I was going to tell you about my day, about the poodle who collapsed in full blown anaphylactic shock 5 minutes after getting rabies vaccine and how insane it was, but to be honest I’m a bit exhausted so I wanted to cover an inane topic instead.
I found one.
My normal days, the ones without those life threatening allergic reactions and the like, are composed to a very large degree of three things: ears, skin, and poop. Because of that, you get inured to it after a while, and when someone comes in with a one inch lesion on their dog freaking out about how terrible it looks, your jaded response is, “That little thing? That’s nothing! Ever seen toxic epidermal necrolysis? Now THAT’S gross!”
We don’t get alarmed by poop on the floor, which few people can say with confidence about their workplace. We’re surrounded by it. We make off- color jokes about it sometimes, though scatalogical humor has lost its luster since the good old junior high days. When I ask owners if their pet’s diarrhea is soft serve, pudding, or water, I’m not trying to be amusing- it really does help me out. Bottom line is- poop is poop. It’s just a piece of digested material, not particularly funny or eew or anything, really.
Which is why this is particularly befuddling to me: The poopsqueak store at Monthly Doos. Out of respect for the love you all have shown me, I will refrain from showing you pictures and will let you click the link at your own leisure, should you choose to click on it at all, which I wouldn’t blame you for opting out of. If ever you wanted a fleece dog chew toy shaped like a pile of poo, and I know you do, I’ve found it for you. This is one stop holiday shopping, peeps. You’re welcome.
This begs the question “Who the heck wants a poop shaped chew toy?” And the answer is, “I have no idea, but it must be a lot of people, because this site has a TON of options for all your scatalogical toy needs.” Greeting cards, chocolates, and, uh, a glittery Christmas ornament (which I kind of want to get to send to Amber as a thank you for her years of service.)
There is also the coup de grace, the 2010 poop calendar. Maybe you were thinking of getting the rescue group puppy calendar, or the one with those French soccer players, but let me tempt you with the idea of pictures of plastic toys surrounded by poop piles instead. I’m the last one to point fingers at adults taking pictures of toys for entertainment purposes, but I would support you in calling me a lunatic if I tried to make a Pet Doctor Barbie calendar. Especially if it involved feces in any way.
I’d be willing to forgive it if it were at least artistic poop renditions, but sadly, I’m a little underwhelmed at its artistic merit. In its defense, it did get my mind off my crummy day, but I’m pretty sure it’s something I could live happily without ever having to have seen.
I have a black cat. Most of you met him a couple of weeks ago. His name is Apollo.
We also call him Squeaks, Smelly, and “STOP MEOWING AND GO TO BED I ALREADY FED YOU!”
When we adopted him, I had the brief uneasy rumbling that being mildly superstitious might bring when one adopts a black cat. It didn’t last long, though. Honestly, black cats seem kind of lucky to me- as my neighbor so ominously noted when we first moved in, “the black ones last longer.” (If you don’t know what I am referring to, the story is here.)
I don’t even think about black cats in superstitious terms anymore, except around this time of year when everyone starts talking about black cats and how Satanists are on the prowl to steal them for their gruesome rituals. I’ve asked lots and lots of emergency vets if any of them have seen these cats come in with mysterious pentagrams carved on their foreheads or unexplained blood loss, and they always say no, all they see on Halloween are a bunch of labs who stole all the Halloween chocolate.
Many shelters do not adopt black cats in October, but the problem is less Anton Le Vay, more Anton the PR guy who thinks having a black cat would be a fun prop for the company Halloween party. These poor kitties are adopted out en masse only to find themselves re-abandoned once their novelty as decor has worn off.
I found a really fun list of black cat lore on About.com. Apparently in the UK, black cats are lucky. Maybe Apollo is an ex-pat? He’s been great to us; we love him to pieces and my life since adopting him has been anything but unlucky. When he’s kneading on me at 3 am begging for food, I may think he is evil incarnate, but when I look into his green eyes all I see is a certain wicked twinkle- much like my own. Poor maligned, misunderstood black cats.
