The dinner dishes are done. Fido has finished off another gourmet (yes, even your cooking is that good compared to kibble) meal and it’s time to settle in and watch another Lassie episode. You snuggle up on the couch, and notice that Fido smells a little off. Or maybe his coat is still a bit flaky and dull. The first thing you’ll say to yourself is: “food was supposed to fix this!” In fact –and I feel your frustration– you might even say it out loud.
It’s still the food. Unless you have a sickly pet with chronic illness, 90% of the time it’s the food and all of the damage incurred from the food. However, the full effects of a healthy, balanced diet may take longer than a day or two to reap the full effect.
Consider this: if you were 75 lbs overweight due to poor eating habits, could you eat healthy for two days and suddenly be slim and trim? No. It’s the same deal breaker for our pets. If Fluffy has eaten low/no quality food for eight years, she may need a little boost in cleaning out her system from the side effects of corn, meat by-product and animal digest. Surprisingly, even if Fluffy has eaten high quality, processed food for eight years, it’s still highly processed, and she may be sensitive to preservatives and ingredients used in the food process.
Just as a human diet loaded with saturated fats can cause heart disease, excessive cheese may lead to constipation, smoking to lung cancer, and prunes to diarrhea, there is ALWAYS that one old geezer who treats his body like a honky-tonk and lives to be 105. The news media will interview him, they love that kind of thing, and he will gloat about smoking two packs of filter-less a day, swilling hard liquor, and eating onion rings at every meal. And we marvel at that long-term abuse — we also know he’s not the rule, but the exception. Likewise, just because your neighbor’s dog eats crap-in-a-bag and lives to 18 does not mean he was healthy. He may have lived to ripe old age of 25 on good food.
When I have one of those head scratching cases of chronic allergies and shedding, I run through a diagnostic process that would rival Dr. Gregory House and his research team. Here is my “check this first” laundry list of possible causes for the 10% of people and pets that changed their food and didn’t get the immediate results they were expecting.
- Yeast infection – When a yeast infection is severe enough, you can smell it. Yeast often presents in the ears, but some yeast infections will cause the skin to emit the same odor. These are the dogs that people complain of the stink, even after a bath.
- Subclinical bacterial infection (like Helicobacter pylori which causes stomach ulcers in humans, dogs and dolphins) – some of these patients intermittently vomit, some have no clinical signs.
- Subclinical parasite infection (85% of parasite infections are missed, even with the best diagnostic techniques).
- Intestinal viral infection
- Trace vitamin/mineral deficiencies
Understand, these conditions are triggered and/or complicated by food; and some have no visible warning signs. How do you know what’s the catalyst to what? If you have fixed the food and have an otherwise healthy pet, you may need to seek out the help of a holistic practitioner.
As a veterinarian licensed in food therapy, veterinary spinal manipulation (chiropractic), acupuncture and aromatherapy, I understand it can take many modalities of treatment to heal a patient. I will use whatever therapy or remedy best suits the patient, even western treatment. There are times when I have to use all methods because each patient has their own set of “issues” that got him or her to me in the first place.
In spite of all this training and education, what I find to be the most difficult to do with my clients is to manage their expectations. Americans are programmed to enjoy and expect instant gratification. Take pill, fix what ails you; feed great kibble in a bag, fix all your pets’ health issues. Good health doesn’t work this way. It takes patience and perseverance.
You may remember I have a pile of animals living under my roof. When I began the quest to improve their nutrition I also embarked on a trial and error journey of specialized diets for individual needs. For instance, my terrier mix, Lady, is allergic to beef, licks a lot and has chronic yeast infections. I have a Dachshund mix who used to have seizures when she was fed commercial, grocery-store food (she is well controlled now with good, home-cooked food and herbal medication), and a cat who will only eat dark meat chicken. Chelsea, my coonhound mix, and Ollie, our special abilities beagle, can ingest aluminum cans and spicy hoagies without so much as a belch – they skew the curve at our house.
My point is this: perfect nutrition for any living being is a custom blend. You may need supplements, vitamins or just more balance in your pet’s diet. Don’t be sidetracked by your own trial and error. You will eventually find your custom blend. Fluffy’s coat didn’t stop shining overnight; the cure will take some time, too.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM
As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Cathy treated 80% of what walked in the door — not with expensive prescriptions — but with adequate nutrition. Now retired from private practice, her commitment to pets hasn’t waned and she looks forward to impacting many more pet parents through her books, research, speaking and consulting work. Learn more at drcathyvet.com