They’re things that we take for granted: our dogs can hear the crinkle of their food bags from the complete opposite corner of the house and our cats stalk and pounce on a slippered foot on even the darkest night. And even though our pets’ senses of sight and sound may always amaze us, this doesn’t mean they’re impervious to injury.
From common aging to specific disorders, their eyes and ears face numerous challenges; but with some simple observations, added knowledge, and natural help, you can care for your pet’s eyes and ears the healthy, natural way.
Eye health covers everything from vision to the physical & cellular health of the eye. It’s a hugely important sense for our pets and can experience several struggles. Here are some of the most common disorders, how you can recognize them, and what you can do to combat them naturally.
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Healthy eye lenses are made up of mostly water and protein and cataracts are formed when proteins begin clumping together in an abnormal way, resulting in clouding and decreased vision. They’re usually associated with older pets, but they can easily affect younger pets with certain congenital issues or chronic conditions, like diabetes. Surgery is often required, but the urgency and even the need for surgery can be put off with a proper regime of prevention and treatment.
As with most natural care, prevention and treatment both begin with the basics: a high quality diet supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Diet is the foundation of good health and is the most important thing you can do for your companion; many chronic degenerative eye diseases, like cataracts, develop as a result of inadequate nutrition and exposure to toxins in low quality food. Thankfully, there are so many quality diets on the market, pleasing even the pickiest pet is simple. Dehydrated and freeze dried diets are delicious and packed with nutrients needed for a species appropriate diet, and even high quality canned pet food and high quality pet kibble diets have been improving drastically over the years. The basic rule of thumb is the fresher the better; but remember, your pets should enjoy what they’re eating as well!
Herbal supplements can be extremely helpful for cataracts, especially bilberry. Bilberry supplements maintain proper circulation in the eye, delivering needed nutrients to eye tissue; plus it supports cardiovascular health. Along with a bilberry extract, high quality antioxidant supplements support eye health, maintaining your pet’s ability to battle the progression cataracts.
Homeopathy can be helpful in some cases of cataracts, but the choice of remedy is specific to the needs of your pet. It’s best to search the help of a holistic vet certified with The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.
Conjunctivitis is the fancy name for eye inflammation and usually occurs in animals with preexisting immune or allergy-related problems. When your dog or cat has sore, red eyes with a discharge, the first thing to do is determine the cause. It
may be as simple as a minor scratch, irritating debris, or airborne allergies, or a more serious issue, like feline herpes or glaucoma. If you’re uncertain about what’s causing your pet’s irritation, a trip to the veterinarian is crucial; waiting can mean the difference between saving your pet’s sight and losing it.
For common irritations, eye washes are helpful for soothing they eyes and removing any foreign debris, and eyebright herbal washes are effective at controlling symptoms and minor infections. Traditional Chinese herbal blends can also be helpful for boosting the immune system and clearing minor eye infections.
If allergies are suspected as the cause of conjunctivitis, it’s best to confront the two most common culprits: food & airborne allergies. Switching to a hypoallergenic diet will help eliminate food borne allergens. Nutraceutical allergy formulas regimen will help maintain your pet’s ability to battle airborne allergies, plus, they act as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory agents to control inflammation. Solutions are also helpful for gently cleaning and removing foreign debris, like pollen.
If your cat’s eyes are watering and producing a thick whitish discharge, feline herpes may be the cause. Feline herpes is a common, highly contagious upper respiratory infection that can have far reaching effects on your cat’s health. On the eyes specifically, the inside lining of the eyelids becomes inflamed, and shallow, painful ulcers develop.
Feline Herpes is generally a result of a weakened immune system, so a healthy diet and immune support are essential. To help control the virus, the amino acid L-lysine may be helpful; L-lysine, along with other vitamins and herbs, can support the immune system during infections and on a long-term basis. Specially formulated blends to fight viral and bacterial infections and boost the immune system can be very helpful as well. Plus, eyebright eyewashes will soothed the painful eye ulcers and gently clean the thick discharges.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), involves the shrinking of the retina of the eye and is more common in dogs than cats. PRA usually develops slowly and begins with night blindness; if you notice your companion hesitating to go outside at
night or down a darkened hall, suspect vision problems and consult your veterinarian.
