What is the Best Way to Detox Your Dog & Cat?
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.
Tracking Toxins in Your Dog & Cat
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."
How Toxins Can Affect Your Dog & Cat
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:
- The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care, by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM
- The Nature of Animal Healing, by Martin Goldstein, DVM
- Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, by Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, and Susan Hubble Pitcairn
Fifteen Steps to Detox Your Pet
Upgrade Your Dog's & Cat's Food & Treats
Improving the quality of your pet's diet is always the very best thing you can do to improve well-being and longevity. If you are still giving your pets any grocery store or pet store chain foods & treats, you are undoubtedly giving them a dose of chemical additives, artificial colors & flavors with every bite. Commercial food and treats have plenty of these toxic indigestible ingredients, along with poor quality proteins and fillers that tax your pet's digestion and increase the toxic load on their bodies. Choose natural food and treats, like those we offer at Only Natural Pet Store. We offer only the best in highly digestible, additive-free foods and treats.
Give Your Dog & Cat Filtered Water
While the water that flows through your household pipes may be technically "fit to drink," it contains enough toxic mineral and metal levels, chemicals like fluoride and chlorine, and even trace amounts of hormone-like compounds and other suspicious particulates to damage your pet's health. Your pets deserve better, and so do you. Water filtration units are readily available and you don't have to spend a lot to get a good one. It's well worth the investment - and after all, what's more valuable than the health of your companion?
Herbal Remedies for Your Pets
Nutrient supplements that contain "greens" and cleansing herbs can help your pet tremendously. Greens supplements add a wide variety of nutrients commonly missing from even the best pet foods, including full spectrum amino acids, chlorophyll, antioxidants, trace minerals, and essential fatty acids. Cleansing herbs each have unique properties that support the health of one or more organ systems in the body (See below for specifics). We offer many excellent greens and cleansing herb supplements.
Eliminate Household Chemicals
Besides the obvious chemicals in bug killers, cleaning products and solvents, beware of those found in perfumes, air fresheners, scented plug-ins, laundry products and even dryer sheets! These are laden with chemicals typically unregulated & untested by US health protection agencies, and many of them are known to cause or worsen respiratory conditions like asthma in people and pets. Look for 100% natural cleaning products, or make your own. There are many resources online for making effective cleaning products from ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. Some non-toxic stain and odor removal products we carry include: Only Natural Pet Stain & Odor Remover and Earth Friendly Pet Stain & Odor Remover.
Exercise Every Day with Your Pet
Your pet needs exercise as much as you do, and a daily workout has many benefits for your pet's organs of elimination. Exercise improves the movement of waste materials through the digestive tract, and thereby reduces the toxic effects of a too-sluggish bowel. Exercise also improves circulation of blood and lymph fluid, your pet's two primary means of moving micro-toxins and cellular debris through the body for elimination. Finally, exercise improves respiration and helps your pet remove excess mucus from the respiratory tract. Don't let a dog's bad walking behavior or a cat's boredom prevent you from giving your pets the exercise they need. A walking harness or head collar can help curb dogs' pulling tendencies, making walks easier. An outdoor walking harness for kitties allows safe outdoor exercise, and some interactive toys will keep your kitty's muscles toned from "hunting prey."
Improve Air Quality
Indoor air pollution can come from household chemicals (see #4 above), and it should be well understood that pets are affected by the toxins in cigarette and cigar smoke. Toxins in the air also come from gaseous chemicals emanating from new synthetic household items like flooring, carpeting, and furniture. If you have new household items that are giving off that tell-tale "new" smell, be sure to keep these areas of the house well-ventilated, keep pets off and out of these areas and consider using window fans or leaving windows open for some fresh air while the items are exuding high levels of chemical residues. Use bathroom fans to reduce chemical residues from spray-on cosmetic items like hair spray and perfume.
Minimize Your Pet's Exposure to Outdoor Pollutants & Chemicals
Pets that spend time outdoors will undoubtedly encounter chemicals used for pest control, weed killers, fertilizers and more. If your dog likes to munch on grass or other plants, keep a close eye on them when you are walking near neighbors' yards and in public places like parks, where use of chemicals is common. Adding greens to the diet may help curb this tendency in both cats and dogs (See #3 above). For cats, a great solution is the SmartCat Kitty Garden, which lets you grow a healthy assortment of grasses free of contaminants.
