Our pets are our family, so if they become sick it can be emotionally and financially devastating to us. We know our pets better than anyone else, and because they are reliant on us to take care of them, it’s our responsibility to recognize when they don’t seem themselves. Little issues can become major when we miss or ignore the signs.


The most common of the serious issues I hear pet owners talk about are urinary infections and blockages, digestive issues, kidney insufficiency and joint weakness that affects mobility. There are countless other illnesses that can and do occur, however, we’ll focus on the more common ailments and many of the tips here may apply if you’re dealing with something else.


Prevention is key. Take for example arthritis. Every pet, if they live long enough, may experience arthritis. It’s just what happens with age. If you start with joint supplements prior to symptoms, you may prevent the arthritis from ever becoming a debilitating issue. In addition, keeping your pets at an optimal weight will keep extra pressure off the joints. If your pet injures a joint, tendon or ligament, I recommend starting a joint supplement immediately upon recovery. My dog partially tore her Achilles Tendon as a 9-month old puppy. I started her on supplements immediately and now at 7 years old, her old injury doesn’t appear to bother her at all.


Early Kidney disease can generally be prevented by diet. A high-quality diet comprised of canned, raw or freeze-dried food free and of by-products, artificial ingredients such as colors, flavors and preservatives is one of the best choices you can make for your pet’s health. A diet solely of dry food, or kibble, can contribute, over time, to dehydration and kidney insufficiency.


Urinary infections and blockages are common and can become extremely serious very quickly. This affects dog and cats, however cats seem to be more prone to this disease. Dehydration is one of the first symptoms. If your cat is drinking more water than usual, keep your eyes peeled for another symptom: Frequent trips to the litter box, and/or urinating outside of the litter box. Cat owners tell me all the time that their cat urinated just outside the litter box, in a sink or bathtub, or on a pile of dirty laundry. This, I believe, is your cat telling you that something is wrong. Please do not ignore this, rather, make a vet appointment immediately. This can turn from what most people view as an annoying behavior to an extremely serious, even life-threatening condition in a matter of hours.


It is widely known that the digestive tract plays a major role in health for all animals, including humans. Digestive issues may indicate inflammation in the body and left untreated can lead to any number of issues. If your pet is experiencing chronic constipation, diarrhea or gas, consider this a warning for potential issues down the road if left untreated. Unless your pet is in obvious pain, I generally recommend giving their digestive tract a “rest”by feeding a very bland diet for 24 hours to rest their gut. A home-cooked diet of boiled meat and rice is a good way to start with dogs. For cats, a simple, natural canned food diluted with water can work. Adding a probiotic specific for dogs and cats may help. We don’t suggest using probiotics designed for humans, as our bacterial needs do vary. Raw goat milk,raw cow kefir and bone broths can be some of the easiest and tasty ways to add probiotics in to the gut.


Diagnosing digestive issues can be complicated and time consuming, however, should never be ignored. If your pet is not doing better after a rest period on a bland diet, see your veterinarian to rule out parasites, leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel or other issues.


Quick take-aways:


1). You know you’re pet better than anyone. If something is off, act on it before it becomes major.


2). Lethargy should not be ignored. Lethargy with a complete loss of appetite is a major sign to see your vet.


3). Cats that won’t eat for more than 48 hours do need to get in to the vet. No exceptions. Keep a close watch on your dog if they have stopped eating. If they become lethargic, see your vet.


4). Make sure you and your veterinarian are in alignment with your values. For example, if you are holistic minded, choose a vet who treats symptoms from that perspective.