Based on my 18 year old cat Oliver
One of my cats is a domestic longhaired 18-year-old called Oliver or more affectionately known as 'Big O.'
For the first 12-14 years of his life I fed him commercial cat food products with the occasional pack of raw pet food mince meat (also a commercial product found in most local supermarkets). Over those 12-14 years he went to the veterinarian on numerous occasions and was given an endless array of anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, vaccinations, amongst other pharmaceutical drugs to deal with a variety of non-serious ailments. At the time I thought I was doing ‘the right thing.’
Whilst the commercial cat food was inexpensive, the vet bills were over the years incredibly high and Big O cost me a small fortune every time there was a health issue.
When I became interested in a more holistic approach to health and diet I included my pets in that decision and changed their diets to a more natural and raw, species appropriate diet.
Supplementing Oliver’s raw food diet has been an ongoing work in progress which has been changed many times with a view to providing him with the best nutrients to overcome a decline in renal function, asthma, arthritis and occasional bouts of severe sinusitis which is usually accompanied by a loss of appetite.
For the last two years he has been consuming a diet of minced raw chicken bones, meat, offal, yoghurt, eggs, pureed vegetables (jars of baby food work wonders), probiotics, digestive enzymes, essential fatty acids (salmon oil and an omega 6 oil 2 to 3 times a week), plus supplement powder that I make myself.
Since this diet started, his arthritis has greatly improved, his bouts of asthma are now few and far between, his kidneys are hopefully coping better with a higher quality food source and his fur is soft and shiny. He no longer takes any antibiotics for his sinusitis or anti-inflammatories for his arthritis as I believe he is coping really well and is so much better without all the pharmaceutical drugs.
The supplement powder which I make, is made up of (all human grade ingredients):
-Kelp powder contains iodine, which supports the thyroid gland, provides a valuable source of minerals. Note: too much can be toxic (Billinghurst 1993)
-Brewers yeast an excellent source of B vitamins, amino acids and minerals.
-Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, assists the immune system.
-Colostrum assists the immune system, arthritis, and the intestinal tract.
-Alfalfa high in nutrients is an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory.
-Dandelion leaf powder is a powerful diuretic, flushes the kidneys and cleanses liver.
-Spirulina high in protein and other nutrients, boosts energy, it is naturally alkaline, supports metabolism.
-Sunflower seeds (ground) contain an array of nutrients, palatable to cats.
-L-lysine prevents bone loss, assists the immune system.
-Lecithin granules, an antioxidant, liver support, increases energy levels, assists absorption of fats.
-Bromelain (a digestive enzyme) to assist digestion and absorption of nutrients, it also reduces inflammation.
-Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth, critical for muscular contractions and for the rhythm of the heart. It is also important to note that Vitamin D must be included in the diet. Foods that contain Vitamin D are egg yolks, mackerel, sardines and tuna. Vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium in the digestive tract. The amount of calcium added to the cat and dog diet depends on the type of raw diet you are feeding and how much fresh bone is included. Please read my article on ‘Calcium in the diet.’ It’s very important to get the correct balance of calcium to phosphorus levels in your pet’s diet.
-Glucomsamine & chondriotin for joint health and to ease arthritis.
Initially, the supplement mix I made was directly from ‘The Holistic Cat’ by Jennifer Coscia. In the last 6 months however, the above list of ingredients is my own modified version of this author’s supplement mix specifically to meet Oliver’s needs.
Now, after having learnt more about herbs and how they can assist both nutritionally and physiologically, I will be adding nettle and astragulus to the mix plus some borage seed oil directly to his food.
Other herbs and supplements that I have been or will experiment with over time are:
-Aloe Vera if taken internally it is a good antioxidant, it is known to stimulate the immune system and provides an alkaline environment. Aloe Vera is safe for both internal and external use in cats and dogs. (Tilford et al 2009) I will use this when Oliver has any kind of stomach upset. On occasion he vomits and the aloe vera juice helps to reduce the acidity in the gut.
-Slippery elm, a very safe and well known herb, which helps to lubricate the digestive tract, ease constipation and reduce inflammation. Slippery elm is also good to ease the respiratory passages for pets with bronchitis. During a time when Oliver was constipated I mixed some psyllium husk, water, pureed pumpkin and a sprinkle of slippery elm powder into a syringe and gave 10ml to him. I’m pretty sure it helped, as he was busy in his litter tray the next day. I also give him a little slippery elm powder mixed into some Aloe Vera juice if a stomach upset has made him vomit. This is also good for us too, providing very quick relief.
