and vomiting. Standard treatment would probably consist of a bland chicken and rice diet or a prescription hypoallergenic food and perhaps some antibiotics if the vet believes the symptoms are due to a bacterial condition (even though in many cases, testing will not be done to confirm this). Naturopathic treatment would look at what is lacking in the diet, is there a stress imbalance and could the digestive, nervous and/or immune systems benefit from some healing foods and/or herbs.
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to resolve the underlying condition that is causing the symptoms by supporting the body to heal itself. The treatment is safe; it does not incorporate any unnatural substances or pharmaceutical drugs.
The goal of standard treatment is to remove the symptoms. The treatment can cause long term health issues because of the potentially toxic ingredients in processed / prescription foods and pharmaceutical drugs. The treatment will usually be long term because if stopped, the symptoms will probably return (because the underlying condition has not been healed). This approach can be expensive and stressful.
There is another way to care for animals that is safe and effective. It also honours the natural being-ness of animals. It's a naturopathic, holistic form of treatment, which I have touched on here. I explain the naturopathic model in more detail in part 2 here. Want to learn more about you can care for your animal in a way that's holistic and natural? Sign up to my Animal Lover's List here.