The word patient is used to signify the animals being treated. Clients are the humans who bring patients in to vet clinics—they are also called owners or the mom and dad of the pet. The current trend to denote owner with the word guardian is laudable. While new terms can further the cause of our beloved animals, I do not use the word guardian in this book, for two reasons. First of all, I think it is often the animal that is guarding or being the guardian of the person. Second, I am habituated to the words I use daily in my clinic and want this book to reflect that ease of usage.
I use the term pet to indicate a family member from the animal kingdom.
He and she are used interchangeably to indicate various generic or specific pets.
X-rays are invisible particles that create images that are seen on a radiograph. Even though X-rays cannot be seen and radiographs can, I use both words to signify the same thing. The term X-ray is easily understood and current usage allows it, but I still cringe.
Signs of disease in animals is the term used for what would be symptoms of disease in humans. Symptoms, while a familiar term, involves a description of health problems experienced by a person. Signs are what we observe as health issues in another species. Therefore, where prudent, I have used the preferred veterinary term sign.
What have we done to undermine the innate health of our pets? Why are the animals in our homes riddled with disease? Why do we have more medicines for them in our cabinets than we do for our aging parents? Why do a record number of dogs suffer from cancer, obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease, and other disorders? Why do we accept this as the norm? Is it logical that a carnivore would be allergic to meat? Should a six-month-old cat be plagued by allergies? Why have we come to expect arthritis in Labradors? Does this abysmally low standard of health make any sense at all?
I have always felt there has to be a better way. This was gradually revealed to me throughout the many years I’ve spent working with wild animals—treating them in zoos and on their own home ground. In the early days of my career, I was oriented toward disease, focusing on what I believed to be the inevitable progression of pathologies and the intricacies of Western medicine’s prescribed treatments. Now, after coming to a better understanding of the way wild animals have evolved to sustain their own well-being in their natural environment, I direct my energy toward thinking about potential. More specifically, the potential for natural health that occurs when an animal’s evolutionary needs are fulfilled.
This is what I call wild health.
We have an incomplete understanding of our pets when we overlook the relevance of their ancestry, just as we have an incomplete understanding of our own health when we overlook our personal and genetic histories. As a result, we make misguided decisions and draw wrong conclusions about our pets’ essential needs. In the case of dogs, for example, their basic needs are not so greatly different from those of a wolf.
You may scoff and say, “Listen, doc, I’ve got a peekapoo at home, not a wolf.” Fair enough, but it’s important to realize that wolf biology has not been fully bred out of dogs—not even in peekapoos. Dogs have undergone a relatively brief period of selective breeding before landing in our living rooms. In fact, wolves and dogs are so genetically similar that when bred together, they can successfully produce fertile puppies. This is a surprising indicator of their great similarity; African and Asian elephants can’t even do that—and they’re both elephants. Likewise, there are more similarities than you might expect between your pouncing housecat and a stalking Bengal tiger.
The point is, the evolutionary biology of your pet is highly relevant to its overall health—and happiness. Applying that knowledge, with a little common sense along the way, will make life with your pets more of a joy and less of a job. It is far, far easier, more pleasant, and less costly to sustain natural health than to fight losing battles with avoidable diseases.
As an integrative veterinarian, I combine the best of ancient practices with cutting-edge modern technology. I am a firm believer in using modern, state-of-the-art, conventional medical treatment where it is appropriate and effective, and I rely on those in my practice every day. The right surgery and the right medication, at the right time, can work miracles. But an overreliance on medications and surgery to eradicate symptoms can sometimes do more harm than good. I have found that a proper diet, natural supplements, physical therapy, and appropriate exercise are often the best means to support an animal’s natural tendency toward balance and vibrant health.
I now consider it my job as a doctor to discern and remove impediments to an animal’s natural state of well-being and make sure it has precisely what it needs to thrive. I’ve seen remarkable recoveries in dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets because I’ve learned a little secret from wild animals. When the basic evolutionary needs of an ailing pet are fulfilled, its body’s ability to heal and recover is heightened. Recognizing that capacity for wild health is at the core of what I do every day, for every wonderful animal that comes into my practice.
I have learned a great many things from wild animals that relate to the dog in your living room and the cat in your kitchen. However, it is possible to boil it all down to one single principle at the heart of the Royal Treatment. Informed by my experiences working with zoo animals and wildlife—from peregrine falcons to Bactrian camels to silverback gorillas to red pandas—the Royal Treatment works with, not against, nature. It balances the body’s organ systems and enhances the efficiency of an animal’s healing system. The Royal Treatment is not an elitist plan. It is designed for any species of animal and provides them with the care that nature intended. In other words, your pet can attain true health in a faux health world.
Employing the easy actions in this book, you, as a pet owner, can give your pet the Royal Treatment. Jewel, the camel, will show you what to do for your geriatric dog. Songkit, the tiger cub, will provide insight into your frisky tabby. The story of my own dog Tundra may comfort you when you realize that the time has come to end a terminally ill animal’s suffering. Easy-to-follow instructions, tips for everyday care, diet suggestions, and recipes are also included. My clients have found that this prescriptive advice not only improves the lives of their animals, but also saves them time and money. I hope it will do the same for you.