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Is it Ethical for Veterinarians to Recommend Pet Foods?

Is it Ethical for Veterinarians to Recommend Pet Foods?

Originally published November 2008 – edited and republished August 14, 2014.

Almost every Veterinarian Clinic across the country offers dog and cat food for sale. Some only offer prescription foods specifically for pets needing a diet to address a disease; however, many others offer for sale maintenance dog and cat foods to their clients. Do veterinarians know enough about pet food to ethically recommend a particular brand of food to their clients?

The Canadian Veterinary Journal website posts medical ethics questions from member veterinarians. In June of 2007, shortly after the deadly pet food recall, veterinarian Dr. Lea Stogdale posted the following ethical question:

“Many veterinarians sell nonprescription pet foods along with prescription pet foods as a service to their clientele. Some pet food companies insist that if their products are sold through a veterinary clinic, then no other brand of pet food can be sold through that clinic. Does the exclusive marketing of only one brand of pet food by a veterinary clinic imply a professional endorsement of that product over all other products on the market? Are pet food companies indirectly using veterinarians’ good reputations to market their products?”

Her question received two replies from veterinarians on the website. Dr. Marion Smart responded:

“When a client purchases any product or service from his or her veterinarian, he or she trusts that the veterinarian has knowledge of its efficacy and safety. Advertisements by the pet food companies and magazine and newspaper columns invariably advise pet owners to “ask their veterinarian” for correct nutritional information. The recent recalls involving Diamond Pet Foods, Medi-Cal, and other pet foods manufactured by Menu Foods has made it clear how complex the pet food industry is, and that blind faith in pet food manufacturers can be a mistake. If a veterinarian is selling pet food, he or she must accept a degree of responsibility for the products’ efficacy and safety. This is particularly true if a veterinarian is endorsing one brand of pet food exclusively at his or her practice.”

The next reply posted to the ethical question, is from veterinarian Dr. Clayton MacKay – Director of Veterinary Affairs, Hill’s Pet Nutrition Canada – one of the most commonly recommended pet diets by veterinarians, Science Diet:

“Professional endorsement of any product or service could take place when the veterinarian has investigated the particular product or service to the best of his or her ability. The professional should use an “evidence-based approach” matched with his or her own knowledge, use, and experience. In fact, most clients want exactly this kind of recommendation, that is why they seek advice from a professional. Pet food companies (like pharmaceutical/biological/equipment companies, etc.), do indeed believe that appropriate recommendations of their products/services are of value in the compliance use by the public/client. However, I am unaware of nutrition companies that demand exclusivity of their product in a particular clinic. For certain, demanding exclusivity is not the practice of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.”

Dr. MacKay’s response, again, a representative of Science Diet pet foods, is interpreted to tell veterinarians that clients WANT the recommendation of a pet food brand from their veterinarian. However, most veterinarians are NOT animal nutritionists. At almost every Vet School across the U.S., dog and cat nutrition classes are known to be very brief, most lasting only a couple of hours in total. Furthermore, most of these classes are taught by representatives from Science Diet, Iams/Eukanuba, and/or Purina pet foods. In other words, most veterinarian’s knowledge of pet food, ingredients, use of chemical preservatives, and so forth – is extremely limited.

While US pet owners continue to seek pet food advice from veterinarians, Europe has taken legal steps to prevent veterinarians from misleading clients into pet food purchases. New European Consumer laws put into effect in June of 2008, veterinarians must not hard sell pet food, vaccinations, or drugs and must not make any health claims for anything they sell, unless they have veterinary research to back it up.

So…your thoughts? Do you think it is ethical for veterinarians to recommend pet foods to their clients?

 

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
TruthaboutPetFood.com
Association for Truth in Pet Food

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39 comments

  1. You know? It’s a 2 edge sword isn’t it? From what TAPF Followers have learned over the years the usual non-prescription PFs being sold from a Vet Practice aren’t ideal. Some are horrible. However the assumption is that a Vet wouldn’t be misleading his or her clients. And so those kinds of Vet Practice sales come easy. Yet what can a Vet really say when asked by a client about what to feed? Should they tell them, go choose from 200+ brands out there in the stores and good luck? Wouldn’t you feel a bit let down by your Vet? Or should they recommend (at least) something not as horrible as the worst and from a supplier that the Vet Practice has a relationship (or recourse) with if the food doesn’t work out for the pet. Many times the Vet is trying to help a client who (seems to) have specific needs (like obesity, senior diet requirements). I think most Vets mean well. But as the article states they lack enough education in the field of nutrition. More importantly they lack the exposure to and the experience with risks and dangers associated with many bad PFs.

    Now interestingly enough, and by contrast, if that same Vet recommended one of the top 14 PFs that have made the TAPF’s List, or home cooking or raw feeding (just as examples) then we wouldn’t be calling any of those recommendations …. unethical ….would we?

