With Guests Jan Allegretti & Dr. Beth Erickson

America is going to the dogs. Literally. As our pets play an ever-larger role in our lives, so does their well-being. Animal owners now seek holistic care for their four-legged friends, who also can make those around them feel good in body, mind, and spirit. In this week’s Wellness for the Real World, Dr. Veronica takes a bite into these topics with guests Jan Allegretti, a holistic pet care consultant and author of The Complete Holistic Dog Book: Home Health Care for Our Canine Companions, and Dr. Beth Erickson, a psychologist and best-selling author of Marriage isn’t for Sissies: 7 Simple Keys to Unlocking The Best Part Of Your Life.

Count both Allegretti and Erickson amongst the 39% of U.S. households owning at least one dog and 33% owning at least one cat, according to the American Pet Products Association’s 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey. The study also shows there are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs and 93.6 million owned cats in this country. The country’s growing obsession with pets has resulted in owners treating their animals in the same manner they do their children and themselves. Just as humans’ awareness to alternatives to drugs in order to attempt to live healthier lives, they want the same for their pets, who can rely on the same drugs when ill.

Enter veterinary homeopath. Homeopathy, around for over 200 years, is a therapy based on the principle like cures like, or the symptoms of a disease can cure the disease. As Allegretti explains: It’s a natural, safe but effective form of medicine made by taking a substance that in its natural form would cause symptoms in any human or animal, significantly diluting the substance until there is barely anything left in the solution then using the solution to reduce the symptoms.

“Homeopathic medicine can reverse symptoms that they would normally cause,” says Allegretti, who has worked with animals for 24 years and teaches classes and workshops in a broad range of holistic pet care. “They’re very gentle. There are no side effects. They are wonderful for humans and animals. Homeopathic medicine is just one of the many ways we can use a very, very natural, safe form of healing at home.”

She cautions if an animal is extremely ill, it should be taken to a veterinarian. But for those illnesses that can be treated at home, she thinks they should be.

“You won’t do any harm,” Allegretti says. “The worst that’s likely to happen when you give a homeopathic medicine is nothing. If you choose the wrong one, you may not solve the problem but you won’t cause any harm. Once you get familiar with the remedy you can find a remedy that will alleviate symptoms very, very inexpensively, very safely and in a way that’s going to make your animal feel much, much better than if you gave them a drug that might have some type of side effect.”

She also recommends steering clear from pre-packaged pet foods and sharing your fresh food with your pets, which goes against from what many people have being told for years: do not give table scraps to animals.

“If you’re eating a good, healthy well-balanced diet, you can give that to your dog or cat and they’ll do well,” Allegretti says.

If it seems like we’re pampering our pets too much, consider for a moment that we are receiving something in return. Not only are pet therapy dogs are used in many hospitals and nursing homes but war veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder are matched with pets when they return from duty.

“(Pets) add so much to one’s physical health, not just emotional health,” says Dr. Erickson, who vows to never be without a dog or cat. “Most people think loneliness is merely an emotional issue but it’s not.”

She points out that there are medical consequences of loneliness; for instance, loneliness can be a precursor to cardiac conditions. Quoting from psychologist James J. Lynch’s book, A Cry Unheard: New Insights into the Medical Consequences of Loneliness, she said people who have pets and had heart attacks were four times less likely to die in the year following their heart attack than pet-less heart attack victims.

Dr. Veronica asks if people’s fixation with their pets discourages them from having relationships with other humans.

“There’s more than enough love to go around,” Dr. Erickson assures. “And the more love you have in your life, the more you have to give others, not just your dog or your cat but people too. Having animals in your life enhances our ability to be loving and sharing and caring with other human beings.”

Both Dr. Erickson and Allegretti stress adopting or rescuing a pet rather than buying from a breeder since there are an abundance of abandoned pets in need of a good home. The APPA’s aforementioned survey shows that 19% and 22% of owned dogs and cats, respectively, were adopted from an animal shelter. Whether you’re in the market for a Chihuahua, Yorkie or Labrador, there are organizations that make it easy to adopt by breed.

Just as it is difficult for older children to be adopted, it is the same for dogs. When it comes to adoption, puppies and babies are in demand, but know that a five-year-old dog and five-year-old child can bring the same pleasure – and positive health benefits.

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Dr. Veronica Anderson is an MD, Functional Medicine practitioner, Homeopath. and Medical Intuitive. As a national speaker and designer of the Functional Fix and Rejuvenation Journey programs, she helps people who feel like their doctors have failed them. She advocates science-based natural, holistic, and complementary treatments to address the root cause of disease. Dr. Veronica is a highly-sought guest on national television and syndicated radio and hosts her own radio show, Wellness for the REAL World, on FOX Sports 920 AM “the Jersey” on Mondays at 7:00 pm ET.

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