Mick, a five-year-old Labrador Retriever, has flaky skin and smells more “doggy” than usual.
Katrina, a two-year-old mixed-breed, has goopy eyes and oily fur. She has been eating a lot of grass and vomiting almost every day. Lately her stool has been covered with mucus.
Joe, a 12-year-old Beagle, has a fatty tumor on his right side. He also has a cyst behind his left ear.
All of these individuals share something in common: their bodies are working to push toxins and waste materials out by a natural process called detoxification.
In mainstream medicine the mechanisms of detoxification are often viewed as unpleasant symptoms of illness that need to be remedied. Eye drops are administered for goopy eyes, dandruff shampoos for flaky skin, surgery for removal of cysts, and so forth.
However, when taken into a more holistic perspective, such measures only amount to removal of outward signs of an underlying state of imbalance. Detoxification, as unpleasant as this natural process may appear to the onlooker, is seen as a natural part of the healing process that should be supported, not suppressed.
In essence, the primary goal of the holistic healer is to help the body in its natural abilities to heal itself and remain healthy. Rather than ignore the causes of disease in favor of eliminating only symptoms, as many conventional drug or surgical interventions do, the natural care provider works in concert with the body’s efforts of correcting itself.
The body’s detoxification system, being extremely complex and very efficient, has the job of eliminating anything that may be harmful to the body, by whatever means necessary.
Routine detoxification is ordinarily handled by waste removal mechanisms in the digestive tract and liver, the filtering activities of the lymph system, and at immune system levels – where a complex army of antibodies, toxin-scavenging cells, and special chemicals weed out, destroy, and eliminate toxic waste.
However, if any of these systems become overburdened with too much waste or toxic overloads, or are rendered dysfunctional in any way by injury or disease, the body may resort to other, less effective means of elimination. The body will try to push potentially harmful excesses out, any way it can.
If pushed through the skin we see the eruption of rashes, dandruff, an oily coat, or pustules. If the body attempts to push excess waste through mucous membranes we see runny eyes or nose, diarrhea, or mucus discharge at the rectum or urethra.
If these last-ditch efforts fail, the potentially harmful waste compounds that the body is trying to eliminate may accumulate to cause any number of disease problems – ranging from urinary tract disease, dry nose, conjunctivitis, arthritis, chronic allergy and inflammation, skin conditions, to even cancer.
Looking at the big picture
From a holistic perspective, such occurrences bring to mind two questions: First, what may be causing or contributing to the underlying dysfunction or imbalance? Second, what can be done to help the body detoxify and correct itself?
Finding answers to each of these questions begins by simplifying the body’s job of keeping itself clean.
First and foremost, your companion’s food should be comprised of good quality, highly digestible meats and vegetables. The diet should be free of artificial preservatives, colorings, and flavorings. Cheap fillers, such as soy, corn, and grain by-products should be removed from the food dish, as should excess sugar and salt. These ingredients do not serve positive roles in canine nutrition. In fact, they may be contributing, in large part, to the excess waste that is the burden of an already overworked detoxification system.
Second, take a hard, critical look at your dog’s living environment. Toxic lawn chemicals and household cleaners may also be contributing to your companion’s toxicity issues, as might secondhand cigarette smoke, mold and mildew, air pollution, or even potentially allergenic weeds in the backyard. Anything that presents the potential of causing toxic excess in the body should be removed from the scenario, whenever possible.
Digestive enzymes and probiotic supplements should be added to the food, as these will help with digestion and elimination of waste. Green foods, such as spirulina, wheatgrass, or barley grass may also be beneficial, as they are rich with antioxidants and help feed digestive flora that are necessary in the breakdown of waste in the intestine.
To help expedite elimination of waste, fasting may be indicated as well; talk with your holistic vet to find out what type of fasting may be appropriate for your pet.
Provide plenty of clean water
Water is essential in the process of detoxification. Encourage your companion to drink copious amounts of clean, filtered water. Avoid water that contains chlorine, fluoride, chemical residues, harmful bacteria, or parasites (i.e., avoid ditch or stream water).
Depending on circumstances, it may be wise to provide distilled water for a few days. Because distilled water is virtually void of the minerals that are naturally found in most water, it tends to pull minerals, including some metals, and chemicals away from the body before it exits in the form of urine. This can be very beneficial in cases where metal toxicity or chemical poisoning is suspected. However, keep in mind that long-term consumption of distilled water may deplete your companion’s body of some of the trace minerals it needs.
Detoxify with herbs
A variety of herbs may be useful in supporting the detoxification process.
Herbs that strengthen liver functions, such as dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale), nettle leaf (Urtica spp.), yellow dock root (Rumex crispus), Oregon grape root (Mahonia aquifolium), or turmeric (Curcuma longa) may help improve digestion and the body’s abilities to remove toxins from the blood.
Lymphatic herbs, such as red clover (Trifolium pratense), cleavers (Gallium aparine), or red root (Ceanothus velutinous) may help support the lymph system clear toxins from the tissues.
To help with the removal of intestinal mucus and the toxins it collects, ground flax seed, or perhaps a mild dose of senna or another herbal laxative, is in order.
These and many other herbs stand as viable options in support of your companion’s detoxification. To find out which herbs are best for your companion and her needs, consult a veterinary practitioner who is versed in the use of herbal medicines.
Among the many formulas used by holistic vets is Detox Blend by Animals’ Apawthecary. [Editor’s note: This is the company headed by author Greg Tilford.] This is a sweet-tasting liquid combination (in a glycerin base) of dandelion root, burdock root, red clover, licorice, and other herbs that help to safely support the liver in its job of filtering waste from the body.
Most importantly, remember that detoxification is, and should remain, a perfectly natural part of the healing process. Although the circumstances that trigger detoxification may warrant the attention of your veterinarian, the means by which your companion’s body eliminates toxins should be supported, not suppressed. That all begins with cleaning that pup up – from inside out!
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