Sunday, May 6, 2012

Part 5, Reader's Digest May 2012, 22-28

Part 5 of the Reader's Digest May 2012 article, "50 Secrets Your Vet Won't Tell You."

For posterity I want to admit to the world that I would admit to almost all of these secrets. I absolutely believe in an open and honest approach, because we have a huge responsibility to our clients and patients. (Sometimes I just have to answer a little delicately).

Secrets number 22-28.

This section is entitled “What You Should Do”
Number 22
“I hate to break it to you, but your $2,000 for designer dog is a mutt. Puppy stores and and breeders have created these cute names like Morkipoos and Puggles, and now people are paying $2,000 for a dog they couldn't give away at the pound ten years ago. Whoever started the trend is a marketing genius.” Dennis Leon, DVM
How do I respond to this? Well, here’s the problem. I think the healthiest pets I see are the mutts. So if you ask me which pet has the fewest medical and behavioral problems I will tell you “go get the muttiest looking dog you can find.” As a side note, get a smaller vs. larger dog. (This is just because they live longer and they are easier to cart around with you, so you are more likely to bring them with you, which means you bond closer and have even fewer behavioral issues).
So it is hard for me to not recommend a mutt. But secretly the vet staff is rolling their eyes behind your back because we think the idea of $2,000 for a mutt is silly. Save that money for the ruptured cruciate ligament repair, or dog park fight, or spay, neuter, and random illness that lies ahead somewhere down the road. Or use it to buy a ridiculously fabulous dog bed and some adorable outfits.

Number 23
“I hate retractable leashes. The stopping mechanism pops open so easily, and suddenly the pet is flying to the end of it, and maybe into the the street or into the jaws of another dog. I’ve had people bring in a pet who got hit by a car because they were using a retractable leash and the stopping mechanism broke.” Bernadine Cruz, DVM, associate vet at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Woods, Cal.
I don’t have any personal experience with this because I live in the country. Out here we only use retractable leashes on the side roads (no traffic there anyway), parks, or the trails. But maybe by passing this pre-cautionary recommendation along we can save someone's pet.

Number 24
“Even though you see vitamins on the shelves in pet stores, healthy pets don't need them. The pet food companies have spent billions of dollars to make sure their food is properly balanced with every vitamin and mineral a pet needs.” A vet in Cal. 
This is a true statement as long as you are buying a very high quality commercially available pet food. Also I would recommend that you buy from a company that has been in business for over 20 years. In the last ten years there has been a huge increase in the number of pet food companies. They all want to tell you that they are "the best because they either don't use by-products, or don't have grains, or corn," or whatever...(you can read my blog on raw foods for more information on this). I feel these diets are "fads." remember the grapefruit diet, the Adkins diet, the liquid juice diet? They were all fads to. The best diet is still a very high quality commercially available food made by a company who has been in business for a while. A long enough while to see how their food affects a population of pets. And a company big enough to be able to do internal testing for quality assurance. If your pet has some medical condition or special lifestyle or breed specific needs these should also be addressed.

For those of you out there feeding one of these "specialty 'fad' diets" I want to warn you that we are starting to see mineral abnormalities, abnormal urine pH's, and urinary bladder crystals and stones developing because pets aren't getting enough carbs and are getting too much protein. I so happy to see that people are paying attention to what they are feeding, but you are sometimes being fed biased half truths by companies who do not have veterinary nutritionists on staff and who do not even meet the standards set up by AAFCO. And I would challenge most of them if they "claim" they are meeting AAFCO standards when was the last time they had their diets independently tested by an outside lab to check? Most of them cannot afford to do this and their suppliers cannot afford to either.

Here is my blog on raw diets;
Number 25
“Some people are really into a raw-food diet for pets, but it's a huge public health hazard. Think about it: You have raw meat, you're touching it, your dog touches it, and then your dog goes and licks the baby. I've had two patients die and two patients get really sick from it .” Amber Anderson , DVM, a vet at Point Vincente Animal Hospital in Rancho Palos Verdes, Cal

I wrote a blog on raw diets. The concerns we vets and doctors have is that so much of the raw meat that is obtained to feed our pets is tainted. We are also concerned that our pets and homes are being exposed to these contaminants. The households with young children, elderly, or immune compromised people are also great concern because they are less able to fight off infection and are at greater risk of pathogen exposure. I have seen clients be so obstinate to change from a raw diet that they actually put their own life as risk. I have also seen clients risk their pets lives and even watched their pets die from massive infection that they refuse to attribute to a raw diet. I have no doubt that this type of diet has caused illness and death in our clinic. But what I don't understand is why people would risk their and their pets health to this?
Number 26

