Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review: The New Holistic Way for Dogs & Cats, by Paul McCutcheon, DVM

Dr. Paul McCutcheon sees things differently. When a client makes an appointment for him to treat a dog because the dog is compulsively licking and chewing his skin, for example, the Ontario-based veterinarian doesn't immediately reach for a shot of prednisone. Instead, he starts asking questions.

After more than 35 years as a holistic small animal practitioner, his focus is to identify the early signs of "unwellness" before they explode into full-blown disease. And, as he explains in his important book, The New Holistic Way for Dogs & Cats: The Stress-Health Connection, "there are important differences between the way mainstream medicine and the holistic way attempt to find out what's wrong when a pet is not well."

Rather than rushing to eradicate the symptoms of an animal's illness, Dr. McCutcheon becomes a detective, seeking to identify what external forces may have tipped the balance in an animal's equilibrium and garbled the energy flowing through his "living terrain," compromising his immune system in the process. In this respect, he differs sharply from conventional veterinarians who reach for a quick fix--that shot of prednisone--to quell an animal's pain and discomfort, without worrying too much about how a steroid injection may simply further impair the animal's ability to heal.

In a life devoted to animal healing, Dr. McCutcheon has emphasized the power of prevention, and it's here that he empowers animal caretakers by helping us to become mindful of the insidious and often unrecognized sources of stress that affect our animals in ways we never intended or imagined. In Dr. McCutcheon's view, "stress is the sole cause of everything that happens to our pets' health."

It's when stress becomes chronic and unrelenting, and morphs into distress--from the high-pitched noise that never stops, the shock collar, the processed foods, the annual vaccinations, or the exposure to toxic household or lawn chemicals--that problems can ensue:

"Because it is prolonged and persistent, chronic stress can wear a pet down over time. Its effects manifest differently in each individual. One animal may show it through a behavioral issue; another, through a gastrointestinal disturbance; and a third, through unexplained weight loss. It may also produce problems with organs or glands, such as heart disease or diabetes. . .

Chronic stress can also compromise a pet's health indirectly. For example, she may become more susceptible to infections, and eventually to degenerative conditions such as cancer or allergies."

Dr. McCutcheon challenges his clients, and his readers, to become their animals' stress monitors and to ask themselves how their own habits and lifestyle choices may be putting their animals' health at risk. He urges us to watch for subtle signs of unwellness--such as changes in our animals' behavior, appearance, energy level, habits, appetite, weight, and even smell--and regard them as early warning signals that something may be wrong.

The New Holistic Way for Dogs & Cats offers a refreshing--and some would say, even radical--approach to protecting, preserving, and enhancing our animals' health. For those whose efforts to "cure" their animals from illness or chronic conditions have dead-ended, it offers options. And for those whose animals are facing daunting diagnoses, it offers hope. I highly recommend it.

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