Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's Real Life, Not "Ideal" Life

Charlie, begging for a treat next to his breakfast.

Veterinary medicine, like the rest of life, evolves.

Sometimes we are 'changing with the times' because research and studies prove new advances in health care and sometimes we change because the 'old way' isn't working anymore.

My dogs are my lab rats for the new diets, new treats, new shampoos, new flea and tick preventatives, the new heartworm preventatives, etc. If I am going to sell a new product in my clinic I am going to give it to my pets before I recommend it to my clients. After all, if I wouldn't give it to my pets who could I possibly recommend it to yours? If my dogs won't eat it, or if their hair falls off, or if I am worried about giving it to my pets then I won't sell it in my practice to yours. Sometimes I learn which products work and which don't,  and I know my clients appreciate my personal perspective rather than that on the manufacturers supplied literature.

I actually stopped using a very widely advertised and publicized vaccine because I almost lost a very good friends dog to it. She had heard about it on the show circuit, and because she shows her dogs frequently she wanted to protect her dogs with it. She was one of the first clients that we gave the vaccine to. Within an hour of the vaccine injection her dog was being carried lifelessly back into our office almost in a coma. Now, being the scientist that I am I thought, "OK, first patient and first (although this was one of the worst adverse reactions I had ever seen) adverse reaction, I can't let my study group and results be from only one patient. So I reluctantly vaccinated a few more dogs who's owners requested the vaccine. In that one first tray of vaccines (20) I had four adverse reactions. That did it. Although my dogs are at an increased risk of the disease the vaccine is supposed to protect from I was too afraid to vaccinate my own dogs. So we now only vaccinate dogs considered to be at 'significant risk' and only after recounting our own in-house concerns with parents about the vaccine.

Granted this is the extreme case, but my point is that I will not advise anything that I am personally uncomfortable with, or hypocritical about.

When I was in vet school we were all taught to recommend a high-quality commercially available dog food, and to keep that food consistent to reduce the likelihood of a change in diet causing gastro-intestinal upset. We know that the dogs that are garbage can surfers are at a greater chance of getting pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be life-threatening, difficult and expensive to treat, therefore we try to safeguard against it by being pro-active by advising a consistent diet.

But we all know what happens with any good intention?

I have practiced what I preached for decades. UNTIL I got a young ever sniffing for vermin beagle, an actively aging crotchety beagle, and a stubborn pit bull. Put them together and I now have three dogs who are picky, and all for different reasons.

Our youngest beagle Jekyll has realized that he can scavenge for tastier treats in the form of our own home grown RAW foods in our fields. He doesn't need boring kibble from us, he can ring the doorbell and let outside to forage in our fecund fields for moles, mice, bunnies, and cast away carcasses.

Charleston, the pit bull is just bored with his food selection. He is protesting by not even making the effort to get up from his bed in the morning, when I ring the breakfast bell.

Charleston, begging for a treat while his boring breakfast sits beside him.

Savannah at 17 is having a hard time walking and standing at her food bowl. The simple task of keeping the food in front of her is made harder by the mysterious fact that it keeps slipping forward from her. She starts out standing at the bowl and within a few minutes she's slumping in front of it, and within another few minutes she is a foot behind it. I have a short limited time frame to get her to scoff up the food in front of her. Due to her age, muscle loss, and general lack of interest I keep her eating as much and as often as possible. Our big challenge is to keep her interested, eating, and moving. She is on the slippery slope of trying to manage the balance between sleeping about 22 hours a day and not being able to get around well anymore. When I can no longer keep her eating enough of the 'good' foods I will go to the 'anything goes' foods.

Elderly Savannah.

To curb the poaching of our wildlife, bend to the will of my pittie, and appease my worries about my geriatric pup I have adopted the following feeding plan.

We feed measured amounts of a mixed combination of two high quality dry foods. To this I add a few tablespoons of a wet food. I vary the flavors of the wet food, but they are all a very high quality brand. To Savannah's food I add omega-3 fatty acid, Dasaquin, and occasionally an NSAID for the rough days.

This variety has added a little spice to their lives and has kept the breakfast and dinner bowls emptied.

Maybe those garbage surfers are like those of us who tried the Atkins diet. Worked OK for a week or two, then left us feeding feverously crouched over an empty box of mac n cheese like some rabid zombie? maybe if those bored dogs had a buffet style table they wouldn't scrounge for any crumb they could find?

As for Jekyl, he is a helpless chattell to his nose (at least that's what he tells me). He is coerced, entranced and prisoner to it. He can't be held responsible for his actions if he suffers from temporary mental incompetence, can he?  I can't be mad at him for his neonatal hasenpfeffer snacks, can I? (I AM!)

Jekyl the land shark.
My official advice (for the moment) is to keep your pet on a high quality commercially available dry food age, breed, lifestyle, and health status appropriate and supplement with some canned food (same criteria applies). If you have any questions or concerns about how well, or what your pet is or should be eating see your veterinarian  or a veterinary nutritionist.

Please refrain from seeking advice about food from a pet store employee, a television ad, or some random-self-proclaiming nutritional guru that you find on the internet, (Yes, I am alright if you bunch me in the last category,,,  ;-) I'm not a hypocrite, I keep trying to establish that..)

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