My family includes four cats and four dogs. I, personally, cannot imagine life without animals. Their unconditional love and devotion provide comfort for so many of us. Taking care of their physical needs begins with a breed specific, appropriate diet. Dogs are omnivores, meaning they eat basically everything. Cats are carnivores, meat eaters. In my uninformed days of youth, I made the mistake of feeding my animals a vegetarian diet, similar to mine. Dogs, and especially cats, are not designed to be vegetarians. Cats are extremely sensitive to herbs, drugs and foods, so much care must be taken to protect them. Never give an alcohol tincture to a cat or dog, whose livers lacks the ability to detoxify alcohol. Both cats and dogs, similarly, cannot process chocolate or caffeine, as well as the artificial sweetener, Xylitol.
Human medications can be deadly for cats and dogs, as well. Cleaning products and house plants can also pose lethal threats to our furry family. For more information call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888)426-4435.
Some of the prohibited foods for dogs include:
1. Grapes and Raisins – even small amounts can cause vomiting and kidney failure
2. Avocados – fruit, peel and leaves all contain persin, toxic in large amounts.
3. Onions and Garlic – occasional small amounts are OK, but large amounts can injure red blood cells and lead to anemia.
4. Macadamia Nuts – as few a 5 or 6 macadamia nuts can be fatal, causing paralysis of the hindquarters, tremors and high fever.
5. Dairy products can cause diarrhea and digestive upset.
6. Tea, Coffee, Chocolate and other Caffeine containing foods are fatal in large amounts, with no antidote to treat the tremors, seizures, bleeding and rapid heartbeat that they cause. Little dogs are most at risk with small doses being big for them. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous, but white chocolate is not safe either.
7. Xylitol in candy, gum, toothpaste, baked goods – for dogs and cats it increases insulin, causing a severe drop in blood sugar, followed by vomiting, loss of coordination and seizures, and within a few days, liver failure.
8. Bones can splinter and injure their throats and GI tract, especially cooked bones, and never give chicken bones. Pigs’ ears swell greatly in their stomachs and can cause injury.
9. Pork fat and fat trimmings can cause pancreatitis.
10. Raw Eggs and Meats may cause food poisoning (salmonella or E coli). An enzyme in raw egg whites interferes with the absorption of B vitamins.
11. Yeast dough, before rising – can cause abdominal pain and alcohol poisoning.
12. Alcoholic beverages in all forms hurt their livers.
Cats will also need to be protected from eating tuna too frequently, due to high mercury content. And, limit the amount of liver your cat gets. The vitamin A can be toxic and cause bone deformities and death. Cats should not be given raw fish, which contains an enzyme that can destroy thiamin and lead to neurological injury. As with dogs, no grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, dairy products, raw meat or raw eggs. And remember that dog food it not for cats; cat food is not for dogs.
Many of the commercial dog and cat foods, even ones sold by the vets, contain corn, soy, meat by-products, and artificial colorings and flavorings. Those are all unhealthy choices for our pets. Corn is not well tolerated by many cats and dogs, and can contribute to allergies and ill health. Soy commonly causes digestive upset in both cats and dogs. The majority of corn and soy crops are genetically modified, another risk factor. Meat by-products can legally include diseased animals when it comes to making pet foods.
My cats get a mostly wet food diet, with a little kibble on the top to clean their teeth, and primarily meat, with very little grain. My dogs get a mixture of salmon and sweet potato kibble and homemade chicken soup. Each week I cook together chicken thighs, rice and a variety of vegetables, including squash, string beans, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, parsley and other greens. They have thrived since puppyhood on this mixture. Homemade peanut butter biscuits and dried slices of duck or chicken, round out their doggy cuisine. BE CAREFUL: don’t buy dried poultry from China. It has been found to be contaminated with antibiotics that are toxic to dogs.
I don’t often treat my cats with herbs or supplements, due to the difficulty with which it is to get herbs into them. Between their finicky palates and their unwillingness to let me shove a pill into their throats, I usually have to rely on vet visits for the cats, with a few exceptions. The dogs, on the other hand, are easy to doctor with herbs, either put into a tasty food, or put into the back of their throats in capsule form. Some of my favorite remedies include:
FISH OR FLAX OIL CAPSULES – this is an essential supplement for any dog with allergic skin issues.
HUANG LIAN SU PILLS – these contain an extract of one herb, Coptis/Huang Lian. Internally they treat diarrhea and gastritis. Topically, they can be dissolved in hot water and used to wash wounds. The dissolved tablets can be strained through a coffee filter and used as an eyewash, very effective for those kitten eye infections that are so common.
SLIPPERY ELM POWDER – this herb soothes an irritated gut and normalizes the bowels.
BACH’S RESCUE REMEDY FOR PETS – homeopathic remedy for shock
CALMS FORTE TABLETS – this homeopathic remedy calms frightened animals
LAVENDER OIL – rub a few drops on your hands and then apply around the chest to a dog who is nervous or anxious.
TIENCHI (SAN QI) POWDER – apply to cuts to stop bleeding
CALENDULA OR DANDELION TEA – good to wash wounds
The Complete Holistic Dog Book by Drs Allegretti and Sommers
4 Paws, 5 Directions by Dr Schwartz
The New Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier
Dr Pitcairn’s Guide to Natural Pet Care by Dr Pitcairn
Chinese Herbal Formulas for Veterinarians by Drs Chen, Chen, Beebe, and Salewski
Cathy McNease is a nationally certified herbalist with a Diplomate in Chinese Herbology from the NCCAOM, a B.S. in Biology and Psychology from Western Michigan University and two Master Herbalist certificates from Emerson College of Herbology in Canada and East-West Course of Herbology in Santa Cruz.