    • I work with a board certified Dermatologist and we are constantly dealing with Food allergies combined with environmental allergies. He is absolutely amazing because we look at the clinical signs of the dog based on the food the dog is eating. We recommend specific foods based on owner lifestyle and what they are willing to use. That includes home cooked, raw and other novel protein diets, not just what we carry in the clinic. It is frustrating when the pet food store claim all vet are evil and the vets that think all raw food is evil. There never seems to be a middle ground.
      Since i feed raw to my dogs, it is nice not having a vet tell you how it is not a balanced diet and the dog will get sick!! Or my kids will get sick!!

    • I always thought it was unethical for vets to recommend pets’ food.
      Even some of their Rx brands are not up to the current standards. It is now possible to find proper brands for a specific pet’s health issue at the pet stores, if familiarize itself with your pet condition.
      I tried to question my vets about the right food for my diabetic cat,l and all they recommended – was the food they were selling in their office. And it is not because they are bad doctors…

  2. By my experiences – and they have been many – the veterinarians that I have used knew nothing about pet foods. The only foods they have some knowledge of are the Rx foods they promote and sell in their hospitals. This is shortsighted, but no different than medical doctors who know nothing about nutrition and how vital it is to our health.

  3. When a recommendation for a specific pet food from a vet is based on knowledge only derived from a rep of that pet food company during his/her education in vet college, then I believe it is ethically wrong. How can that practitioner really know the true quality of the pet food and if there is a better pet food for and pet in his/her care?

    When will the vet colleges stop this unethical practice of using pet food rep’s/vets to teach pet nutrition?

    Time for the quality dog food companies to band together and lobby for some input in the vet colleges.

    • “When will the vet colleges stop this unethical practice of using pet food rep’s/vets to teach pet nutrition?” Probably the same time as medical schools stop using big AG and Pharm to teach their nutrition classes! The answer is never, because these organizations are paying the schools to be there. Very sad but Money rules.

  4. I recently took our 21 month old male dog into the vet to be neutered. Our dogs are fed raw food. The vet commented on how beautiful his coat was, how clean his teeth were and how his weight was perfect. She then asked what he was fed. I told her and she asked me why, I replied that it was healthy and safe since I controlled the ingredients. When picking our dog up after surgery, along with the post surgical instructions, I was given a three-page document on all the reasons feeding raw was not safe/not recommended. The waiting room was fully stocked with Hills product pet food. Some veterinarians simply cannot accept that there is a better way to feed animals other than over processed (and sometimes deadly) feed even when a beautifully healthy animal is in front of them.

    • Jann, you illustrate an excellent point. The vet commented on how great your dog was, but, because she has been brainwashed by Hills and their “scientific diet” crap, she recommended you feed your dog inferior food. It’s like vets can’t even connect the dots right in front of their faces!

      I have a friend who had a dog who was given a very short time to live. My friend was devastated. Two and a half years later, the vet is confounded on how this little dog has lasted this long “I don’t know how this dog is still alive” comments being bantered about. Well, my friend was using an excellent, all-natural dog food, that had already done so much for this dog who did not have a good (healthy) start to life. I will add that when the dog was initially diagnosed as “on its last legs” and losing weight, I recommended my friend, while sticking with the same brand of food he was using, mix in some of their higher protein food to help keep the dog’s weight up, and lo and behold, the weight problem was solved.

      Sadly, most vets have no concept of nutrition, and how much of an effect the food has on pets. They just get the brochures from Hills, and pass them along without any thought. How else can you explain a vet commenting on how healthy your dog is, and then telling you to do the exact opposite of what you’re doing? The disconnect is astounding. And if they’re not connecting with facts, it’s unethical!!!!!!

  5. We had an experience with a Emergency Vet who stated that our dog needed Science Diet L/D. We were new at this so we bought it. Turns out when we took him to a different Emergency Vet he recommended that we get a grain free and meat free dog food because our dog’s liver had been compromise. We followed the second Emergency Vet’s opinion and our dog got better. He would not eat the first food we bought. Gave that to the shelter.
    I think vets should give an opinion but stay out of the dog food business.

  6. Many pet owners will not take the time to research foods and do rely on their vet’s advice. As long as the client realizes that this is a money making service like any other service at the vet, whether it be grooming or boarding. I hope that the doctor has taken the time to research the food and recommends only those foods that he feels are good for the pet. In the end the client must do his homework and KNOW what is the food.