I love having a black cat. Although there are always wide varieties of temperaments in all of cat-dom, I would say the black cats in general do tend to have pretty good dispositions overall, say, compared to your average man-eating calico. To be honest if you told me calicos were witches in disguise I would have a lot less trouble believing it. I wonder if this whole black cat = witch rumor was in fact a subterfuge initiated by a calico from Salem at some point in the 1700s. Someone should investigate this.
Anyone else lucky enough to have one of these onyx omens prowling their house? Aren’t they the best?
Wars are won and lost on the powers of diplomacy. Some people are born with the gift, while others need to work at it. Some people never learn. We all have one of those acquaintances, the one who is proud of “telling it like it is”- the one who says your butt looks big in those pants, she can tell you gained a few pounds, your new haircut makes you look like a Chia pet, and that your kids are being hooligans.
Those people are usually pretty lonely, as a general rule.
Such champions of the unvarnished truth find themselves the victim of misunderstandings and contempt, which they can never comprehend. How sorrowful their mistreatment, the crushing weight of the cross they bear because of their need to always tell the truth no matter the cost. So gallant.
What we call ‘being diplomatic’, they call ‘lying’. I don’t see it the same way. One can dance around the obvious insulting truth sometimes in order to help people feel better about themselves, right? There are times to be straightforward, particularly when someone is in harm’s way, or when someone asks you to be honest. But there are other times when it simply is not necessary. And if someone is paying you to take care of their beloved pet, your ability and willingness to engage the art of diplomacy can make or break your practice.
Pets can be fractious. They are in a stressful environment full of strange noises and smells, sometimes sick, often being poked and prodded and violated in the name of an accurate temperature. Who can blame them for struggling a little? But we don’t say ‘fractious’ to an owner, do we? I prefer ‘stressed’. ‘Muzzles’ become ‘party hats’, always accompanied by the sympathetic aside that I understand poor Fido is not an evil dog, he’s just ‘stressed’. Most of the time this is even true.
It’s not lying. It’s being polite. No one wants their pet to be insulted, and I don’t blame them.
We have a tell it like it is tech here, though I think her approach is more based on youthful inexperience with the world than a die hard dedication to being a crusader for veritas. She is truly a nice person, and she is normally fantastic with clients. Unfortunately, in a moment of sweat inducing wrestling with a nervous terrier, she made the mistake of making an offhand remark to the client about Fluffy being a bit of a pain on that particular occasion. She said it in the lighthearted way she always does, and thought nothing of it.
Unfortunately, she chose the wrong client to say that to. Mrs. Fluffy was extremely affronted. Extremely. Sadly, after a series of tragic losses in her life, Fluffy was her sole remaining companion, an anchor in a storm of uncertainty. And now we took poor Fluffy into the back, tortured him into a state of hysteria, and had the nerve to then refer to him as a pain. Mrs. Fluffy asked for the manager. And the manager’s manager. And the manager’s manager’s manager, as high as she could go to make sure we all knew of the egregious insult lobbed on her by our unprofessional Comic the Insult Tech.
And it was a poor choice of words, to be sure. I can understand why she was upset. We talked to this tech, who was surprised at the reaction since, well, Fluffy really was a wee bit of a pain. But, she has learned the lesson so many people before her have not, and rather than running from the client the next time she came in, she went right into the room and gave a sincere apology.
And guess what? Mrs. Fluffy now refuses to see any technician BUT her. Another win for diplomacy.
“Well, Ranger looks great,” I said to his owner, straightening up and brushing off my pants. “His pyoderma is completely cleared up.”
“Great,” said the owner, an older guy- maybe a few years into retirement. “Hey doc, since you’re here-” he held up his hand- “do you think this is blood poisoning?”
I peered at his finger and reflexively gave the stock answer I am required to provide when asked for human medical advice. “I don’t know. You should ask your doctor.” I looked more closely at the ugly purple bruise on the knuckle and the swelling on the whole finger. “What happened?”
He shrugged. “I got stung by a bee yesterday.” We both stared at the finger. “It itches a little.”
“That looks awful,” I said. It looked like a black eye, coagulated and violet with little red splotches radiating from it. “It’s swollen like a sausage! You need to get that seen.”
