Winter is coming, and illnesses with it. Not only will each of us probably suffer a cough, sore throat, or runny nose this winter, but our little furry friends may as well.
It is very important that we take into account the fact that a Standard American Dog Diet (SADD- even more sad than a Standard American Diet due to the terrible ingredients in kibble) does not put our dogs in optimal health to begin with. Add in a couple of factors specific to winter months, and sickness is quite likely.
Sunlight, which is very limited in winter, is necessary for us and our dogs due to the vitamin D that it helps our bodies synthesize. Sunlight also impacts our health in another way- it kills bacteria and pathogens. Which means that the absence of it leaves us and our pets more susceptible to the bacteria in our environments that sunlight could have otherwise diminished or destroyed.
No matter the time of year, I try to take my Howl on as many walks as I can. For his exercise, for some always-needed vitamin D for the both of us, and also for fresh air.
Another reason that winter leaves us and our pets prone to illness is the prevalence of polluted indoor air. Much information is now coming to light about the dangers of indoor air due to building materials, cleaning products, air fresheners, and many other variables. The World Health Organization is concerned that indoor air quality is progressively destroying the health of many people. And sadly, dogs, being our cohabitants, are naturally at the same risk as we are for developing illness or breathing problems as a result of indoor air pollutants.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans now spend 90% of their time indoors. Horrifying, considering that we tend to spend even more time inside during winter months due to the cold.
We need to take every chance that we can to get out in the fresh air with our pets. But, on the days that it is simply too cold, we can at least fortify our pet’s immune system with some powerful supplements. Here are the ones that I use to keep my Howl from illness in the wintertime 🙂
Echinacea for Immunity
A natural antibiotic and immune booster, Echinacea is great for humans as well as dogs. A study found that Echinacea consistently aids in the recovery from kennel cough in dogs experiencing varying severity of the illness. I give this supplement to Howl at least once a week throughout the winter.
I buy it here. Packaged in a amber glass bottle with a glass and rubber dropper. The glass bottle is infinitely recyclable, and, once washed, the dropper can be used for administration of another liquid medicine/tonic. Although, now that I’ve finished off the most recent bottle, I plan to wash and reuse it so I can make the a similar herbal tonic at home with the addition of a few other healthful herbs such as parsley and oregano.
Mashed Cooked Squash
Acorn squash, zucchini, butternut squash, pumpkin…all are safe for dogs. They contain vitamin A and C, as well as necessary minerals such as folate. The squash of your choice simply needs to have the skin and seeds removed, and then to be baked until soft and mash-able. I like to add a little dog-safe seasoning such as cinnamon into it. Serve as a treat, not a meal, as squash are too low-calorie on their own to serve as a meal for a dog.
Squash can be purchased throughout fall and winter in the produce section of your grocery store or at an indoor farmer’s market. The only waste you may have to contend with is a little plastic produce sticker 🙂
Flax or Fish for Skin Health
Flax is a wonderful addition to a dogs diet anytime of the year. However, the Omega-3’s contained in it are especially good for them when the air is dry and their skin and hair are in need of some extra nourishment. Flax seeds can be purchased in the bulk section of most grocery stores and simply need to be ground before being given to your dog. Or, you can purchase flax seed oil in a glass bottle and recycle or reuse it afterwards. Moderation is key, so be sure to take to your holistic vet about the right dosage for your dog.
If choosing fish, opt for a high-quality, low mercury, sustainably sourced kind. Cod liver oil can be purchased in a glass bottle, or you can give your dog cooked leftover salmon skins. Howl’s nose is a little dry these days, so I’ve given him our leftover salmon skins. I purchase the salmon from Whole Foods’ seafood counter, wrapped in paper only.
High in antioxidants, cinnamon is a great little addition to a dogs diet. The ASPCA has declared it non-toxic to them as long as it is not administered in excess. A light sprinkling into a moist bowl of their food is sufficiently helpful towards enhancing their health. Cinnamon discouraged the growth of bacteria and fungus- and is also a good doggy breath freshener. 🙂
It can be purchased in the bulk spices section of Whole Foods and Sprouts.
Do you have any special ways you take special care of your pet in the wintertime? 🙂 Do they like any of these foods in particular?
*Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian or licensed medical professional of any kind. The information in this article is simply a collection of recommendations by veterinarian practitioners that I am sharing.*