Pam Sirko: Proper nutrition for better pet health

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As a society, we try to keep our pets in good health. But with kids, the job, the house, etc. on all of our plates, it's easy to let these concerns slip to the back burner on our to-do lists.

It's worth considering that "You are what you eat" applies to both pets and people. For instance, one hundred years ago, dogs and cats would have eaten whatever was left over after dinner: vegetables or meat - basically anything from the table. The food had been prepared that evening and served to the barn cat and hound dog out in the yard that same night. There were no preservatives, but they didn't need any since the food was finished that evening and not allowed to stand for days or weeks at a time. And back in the day, a pet's diet had no gluten or corn added, like many of the products we buy for our pets today.

My German Shepherd sometimes limps. This does not happen frequently, but occasionally it does, even with her good hips. My horses, cats, birds, bunny, and even the fish all need some attention occasionally. All animals will sometimes have pain, quit eating, and become lethargic. I started researching remedies for my dog's pain and was surprised to find a new source of pet health locally that does not include drugs.

Phil Jackson is a veterinarian in Woodland Park that has made it his goal to improve the health of all pets around the Teller County area by concentrating on the inside of the animal first. While talking to him concerning my dog's limp I found out a lot about how diet and natural supplements can now be used to relieve pain and increase energy in pets, especially older animals. I'm beginning to think of him as a guru of animal health.

Jackson talked a good deal about pet diet and natural pain remedies, but I got the feeling that he was even more concerned about all the pet owners out there who don't think much beyond vaccines concerning their animal's health.

Speaking of what your pet puts in its mouth, another often-overlooked area of concern is dental hygiene. Cats, for instance, have a world of problems where their teeth are concerned.

Their teeth have a groove in the front of their mouth that catches and holds every type of bacteria. Cats can be worse than dogs with this problem, but in both cases the bacteria is constantly moving from the mouth, down the throat and shed into the whole body. Gross. Dental bars and milk bones are a very helpful way to avoid this, but regular cleaning is very important also, and a pet owner can and should learn how to do this.

For those who own horses, it's always easy to see when the teeth need attention. Horses that drop food while eating and have lost weight may be ready for a floating, a term for a rough filing of the teeth. Doing this in tandem with medicine to get rid of worms helps ensure the horse's digestive system is working properly from its mouth to its tail. After a couple of weeks, energy returns and those ribs will begin to disappear - Voila!

Paying attention to your pet's diet can help prevent illness from occurring, and even help treat problems once they manifest. For instance, there is a commonly prescribed painkiller called Rimadyl that has the potential to cause liver problems in dogs. Jackson tells a story about Dolly, a 14-year-old dog that was lethargic, not eating, etc. The liver was tested and found to have a high enzyme count. Because of the potential danger to the liver, Rimadyl wouldn't work, but a new diet using natural anti-inflammatory supplements has kept Dolly going. She still lives in Monument and is now 16 years old.

As your pets change and grow older it's good to find out more about these new and very successful products that are natural and can help prolong the life of your animal or the pet of someone you care about.

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