“Well of course it’s swollen,” he replied, irritated. “It was stung yesterday.”
“I’ve never seen a sting like that,” I said. “That worries me.”
“Eh,” he said, waving his sausage-like fist in my direction. He decided to go the macho route. “You’re just a pansy.”
“I sure am,” I said, affronted. “You asked my opinion, right? I don’t take chances with big swollen fingers. Not with MRSA floating around.”
“What’s MRSA?” the owner said, stroking his dog who had just recovered from a staph infection.
“The flesh eating staph,” I replied, washing my hands.
“I bet you go running to the doctor every time you get a little bump,” he taunted. It brought back fond memories of my navy veteran dad tormenting me as a pre-teen, calling me a wimp every time I sought medical treatment for broken bones, bleeding extremities, severe sprains.
OK, those memories weren’t fond at all. When I was 16, I found him trying to siphon battery acid out of a car battery with a hose and his mouth. “Must be hot today,” he said, patting his chest. “That’s not the weather,” I said. “You just inhaled hydrochloric acid fumes into your lungs. Don’t you have asthma?”
“Your father is usually pretty smart,” Mom said later on when they returned from the ER. “But he’s a man. They do stuff like this.” With that in mind, I decided there was not much I could do for this guy except let him demonstrate his bravado at my expense.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m a pansy. I make my living with my hands and I like them with all 10 fingers attached and well. Good luck with that septic knuckle!” He waved a stiff goodbye, unable to bend his fingers.
Officer, we’ve had reports of a serious crime at the home of Dr V. while she was out on vacation.
Our forensics expert is examining the victim, one wooden toybox.
It’s gruesome. I’ve seen a lot in my years, but this one still unnerved me. How could anyone do this to a poor defenseless box?
Make sure the kiddos aren’t looking over your shoulder.
Dear God! Can someone cover this with a sheet?
We’ve nabbed the perp, a cocky little guy who seems to think we got nothin’ on him. The owner of the house swears he broke in and usurped the place of her sweet puppy Brody, who she insists is much smaller than this beast. Plus this guy has all his adult teeth, and the dog she left only had 2. Something fishy is going on for sure.
When confronted with the overwhelming evidence, the perp gave in.
Book ‘em, Danno.
Just so you all know, my daughter was constipated and not inoculated with H1N1. Being grateful that my kid is constipated is a first in this household. Pass the Miralax!
We had a new client today- well, let me rephrase. Potential new client. He made it clear to the receptionist that he has interviewed 4 veterinarians already to see who he would choose to spay his dog, and I quote, “none were up to his exacting standards.” He was here for a consultation to maybe do the spay with us. Gratis, of course.
After telling the technician he had no questions for her, only the doctor would do, he kept me in the room for 45 minutes asking me questions about a spay. How long, exactly, is a fast? 8 hours? 12? Is 9 ok? What are the elements of your pre-op bloodwork and what is each component looking for? Is pickup at 4, 5, or 7 pm? What are all the possible complications? That night, can they eat? Half portions or full portions? What percentage of dogs need e-collars? What is our emergency place and what is their consultation fee if the dog is sore at midnight and what are the chances of that happening?
Now don’t get me wrong- I am happy to answer clients’ questions. That being said, he’s not even a client yet. He refused to talk to my technician, who could have answered the vast majority of his questions, and tied me up for 45 minutes while my other clients with appointments had to wait. If he really has been to 4 other places, he would have heard most of the answers already. I went into the room ready to make a great impression and share how proud I am of our clinic and our protocol, but while I was sitting there being interrogated I started to think that maybe I would be happy if I did not fit his exacting expectations either. I mean, if he thought monopolizing me was a reasonable thing to do before he even committed to us, while using a free exam coupon, imagine how he would be after bringing his pet in? I’m having nightmares already.
I think it is reasonable for a person to come in and want to get to know us, to try and find out if we offer what they need and want in a veterinarian. We don’t really get to pick our clients, they pick us. Regardless, we try and keep in mind what personalities we work well with and which doctor in the practice might be the better match for them.