  7. Absolutely a conflict of interest for Vets to endorse the poisonous junk they call “prescription” diets. It is also vile that they signed a Platinum Partnership with Hill’s “science.”Here is a great article by Dr. Jean Hovfe:
    http://www.littlebigcat.com/blog/avma-vs-raw-food/

  8. Over the years and during the lives of all of my pets over 56 years I have come to the conclusion that vets have no idea about pet food and their nutritional values. I had a dog being treated for bleeding colitis thru out his life and the vet prescribed a perscription food (that was VERY expensive) that I later realized had carrageen in it! As we know carrageen is inflammatory and probably contributed to some of his flares. I cooked most of his food for 11 years of his life and he was mostly stable for the last 8 years of his life. Recently I asked my vet to prescribe a good completely natural and healthy pet food for my new rescue. Well all of the recommendations were NOT what I would feed my dog. Vets should not sell pet food unless it is natural, fully nutritional and have no additives or preservatives in it. Also, vets should be trained in nutrition not just medicine.

  9. Uh nope, it is not ethical.
    Veterinarians are not nutritionists. The bulk of a vet’s education gets spent on disease prevention and remedy/first aid/anatomy etc but nutrition is not a huge part of it at all. Certainly not enough to be making claims on pet food.

    I see many vets blindly recommending food with substantial amounts of vegetarian contents to cats who are obligatory carnivores. There are many other obvious problems missed by vets that show they are usually not that versed in nutritional requirements. Many vets when offered money will take it without having properly peer reviewed research at their disposal.

    People need to see their vet so apart from the pet food store this is the only other target for pet food companies. People trust vets and what do you know, vets like money just as much as anyone so make some corporate funded ‘research’ and history has taught us that vets are on board even though they usually are not qualified to comment.

  10. Our little terrier/Iggy mix, Annie, has been having skin issues and we’ve had her on Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Rabbit kibble, so see if we can ferret out the cause. In the meantime I was trying some natural things (like Witch hazel with Aloe) on her skin, and they seemed to help for a little bit, but then she would get worse again, and it eventually got so bad, I had to resort to Temaril-P (antihistimine/corticosteroid). Anyway, I just recently read that rabbit can also be a source of problems, so I was thinking of trying kangaroo, but I don’t trust the makers of California Natural and can’t afford the Addiction brand, so I mentioned it to my vet, who said I shouldn’t bother with anything else and just go with one of the Royal Canin single ingredient diets (veterinary prescribed, of course). I checked one out and the first ingredient is dried potato, followed by duck by-product meal, coconut oil, potato protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, natural flavors, vegetable oil and fish oil, before the vitamins and minerals. Really? Duck by-product meal?? I won’t even go into the rest of it. And that’s supposed to be best?? On the positive side, there’s no EDTA…

    • Donna, I have a friend that works at Petco, and they carry the Natural Balance brand, which has come out with a new dog food with Kangaroo as the protein source. I don’t have any more info to share, just letting you know it’s something to look into. I do know that Natural Balance was bought out, I think by Del Monte, so I’m not vouching for anything, just letting you know of another option to look into.

      Does anyone know of a site where folks like Donna can find all of the options that are out there for folks wanting a specific protein source? It would be a good place for someone to start the research of a new food for their pets, when they are struggling to find a healthy option that is affordable.

      • Thanks, Regina. I’m aware of Natural Balance, but the first ingredient is Potato, followed by Kangaroo, Potato Protein, Canola Oil, Brewers Dried Yeast and Natural Flavor, in addition to the vitamins and minerals. The protein is only 21.5% and I have to wonder how much of that is meat protein. I’d love to know how much is carbs, but that’s not something most (if any) pet foods list. I’m also avoiding yeast products…just in case it’s a candida issue.

    • Donna, Royal Canin products all have carrageen in them…very expensive and I don’t think its a very good dog food. That was the perscription my vet had given me for my boy with a bleeding colitis. I ended up cooking all his food for the rest of his lifetime. Have you tried the oatmeal aloe baths? They may soothe the skin. Also the Mulligan Stew brand dog food has single ingredient dog foods that may work for you. Their foods are high quality and don’t have alot of crap in them. Good Luck with your baby. Also I have used a good fish oil I the food daily it will help the skin and the coat. Good Luck with your baby Donna.

      • Thanks, Michelle. Even without the Carrageenan, I don’t like the Royal Canin. I have been feeding my other little Jack/Beagle mix, Lacy, the Wellness Core Grain Free canned food (Salmon/Whitefish/Herring and Turkey/Chicken liver/Turkey liver), along with Annie’s kibble. But I discovered the canned food also has Carrageenan, so I am searching for something to replace that with. We alternate it with the DeliFresh Vital tube food (also chicken)…again just for Lacy. I do wonder though… Annie is a dedicated poop eater (yuck!) and she scoffs up Lacy’s poo whenever she gets a chance, so I wonder if she might be picking up allergens that Lacy’s allowed to eat.

        • Donna Ive been able to find some of the Merrick dog foods without carrageen. My rescue a 65lb lab mix is a VERY picky eater and I had trouble finding a food that he would not walk away from. I’ve been using the grain free Merrick foods without carrageen. He has never walked away from the Merrick.

