What is Sustainable HealthCare
It’s becoming common place these days for people and businesses to become environmentally responsible and minimize the impact that they make on nature. Sustainability is a vastly important factor in the way that we all conduct our activities if we are to provide future generations with a healthy planet.
As vets we have an added responsibility to consistently review and refine our practices so that the healthcare of our patients encourages their long-term health and well-being as opposed to simply treating and managing symptoms.
One of the greatest investments that an animal owner can make toward their animals’ health is to provide good quality nutrition. Vets have come to rely on various commercial foods to provide the balance that science has carefully evolved to ensure that all the nutrients we know to be important for health are included in the correct quantities. There are advantages to this, especially when we can’t be sure that an animal owner will feed the correct nutrients and their dog develops rickets for example.
However, with more and more people recognizing the impact of poor nutrition on their own health and becoming acutely aware and responsible about what they eat, there has been a resurgence in understanding what incredible value there is in eating food that is fresh and wholesome. With this insight, and in many cases a need to economize, many people have begun to grow their own food again and even schools have instituted programs where children learn to grow fruit and vegetable gardens.
Animal owners are also beginning to think about what their pets consume and what has evolved is a remarkable transformation where people see the immense importance of natural goodness, a quality which can’t be easily understood or quantified by science and has thus been overlooked for many years.
During this time, we have seen more and more health conditions in our domestic animals which are multifactorial in nature and are very difficult to cure with traditional methods i.e. allergies, cancers, auto-immune conditions, arthritis, resistant infections, etc. As vets, our strategies for treating these conditions have been aimed at managing symptoms and in some cases prescribing drugs to help alleviate the negative effects of medications that the animal becomes dependent on.
There are times where we end up between a rock and a hard place for example a dog with auto-immune disease that is treated with immuno-suppressive drugs acquires a urinary tract infection only sensitive to an anti-biotic such as gentamycin and then develops drug induced renal failure. Our striving as scientists to quantify and qualify, manipulate and control natural systems ultimately brings us to a point of no return, a place where our healthcare systems for many health conditions from which our animal patients suffer are not sustainable.
With our background of scientific dogma, it can be difficult to take a step back and give credence to the body’s inherent healing wisdom and to revere natural balance. We need to remember that veterinary practice is not just about science but also about the art of healing. As health professionals providing value to our clients and working toward the well-being of our patients, we need to move even more from merely treating disease to a discipline of healing and prevention.
Mounting evidence and my experience with these difficult cases in clinical practice suggest that a substantial contributing factor is what our animals eat. The presence of chemicals and preservatives as well as fillers and a deficiency of optimal amounts of vitally important nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and anti-oxidants play a large role in the development and progression of most of the disease conditions that prevail today.
It never ceases to amaze me that when the body gets the nutrients that it needs, it works wonders to restore health. When an animal’s diet is changed to include natural (wholesome and with optimal amounts of bioavailable nutrients) well balanced foods, animals generally show a remarkable improvement in their condition, their working performance is enhanced and often, chronic ongoing health problems begin to resolve.
Our clients are increasingly aware of this and additionally they are prepared to take the time and to invest the love and care required to feed their animals with food that is nutritious and full of natural goodness. They are reliant on us vets to give them quality information and to assist them in supporting their animal’s optimal health and sustained well-being.
Guiding animal owners in this direction need not be laborious. An ideal diet for dogs and cats includes raw meat, ideally from animals which have been well nourished and raised in a wholesome environment. Meat should be free of chemicals and preservatives and contain optimal amounts of nutrients. Meat should be fresh, pre- frozen or air dried to minimize the risk of disease from pathogens and hydatid cysts. Cats and dogs however, have a greater tolerance for organisms such as salmonella and E.Coli than humans, especially if they have healthy immune system (which of course is supported by the quality of nutrients which they consume). Additional components include plant matter to simulate the gut content of prey consumed in the wild which contains phytonutrients, vitamins and other nutritive substances important for vitality.
Encouraging the use of unprocessed food, farmed as naturally as possible assists in embracing a culture of environmental sustainability and also reduces our impact on the planet. There are instances however where having prepared food is advantageous to animal owners and thankfully there are some outstanding products on the market. These help to make feeding high quality and wholesome food more practical and convenient for some people and can be a very useful resource.
Nature knows best and by respecting natural principles, feeding our animals with food that their bodies have evolved to eat over thousands of years, we will not only help to ensure that we are rewarded by our loyal friends living long and happy lives but we will also have peace of mind knowing that we are contributing to the well-being of our environment and helping to sustain a healthier planet.