There are also some red flags that might pop up. Some are like little post-its sitting demurely in the background, while others wave like big red PADI flags snapping in hurricane winds. Someone who announces before setting foot over doorstep that none of the other docs in town (good places, too) pass muster is the type of person who will most assuredly have you on the phone for 3 hours each day for the week after the surgery, and will probably find fault in something. Or 5 somethings, since we already know he is like that. I won’t be able to make him happy.
I know in this economy that we need to be grateful for everyone who entrusts us with their pet’s care. This is true. It is also true that there are some people who wind up being more hassle than any amount of money could ever make up for. For that very reason, when he said he would think about it, I breathed a silent sigh of relief. Then he asked if we did surgeries on Fridays, so he could be home on the weekend to monitor his dog. Then I breathed an even bigger sigh of relief because THAT’S MY DAY OFF. Yes, I told him, Fridays are an exceptional day to have surgery.
Good day to you, high maintenance-potential lawsuit-medical board complaint waiting to happen man. I appreciate your thoroughness and determination to get the best care for a pet who is truly a sweet and adorable dog, so please forgive me when I say I hope I didn’t impress you that much.
I’m not sure if it’s the media, the hype over the impending swine flu H1N1 pandemic, or the fact that things really are bad this year, but we simply can’t escape talk of the flu, can we?
In my town, a healthy little 5 year old girl came down with H1N1 last week, and died. Where I’m not normally the kind of person to hover over my kids and go running to the doctor at every little sniff, this week I’m on edge. And hovering. Sniffle? Might be a cold. Might be swine flu. Stomach pains sending my daughter home from school? Might be gas. Might be swine flu. The unimpressed nurse at my pediatrician’s office said we can’t be seen until tomorrow, so I’ll spend the night with a thermometer stuck in my daughter’s ear every 10 minutes making sure she isn’t developing a spiky fever.
If that wasn’t enough, word on the street is that a ferret in Portland was recently diagnosed with H1N1. I don’t know a great deal about ferrets as a reservoir species (they are illegal in my state) but that is just one more thing we don’t need to have to be worrying about, is it? They do think the ferret caught it from the human, and not vice versa, though I’m sure that won’t stop them from being falsely accused at some point of being ground zero for some new Andromeda Strain if it sells a few more newspapers. The most excellent Dr. Janet at About.com has more information on that latest news for those interested.
And while we are basking in the fact that dogs and cats cannot get nor transmit H1N1 that we know of, out comes H3N8 to burst our bubble. The new strain of canine influenza (documented in 2004) is documented in 30 states now. That flu is though to have originated from equine influenza. Good gravy. Makes going to the zoo a lot less appealing, doesn’t it? I spent years studying this stuff and I still find it confounding and nerve-wracking at times. Conspiracy theories abound, though truthfully viruses are sneaky enough on their own that I can’t fathom any people being clever enough to direct their evolution and mutation.
I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and go into specifics about the H3N8 virus; instead, for those who are interested I’ll point you in the direction of those much more knowledgeable than I on the topic:
10 Things to Know about H3N8 (from the New York Times)
H3N8 Update (from the American Veterinary Medical Association. The bottom of this article has even more links.)
Overall point: Dogs have been getting upper respiratory infections for eons and eons, so the syndrome is nothing new. It’s simply a new causative agent. (kind of like, er, H1N1.)
I have the unusual dichotomy of being in a mildly panicked mode about my own kid, bundling her off to the pediatrician tomorrow just to be sure, while at the same time being the same reassuring medical care provider to worried pet parents. The take-home message is the same in both cases, which I’m repeating for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s as I’m sure to be hearing tomorrow:
Even if it is influenza, the vast majority of cases result in only minor illness.
Knowing who is going to be in the unlucky 1-5% is a power I do not possess.
When in doubt, go to the doc. That is what they are there for, to hand you tissues while you sniff and imagine the worst and remind you that your (fur)kid appears to be doing just fine. Pass the disinfectant, please.