          • Hi Michelle,

            I haven’t had a problem finding dry food without Carrageenan. It’s the canned and I see that the Merrick does, in fact, have Carrageenan in their grain-free canned food.

            Thanks anyway,
            -Donna

          • Donna not all of the canned mixes, you have to look. The Carvers Delight Dinner and many others do not have it. All of the Whole Earth line by Merrick has NO carrageen.

            Michelle

          • Michelle, I tried one of the Merrick stews and while 81% moisture doesn’t seem like much more than the typical 78%, it was so soupy, I felt I was paying a premium for the water content. Also, they all appear to have either chicken (if only as dried egg product) or beef, both of which I’m trying to avoid. But, I appreciate your efforts. I may end up putting Lacy on the same diet as Annie, just so Annie can’t possibly pick up an allergen from eating Lacy’s poo.

            Thanks,
            -Donna

          • Good Luck Donna! I hope you find something that will do well for both of your babies.

          • Thanks, Michelle. I’ve still got a lot of research to do, but I’m hoping I can manage a home cooked diet. I’d frankly rather do raw, but it doesn’t look like my husband will be getting on board with that anytime soon.

      • I forgot to mention that I’ve been avoiding oatmeal, again, because yeast might feed on it…if yeast is the problem. I just looked and I can’t find a full ingredients list for Mulligan’s Stew, although i found a general one and they list cabbage as the 3rd ingredient after “the protein” and water. Cabbage?? It also has brown rice (I’m looking for grain-free) and selenium yeast.

        As I mentioned in a reply elsewhere, I give both dogs Eicosaderm fish oil, along with Dogzymes Probiotic Max (also has enzymes). Lacy additionally gets the Bragg apple cider vinegar and Solid Gold Seameal nutritional supplement. I stopped the nutritional yeast for both dogs, but for different reasons. Annie, because of the yeast thing and I just decided Lacy probably didn’t need that much B-vitamins.

    • Here are the ingredients: Rabbit Meal, Tapioca, Peas, Canola Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Natural Flavor, Montmorillonite Clay, Coconut Oil, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Vitamins (Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Choline Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Sodium Selenite), Green Tea Extract, Rosemary Extract

      The difficulty isn’t with choosing WHICH “limited protein” to use. It is using a kibble (dry) commercialized food at all. The reason is due to infinite ingredient possibilities. In other words, there is a “layering” factor involved, which means all the elements that go into making each “listed” ingredient can also be a combination of sources. Here’s why there’s a problem: A manufacturer is not accountable or responsible for 3rd party supplier ingredients. As you can see from the ingredients above, these are all “delivered” or “supplied” ingredients that go into the “mix” to make the final extruded product. One question can be, is the rabbit “meal” absolutely 100% and is it guaranteed (doubtful probably at the price point being offered.) Is the Tapioca pure? How are the Peas processed? Is the dog sensitive to “canola” or “coconut” oils? (They are not necessarily part of a dog’s truly natural diet.) Most vitamins and minerals are sourced from overseas. Meaning what is the ingredient combination of those before they are delivered? Rosemary can have herbalist benefits, but a dog could also be sensitive to it. Most kibble (whether or not stated) has dyes and palatants (see below) added.

      [[“Originally, pet food palatants were referred to as ‘digests.’ Digests are proteins that are enzymatically broken down and applied to dry foods to provide the sensory impact of meat. Palatants can be meat or vegetable based, and may be designed to meet a variety of claims (grain-free, limited ingredient, non-GMO, natural, low fat, etc.). Palatant components include proteins, yeasts, phosphates, antioxidants, antimicrobials, processing agents, and other ingredients. Palatant protein sources vary depending on desired performance targets, cost requirements, and brand claims. The protein can be vegetable or animal derived. Vegetable derived proteins come from many sources, including corn, soy, potato, and specialty grains. The desired vegetable protein source often depends on customer-specific needs. Common animal derived proteins are poultry, pork, and fish. A protein source that is available in one region – say kangaroo in Australia – may be considered uncommon in other regions of the world. Just as meat proteins can come from different animals, they can also come from different parts of the animal. Meat-based protein might come from skin and muscle tissue, or it might come from viscera. Viscera is a meat by-product that generally refers to the soft internal organs from the main cavity of a slaughtered mammal.” http://afbinternational.com/pdf/principles_of_pet_food_palatability.pdf.

      Ideally (therefore) the palatant should also be a single source in-line with the protein specific food. Can the manufacturer can guarantee this? Natural Instinct however is still a commercial PF (not specifically a prescription diet food) but if they are willing to do all of this, then you’re ahead of the game.

