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Inside and Out

Advice from our vet on keeping cats healthy -- however far they roam -- and what supplements can do for pets.

Whole Living, May 2011

Q: Are cats that live indoors always healthier than outdoor cats?

A: Housebound felines tend to live longer than those who spend their days outdoors, mainly because of the hazards cats can encounter on the streets, including moving cars, poisonous materials, attacks by other animals, even the possibility of being shot. Outdoor cats are also more likely to contract diseases such as feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus, both of which are rare to nonexistent in indoor cats.

But generally, pets can remain healthy no matter where they spend their time -- what matters most is how well they're cared for. Here are the three most important tips for helping your cat thrive:

Feed your pet a natural diet devoid of chemical preservatives, additives, and artificial by-products.

Minimize vaccines. Pets don't need vaccines every year -- a simple blood test called a titer test can help your doctor determine what shots are necessary.

Limit your pet's exposure to chemicals. That includes flea control. Instead, I recommend using a natural remedy such as herbal flea and tick shampoo containing citrus oils (petcarenaturally.com).

Q: What supplements, if any, does my pet need?

A: As with humans, nutritional supplements can enhance the benefits of a proper diet but can't make up for a poor one. So it's important to first make sure your pet is eating well-balanced meals.

When I do recommend supplements, I start with a basic all-around health-maintenance formula that contains vitamins, minerals, probiotics, nutrients such as glucosamine, and enzymes to support the various systems in the body. The one I prescribe most is Vim & Vigor by Pet-Togethers (In the spirit of full disclosure: I am a consultant for this company because I've seen benefits in patients who take it).

For older pets (5 years and up), I often prescribe Cholodin (made by MVP Laboratories), which in my experience helps combat cognitive disorder (doggie and kitty Alzheimer's). And for older pets with arthritis symptoms, I prefer Cholodin Flex (also by MVP Labs), which contains hyaluronic acid to relieve pain and inflammation.

To make administering supplements easier, I try to prescribe products that are formulated specifically for pets and come in flavored vehicles such as chewable treats or liquids. Work with your vet to find the best supplements for your pet.

Shawn Messonnier is a holistic vet and the founder of Paws & Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas.

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