When no less an auspicious blog than the Huffington Post tackles the topic of pet Halloween costumes, you know you’re onto something. (Go look at the 3-headed weinerdog. It’s awesome.) No longer do we need to hide in the bowels of PetSmart at Halloween, surrounded by other fringe element pet people. Pet costumes have gone mainstream- humiliate your pet with pride! Eh, who am I kidding. The average dog loves the attention. Cats are perhaps a tad more debatable, but I digress.
Before I had kids, I loved to dress my dogs up. Dog costumes are traditionally the province of the Yorkie crowd, generally speaking, so finding a costume big enough for a 90 pound Golden Retriever proved somewhat of a challenge. No worries, though, the delightful inhabitants of Etsy came through, and soon enough I found myself the proud owner of an XXXXXL ballerina costume for Mulan:
My husband and friends tolerated this with bemused indulgence, certain that once I had kids I would be over dressing up the surrogates. They were right.
My kids are older now, and less compliant. They insist on choosing their own costumes. Store-bought ones. Licensed Disney character ones. Ones that don’t match each other. Bo-ring. Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for my unwitting victim, I have a 4 month old furball who has come into this world knowing nothing other than what he’s been taught, and that will be, if I wear some stupid get up once a year, I get lots of treats.
I’ve found, now that I have the time to really assess the situation, that I find the exact same amount of delight in bedecking the dog as I did before kids. It’s just as much fun as it always was, maybe even moreso now that I can truly relish the whole costume-selection-control issue. I can’t wait.
My daughter chose to be a mermaid. My son is a pirate. Yawn. OK kids. When you are older maybe you will appreciate your mom’s creative genius a little more and let me dress you up as a serum separator tube and an endoscope. I’m not holding my breath. So with an eye on Brody and the other on the clock, I have 12 days to figure out if I have time to come up with something appropriately whimsical enough for my pup. Wish me luck.
I’ve been on vacation this week. A much needed, long awaited break from the grindstone of work. I had fully intended on having a week’s worth of posts in the queue, but I only got as far as two before I realized we were leaving in 12 hours and I hadn’t packed a single thing.
So I’ve been trying to get some stuff done at night on a less than reliable wifi network, rushing such things as picking images for posts- which may or may not get you in trouble when you accompany a post about an aggressive husky with the image of a growling shepherd- and to those who were offended, I apologize. I can only plead mercy, and the fact that I was a wee bit rushed and may or may not have had a pina colada or two in the system while posting.
Brody and Apollo have remained in the care of one of my trusty co-workers, who aside from a quick text message the first night asking an unrelated question about the electronics has been blessedly silent. This means one of several things. Either:
1. All is well;
2. All is disastrous but she doesn’t want to ruin my vacation;
3. She tripped in a puddle of pee Brody accidentally left behind and has been unconscious for 3 days.
Let’s hope for (1). I wasn’t even off the plane at my destination before my boss, who was kind enough to let Brody come to work and hang out on a couple of the long days, sent me a picture message showing his incorrigible begging and informing me that he was barking at her for the dire injustice of refusing to share her lunch with him. I can’t imagine what she must think of me. I swear I don’t give him my lunch and he has no reason to believe this is likely to result in anything.
Unruly, begging, cake stealing teenager! Despite this I can’t BELIEVE how much I miss the little hairballs. I’m afraid Brody will be up to 60 pounds by the time I get back and I won’t recognize him. Or worse, he won’t recognize me.
Next week I’ll be back with my regular posting, including pictures and, oh, responding to posts and the like. I’m ready to head back home.
When a client tells you a pet is rolling over and acting really out of it, they get priority in the queue. That is how I found myself in the exam room with a small, middle aged grey terrier and a small, middle aged bespectacled owner.
“When did this start?” I asked her.
“This afternoon,” she said quietly. “Georgie just started listing to one side and kind of stumbling.”
The list of differentials start running through my head as I instruct the owner to place Georgie on the exam table, and I begin to formulate my questions as I perform the physical examination.
Georgie sits quietly on the table, peering at me through glassy eyes. His pupils have a normal response to light, albeit a slightly sluggish one. I lift his gums to take a peek at his oral cavity and it hits me- poor old Georgie smells like a distillery. Like my Uncle Bob two hours into any family event. The poor pup isn’t suffering from a brain lesion- he’s three sheets to the wind.
