It’s National Dog Day!

In our home it’s always Dog day! But today’s the perfect excuse for all of us dog lovers to brag on ours.

CJ & Esme got to hang out with me at work today, meeting and greeting people and their dogs. CJ loves the people, Esme loves the dogs.

How did your dog(s) spend National Dog Day?

Freddie Mercury doesn’t really give a crap! He knows cats are superior.

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What Should I Feed my Dog?

The topic of dog food is making headlines again.

Recently the FDA named 16 dog food brands that may be linked to an increased incidence of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs.  The FDA has been looking into a potential link among certain pet foods and DCM in dogs for about a year now (that I know of).  The naming of dog food brands is huge, but I’m not yet 100% convinced on the data.

In case you’re wondering, here are the foods that were named in the report:

I am a dog lover and I want to do whatever is best for my dogs.  Where I get my information is key.  First and foremost, I never EVER rely on “Google.”  I always look for trusted sources, which include Universities with veterinary teaching hospitals that conduct regular research, trusted veterinary websites like AVMA and VIN, and most importantly I trust my veterinarian.

I’ve been in the small animal care field for over 25 years now and it still makes me cringe when I see the top answers for dog ear problems being ear mites.  Let me set the record straight.  Dogs do NOT get ear mites!!!  UNLESS they are in a house full of cats that have ear mites.  Even then, the ear mites will not survive in the dog (unless the dog is a tiny toy poodle with ear canals as small as a cat’s, OR it’s a cat hoarding situation with a dog in the midst).  The average dog owner should NOT get over-the-counter ear mite treatment to tend to their dog’s ears.  Seek professional advice.  You think a visit to the vet is expensive?  It’s more expensive when you treat via Dr. Google and we have to fix the greater problem you created by trusting something that knows NOTHING about animal health, husbandry or medicine.  This is just one instance of where Googling a pet problem can go wrong in a hurry.  End of that soapbox…

Back to the dog food debacle.  OK, so breeds that aren’t typically predisposed to DCM are now being diagnosed with it.  Is it the food?  Sure, there could be a link (this is why we ask you at every vet visit what you’re feeding your pet), but it could also be coincidence.  The Grain Free movement has exploded over the last 10 years so more pet owners are feeding grain free than ever before.  Am I for it?  Not one bit.  Do I understand it?  Sure.  And it all boils down to my previous soapbox.  

The average person will trust someone on the internet more than they will a trained and studied professional, all in the interest of what?  Money?  People are paying through the nose for the latest diet craze!  Trust?  How can you trust someone you don’t even know?  I don’t trust half of the people I do know, and definitely trust no one on the cyber web.  Lack of trust?  If you don’t trust your health care professional, find one you DO trust.  

And then there are those who will prefer their Breeder’s or Groomer’s advice over a veterinarian’s.  My analogy for this relationship in human terms would be like a hooker trusting her pimp more than her Doctor on how to treat an STD; or someone trusting their hairdresser more than their doctor on how to treat their depression.  Unless your Breeder or Groomer is a veterinarian, or a retired veterinarian, or a licensed veterinary technician, why on earth would you think they know more about animal health and wellness than your vet?  Did they study immunology and have a full understanding as to how the immune system works when it comes to vaccines or disease?  Why would a breeder treat all puppies with an antibiotic for protozoal parasites, increasing the future likelihood of antibiotic resistant parasites, if they were raising the animals in an ideal environment?  I could go on, but I hope you get my drift.

News Flash:  Veterinary health professionals care more about your pet than most human health care professionals care about YOU.  

Again, back to the dog food.  I wrote a post a while back about my opinion on dog food when Beneful was being blamed for everything.  You can read about that here.  My philosophy is the same as it was then.  If you find a dog food that your dog tolerates well, is readily available, and fits your budget, rock on with it.  If your dog doesn’t have a grain sensitivity or allergy, there’s no reason to go grain free.  

I truly believe those who pay attention to what they are feeding their dogs are the only ones reporting when something happens to their dogs.  I also feel those people are relying on sources other than their veterinary professionals about what is best to feed their dog.  They are researching unreliable sources on the interweb, taking advice from a friend or a breeder or a groomer, with all good intention.  Additionally, I think there are more cases of DCM going undiagnosed by those pet owners who don’t have or are unwilling to put forth the funds for a diagnosis.   It’s nothing scientific, but even from my experience as a veterinary professional, a lot of my clients don’t even remember what they’re feeding their dogs.  I often get the response, “oh, it’s one of those expensive, grain free diets.”  Expensive is relative, and grain free means nothing to me.  

Dog owners, pay attention to what exact food you are feeding your dog.  Is your dog doing well on it?  It’s eating well, not having any bowel issues, maintaining a healthy weight, skin and coat.  If your dog behaves abnormal in any way and you have to make a visit to the vet, take note of the exact diet your dog is being fed.  Diet often provides valuable information. 

 

Is Beneful REALLY Killing Our Dogs? Here’s an honest answer…

Is Beneful Killing Dogs? Probably not. But there is always that slim possibility that some batch was contaminated. I don’t know. What I do know is that Purina is a good pet food company and it will do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of what this lawsuit is claiming. Just as is with human foods, during processing there is always the possibility for something to go wrong.