In cats, PRA is most commonly related to a taurine deficiency, which is now less of a problem since all commercially available cat foods are fortified with added taurine. Raw diets that include organ meats provide the most natural source of taurine, and for those feeding home-prepared diets, taurine supplementation is essential. Look for daily supplements to ensure your cat’s health.
Preventing PRA in your pet is best done with a multi-faceted approach. Obviously, proper diet and nutrition are giant steps you can take to confront and degenerative or chronic condition. Supplements are also hugely important: bilberry is useful for PRA for the same reasons it may help with cataracts – increased circulation and nutrients to the eye tissue. Zinc and vitamin E deficiencies are also linked to PRA, so supplementing with both of these is valuable in preventing PRA. Finally, essential fatty acids, particularly DHA from fish oil, also support in preventing or slowing the progression of PRA.
Ear health is vital for your pet to not only have healthy hearing, but clean, irritant free ears. Troubled ears often result in excessive scratching and shaking, not to mention they can smell pretty terrible. Here are some of the most common offenders and how you can help your pet.
Ear Infections & Yeast Problems
Chronic ear infections and yeast problems are frequently a sign of food allergies, but diet, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and essential fatty acids are great for treating allergies and hence chronic ear problems from the inside out.
Many animals with food sensitivities and allergies have seen dramatic improvement on raw, freeze dried, and dehydrated diets; again, the fresher the diet, the better it is for your companion’s health & immune system. Dry kibble can be part of a healthy diet for pets; however dogs with chronic ear problems or allergies require hypo-allergenic food, meaning no wheat, corn or soy and sometimes no beef or chicken too, due to protein sensitivities. Make sure your read your labels and find a diet that’s friendly for your pet’s allergies and palate.
Most pets suffering food allergies also have unhealthy gastrointestinal systems and can’t digest food properly. Leaky gut develops, letting molecules that are too large to process pass through the gut wall, setting off allergic reactions and even yeast infections. The symptoms may appear in the ears, but you have to heal the gut to really get rid of the allergies. Digestive enzymes break down the food so that there is less of a chance of the larger molecules passing through the intestinal walls, probiotics support a healthy balance of flora in the gut and aid digestion, and fatty acids maintain proper inflammation response, supporting a healthy gut.
Digestive enzymes break down the food so that there is less of a chance of the larger molecules passing through the intestinal walls and should be added at every meal. The enzymes work quickly and don’t remain in your pet’s system beyond digestion of the food immediately present in the digestive tract.
Probiotics support a healthy balance of flora in the gut, aid digestion, and are especially important if your pet has been on steroids or antibiotics, which kill the healthy gut flora and set up conditions for the allergies to worsen. Probiotics are helpful for any animal that has had chronic gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or diarrhea as well.
Essential fatty acids, preferably fish oil, maintain proper inflammation response and support a healthy gut. Allergies involve inflammation of the gut and often affect the joints as well. Plus, fish oil is an irresistible topper on your pet’s meals.
Finally, if the change in diet and adding enzymes and fatty acids do not completely solve the issue, then consider a supplement high in plant sterols and sterolins that help balance the immune system over time and reduce allergic reactions.
Ear mites are part of the arachnid family (along with ticks, spiders, and scorpions) and are parasitic. These little buggers result in excess scratching and unfortunately, can lead to other infections and irritations as your pet is looking for relief. They spread quickly, so if you have multiple pets, get all of them checked. If you suspect your pet has ear mites, take them to your veterinarian to be tested and treated.
Thankfully, one of the best things you can do for ear mites is prevention. Putting your pet on a healthy diet, probiotics, digestive enzymes and essential fatty acids (the same program you follow to prevent ear infections) will support your pet’s natural ability to fend off these nasty invaders.
General Ear Relief
Topical ear washes are a great way to relieve and ease any ear irritation your pet may be experiencing. Echinacea and tea tree oil are both mild disinfects that will help clean the ear canal. Plus, tea tree oil is anti-fungal and can be helpful in controlling yeast as well.
Final Thoughts on Natural Eye & Ear Care
Ear and eye problems are not only nuisances for your pet, but can lead to serious issues, including loss of sight and hearing. But with attention to detail, a helpful holistic veterinarian, and a natural approach, you can keep your pet seeing, hearing and feeling great!
Please keep in mind that although these are common eye and ear disorders seen by veterinarians, they are not all of the symptoms of a diagnosis. If you’re noticing any changes in behavior, squinting, excessive scratching, or loss of hearing or sight, contact your veterinarian immediately.