Dr. Brenda Bernhardt is a lover of animals who is both a qualified veterinarian and a proponent of radical wellness for pets.

Dr. Brenda Bernhardt is a lover of animals who is both a qualified veterinarian and a proponent of radical wellness for pets.

New Columnist: Working with animals a lifetime passion

I had heard it was good for your soul to take a year off after high school, so I took 12 years

I had heard it was good for your soul to take a year off after high school, so I took 12 years and worked extensively with animals.

I raised and trained dogs, schooled and worked horses, and had a wide range of experience with farm animals, especially beef and dairy cattle. Although I’d considered becoming a vet, I’d really wanted to have relationships with animals versus just showing up to fix them. In 1988, I was ready to integrate both.

After completing the two-year pre-vet program at the University of Alberta, I was one of 20 students of the 175 applicants to be selected to attend the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon.

It was an amazing, challenging program with incredible professors, facilities and patients. I graduated with Great Distinction in 1994 and took my first veterinary position at a mixed practice in Alberta. Over the ensuing years, I worked emergency and small animal practice as a locum, an associate and as a practice owner. In 2000, I established Cowichan Veterinary Services, a small animal full service clinic in Lake Cowichan. Knowing how much research and funding was involved in small animal medicine, I became increasingly concerned and confused about the dramatic rise in illnesses — our pet population was becoming sicker, not healthier. Diseases that were uncommon when I graduated: cancer, immune mediated illness and allergies, were becoming the norm.

I took a sabbatical from work and researched in depth what could be causing these immense challenges in our pets that often took their lives way too prematurely.

The culprits became clear to me: commercial diets filled with GMOs, inappropriate ingredients and toxins; vaccinations with their load of heavy metals, preservatives and antibiotics; and pharmaceuticals, the silver bullets that all have a cost on a body.

I integrated my research, my veterinary training, and my lifetime of experience with animals and shifted my veterinary work to what I call radical wellness. Radical means going to the root or origin; pertaining to what is fundamental, far reaching and thorough. However, the solutions of detoxification, species-appropriate nutrition and support through these toxic times, were not readily available so I continued researching and began formulating them myself. I created about a dozen organic wellness products for pets to help them through these challenging times. The first and my favourite is called G.I. & Immune Support, a blend of earth medicines and probiotics that helps our pets detoxify, heal, and thrive.

I now offer housecall and telephone consultation focusing on species appropriate nutrition and holistic wellness. After all, like Hippocrates, the father of medicine said in 450 BC: “Let food be thy medicine”. How was it that we forgot that or were convinced otherwise?