“The cheaper, over-the-counter spot-on flea and tick treatments are extremely dangerous. I've seen animals having violent seizures after using them; I've seen animals die. Ironically, most of these animals have live fleas crawling all over them.” A vet in Cal.
I am afraid that in an effort to buy a cheaper product people often buy a toxic and inferior (or worthless against fleas and ticks AND might kill your pet too, as the label should say) product.
Now, here's the REAL secret. The best selling flea and tick preventatives are now available as a generics and/or are available over the counter! So if your vet used to sell you Frontline or Advantage/Advantix and now sells you something else that is "prescription only AND only through a veterinarian," you have a very good option still available to you but now cheaper and over the counter. Veterinarians don't want to sell these products anymore because we cannot sell them as cheaply as Wal-Mart or Costco does. So instead they are selling you something else which works as well in most cases, (but I wouldn't say "better"), but not telling you that the generics exist.
I think that not saying something to a client is AS bad as lying to them.
Veterinarians are petrified that their in house pharmacy profits are going to evaporate because of the generics, the OTC's, and the on-line pharmacies. And yes, we probably need to start thinking about how we are going to evolve in the face of an ever increasing market squeeze from the big boys on the playground. But never deceive our clients. Never let them think they they can only get "good flea, tick, heartworm, etc." items from you.
Number 27
“After their kitten vaccinations, indoor cats don't really need to be vaccinated. They're not going to get rabies sitting inside the house. Vaccines have the potential to create alot of harm for cats, including possible tumors at the vaccine site.” Jill Elliot, DVM, owner of Holistic Vet in New York and New Jersey
I need to start this by saying "HOLY MOLY!" What the heck is this vet talking about? I cannot believe she has a license to practice medicine and that the state boards of both NY and NJ aren't going to request she take a little "first year medicine refresher course." You know like when you turn 90 and you go to renew your drivers license and they ask you if you can still read the eye chart on the wall?, and they request you re-take the drivers exam, and practice driving on the closed course, just to see if you being behind the wheel is putting the rest of society in harms way.

OK, the whole idea of "opting out" of a rabies vaccine is not the vets call it is the state and federal governments call. And yes, your cat can contract rabies inside. There are critters that get into your house and are possible exposures for your cat to get rabies. And the whole idea of protecting your pet against rabies is also to protect you. And rabies KILLS you, not a sniffle, sneeze and fever, but KILLS you.

As far as the possibility of getting a vaccine that could cause a tumor. I am guessing that she is talking about the vaccine for feline leukemia and fibrosarcoma? Here is where having a veterinarian that you trust and being present for your cats examination is so important. If your cat doesn't go outside that we do not vaccinate your cat for leukemia.

But I want to remind everyone out there that the most important part of your pets annual examination is the part where we talk to you about your pets history, lifestyle, environment, possible health risks, and then perform a thorough physical examination. Yes, the vaccines are important, especially for the very young, (see my upcoming blog on our recent parvo puppies), but after that the REAL value in bringing your pet to the vet is the part where your vet gets to talk to you about your pet and then perform an examination.

I have saved hundreds of pets lives just because they came in for their yearly exam and I found something that the owner was unaware of.

Oh, I am so disappointed and disturbed that a vet would give such terrible advice!

Number 28

"A cold, wet nose on  a dog does not neccessarily mean he's healthy. I've seen plenty of sick dogs with wet noses." Mark Howes, DVM

I remember when I was a new graduate and an owner brought her elderly dog in for an examination. She told me that she had waited four days because his nose was still wet. It took me about 5 minutes to understand what she was talking about.

I can honestly say that I have never used the condition of the nose to help guide me in my examination or diagnosis. I don't think that it holds much value to a veterinarian and I hope that the public forgets about this old wives tale too. Use a thermometer, (but not one with mercury. Do they even sell them anymore)? to decide whether or not your pet has a fever.

More “secrets” to follow…stay tuned.


  1. 23: I think retractable leashes are a bad plan in general. Trainers believe that they teach dogs to pull and our vet believes that they can contribute to neck damage.

    24: I would definitely not use a vitamin supplement arbitrarily. Quite often this might lead to excess of some, while still being deficient in another. I believe that any supplementation needs to be evaluated on individual basis. Not only based on what the present diet is, but also base on the needs of the individual body. We supplement selectively, based on Jasmine's individual needs.

    25: I find this quite ironic, in the light of the recent situation with commercial dog food recalls and human illnesses that came from that. How exactly is raw more dangerous than commercial kibble again? Truly.

    26: Totally agree here.

    28: Totally agree here also.

  2. Hi Y'all,

    So glad to read the posts you've made on raw diet. I remember my mom ordering frozen horse meat and feeding it when I was young. I thought that was awful, 'cause we raised horses. She eventually switched to canned food.

    Since I have a dog with food allergies, among other allergies, I've had people suggest raw feeding. I talked to his vet about it and still feed the food she recommends. I also buy it from her although it is available in Petco and Petsmart. I also like the convenience of getting most of my meds from the vet. But that's just me.

    BrownDog's Human