There was an interesting article in USA Today this week. You may have seen it. The headline was:
Pet health crisis: Americans skimp on preventive care
Wow, that sounds pretty scary! It must be something of astronomical proportions to be a crisis! Naturally, I delved a little further into the article, my interest obviously piqued. Here’s what I read …
Dog vet visits have slipped 21% since 2001 and cat visits have dropped 30%, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Meanwhile, emergency visits have increased, indicating people are waiting until their pets are really sick to do anything about it.
“It’s really very simple – if we can get people to see veterinarians once or twice a year, pets would be healthier, and living longer, and overall pet owners could actually save money,” says Michael Cavanaugh, CEO of the American Animal Hospital Association.
The article goes on to say this crisis in pet health has spurred a new $5.5 million public awareness campaign urging annual checkups. The campaign is sponsored by a consortium called Partners for Healthy Pets, made up of the AVMA, the American Animal Hospital Association and more than 90 other veterinary organizations.
The Real Reason They’re Spending $5.5 Million
Wow, $5.5 million! That’s a lot of dough! Where does that money come from? Well, sponsors, of course. And who is sponsoring this multi-million dollar campaign to get your pet into the vet’s office more often?
- Banfield Pet Hospital (you know, the people who still vaccinate millions of pets annually, a schedule that’s been proven as dangerous and ineffective for over 30 years?)
- Hill’s – ah yes, as you sit in waiting area for your annual checkup, you’ll be in good company among the bags of genetically modified, synthetic, corn-based foods that your vet will likely recommend if your pet is diagnosed with joint pain, allergies, liver or kidney disease or obesity.
- Elanco – the fine people who make neurotoxins and other products like Trifexis to kill parasites (yet miraculously, are somehow safe for dogs).
- Merck, Merial and Zoetis – the vaccine and drug manufacturers. Need I say more?
Now ask yourself this question – are these companies spending $5.5 million to get your pet back into the vet clinic because they care about them?
Why We Stay Away
So why are pet owners staying away from the vet’s office?
Veterinarian Ron DeHaven, CEO of the AVMA, says the 2008 economic downturn contributed to the crisis, but the decline in veterinary visits began years before that.
In the past, he notes, veterinarians sent annual vaccine reminder postcards in the mail. The physical exam was downplayed, often not even mentioned. But now research has shown pet vaccines last for several years, so many pet owners see no need for annual visits.
According to the article, some pet owners are staying away because they feel veterinarians push unnecessary vaccines or procedures just to make money. And I for one would tend to agree with that.
“Today, veterinary school graduates are typically over $150,000 in debt (from student loans)” says veterinarian Sheldon Rubin. So there’s a lot of pressure for vets to make that money back and preventive exams might not be enough to cut it.
Can Annual Exams Save Lives?
Well, that would depend. There’s no question that having an experienced veterinary eye go over your dog every year or so may help to detect disease before you might notice. If annual preventive exams were just exams, then they would be a really good idea.
But the reality is, those exams often don’t end there. And they’re not really about wellness or prevention at all. They’re about detecting health issues that lead to further sales.
Do vets see it that way? I honestly don’t believe they do. I think vets believe they are doing right by our animals. But vets can be influenced, just like you and I.
Not only is Hill’s sponsoring this initiative to get more pets into veterinary clinics more often, they have a stronghold on vets from the moment then enter veterinary school. Hill’s actually writes the textbook (Small Animal Clinical Nutrition) used in virtually every veterinary school. They teach the pet nutrition course and they consult with veterinary students to help them set up their practices. And they do this with one goal in mind: to soak pet owners for as much as possible.
Hill’s isn’t the only player. Purina is offering a $30,000 clinic makeover, trips to veterinary conferences, free food and even espresso makers to vets who sell their veterinary diets. Oh yes, and they also offer nutrition education to vets, along with more free swag for those who take the course.
And the money Hill’s and Purina has access to pales in comparison to that of the drug and vaccine manufacturers who have the same stranglehold on vets.
So, $5.5 million later, pet owners are happy because they think they’re making their pets healthier, vets are happy because they’re making more money and they’ve been trained to think that they’re making pets healthier, and the large food and pharmaceutical companies are happy because they sell more product. So what’s the problem?
The Real Pet Health Crisis
If your dog or cat’s annual wellness exam is just that, then everybody wins. But if the wellness exam ends the way the people spending $5.5 million hope it does – with pet owners leaving the clinic with bags of veterinary food, a dog who’s been unnecessarily vaccinated or on heartworm, flea and tick meds – then your pet loses. Big time.
Core vaccines like parvo and distemper have been shown to last a lifetime, yet vets still insist on vaccinating over and over. And they use vaccines as part of your dog’s preventive exam.
Veterinary diets are full of substandard ingredients like corn, feathers, hydrolyzed soy and genetically modified ingredients, but vets have been hoodwinked to believe that these fake synthetic diets are superior to, well, food! It would be laughable to believe that these diets could cure disease, let alone create health in our companion animals – if it weren’t so tragically wrong.
Flea, tick and heartworm meds are creating superbugs that are becoming resistant to our attempts to kill them. They’re neurotoxic for both the target and the host and yet vets view them as a way to prevent disease and ill health.
While these products may arguably be necessary in some cases, it’s the misguided conventional mindset that views them as something that’s absolutely necessary to create good health. But good health is more than just the absence of parasites and disease and somewhere along the line, vets have lost sight of that.
Since when did it make sense to inject heavy metals and foreign animal protein into our dogs and feed them feathers and hydrolyzed soy as part of a wellness plan? It just doesn’t make sense and pet owners are starting to see the irony in this, even if vets can’t or won’t.
So maybe pet owners are staying away from the vets because veterinary medicine has lost it’s way.
Vets are holding on to the hope that we’ll bring our pets back because of their scare tactics and press releases. Much of that $5.5 million will go into articles like the one in USA Today, urging us to bring our pets into their clinics to save money and prevent disease.
They plead with us to reduce the weight in our dogs, detect the early signs of diabetes and let them find dental disease, before the situation gets out of hand. Yet, these issues are most likely caused by the carbohydrate-laden foods that the manufacturers tell vets our dogs should be eating. And hey, you can get a cool espresso maker for selling it, so why not? This is blatant conflict of interest, yet vets wonder why they’re losing our trust.
Wouldn’t it be cheaper and ultimately much more rewarding if conventional veterinary medicine actually understood that preventive care doesn’t include repeated and unnecessary vaccines, sterile, fake foods and neurotoxic drugs? Wouldn’t that help to regain our trust and get our dogs and cats back into their clinics?
Sadly, there are no sponsors for that particular initiative, so the vets who buck that system must go it alone. There’s nobody to sponsor them, no espresso machines, no chances at a $30,000 clinic makeover for the vets who refuse to be bought.
That’s the real pet health crisis…