We're a nation of pet lovers, and we’re willing to prove it by opening our wallets to pay for the best pet food and vet care possible.
Americans spent more than $58 billion on our companion animals in 2014, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. This included $15 billion for veterinary care, $22 billion for food, $14 billion in supplies and over-the-counter medication, and nearly $5 billion in boarding and grooming for our furry, scaly, and feathered friends.
Those numbers were up nearly 5 percent from 2013 and are projected to rise to more than $60 billion in 2015.
It’s no surprise to Dr. Kevin Fenton, of VCA All Creatures Animal Hospital in La Quinta, since the humans that live with his patients (and pay their vet bills) are increasingly looking for quality of care akin to what they receive from their own physicians.
“(Guardians) want the same alternatives for their animals in care and food,” he says. “Back in the ’60s and ’70s, we started looking into more natural and alternative medicine and nutrition to cure our ills and ailments, and to improve our own health. Shouldn’t we do the same for our animals?”
In addition to traditional veterinary care, pet guardians are adding holistic and complementary wellness therapies such as reiki to their regimens.
In addition to traditional veterinary medicine, Coachella Valley residents are supplementing their pets’ care with everything from massage to reiki. Fenton, a member of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, combines acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, and herbal supplements with standard therapies.
The animals, he says, often respond better to the alternative veterinary modalities.
“Acupuncture and chiropractic are synergistic,” he says. “There’s not a lot of stress for the animal and they work very well with traditional veterinary medicine.”
Some guardians, he says, prefer to treat their animals homeopathically for acute or chronic conditions. For one dog with lung cancer, “the owner didn’t want to use chemotherapy,” he says. “So we are using herbs and other methods.”
Dr. Gail Cutler of VCA Desert Animal Hospital in Palm Springs also includes acupuncture in her practice. The minimally invasive procedure helps to increase blood flow to injured areas. “It’s a way to stimulate the animal’s body, and it helps in pain management for animals with chronic pain,” she says.
Pets can even participate in “animal rehabilitative therapy” to help them heal after an injury, surgery, or to chronic conditions such as arthritis, says Emily Downing, hospital manager at Village Park Animal Hospital in La Quinta. Along with a full range of traditional veterinary services, Dr. Kathryn Carlson’s practice offers AquaPaws Rehabilitation, which includes a water treadmill, along with therapeutic massage, ultrasound and laser treatments, electrical stimulation, medical whirlpool, and exercises for medical conditions and weight control.
Fenton and other Coachella Valley vets do refer patients, “but we also have patients who are looking for a way to help their animals without drugs,” Downing says. “Animals are just like us. When they hurt, they don’t want to move. But sometimes a short course of pain meds can help to get them started on therapy.”
Jennifer Scalia (freeflowtherapy.com) practices a form of energy therapy for animals similar to reiki, which balances the body’s natural energy pathways. She uses her skills to balance animals’ chakras. “Horses, especially ones that have been moved around a lot, can be emotionally upset,” she says. “My work helps to calm them and let them adjust to new surroundings.” The therapy works for most animals, she adds.
Massage can help ease anxieties as well. La Quinta Resort & Club offers offer hour-long in-room relaxation massages for people and their dogs. Venus de Fido, a new luxury health and wellness spa for people and their pets, is slated to open in Palm Desert this fall with services such as dog fitness, his and hers serenity spas, infrared therapy for humans and animals, dining, and more.
Good Health Starts in the Bowl
One of the biggest changes in our relationship with our companion animals is how and what we feed them. Many people now cook at least some meals for their pets using organic meats and vegetables, or opt for higher-end, minimally processed, balanced, grain-free diets from retailers.
Kathy Hart launched Bones-N-Scones in Palm Springs in the late 1990s making all-natural treats and cakes for special occasions. “I started to sell pet food because my customers kept asking for better food for their animals,” she says. With an additional store now in Palm Desert, Hart offers mostly locally sourced animal foods from small manufacturers. “My customers are informed consumers and they want to know exactly what’s in their pet’s food, and where the ingredients come from,” she says.
Foods should be specific for your animal’s natural diet, Hart advises. Dogs are omnivores and can absorb some fruits and veggies in their diet, but “cats need a diet of high-quality proteins, and raw is best for them,” she says. Be cautious when feeding table scraps, though, as some human foods are toxic to pets.
Read the label on all pet foods, she adds. Protein (meat, fish, and poultry) should be the first ingredient. Avoid corn and wheat, which can interfere with digestion and may be a contributing cause of canine and feline diabetes, along with meat or poultry byproducts, which are cheap proteins, hard to digest, and not fit for human consumption. Hart recommends pet diets that are made from human-grade foods. Her purveyors include Crown Meats, the company that provides meats to many of the Coachella Valley’s finest restaurants.
Look for fresh or fresh-frozen foods made from certified organic, pasture-raised or free-range animals, raised without hormones or antibiotics and free from preservatives. Hart also uses the website www.truthaboutpetfood.com as a guideline for many of the products she carries in the stores. “It’s a great resource,” she says.