This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest problems with the internet and the media in general. They like to use the shock-factor because it grabs people’s attention. But then those people either 1) don’t read the entire article or 2) jump to their own unsubstantiated conclusions. Then rumors start, and anybody that has ever fed Beneful to their dog(s) blames the food for whatever problems their dog has had, is having or will have. “The food caused Fluffy to lose her mind and run out in the road where she got hit by a bus!” You think that sounds ridiculous? I’ve heard this and similar claims in person. And I’ve seen multiple blog posts and facebook posts making claims that are equally ridiculous about all kinds of pet products (Trifexis comes to mind).

I am not saying that it is silly for anyone to be concerned about these headlines. Good for you for paying attention! And for looking out for your pets and their well-being. But let’s not jump to conclusions and think that we need to take our asymptomatic dog to the vet for bloodwork because she was eating Beneful. My goodness, there are dogs that have eaten worse things (rat bait, chocolate, knives…) and survived with little to no incident.Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 8.09.48 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 8.09.59 PM

My opinions about pet food are expansive, but they are just my opinions from personal experience. What is the best food for your dog? Whatever fits in your budget that provides sustenance and well-being for your dog.

If you have the time, the resources and have done the appropriate research to ensure you are feeding a well-balanced diet, my personal recommendation is a whole raw food diet. Note that when I say “appropriate research” I do not mean googling the topic and reading one or two blogs or a Dogster article about someone’s experience with the raw diet. I mean that you have read publications by veterinary nutritionists, you have consulted with your personal veterinarian, and have read and understand any research that has been conducted by a qualified organization. A breeder’s webpage is NOT the appropriate place to research pet nutrition (or vaccination protocol for another example – another topic for another day). A raw diet isn’t for everyone. There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing your own raw diet, and the cost of premade raw diets isn’t cheap.

The next best choice, in my opinion, is a home cooked diet. Once again, before deciding to take on the task of preparing your dog’s diet yourself, please make sure you are doing it healthfully. Dogs can’t live on cooked chicken livers. They need a well-balanced diet, and by doing the appropriate research you can find out what is meant by “well-balanced.” Like raw feeding, this takes a lot more work than feeding a kibble diet.

If you are not comfortable preparing your dog’s diet, or if you don’t have the time or the resources to do so, there’s nothing wrong with feeding a commercial diet in the form of kibble or canned food. However, not all commercial pet foods are created equal. My rules of thumb for choosing a commercial diet are (again, this is my opinion):

  1. Consult with your veterinarian about what he/she recommends.
  2. Read the ingredients label, not the front of the bag! And don’t take the flashy commercial with biased claims at face value. Here’s the FDA’s guidelines for pet food nutrition labeling, and here is a nice “how to” for decoding those labels.
  3. Don’t fall for the hype. If your dog hasn’t been diagnosed with a food allergy, your dog probably doesn’t have a food allergy. Food allergies are not as common as some pet food companies and other opinionators would like you to believe. If your dog is not sensitive to grains, there’s no good reason to completely avoid them; they do have health benefits!
  4. The more colorful the food, the less nutritious it most likely is. Do you think Fido really cares what color his kibbles are or that they are shaped to look like carrots and peas, hearts or bacon? No, he doesn’t. That’s just the food manufacturer’s cunning attempt to trick your human brain into thinking the food is healthy because it “looks like something real.”
  5. Avoid store-brand diets. Stick with a brand or manufacturer that is well-known and trusted, and/or one that sticks to the production of pet food only with on-staff veterinary nutritionists.

Other things to note when it comes to feeding your dog:

  1. If your dog doesn’t like or doesn’t appear to be thriving while on any particular diet, find one that suits your dog. You may find that you have to switch up the diet every now and again for some picky eaters. This isn’t a problem in my opinion. If you are changing diets, do it gradually. Mix the old and new diets for about a week before totally changing over to a new diet (start with 75% old diet mixed with 25% new diet and gradually decrease the amount of the old diet and increase the amount of the new diet over the course of several days).
  2. If your dog becomes ill after starting a new diet, DISCONTINUE feeding it and contact your veterinarian ASAP! Save the food packaging so that the lot number can be reported to the manufacturer if the food is a suspect.

Dog food

Purina makes some pretty decent diets (ProPlan and ONE are two of them), but they also manufacture some questionable ones. Beneful is one of those questionable ones. It’s not a very nutritious dog food (once again, my opinion). It looks pretty and has some nice packaging, but that’s about all it has that is any good. Do I think it’s killing your dog? Again, probably not. There may be an issue with a contaminated batch that we’ll learn about; or, because it is such a popular diet (nice work to the Purina marketing department) it might be nothing more than a coincidence that the dogs that became ill or died were being fed Beneful. If you feed Beneful, I’d recommend you change to something a bit more nutritious for your dog anyway. If you ask me what brand you should feed your dog, I’m going to tell you to discuss that with your veterinarian. I feed what I feed because it works for me and my dogs are doing well with it. What will work for you and your dog is a question that I cannot answer for you.