      Also, know that Allergy symptoms manifest either from a single point of irritation, or can be the result of a cumulative effect. Often one or two allergens in the environment can be handled, but when the threshold is exceeded more and more severe symptoms continue to develop. Duration of exposure intensifies the result. Unfortunately a dog being treated with chemicals (medicine) can complicate the reaction, which may temporarily subdue or repress symptoms, but disrupt the overall metabolism, without addressing the triggers.

      If time and money weren’t obstacles, the dog needs a chance to be detoxified through the introduction of a very bland (human food) based diet – one ingredient at a time. The dog’s system needs to be able to “rest.” Nowadays dogs can be waaay too sensitive to any kind of chicken products. So it would be good to use any other type of novel (low complex) protein and then add a single carb (baked sweet potato) and a calcium source. These commercialized single source ingredient PF diets seem to promise a solution, and may be an improvement over generalized PF, but often the advertising is so enticing that it makes it seem like the product can’t fail.

      An even more immediate solution would be trying a raw food diet, with even less additive complications. Could use raw (100% grass fed) red meat with THK’s Preference. Nature’s Logic is another with all natural (no synthetic) vitamins and minerals that doesn’t use HPP processing. Answers PF is another wonderful solution and they are more than willing to offer support through their customer service line.

      • Unfortunately, a raw diet very nearly killed my epileptic pit-girl, Molly, several years back (see why below) and my husband won’t allow it in the house now. Admittedly, he wasn’t very fond of the stuff to begin with.

        Actually Molly was doing very well on a 1/2-raw diet, so I decided to take the next step and switch over entirely. She was showing some signs of being a little unsteady on her feet, but one evening I let her out (in the fenced back yard) and when she didn’t come back in right away (it was raining), I went looking for her and found her on her side in a puddle, with severe ataxia and unable to get up. We rushed her to the vet and I thought it was an inbalance, caused by the food with her Potassium Bromide, but the vet said it was with her thyroid meds. I called Dr. Dodds, from Hemopet, and she said that epileptic dogs often can’t properly process a raw diet. In any case, that was that. My husband had a fit and won’t even discuss using raw. The closest I can get is the regular Nature’s Variety Instinct kibble with the freeze-dried raw coating, but they don’t use that on the LID kibble, because it has possible allergens. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to ask them exactly where they source their ingredients from. To be honest, though, aside from a raw diet, I don’t know where I’ll find anything that’s utterly allergen free.

        I’ve been avoiding chicken, turkey and beef all along, but was using duck, some lamb and the rabbit, up until recently, when the vet said to just stick with the rabbit. But then I read somewhere that rabbit can also be allergenic…which is why I was looking at the kangaroo. So what are some low complex novel proteins? And what are PF diets? I have to say I’m a bit reticent to use red meat, even if it is 100% grass fed. And expense is a definite consideration. I’ve been buying the best I can afford, and that has been tough of late. We adopted Annie in January, but didn’t discover she had a problem for a few weeks after that and in May I lost one of my PT jobs.

        In addition, there’s a good chance that this isn’t diet related at all. It could be dust mites or some other such thing, but the testing is expensive, it’s not entirely accurate and the vet says she’d then require at least a year’s worth of allergy shots (also expensive). Oddly enough, her foster mom insists she never saw any skin problems while she had her, although she bathed her once weekly (seems excessive to me, but that’s what she does), and she does seem to do better after a bath with a hypoallergenic shampoo. I’d tell you what I’m using, but I think I accidentally threw the bottle out, thinking it was an older, way-past-due-date bottle. Just what I need…waste money. Now I’ll have to go buy another one and that wasn’t cheap either.

        Incidentally, I’ve also got Annie on Eicosaderm Fish Oil and Dogzymes Probiotic Max. I had her on Red Star nutritional yeast and Bragg’s apple cider vinegar, but stopped those a couple of months ago, as I was thought it was best to weed out any possible candida triggers.

        By the way, I wasn’t quite understanding what I was in for when I signed up for the “notify me of new posts by email”. How do I go about stopping those? The follow-up comments are enough to deal with.

        Thanks!

        • Donna, to stop getting new comments, go to the bottom of this page, below where you would type your comment. There are two “check boxes” to indicate whether you want to receive new comments or follow-up comments.

          • Hi Regina,

            I’m not trying to stop the comments entirely, I just want the follow-up comments to Annie’s allergy issues. I don’t need to get every post regarding the original question about vets selling commercial dog food. But it doesn’t look like there’s a way to undo what’s already been done.

        • OK. I’ll try this one more time. But I can see the complications here are like a freight train running down the track, with no brakes. This dog needs to be taken back to ground zero. Yes, if you need to stop all the feedback (although other followers can benefit from readers’ discussions) be sure to un-cliick the “notify me” comments down below.

          The money that’s being spent on all these exotic remedies, probiotics, oils, etc. (though exceptionally well meaning) can just be put into whole foods! This dog’s CORE set of allergies needs to be identified. But specialists are going to go after your investment dollar in a long drawn out process. As you tinker with the diet (minimally speaking) and in the end discover not enough progress, then you’ll KNOW that the allergy very well could be from the external environment.

