We’ve Lost Our Focus

Just a few days ago, I received the monthly flyer from one of my veterinary distributors. Every company sends these out regularly. One company has a slick magazine, another emails, and this particular company uses 100% recycled paper and eco-friendly production (love that!). But it was this particular flyer’s front page content that struck a chord with me, and I felt my frustration level begin to rise…drugcoflyer

If you look at the front page of the flyer (I blocked the company name and prices, because this promotion is not unique to any veterinary drug company), you will see the entire page is devoted to ear infection treatment. Click on it to make it bigger if you like. Twenty-two products, in a variety of sizes. Buy 3 dozen and get a free wall clock. Buy 3, get 1 free. All nice discounts, and accepted sales strategies. But why are all these ear treatment products needed? I know if I ordered 36 ear treatment products for my wholistically-minded dog owners, all but one would likely still be on my shelf, years later.  Yet many traditionally cared for dogs have multiple ear infections each year. In fact, the nation’s largest pet insurance company, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) ranked ear infections as the second most reported medical problem for dogs. In 2014, VPI paid policyholders over $68 million for treating the 10 most common health conditions. (Read about it here.)

Some days, I feel the veterinary profession is heading down the path of human medicine, focusing on the drug to treat the problem, and then the drug to address the undesired effects of the first drug, and on, and on. Yet at Cornell University, both in my undergraduate Animal Science program as well as in the Veterinary College, we spent lots of time focusing on proactive animal and herd health. Especially in the large animal species, the owner or farmer pays close attention to nutrition, basic care, exercise, body condition and fitness, and other aspects of health. Yet these aspects are often ignored in our dogs. Nutrition is the most obvious example.

Traditionally managed dogs are fed a diet of dry food, containing at least 40% starch. That is the minimum amount required to form the various ingredients into the dry kibble shapes we all know. Yet dogs have no nutritional requirement for starches — they are present in commercial foods as cheap fillers and binders. My wholistically-minded owners feed a starch and/or gluten free diet, that is based on fresh, human quality meats. Their feeding plans are much closer to what a dog’s biology is meant to efficiently digest and utilize.  As a result of eating what their bodies thrive on, and not ingesting ingredients that are inappropriate, acidifying, and inflammatory, their dogs simply do not suffer the health problem their traditionally fed counterparts do.

Which of the meals below looks like food to you?

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