Unless you have a holistic veterinarian, if you confess to your vet that you’re feeding a non-mainstream brand of pet food, raw meat, or (heaven forbid!) a homemade diet, you’ll probably see a look of consternation come over her face; and maybe even some subtle teeth clenching and whitening of the knuckles! So what’s their problem?? Most veterinarians are poorly educated about pet nutrition in the first place, and they hate it when their clients make forays into unknown country–especially if the trek involves the Internet!
Most veterinarians are familiar with (and sell) just a few brands—the big four that market heavily to veterinarians: Science Diet, Iams, Purina, and Walthams. These companies are all owned by vast multinational corporations whose primary products are not pet food, but who have found that pet food is a very lucrative line. Science Diet is owned by Colgate Palmolive; Iams (and Eukanuba) by Procter & Gamble; Purina by Nestlé’s; and Walthams (including Royal Canin and IVD) by the Mars Company. These companies all spend millions of dollars to ingratiate themselves with veterinarians, often starting with veterinary students. They work hard to position themselves as the only manufacturers that are “trusted” and whose food is “scientifically researched.”
Therefore, many veterinarians look askance at what we know are far superior brands of food: Avo, California Natural, Canidae/Felidae, Innova, Merrick, Nature’s Variety/Prairie, Timberwolf, Wellness, Wysong, Ziwi Peak, and many more! In fact, here at Only Natural, we carry 41 brands of pet food—none of which you’ll see in most veterinary clinics. How do we know they’re superior? You probably already know the drill: no animal by-products, no chemical preservatives, no corn or other cheap meat substitutes, and excellent quality of ingredients. In fact, the only corn you’ll find at Only Natural Pet Store is in kitty litter! So don’t worry if your vet gives you the eye when you tell her what you’re feeding your dog or cat. Despite what the veterinary nutritionists claim, quality ingredients DO matter. You’re giving your pet the gift of health and long life when you stay away from the brands that spend more money on advertising than on making decent food!
Oh, dear…now you’ve got to tell your vet you add raw meat to your pet’s food. Aided by a few poorly-conceived and abysmally-run “experiments” and articles that have been published in veterinary journals, your vet will probably start listing the dozens of kinds of bacteria, viruses and parasites that could be present in raw meat. One such article listed more than 50 pathological organisms—everything that had ever been found in raw meat anywhere on the planet, including rabies! The list included all the nasties that were present in the meat fed to racing greyhounds—which is condemned slaughterhouse waste that would never show up in the grocery store. It’s true that bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter are even common in human-grade meat in the grocer’s cases. However, while we definitely need to follow ordinary safe storage and handling procedures with any raw meat, our dogs and cats are quite resistant to these bacteria due to their extreme stomach acidity and relatively short digestive tracts. (However, if your pet is immune-compromised with an autoimmune disease or suppressive drugs, check with your vet before feeding raw meat.)
If you’re buying a commercially made raw diet for your pets, you’ve got even less to worry about, because reputable makers follow strict quality control guidelines to make sure their foods are safe for your pet.
When feeding a homemade diet, there’s a strong tendency for people to “drift” away from an original balanced recipe. There are many reasons for this. Maybe the cat likes lamb better than chicken—so they end up feeding only lamb; unaware that lamb is very low in taurine and can’t adequately support the cat’s heart and eyes.
Or maybe they run out of bone meal or other supplement, and forget to buy more at the store, and pretty soon the animal has been without it for weeks…or months… or years—with dire but predictable health consequences.
Here are a few comments from the Internet to illustrate the well-meaning but dangerous chances people take with homemade pet food:
“…I figured the dogs didn’t need any extra calcium so instead of using bone meal I used flaxseed meal instead.”
“I didn’t give [my dog] all the exact quantities.…”
“I fed recipes from Dr. X for ten years with great success. I still use them, with slight adaptations, for part of my cats’ diet, and base some of my dogs’ diet on them also…”
“A second recipe, originally published by Pet Food Company X…but somewhat modified by me…”
The vast majority of recipes on the internet and even in most books are not “complete and balanced.” Very few have ever been tested. It’s easy to collect or create a bunch of yummy recipes that dogs love, without giving a single thought to the nutrients that dogs need—and even easier to self-publish a book and sell it on a website or two. Here are a couple of examples:
“…you can always modify the recipe to suit your needs.”
“…all that is required is a simple mix of meat, vegetables and starches.”
Fortunately, it’s easier now than ever to create a great homemade diet that won’t cause serious nutritional imbalances and deficiencies. You can take that basic recipe or even just a pound of ground round, and make it a complete and balanced diet with pre-mixed supplements.
Letting the Cat Out of the Bag
So yes, it’s okay to let your veterinarian know what you’re doing…because even if she disapproves, what she will notice is your pet’s shiny coat and vibrant energy! Go ahead, clue her in—if vets hear these dietary success stories enough times, they just might “get it”—and then all their other clients will benefit from what you already know!