August 30th, 2014 is National Holistic Pet Day so celebrate with your furred, finned, or feathered friends!

What is National Holistic Pet Day?

Just like with people, pets should be treated in a way that takes into account their entire being. Rather than focusing on one single aspect of your pet’s life, incorporate all of the aspects to keep them happy and healthy for as long as possible. Since your pet relies on you for their care, nutrition, exercise, and emotional support, it is up to you to know as much as you can about how to holistically care for them as a member of your household.

How can you care for your pets in a holistic way?

Diet, exercise, and mental health are all as important for your pets as they are for you. Here are a few things you can do at home to make sure your pets stay balanced and happy for National Holistic Pet Day.

  • Diet: We all know that better food means better health overall. Many commercially available pet foods still use ingredients that aren’t natural for our animals to consume. Sometimes they are created with filler foods that don’t provide any nutritional balance to your pets at all. The right food can help prevent diseases in the long term. There are multiple brands of natural or organic pet foods available in the market today. Or, you could consider a fresh or raw food diet for them to keep their foods as close to their natural requirements as possible. Educate yourself on the benefits and the risks before switching your pet’s food. Also, don’t forget about your pet’s water needs. Make sure your pet has enough fresh, uncontaminated water at all times. Use stainless steel or ceramic bowls rather than plastic to prevent the leaching of certain harmful chemicals or growth of bacteria. A dog’s water requirements are much different from that of a cat so it is good to stay educated on their needs as well.
  • Exercise: Anyone with a new puppy can tell you how important exercise is for animals. The good news is that it is very easy to get your dog up and moving while they’re young and you can keep up with their needs as they age. Walking and running is great but so is a good game of fetch or tag in the yard. Not only will it get your dog moving, but you’ll stay more active as well. Exercise is positive for their physical well-being but is also important for their mental health.
  • Cleanliness: Along with exercise, keep in mind other activities that affect the health of your. Grooming and bathing are important but be sure to use products that don’t strip their skin and hair of essential oils that keep them healthy. Keep nails or claws at appropriate lengths and teeth (if they have them) brushed!
  • Mental health: Both dogs and cats have been known to be destructive to property if they are left to their own devices for too long. There are multiple reasons for behavior problems but one of the most common is actually boredom. Some dogs, like Collies and Shepherds, are working dogs that need a job to keep them engaged. If their owners don’t provide them with something to do, they will find their own trouble. Cats claw things around the house not just to make their owners mad, but to exercise their paws and mark their territory. Rather than resorting to declawing, an invasive surgery that amputates their toes, redirect them with appropriate scratching surfaces. Make sure you have plenty of toys for your pets to play with as well as safe, comfortable places to sleep or hide.

Don’t forget that caring for your dogs or cats (or hamsters, fish, or birds) isn’t just good for them, but it is also good for you. Multiple studies have shown that animals help reduce their owner’s blood pressure and keep them healthier overall. There are many ways that animals help people, including those with chronic illnesses. Some dogs and even cats can find full time jobs helping individuals with health needs.

Service dogs

Most often associated with leader dogs for the blind, service dogs have had a significant place in the movement toward independence for individuals with a variety of disabilities or illnesses. A service dog can help with daily tasks such as turning on lights or retrieving items from around the house. They also provide companionship and comfort to their owners. Military veterans have also had success with service dogs who help them with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and allow them to live more normal lives after returning from combat. Medical assistance dogs can alert their owners to their medical needs before they even know themselves and keep a situation from becoming critical.

Therapy dogs

Other dogs, and even cats, successfully work as therapy animals to help bring comfort to those in need. When these pampered pets step into a clinical care environment, they immediately take on a whole new role. Almost any well-behaved pet can volunteer as a therapy animal to bring joy to individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, or hospice facilities. Even cats can be therapy animals. Check out this story about Lucky the therapy cat who worked with disabled children.

A therapy pet differs from a service animal in that they cannot accompany their owners into places that don’t allow pets.

Household pets

Of course, your pet doesn’t have to be a trained service dog or certified therapy dog to bring joy and wellness to you and your family. Your family pets can help reduce stress, lower you risk of heart attacks and related diseases such as hypertension, relieve the symptoms of depression, get you moving, and even enhance your longevity.

On August 30th this year, celebrate your pet on National Holistic Pet Day by ensuring they have everything they need to live a long, healthy, and happy life. Reevaluate their food, exercise, and mental stimulation around the house. Change anything you can to provide a better life for your animal so they can help you live a more holistic and healthy life as well.

How do your pets keep you healthy and happy?

Image by Stefano Mortelarro via Flickr


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