Many chronic health problems in today’s dogs and cats are due in part to the toxic load they carry around with them. A ‘toxic load’ is the quantity of chemicals and other biologically foreign substances that accumulate in the body of an animal over weeks, months and years. In many cases, the heavier the load, the sicker the animal.
Your pet’s liver and kidneys are assigned the task of clearing toxins from the body, just as yours are. When you consider the small size of your dog’s or cat’s organs compared to yours, it’s easy to see that it wouldn’t take exposure to too many foreign substances before your pet’s toxic load became too heavy to manage. The organs of the body begin to wear out when too much is demanded of them for too long. When your pet’s detoxifier organs can’t keep up with the toxic load for whatever reason, his body will try to remove the waste by other means — like through the skin or mucous membranes. Frequently a dog’s or cat’s itchy, flaky skin, runny eyes or nose, or mucous covered feces is the body’s attempt to help the liver and kidneys eliminate toxins and other irritants. Chronic conditions like skin itching and irritation, ear infections, and GI disturbances (typically intermittent vomiting, diarrhea or loose stools) are often signs of a build up of toxins your pet’s body is no longer able to effectively deal with.
When all waste removal systems fail or are inadequate and your pet’s body becomes overwhelmed with toxins, serious health conditions will begin to develop.
Factors That Contribute to Your Pet’s Toxic Load
There are many sources of toxins with the potential to build up inside your pet. Three of the biggest offenders include:
- Environmental toxins found inside and out, for example, polluted indoor air, chemical household cleaners, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
- Vaccines and other drugs, also flea/tick and heartworm preventives.
- Processed pet foods containing allergenic ingredients, including soy, grains and other carbohydrates, preservatives and other chemicals; being fed a single source of protein day in and day out for an extended period of time.
One thing these toxins all have in common is that we, as pet parents, are almost entirely responsible for how much of them our precious companions are exposed to. Your dog or cat lives low to the ground, so she’s getting a whopping dose of whatever’s under her feet, whether it’s tile cleaner residue or a fresh application of weed killer.
If you’ve been taking your pet for re-vaccinations every year as so many traditional vets and other pet healthcare workers still insist on — and perhaps you’re also applying a chemical flea/tick preventive during the warmer months — chances are your dog or cat’s system is heavily burdened with the toxic byproducts of these chemicals.
Many pet owners feed their dog or cat the same dry pet food day in and day out for years. Pets fed in this manner sooner or later develop sensitivities to both the single source of protein in most of these foods, as well as certain allergenic ingredients.
Recommendations for Lowering Your Pet’s Toxic Load
- Try to keep your pet away from outdoor areas known to be heavily laden with pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. If you’re not sure what your dog or cat might have been exposed to or you suspect something outdoors is causing a skin irritation, consider doing a simple paw soak when you bring your pet home. Regular foot soaks can get rid of chemicals and allergens picked up on paws.
- Don’t hesitate to bathe your dog regularly, especially if she has irritated skin. Bathing washes allergens away, along with any chemicals and other foreign molecules that might be riding around on her fur.
- Improve your pet’s indoor air environment by forbidding tobacco in your home and office, and switching to non-toxic cleaning products. Also consider investing in an air purifier to control dust mites.
- Provide clean, pure, high quality drinking water for your dog or cat. It shouldn’t contain fluoride, heavy metals or other contaminants.
- Don’t subject your pet to regularly prescribed, or unnecessary drugs of any kind, including the two most over-prescribed in veterinary medicine, antibiotics and steroids.
- Use chemical pest and parasite preventives only as absolutely necessary, and for the minimum time necessary to protect your pet. Very few areas of the U.S. have flea and tick or heartworm problems significant enough to require year-round chemical protection for pets. Don’t be talked into giving preventives any more often than necessary to keep your dog or cat reasonably safe from pests.
- Feed a balanced, species-appropriate diet, raw is usually fine, either homemade or commercial. Rotating the protein sources your pet eats is extremely important, and so is strictly limiting or eliminating grains.
- Regular exercise provides your pet with countless benefits, including helping the body’s detoxification efforts. Physical movement promotes regular elimination, which moves wastes from the body in urine and feces. Exercise also stimulates blood circulation and lymph fluid transit, so toxins are moved efficiently to the liver and kidneys for processing.
The goal of natural detoxifying agents is to support and promote healthy functioning of your pet’s toxin-removal organs, including the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system and immune system. I recommend you talk with your holistic vet about what detoxifiers are appropriate for your pet’s individual needs, and in what doses.
- Herbs that assist liver function and cleanse the blood include burdock root, dandelion root, licorice, Oregon grape, yellow dock and milk thistle. Milk thistle not only helps detoxify the liver, it is proven to actually stimulate regeneration of liver cells.
- Herbs that help support kidney function include cranberry, corn silk and marshmallow.
- Red clover and cleavers help your pet’s lymphatic system remove toxins from the tissues of the body.
- Garlic, echinacea and astragalus help support immune system function.
- Chlorella is a super green food that is excellent for detoxification.
- Another vital liver nutrient and detoxifier is SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine).
- In my practice I often but not exclusively use the homeopathic detox agent Thuja for all vaccines except rabies, and Lyssin for the rabies vaccine.
Again, I encourage you to talk to your holistic vet for guidance on the best way to select and administer detoxifying agents to your pet. You should also ask me what to expect as your dog’s or cat’s body undergoes the process of detoxification.