          Forget raw. Minimally processed (or cooked) will do the trick. But the ingredients need to be SINGLED out, one by one. And kept to the bare essentials. In the ’60’s there weren’t all these fancy diets. We had a poodle (looking back I think he had a chronic pancreatic condition or liver disorder) and he couldn’t eat one shred of (dog or human) food other than the home diet we finally figured out. I mean he would spit up everything in 20 minutes if we didn’t stick to the routine. And stools would become bloody. He lived to be 17 yrs and was quite vital through out his 15-16 yrs. We fed him boiled (ugghh!) baby lamb tongues cooked in celery water and served over a small portion of Ken-L Ration Five (kibble). In his later years he also got cottage cheese. And a vitamin tablet. Organ meats are extremely healthy but they are also hard to find nowadays. You need to take this dog away from yeast products.

          Any commercial kibble PF is going to contain all kinds of “stuff” that just isn’t declared on the label, to which a pet can develop any number of sensitivities. Including the DYES and FLAVORINGS in the foods! Pick a human grade meat (lamb is a “hot” meat, turkey is a complex protein, duck or pheasant is a little easier but do stay away from CHICKEN in any form!). You don’t need kangaroo or rabbit (at least until you’ve eliminate every other variable in the dog’s diet!). In fact know that some dogs actually manage without protein although that is not optimal. You can also try bland fish (like sole, but no farm raised anything).

          Try to get the meat or fowl protein ideally from a local rancher or farmers’ market situation, where it’s fresh and hopefully raised naturally and not artificially preserved or treated. And bake it (so it’s just not raw) ….period! Or, pick a meat and boil it. Add a baked sweet potato (skinned) and a table spoon of Greek non-fat, plain yogurt (for calcium). Add a purely natural Vitamin E liquid capsule. Mulligan’s Stew also makes some wonderful supplements to help detoxify a dog’s system. Answers Pet Food, will also help consult with you, and can put your dog on a recommended diet that may save it’s life in the long run. THK (human grade food) makes some very wonderful products as well, that can supplement the dog basic diet with vitamins and minerals. But leave that until the last to be added.

          I do not work for any of these companies but know from personal experience that they can be VERY helpful.

          Keep a food journal (sorry this isn’t going to be easy either). Track what you feed the dog, and record the results. Including the condition of the poop clean-up (which is very telling). Also note the seasonal surroundings. Do you have high grass, pollen, trees changing, or shedding, mold, wetness, etc. in the environment? Can you have the dog “eliminate” just on cement for the trial? Or is this a house-dog? Try the food ingredients for a week at a time. Add or subtract incrementally. And note the daily progress!

          For topical problems, skin irritations, “EQyss” makes some WONDERFU pet supply products for some of the most challenging symptoms. We show dogs and experiment with many products, but EQyss is always the fall-back remedy.

          • Hi Reader,

            Thank you very much for your detailed communications. I have the following questions/comments:

            1. You said “lamb is a “hot” meat, turkey is a complex protein, duck or pheasant is a little easier…” I’m not familiar with these terms. Does “hot” refer to high complex proteins and “easier” mean low? And again, what does PF mean?

            2. I’ve been warned that some dogs that have chicken sensitivities may also have issues with other fowl, which is why I discontinued the Instinct Duck formula, in favor of the Rabbit. I’d think Pheasant would also be suspect…although maybe not, in that it should be wild-caught, no?

            3. I rarely buy fish (even for us) anymore, as most of it comes from China, but I can look into the sole.

            4. I can check the farmer’s markets, but most of them are only open during the wamer months, so that’ll be a problem. When I was purchasing raw, I got it from an OMAS distributor, but I see that’s gotten prohibitively expensive…at least for the exotic meats. The cheapest is ground rabbit and bone at $14.08 for 2 lbs. That isn’t going to go very far. I can’t remember if I used to get the meat/bone or the meat/veggie mixes previously (turkey, I think), but the ground rabbit only comes one way. I do have to say that I hate feeding them rabbit, as I used to have them as pets(!), so if there is a better alternative, I’d be only too happy to switch.

            5. Elsewhere I’ve read that I should avoid all grains AND starches (feeds yeast, I presume), so I’m concerned about the sweet potato. But then again, I’m not sure if just meat is healthy for any length of time.

            6. If I get one of the OMAS meat/bone mixes, can I assume that I wouldn’t need to do the Greek yogurt (source of sugar, again feeding any yeast)?

            7. I’ll check in with the companies you mentioned…Answers Pet Food, in particular. A question I will have for them is whether their fermented products might be contraindicated for a possible yeast problem. Also they have a rather limited number of meat sources…namely chicken, beef and pork and I’ve been avoiding the first two (pork hasn’t been on my radar). I am, however, happy to see that their products may be carried by a couple of local pet stores.

