Keeping Your Pets Healthy All Year Round

It’s been proven loving a cat or dog is good for you—make sure you’re returning the favor.



We love our pets so much, but are we doing everything we can to keep them healthy? Good nutrition, plenty of exercise, and preventive measures are the name of the game, say local animal experts. “The healthiest pets I see are usually mixed breeds, since purebreds tend to have weaker immune systems due to inbreeding,” says Stacey Joy Hershman DVM, CVH, CVA, a certified veterinary homeopath whose practice, Natural Vet for Pets P.C., is based in Hastings-on-Hudson. “So I do not over-vaccinate or use insecticidal chemicals year-round, especially on pedigree patients. For my own cats and dogs, and all my patients, I ask the pet guardians the lifestyle of their pets and recommend only the necessary vaccines or preventative treatment, using natural alternatives whenever possible.”

Dr. Hershman stresses the importance of proper diet to maintain optimal pet health. “Dogs and cats are carnivores and therefore have highly acidic GI and urinary tracts,” she says, noting that they require raw meat in their diets to maintain the proper pH and to prevent yeast and bacterial infections. “I recommend a raw-meat diet mixed with a high-quality canned food like PetGuard, without meat by-products, no artificial additives or preservatives, no soy or corn, which is not digested well and can be genetically modified.”

Also, she says, “It is very important to protect your dog against certain viruses and diseases. Rabies vaccine is required every three years in healthy animals free of illness after the first puppy vaccine, which is only effective for one year. Ask your vet to run a simple blood test called an antibody titer to check for distemper and parvo antibodies in lieu of over-vaccination, since these are modified live vaccines that are usually effective for many years. Parasitic vaccines such as Lyme and lepto cause many negative reactions and are not very effective, and the majority of my dog patients have natural immunity to lyme disease.”

Knowing your pet is of the utmost importance, says Jennifer Panella, DVM, of the New Rochelle Humane Society. “I recommend knowing your pet’s habits and picking up on things when they’re unusual or wrong.” Annual vet visits are necessary, she says, even if your pet seems to be in fine health, because a variety of illnesses, injuries, and conditions “can happen unnoticed and manifest.”

Make sure your pet is not a couch potato, either. “Exercise is essential for both physical and mental health in our companions,” says Daniel Honovich, DVM, of Fine Animal Hospital in Bedford Hills. “In 2010, it was estimated that nearly 54 percent of all pets, 93 million, are overweight or obese. Obesity is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases despite it being preventable. Proper diet, exercise, and veterinary care are key to maintaining a happy, healthy, and loving companion.”