We added a new family member over Christmas break: a Maltese/Yorkie mix named Tebow Baggins (our very own hobbit!). My first trip to the vet was eye-opening. I was amazed at the amount of good, basic health information I received from someone not promoting himself as a holistic practitioner. I marveled that this kind of knowledge is so readily available for our pets and not for our children. Here are some highlights:
- A corn-free diet is optimal. The vet offered a premium puppy food that is "corn-free." One of the handouts explained that corn often contains aflatoxins, described as "a naturally occurring toxic chemical by-product from the growth of the fungus Aspergillus flavus on corn and other crops."
This is common knowledge in the pet world. According to Entirely Pets, aflatoxins "can cause severe liver damage in pets, which can lead to fatality." Aflatoxins are no better for humans. See this previous post about aflatoxins in food.
- Soy is an endocrine disrupter. I asked if the food contained soy, knowing that a soy-free/corn-free diet is a must for our newest addition. "I'm not sure," he said. "Check the website." And then he added, "I don’t like what soy does to the endocrine system." Instead of feeling belittled, I felt validated.
Research suggests soy is no easier on human endocrine systems. According to the research done by the Weston A. Price Foundation, "Soy isoflavones are phyto-endocrine disrupters. At dietary levels, they can prevent ovulation and stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Eating as little as 30 grams (about 4 tablespoons) of soy per day can result in hypothyroidism with symptoms." This concern with the hormonal disruption doesn't even address the GMO issue. More than 90% of all soy is now genetically modified. See this startling graph from the United States Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.
- Good teeth reflect good health. The vet spent quite a bit of time looking at Tebow's bite and teeth. He explained how critical his bite is to future health and suggested ways to keep the back teeth clean. It was clear that Tebow's health and the condition of his teeth were related. We are often missing this fact when it comes to our yearly physical. Our daughter's experience with having her front tooth extracted taught me the reality of this connection. Dr. Hal Huggins has written an excellent article explaining the implications of dentistry as it relates to overall health.
- Environment affects health. The vet asked about our environment and the breeder's environment, suggesting we be aware of any changes that might affect our puppy's health. Environmental change can bring on all sorts of health symptoms, such as diarrhea, lethargy, and mood changes. We didn’t spend much time on this subject, but the implication was clear: environment and health are connected.
- Vaccinations must be given carefully. The vet made it very clear. "I don't do more than one vaccination at a time," he said, explaining that too many shots at one time can overload the dog's immune system. I shudder when I think of the way we vaccinated our nine children. Their immune systems are no less fragile.
- Be aware of plastics. The vet expressed a concern about chewing toys and plastics. "I'm okay with rawhide," he said, but expressed his wariness of plastic chew toys. I didn't pursue the subject further, but his caution was refreshing in light of the current concern over BPA in plastics.
- Cleanliness is critical. The vet encouraged us to bathe Tebow, keep his eyes free of discharge, and trim his facial hair regularly. We didn't discuss the shampoo we would use; I already knew that petroleum-based, fragranced products were not an option. Here's the recipe we used for Tebow's first bath:
- 10 oz distilled water
- 1 tbsp. liquid Castile soap
- 1 tsp. glycerin
- 1 drop tea tree oil (essential oils must be used cautiously with pets.)
- 2 drops rose geranium essential oil
I chose tea tree oil for the cleaning benefit and rose geranium for its tick/flea-fighting capabilities. See this article for more information on this benefit of rose geranium oil.