Overview and Introduction to the Author
Originally published in 1981, Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats has sold more than 500,000 copies. This substantial, informative volume extends to 500 pages for the latest edition – its 4th, scheduled for release on March 21. The update has been significantly re-worked, and includes important new material, which we’ll discuss below. A 160-page Quick Reference section enables the reader to get ready health answers by looking up problematic symptoms in their dog or cat, finding the dietary and homeopathic recommendations for the appropriate treatment. While encouraging pet owners to seek local holistic veterinary help, the author acknowledges that such are in limited supply. His website provides a listing of those he’s trained in homeopathic methods.
For the sake of disclosure and transparency I’d like to state that in undertaking this book review, I don’t claim to fill the role of impartial critic, given my established relationship with the book. As publisher of the website German Shepherd Place, one of my tasks is to study and screen writings on subjects relating to the care of dogs, and to help my visitors stay informed. We are a recognized go-to source for information, in particular in the areas of health and nutrition for German Shepherds. Dr Pitcairn’s work and his book have been features of a number of our writings on the site. Therefore, in doing this review, I endeavor to provide a helpful review of what I already consider a credible and valuable resource.
The book is the product of the author’s lifetime mission to see companion animals enjoy maximum health and quality-of-life. Now in his mid-seventies, Richard Pitcairn brings decades of veterinary practice and study to focus in one highly informative volume. Let’s meet the author along with his wife Susan Hubble Pitcairn, who was a significant collaborator in the first two volumes, and did the illustrations for this one.
Dr. Richard Pitcairn: Dr Pitcairn took his first veterinary position in a mixed practice in suburban Oregon in the mid-70’s. There he experienced a growing sense of disillusionment at the poor results he observed in his animal patients. This lead him to further studies, including a PhD in veterinary microbiology. More significantly though, his journey lead to self-study in alternative, natural approaches to health, in particular in the areas of diet along with the practice of homeopathy. The latter is a long-established discipline utilizing highly diluted doses of plant, animal and mineral substances. Homeopathy has in recent years been gaining traction in veterinary practice. In addition to his roll as best selling author, Pitcairn is the co-founder of a college of homeopathic veterinary practice, with over 500 vets trained.
Susan Hubble Pitcairn, in addition to a aforementioned contributions to the book, now pursues, among other things, a career as an artist, painting a variety of subjects, including California’s Sedona area landscapes.
Edition 4 provides so much new material that even readers of the last edition, including this reviewer, will be well served by now investing in the new one. Familiar material from earlier editions has been updated, and in places amplified. New material finds its most obvious expression in the chapter entitled Loving the Earth…and All Animals. Be warned that parts of the content here is disturbing – even shocking, as Pitcairn casts light on some of the more egregious practices of segments of the commercial food industry. But no matter how uncomfortable the information, if we are to view ourselves as open and fair-minded, we cannot help but welcome Pitcairn’s call to greater awareness of these issues relating to food and health matters for us and our animal friends.
Pitcairn credits the film, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (my underline) as having a significant personal influence, leading him to pursue a more global perspective. In particular as it relates to the wellbeing of not just our companion animals, but also of others – all animals. (p. 43). In addition he casts the spotlight on environmental concerns:
He relates how our high consumption of meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood exacts an enormous toll on our environment, being a “key cause of all our leading environmental problems.” Amongst these is the loss of vital forestry, as trees are sacrificed to provide ever more acreage for grazing animals or growing feed for them; then there’s the massive water consumption involved in the cattle industry, the depletion of seafood resources; and climate change. Earlier editions of the book highlighted the problems of toxins in the food supply; themes expanded upon in the new edition.
Pitcairn comes across as a voice of reason in an arena often marked by extremes – radicalism in its proponents, and apathy amongst skeptics. The author is credible, because he approaches with humility. For example, he readily concedes to having “been part of the problem”, given his once less-informed consumption habits. And he allows that: “No one knows the future for certain. Some of these scary predictions may go too far.” (p. 46).
So what are the author’s practical solutions to all this, when it comes to feeding our dogs, cats, and for that matter, ourselves? He deals at length with practical dietary recommendations. The first concern being with providing healthy foods while eliminating or minimizing negative fallout from its production. And then there’s the matter of the day-to-day realities confronting pet owners as they endeavor to do right by their animals.
Vegan vs. Carnivore
New to this edition comes Pitcairn’s recommendation to go vegan for both animals and humans. He quotes a recent finding that states “the top 10 allergens for dogs…are beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, port, rabbit and fish” (page 17). He concedes however that on occasion there’s a cat that seems dependent on having some meat or fish in its diet. Guidelines are given for responsible meat or fish sourcing in the event you have such a feline.
The Family That Cooks Together Stays Together
While that sentiment may or may not hold water, what does make practical sense for the time-saving involved, is to be able to prepare food for all family members, human, canine and feline, at the same time.
Pitcairn has come up with easy-to-prepare recipes made with fresh, human-grade ingredients. Meal preparation is largely a one-step proposition for humans and pets alike! The only difference being – and this is an essential step for the health of the animals – you add the appropriate dog or cat nutritional supplements. Product details are provided.
The author’s food recommendations also give consideration to matters of both cost and availability. Local supply factors along with seasonal produce cycles are reasons for a variety of alternative ingredients to be listed for most recipes.
Summary of Contents
Dog food recipes
Cat food recipes
Quick Reference section, includes:
Pet ailments and their treatment;
A schedule for herbal treatment;
A schedule for homeopathic treatment;
Endnotes. These are reference notes for each chapter. A useful segment for the reader who wishes to further educate themselves in some of the areas of knowledge discussed in the book;
For purchase information on Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats CLICK HERE