            8. I keep a chart on my morning things to do (otherwise I forget some things…like eating), and I kept an extensive journal on water condition in a failing fish tank, so I think I can manage a food journal.

            9. Both dogs spend most of their time indoors, but they do go out in the fenced back yard to do their business. The grass can get moderately high at times, we do have woods in the back and we have had occasional problems with mold in the bathroom. I’m also not a great haus frau to begin with and my husband and I both have back problems (plus I have Fibromyalgia), making vacuuming difficult, so we have more dust (and undoubtedly dust mites) than some households.

            10. As I mentioned before, Annie loves to snack on poo and seems to LOVE Lacy’s…so I am wondering if she isn’t picking up allergens from Lacy’s diet. The solution there, of course, is to put Lacy on the same diet as Annie…which means that 2 lb. package of rabbit and bone (were we to go that route) would be gone in very short order. We also have critters and Annie goes after their leavings as well. I’m undoubtedly missing a lot of that when I clean up the yard, particularly since my eyes aren’t so great.

            11. Thanks for the recommendation, but I looked up EQyss Micro-tek products for skin problems, and am not enamored of the ingredients: Deionized water, sodium laureth sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocamide DEA, propylene glycol, Microban, triclosan, allantoin, mucopolysaccharides, polyquaternium-10, sodium PCA, extracts of lavendar, thyme, and clove, fragrance, methylparaben. Several of them I’m not sure about, but I definitely avoid sodium laureth sulfate, propylene glycol (one molecule away from antifreeze), Microban, triclosan and methylparaben. Some of these ingredients can actually cause skin problems, and the antibacterials can encourage bacterial resistance.

            Again, I appreciate your time and your accumulated expertise.
            -Donna

  11. By brand, I am absolutely against recommendations by veterinarians. If my dog is allergic to chicken, I will accept the directive to avoid any brand containing any chicken-based ingredient. I am not willing to adhere to a directive to feed Pet Food X — especially since the list of ingredients in any formulation is under the sole control of the manufacturer.

  12. CAVEAT EMPTOR! It’s a total conflict of interest and since vets aren’t properly educated, they have no business recommending pet food. My cat had been suffering from a severe urinary tract infection, his third, and the vet recommended that I feed him the Hills Science urinary DRY food!! I researched it and learned that no cat who has had a history of urinary tract infections should be eating dry food, EVER! Never mind the fact that Hills Science food is simply garbage. I’m amazed with how little vets know about what’s in pet food. I knew more than the vet, who, ironically, would have put my cat’s health in danger by allowing me to give him dry food. Shameful and manipulative exploitation of animals and those who love them by the pet food companies and the veterinarian clinics who push their garbage food! Do your research!

  13. It is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE for vets to recommend one brand over another just because of the brand. Now, if they were able to tell me that brand A was better than brand B, using sound facts and reasoning, that would be different. But for them to always try to push their prescription diets, and then the non-prescription versions of that brand, and to claim that the more natural, nutritious brands out there are “the McDonalds of dog food” is just ludicrous.

    Sure, if your dog or cat has a specific issue, and needs to have a certain level of protein, fat, fiber, magnesium, or whatever; or if you’re trying to determine if a certain ingredient is causing an allergic reaction or sensitivity; then I can see the vet telling you to look for a food that would fit your needs. But to say this one brand, and only this brand, is your only or best option is just plain wrong.

    I have friends who took (yes, took) a cat from her sister. This cat was very overweight, and his coat was not great either. My friends took the cat to the vet, and the vet immediately tried to sell them on a certain food, to help the cat lose weight. My friend asked what was in the food, and the vet wouldn’t (or couldn’t) answer the question. The vet just kept saying that it was made to help the cat lose weight. My friend kept trying to ask the vet to explain what was in the food, and the vet kept dodging the question. My friend refused to sign up right then and there for the special prescription diet food, and when looking into it later, saw that it was made primarily from corn. My friends will only feed their cats food that is made without corn. Cats being carnivores, meat is just better for them. And the reason the cat was overweight is because the sister had always fed the cat the cheap food that is made mostly from corn. The vet could not answer any specific questions about the food because the vet was just going on what she was told by the makers of that one brand of food, and if someone can’t explain to me why this food is better than another, I’m very unlikely to take them seriously.

    Cats are carnivores. ANYTHING they eat should have meat as the main ingredient. If vets are pushing a food that does not follow that principle, that to me, is the very definition of unethical.

    People ask me questions all the time. I’m not going to give them a definitive answer unless it’s something I am sure of and can back up with facts and information. It’s like if someone asked me what granola was the best, most nutritious granola, I cannot answer that question, because everyone is different. If you are allergic to one of the ingredients, it won’t matter how nutritious it is if it’s going to cause problems for you. If I told you Granola Brand A is the best, but it’s gonna kill you, that’s not good!!!!

