by Only Natural Pet Staff Writers
Most likely, you have a general idea what toxins are. We often hear things described as being "toxic," and we understand that this is bad, potentially damaging, and perhaps poisonous. Toxins can cause, worsen, or accelerate many health problems in people and pets. But many of the toxins that can profoundly affect our own and our pets' health are hidden, and we may be unknowingly contributing to the load of toxins we and our pets have in their bodies. While toxins are bad for us, they can be even more devastating to our pets for several reasons.
First, pets are generally much smaller than we are, with smaller organs of elimination (e.g., liver, kidneys, lungs). When exposed to toxins, their bodies have to work much harder than ours do to eliminate them. Second, pets have a shorter life span. They don't have the luxury of time that we have for their bodies to eliminate toxins as gradually. Also, our pets can't talk to us to let us know when something in their food or their environment is making them feel sick. They can't switch their own food or decide to stop using a household cleaner that irritates their sinuses or lungs. Since we control our pets' environment, they rely on us 100% to reduce toxins they encounter.
So what can you do to minimize the toxins in your pets' lives and help them eliminate the toxic load they have in their bodies? Before tackling the specifics of how to help your pet with detoxification, lets take a brief look at what toxins are, where they come from, and how they affect cats and dogs.
Toxins get into your pet through several means. Some get into your pet through accidental ingestion. Outdoor toxins like weed killers, pesticides, automotive exhaust & motor oil, and chemical road or sidewalk de-icers get into our pets when they breathe them in, eat chemical-laden grass, lick dust or residue off their paws or fur, or absorb them through their paws. Other environmental toxins arrive the same way from cleaners, air fresheners, laundry products and other chemicals used in the household. More toxins can be directly ingested in your pet's drinking water, in commercial food and treats, and in the over-the-counter or prescription medications they take. And finally, some toxins (e.g., ammonia) are produced within your pet's body, either through their own metabolic processes or by microbial activity, most often bacteria and/or yeast in the GI tract.
"Our pets' wild counterparts have very efficient toxin elimination systems that have developed over centuries to handle the natural toxins they encounter, but our domesticated pets are bombarded daily with an overwhelming number of toxins, most of which their bodies have not had enough evolutionary time to adapt to."
The Ill Effects of Toxins
In a healthy body, toxins are rounded up and eliminated quickly through the organs of elimination (liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and skin). Our pets' wild counterparts have very efficient toxin elimination systems that have developed over centuries to handle the natural toxins they encounter, but our domesticated pets are bombarded daily with an overwhelming number of toxins, most of which their bodies have not had enough evolutionary time to adapt to. In the short run, our pets' bodies react to toxins as ours do - the immune system ramps up processes like inflammation, mucus production or diarrhea to help the immune system's army of cells resolve the problem and purge the offending "invaders" from the system.
When the body is overwhelmed with too many toxins, it is forced to store them until there is an opportunity to eliminate them at a better time. For many pets, the better time never arrives, and toxins can accumulate indefinitely, where over time they can cause symptoms like lethargy, fatigue, and/or proneness to infection. Ultimately toxic overload can impede the work of your pet's immune system to the point where cellular abnormalities like tumors and cysts may form, and other serious health conditions may develop as cells degrade and organ function is impaired.
The good news is that for most pets, their bodies are remarkably well-equipped to handle disease, eliminate a reasonable amount of toxins, and restore their own organs and body systems to health - with your help. When a natural diet with adequate nutrients, rest, exercise and joy are part of their daily experience, your pet may be capable of a level of health you never thought possible. Below are our suggestions, many of which can be found in these excellent books by top holistic veterinarians:
Fifteen Steps to Detox Your Pet
Keep in mind that as the body is eliminating toxins, it is not unusual for there to be a brief "healing crisis," in which a cat or dog may develop symptoms like a runny nose or changes in bowel function or appetite. Such symptoms should subside in a few days. As always, observe your pet closely when you administer any remedy, stop any remedy if symptoms develop that concern you, and consult with a holistic veterinarian for appropriate guidance. Please see our article, "
Remedies to Your Companion," for additional suggestions.
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