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Alphabet Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul

By Dr. Jeffrey Vogl, DVM
Published On: Nov 08 2013 03:08:14 PM CST
Updated On: Apr 03 2014 11:09:31 AM CDT
Some pet treats are causing pets to get sick and die

Dogs playing in Mishawaka.

With all the comments and questions I received about what everyone was feeding their dogs and cats, I couldn’t help but continue my rant about services marketing to all of us pet owners and how we buy into it Even as veterinarians (as if we should know better) we succumb to the glitz and glamour of marketing by these billion-dollar corporations. Witness this at our numerous conferences and the huge booths and displays by prescription diet and OTC diet companies who successfully bribe us with pens, key chains and candy.

Just this fall, one company has almost successfully completed the alphabet for the names of their prescription diets. The buzz was incredible about the new diet y/d. I heard veterinarians exclaiming its magical wonders after being marketed, I mean “detailed”, by a representative from the company at a major conference where it was unveiled. Y/d is a low iodine diet used for cats with overactive thyroid glands

(hyperthyroid). It may eliminate the need for oral medication or expensive radiation that is the current form of treatment. Come to find out that their research was done on nine cats for only two years. We don’t even know what this low iodine (a requirement for good nutrition) will do in multiple cat households to normal cats that may eat it.

This same company has diets many of you will recognize: a/d, b/d, c/d, d/d, g/d, h/d, i/d, j/d, k/d, l/d, m/d, n/d, p/d, r/d, s/d, t/d, u/d, w/d, y/d, z/d. Our bulldog Remi is no genius (though he is handsome), but even he can see the pattern here. Maybe it is because he has eaten b/d, their BRAIN DIET and thinks he’s a genius now (because it enhances the brain). T/d: teeth diet, j/d: joint diet, n/d: cancer diet, is this just more marketing? I am very curious when they hit the letter “V” what it will be used for. I don’t mean to pick on them because they do have some very good, legitimate and necessary diets that many of you use for specific disease situations.

The labels on pet foods are also a “pet peeve” of mine. There is no possible way to compare pet foods with the labels. The regulations on labels are virtually nonexistent. Suffice it to say the organization that does oversee this is the fox guarding the henhouse. You would notice on the labels there are only minimums and maximums and have no correlation to what is digested or absorbed into the body (metabolized). Virtually all OTC foods are way too high in calories (fat). Even their low-cal products are too high. It would be like low-cal pizza, cake and ice cream mixed together. A gazillion calories reduced by 20% is still a bazillion. That’s why we really suggest lowering the volume of food you are using and adding a can or bag of frozen veggies to their diet.

There is an ideal diet you can feed your cat that has the perfect amount of protein, fat, and minerals like calcium and phosphorus. It even inhibits urinary tract and gi diseases. The problem is the packaging. It comes in a little, grey, furry, container with a long tail and a built in squeaker. Mice are nature’s perfect recipe for cats. My problem is I read Mouse and the Motorcycle as a child (a must read, btw, for any child!) and now all I see is Ralph S. Mouse trying to save a little boy’s life. It’s so bad that in our older “charming” home we would occasionally get a little “Trixie Dixie” that would show up (you know you do too, so don’t get that way). It was actually kind of cute to see him/her scurry out, look at us, grab a piece of bird seed that our cockatiels would scatter on the floor and then disappear to who knows where, only to reappear a few seconds later.

That’s when Jag our Black Panther cat took exception to our Disney-like feelings. He would lie for hours peering under the frig with visions of Fievel Plums dancing in his head. It was some time before we noticed that underneath one of our tables (in our meticulously clean home, Honey) were the neatly lined up heads of several “Trixie Dixies” as if on display in his trophy room. In one instance, my daughter had a science experiment to determine the dominant colors patterns in domestic mice. She acquired eight mice of varying colors to breed. We no sooner got home with the critters and somehow one came up missing while we were transferring them to their cages. As we scoured the basement for the escapee, Jag came walking by, looked at us as if to say “What…wasn’t me,” and it would have worked except for the long pink tail that was writhing from the side of his lips. We screamed “Drop it” as if he knew what that meant, and “plop,” out came the saliva-soaked but really lucky rodent.

Now I am not condoning feeding raw meat to your pets, even though there is a faction out there that believes this is the best. For those of you who feed the BARF Diet (bones and raw food diet), just remember that you are exposing them and your family to countless parasites, E coli, Salmonella, etc. I agree that wild carnivores eat this way, but they eat whole carcasses, including the guts (loaded with plant material), bone and flesh. Wild carnivores carry numerous parasites and infectious organisms in their body. They are in a continuous struggle to survive against these diseases and as a result have much shorter life spans.

There is a balance and struggle in Mother Nature that we don’t want any part of for our pets. I suggest balancing their nutrition with lower volumes of food with more fruits and veggies. Then you don’t need to feel guilty about letting them have some fun with a little pizza, cake and ice cream.