Don’t listen to what your vet has to say about feeding your dog: vets know virtually nothing about animal nutrition.
How Can I Make These Bold Claims?
Well … I’m also a veterinarian and I practiced small animal medicine and surgery for nearly 20 years.
I graduated in 1992 from the University of Saskatchewan, College of Veterinary Medicine. I invested thousands of hours, training to diagnose and treat disease and perform surgery. There was training in pharmacology, anatomy, epidemiology and emergency care; my training covered nearly all aspects of veterinary medicine, including large and small animals.
But something very big was left out: nutrition. So, when you ask the question, are vets trained in nutrition? … the answer is no!
How Much Nutrition Training Do Vets Get?
I was taught almost nothing about nutrition … and I believe that’s true of most other veterinarians too. They know very little about nutrition because there’s almost no veterinary nutrition training in vet school.
My education came from the food company representatives. The manufacturers sponsored events while I was a student, and later the food reps visited the veterinary practices I worked in.
The food reps encouraged veterinarians to sell their “veterinary only” food. It was deemed exclusive, and could be sold with a higher mark-up. It was seen as a good way to add income to the practice, and get clients coming repeatedly back to buy more. I was told that the pet food was “good quality,” backed by “scientific research,” and so much better than those grocery store brands.
Throughout my veterinary career, from university to conferences, the food company representatives told me repeatedly to avoid home diets and raw feeding as these were unbalanced and potentially harmful.
In practice however, I was regularly meeting clients who fed raw and home prepared diets to their dogs. They were passionate about their dogs, and insisted that this alternative food was healthier.
And I couldn’t argue with that. Most of these dogs were healthier and had shinier coats, cleaner teeth and fewer medical issues. In all of my years in practice, I never saw a single dog present with a disease linked to feeding “unbalanced” food.
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A Major Pet Food Recall
Then came the huge 2007 pet food recall. Over 5,600 pet food items were recalled that year, thanks to the chemicals melamine and cyanuric acid that were imported in corn gluten, rice gluten, and wheat gluten.
These chemicals caused kidney disease and kidney failure in dogs and cats. More than 4,633 pets were reported dead in the PetConnection database. In total, over 14,000 pets had been reportedly affected in some way or another by the tainted food.
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Food Company Influence
Veterinarians claim not to be influenced by the reps, but clearly they are. Not just in nutrition, but in the use of pharmaceutical drugs. There are many less expensive generic versions of some pretty big name medications … but the generics aren’t often prescribed.
And, as I said earlier, most veterinarians have ZERO training in nutrition. I’ve been influenced myself by pet food company representatives in the past. I spent little time learning about pet food quality or nutrition. It wasn’t until my own dog died of cancer that I really started to question the quality of the “veterinary only” food.
Even in the midst of the pet food recall … the conventional dietary mantra was:
“Don’t give clients home recipes! The best diets are the balanced commercial diets found in a bag or can.”
Yet there were more than 4000 dead dogs and cats, and more than 15,000 sick pets as a result of “balanced” commercial pet food.
So, I chose to write about the pet food recall in my daily newsletter. And I made some remarks that the British Columbia Veterinary Medical College (BCVMA) took exception to. A Panel was struck with the BCVMA and here is what they had to say about my take on the pet food recall:
The Panel found Dr. Jones’ statements to be manipulative, unverifiable and in extremely poor taste. The effect of his statements was to shed unfavorable light on the profession as a whole. The tone was haughty, sarcastic and derogatory. The panel finds that Dr. Jones violated ss 8, 26, and 27 of the Code of Ethics (Bylaws).
Clearly, many of my former colleagues don’t agree with my beliefs, but they can’t impose those on you. As a dog owner, you’re free to feed your dog what you feel is the healthiest food … despite what your veterinarian may say.
Over the last nearly 20 years of veterinary practice, I’ve seen thousands of dogs and spent much time thinking about disease and what’s causing it. There are many reasons for the increasingly common serious dog diseases, but I believe the biggest single factor is food.
Good Nutrition Is Key To Your Dog’s Health
The best way for you to understand this is by thinking about your own health.
Imagine shopping in a grocery store. The inside aisles are cookies, chips, food in cans, in bags – food that lasts a long time, not needing refrigeration. The outside aisles have fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, meat and bread – the healthier, fresh items.
- If you eat a varied, balanced diet, rich in fresh foods from the outside aisles, you’re far more likely to be healthy and avoid disease.
- If you primarily eat the pop, chips, cans and bags from the inside ailes, you’re far more likely to get sick.
Our dogs are no different, yet most dogs are exclusively fed from the inside aisles … dry, unvaried, non-nutritious kibble. Feeding a natural, varied, healthy diet is the single most important change that you as a pet owner can make for the long term health of your pet.
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Your Dog’s Natural Diet
Our dogs’ ancestors ate much differently in the wild. Dogs consumed their entire prey and their diet was rich and varied. The bones they chewed on helped keep their teeth clean.
Unfortunately pet food companies have failed to take some of these basic facts into account, to the detriment of our pets’ health.
Commercial kibble is composed of grains (including corn and wheat), fat, by-products, fillers, artificial colors, artificial preservatives, synthetic vitamins and minerals, and in some cases, contaminants and toxins.
The dog food industry is now dominated by large multinational consumer corporations who, in my opinion, are far more interested in profit than the health of your pet. The entire pet food industry is not very ethical. Not only do they produce some pretty unhealthy stuff, they also do some pretty unethical things.
The pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a market for animal fat, grains considered unfit for human consumption and other waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts.
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Your veterinarian is extremely knowledgeable, able to diagnose the most obscure disease, and can perform the most intricate surgery … but she likely knows very little about dog nutrition.
My suggestions are that you do your own research, become knowledgeable about the basics of animal nutrition, and feed a variety of fresh, healthy foods to your dog.