    Vets cannot give you a fact-based reason for why the “science diet” stuff is better than a meat-based diet. Why should I trust them?

    I should say that not ALL vets push the science diet crap exclusively. But the ones that do, are definitely unethical.

    Sorry, my vent might have gone a little long. I just feel very strongly about this!

  14. And this is why I feed a raw diet… I know exactly what’s in their food and they are much healthier for it, eating whole fresh foods vs eating heavily processed dry nuggets… seems like a no brainer to me. I wouldn’t trust most vets opinions about nutrition especially since most push low quality food like Science diet, etc. They would rather pump the pet full of steroids and antibiotics then find the real cause of an issue which a lot of times is kibble related.

  15. I believe that I have much better knowledge about my cats’ food than my vets. My veterinarians are good doctors but, first and foremost, they are not nutrition specialists. Secondly, selling their Rx foods to clients with pets is a big part of their business…
    One of my cats is diabetic, and this is the fault of pets’ industry, together with the vets who helped to advertise the “usefulness” of dry cats food. In reality, dry cats foods are bad deal: they contains carbs. If you have a diabetic cat (or overweight cat), stop all dry food and switch to can food, to raw meat, or cook. Canned food for diabetic cats, for instance, should not contain more than 5% percent of carbs (max 10%), veggies included. Then, you cannot trust the numbers printed on cats cans – you should know how to convert them to real numbers (carbs, proteins, fats – fats are good for cats!). By US law, the manufacturers of pets food are not obligated to show the real carbs’ content (ignore the numbers on the cans).
    With all this fraud about dry food for cats, we got here in US an epidemics of diabetes among cats (and dogs, although dogs are not as carnivorous as cats but more omnivorous).
    My recommendations: use the conversion table – to calculate the amount of carbs in your cats’ (and dogs) food using such sites as, for example, Balance It.com.
    Sometimes, as I heard from my vets, even switching to rich protein-containing diet, may help you cat (or dog) to “loose” its diabetic disease. Anyway, what I cook for my cats (I have no dog currently), is very simple: ground meat (I brown it) I mix with cooked and ground liver and hard-cooked eggs. I put this mixture into small jars which I keep in a freezer and de-frost it night before eating. I also buy raw meat for my cats in whole food store. Don’t Aah and Ooh – although I purchase high quality human products, they cost less than some canned food, believe me!
    TV

    • Hi, I´m late with my comment and hope not too late….

      In Germany where I come from, university studies to become a vet include only a few hours in animal nutrition. So, the majority of our veterinarians don´t have special qualifications as nutritional advisors. To become such an expert, you must get additional qualifictions which means intensive and expensive studies mounting in special examinations and a title.

      So it doesn´t make any sense at all to seek nutritional advise from your vet or even to buy his products. You can be sure, that he receives bonuses or payments by the firms in question.

      It makes sense to either try to make adequate researches on nutrition yourself oder to contact one of the few specialised nutritional advisors, and then of course pay extra for the advice.

      I must tell you though, that I would do not even trust a so-called nutritional expert, since I know that his nutritional “education” might just as well be sponsored by some of the big commercial food chains.

      So, we actually don´t have a choice…..

      Greetings from Germany

      Victoria

  16. Hill’s Pet Nutrition Canada may have differing standards than it’s US-based counterpart. Hill’s US, for example, makes agreements with shelters, in which they supply foods but then require exclusivity: the shelter must only feed Hill’s foods (they would not be allowed to feed other/superior foods even if they were donated to the shelter), there are hang tags on the cages, and often, displays of the food in the shelter lobby. The “clients” are given a bag of Hill’s food with “instruction” that “this is what (Spot/Fluffy) is used to eating…”, and the staff is not allowed to recommend or discuss any other foods. Thus, for an investment in the shelter, Hill’s gets a client for life. It ends up being very similar to a veterinary “endorsement,” it is a shelter endorsement.

    • The shelter I adopted my cat from (I am in NY State BTW) must have a similar arrangement, in that they hand out starter bags of SD when you adopt a cat or dog from them. The shelter’s director has a blog, and I did go a round with him about the fact that SD is garbage food, and it was like talking to a wall (“*my* pets do all right on it!”).

      Luckily, my Shelly will eat both dry and canned, so I transitioned her over ASAP to all canned (Wellness and Dave’s are two foods in her rotation). I would LOVE to get her on a raw/homemade diet. One of the first websites on cat care I ended up reading when I got the OK from my landlord to have a cat was Dr. Lisa Pierson’s (http://catinfo.org), and her recipe is the one I want to use. When I can save up enough $$$ for the grinder, scale to weigh out the meat, and required supplements, I think we’re going to make the switch to raw.

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