Keep Conventional Meds for Your Pet in Check
Toxic compounds are plentiful in conventional flea and tick products, heartworm medications, and many conventional drugs, including vaccines. While chemical treatments and conventional medications may be needed, it pays to be mindful of the frequency of dosing, and to look for natural alternatives when they are appropriate for your pet. We offer many natural flea and tick control products, as well as natural remedies for common pet health conditions that may offer safer alternatives to their conventional counterparts - check with your vet about natural remedies that may be of benefit. We also suggest that you carefully consider the misguided notion that every pet requires annual boosters for vaccines. Please see our article, " What You Need to Know About Vaccinations," for more information on this critical topic.
Support Your Pet's Liver
Your pet's liver does the lion's share of elimination of toxins. Antioxidants can assist the liver in this process, and many detoxification remedies have herbs like milk thistle that can be of great value to your pet's liver. While young healthy pets are unlikely to require daily liver support, older pets and those taking medications may benefit from regular use of liver support products. As always, consult with a holistic vet to determine whether and how liver-supporting remedies may be of benefit to your companion. Read more about liver support in our article, " Taking Care of the Liver," by our consulting holistic veterinarian, Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM.
Provide Immune Support for Your Pet- Your pet's immune system works in tandem with the elimination organs to keep your pet well, and supporting immune health keeps your pet's liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines and skin healthy so they can do their detoxification work. For healthy pets, daily immune support is found in a quality multivitamin & mineral supplement . Extra immune support of particular benefit to older or active pets is provided by antioxidant supplements.
Take Care of Your Pet's Skin & Coat
Cats and dogs eliminate toxins through their skin, and a regular brushing regimen will help your pet's skin "breathe" and facilitate this process. Regular grooming also removes dust and debris that may contain toxic residue, so your pet ingests fewer toxins when they groom themselves if you are brushing their coat regularly. For dogs especially, consider the quality of the bath products you use, and choose natural grooming products that skip the toxic ingredients so your pet absorbs fewer toxins through the skin at bath time. We offer many natural skin health products and natural shampoo & bath products that support healthy skin.
Support Your Pet's Healthy Digestion
Most of the toxins your pet's body eliminates pass through the colon, and a healthy digestive system keeps toxins moving through before they can damage the intestinal walls and/or be reabsorbed. A sluggish bowel, or alternately, an irritated one (which may be present with chronic diarrhea) suggests that the microbe balance may be out of kilter, which complicates elimination of toxins. With constipation, toxic materials can be released back into your pet's bloodstream before they pass through. Microbes out of balance (for example bacteria and yeast) can produce their own toxins. Products designed to help your pet's digestion contain probiotics, enzymes, or complete gastrointestinal support formulas that contain both.
Support Your Pet's Kidneys
The simplest thing you can do to support the kidneys of a healthy cat or dog is to ensure that they are drinking an ample amount of filtered water every day. Toxins excreted through the kidneys become highly concentrated in chronically dehydrated pets, and can damage the tiny structures in the kidneys' filtration system. Likewise, mineral particles can form when urine is highly concentrated. This may result in the formation of crystals or stones that can cause blockages and/or irritation to urinary tract structures, which in turn may set the stage for recurrent infections that may damage kidneys. If your pet doesn't much drink water, consider a pet fountain (See #2 above), and provide more liquids with meals by adding broth or water and canned food to provide extra moisture. For pets with urinary tract issues, consider remedies for urinary tract and/or kidney support.
Keep It Clean
Studies show that the home environment generally has far worse air quality than the outdoors. Much of the toxic material found in our homes, however, blows into our houses from dust and outdoor pollutants. Keeping your home free of dust with regular dusting and vacuuming can greatly reduce the toxic particulate matter that pets end up ingesting. Another place to be strict with cleaning is your pet's food and water bowls. Change water daily and wash your pet's bowls, as dust and germs accumulate here in abundance.
Gently Detox Your Pet with Herbs & Homeopathics
Because our pets live with us and ingest many toxins in our shared environment, even the healthiest cats and dogs can benefit from regular intervals of gentle detoxification. We carry several excellent pet detoxification formulas with herbs like milk thistle, red clover, dandelion, and astragalus that can support your pet's organs and help them eliminate stored toxins.
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, " Administering Remedies to Your Companion," for additional suggestions.