-Echinacea I have used this immune supporting herb on several occasions. When Oliver has symptoms of flu (which he has had many times since he was very young) I add a few drops of Echinacea and goldenseal plus 500mg Vitamin C to 4ml water in a 10ml syringe and give that to him orally. Since doing this and with the support of a good raw diet, his flu symptoms are less severe, they are of a shorter duration and there is no need for any trips to the vets which no doubt would end in more antibiotics. Echinacea does require a healthy number of antibodies already present in the blood for it to work effectively and it must be taken at the onset of symptoms. Once infection has taken a hold it is not the chosen herb. Whilst supporting the immune system, Echinacea also helps to stimulate the lymphatic system, helping to drain unwanted materials from the tissues. Echinacea is a safe herb for cats and dogs, however it should only be used short term, for 1 to 2 weeks maximum. (Tilford et al 2009)
-CoQ enzyme10 I have been placing a very small amount of this enzyme into Oliver’s food for the last 3 months. As CoQ10 is known to assist respiratory function and prevent allergies, I thought it might assist with the sinusitis and asthma. CoQ10 is also well known for its use to improve heart function. (Tilford et al 2009) It can also be rubbed directly onto inflamed gums if your cat shows signs of gingivitis. Over the last month, my cat has had very few asthma attacks and in the last 2 weeks only one asthma attack. Could it be the CoQ enzyme 10? I’m not sure but I’m going to keep giving it to Oliver as it can only be of assistance to him.
-Methyl Sulphonyl Methane (MSM) This supplement is known to prevent food allergies, reduce heartburn, ease digestive problems, assist arthritis, reduce muscular pain and improve lung function. This could easily be added to Oliver’s supplement powder mix. Over time it could assist with his arthritis and ease any muscle pain associated with old age and lack of exercise. MSM is a natural anti-inflammatory.
-Acupuncture Although not classed as a supplement, acupuncture has now become part of Oliver’s healing process. I take Oliver to a Veterinarian who practices alternative treatments on pets including acupuncture. The results have been really good. Oliver really likes it; the relaxed state he blissfully falls into is fascinating to watch. As the needles are placed into his body, he surrenders to the new flow of energy, as channels are unblocked. If I hadn’t seen it on numerous occasions I wouldn’t have believed it could help. Oliver presently has an acupuncture session every 6-8 weeks.
In regards to treating blocked sinuses, I mix 10ml saline solution with half a capsule of probiotic powder and a few drops of colloidal silver. Then, using a 5ml plastic dropper I put the mixture up his nostrils to give him a nose and sinus flush. This idea came from ‘The Holistic Cat' written by J. Coscia.’ It works almost immediately and has such incredible results. When Oliver is blocked up in his nasal passages, this flush causes him to perform huge sneezes. This in turn clears his sinuses and nasal passages. His breathing returns to normal and his appetite is restored. I would highly recommend this practice for any cat with blocked sinuses. (Coscia 2005)
It is also important to note that Oliver also takes a prescription only supplement called ‘Calcitriol’ for his impaired kidneys. Calcitriol is an active form of vitamin D, which in a healthy cat is produced by the kidneys. This is incredibly important for the absorption of calcium in his body. If your cat or dog has Kidney problems, please read my article on ‘Supplementing Cats & Dogs with Impaired Kidneys.’
In regards to the use of supplements for cats and dogs, in my opinion my cat’s immune system is stronger than it has been in many years. I am however aware that too many highly concentrated herbs over time can overwork the liver and kidneys. With this in mind I always administer very small doses of herbs, research their potential side effects and determine how long they can be safely given.
I am still learning, and as a result, hope that I am doing more good than harm. However, given the alternative to return to endless veterinary trips and pharmaceutical drugs, I certainly choose to keep on learning how nutrients can be used to increase my pet’s health and longevity.
In my opinion, with good nutrition and an absence of pharmaceutical drugs, my cat now has a fighting chance to live a few more years. My only regret is that I did not start learning about diet and nutrition a long time ago. I believe that all of the ailments Oliver now contends with are from his many years on commercial pet food and pharmaceutical drugs. However, my aim is to provide him with the best nutrients so that his body has the tools to fight existing ailments and become stronger in the process. Adding supplements to my pets’ diets is certainly a work in progress that is beneficial, and so far, has been incredibly rewarding.
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