I finish the rest of my exam while the owner tells her story. Thankfully, he does appear to be in good health aside from his intoxicated state. The owner sits across from me in her neat button-down cardigan, clutching her sensible purse on her lap. “We’re so worried,” she concludes.
I take a breath and decide how to relay my findings. It’s not that uncommon, unfortunately, for people to bring in pets under the influence of some substance or another- you name it, someone has given it to their pet. Getting the owner to admit exactly what they administered so you may initiate appropriate treatment is usually half the battle. In this case, though, it seemed very unlikely that the owner had any clue what had befallen Georgie.
“I think he’s going to be just fine with a little supportive care,” I tell the owner, who releases her breath in a sigh of relief. I decide to just blurt it out. “He’s drunk.”
Her brow furrows in confusion. “I don’t give Georgie alcohol!” she said. “I barely drink myself!”
I tilt my head. “Anyone else in the house? Any kids?”
She shakes her head. “I have a son,” she said, realization giving way to denial, “but he would never do anything like that.” I nod agreeably, stroking my chin like Sherlock Holmes. “Does he, um, have any friends?”
She takes the bait. “Yes!” she says emphatically. “I never liked those boys. Troublemakers.” She leaned in. “I can’t believe they did that did to poor Georgie right under my son’s nose.”
I shook my head. Me neither.
Fortunately for Georgie, after a night of IV fluids and rest, he was back to normal. As for the kids, I have no idea how the owner’s son or his friends fared once Georgie’s mom got a hold of them. I hope she really gave it to them- the idea of people purposefully intoxicating their pets is just awful, and as those of you in the field surely know, people do it all the time, and often with things far worse than alcohol.
“$150,” the woman insisted.
I squinted at her. “Really?”
“In Italy,” she said. “Full mouth extraction on my cat.” She paused. “And the vet didn’t even use anesthesia.”
Now I was extremely skeptical. How do you pull every tooth in a cat’s mouth without anesthesia? “They were falling out anyway,” she added helpfully. “He just kind of twisted and out they came.”
“OK, so that is pretty end-stage disease,” I told her. “I’d like to try and avoid that in this cat-” gesturing to the current patient, who had the beginnings of stomatitis, a very painful dental disease. “But it will be more than $150.”
“That’s OK,” she said, and leaned in. “I like you a whole lot better than that other vet. I’ll never go back.” She proceeded to tell me about her bad experience at another hospital. “I had a blocked cat, and all I had was $200. And they euthanized him!” She paused, and started to tear up. “I begged them to try something, to just try and drain his bladder or something, and they wouldn’t do it.”
“You know, I think they were just trying-” I started, but she wouldn’t let me finish. “I just wanted him to have a chance.”
It was an interesting thing to hear, given my week. A few days ago, I had a client who brought me a blocked cat. He was already beaten down by not being able to afford the emergency hospital estimate, and wanted to know what I could do for, ironically, $200.
The problem with blocked tomcats is, you really can’t do anything for $200. At the very least, they need a couple days in the hospital. This doesn’t include catheters, IV fluids, medications, radiographs, and the distinct possibility that despite all this they might still need surgery. It’s a bear to fix. I’ve been there, I’ve been that ER doctor, and I know because of my experience that sometimes euthanasia is the best option. It’s a terrible way to suffer.
But this client was tearful, and desperate to try something, so I told him against my better judgment I would at least try to empty the bladder. He knew it was a long shot, a very long shot, but it would at least give him time to try and figure out if he could work out a way to treat the cat properly. “And if not,” I told him very bluntly, “you should euthanize him.”
We kept the cat all day, and when he showed up that night he hadn’t done anything to try and find money for more care. “I hoped this would work,” he told me. We pulled the catheter. An hour later he called, and said the cat re-blocked.
So he euthanized him. And he thanked me for trying.
I didn’t get it, and I guess some part of me still doesn’t, because I’m looking at it from the cat’s point of view. I knew what was going to happen, I knew it was futile, and I felt bad putting the cat through it for no good reason. But then I had this woman today, who was so upset that she wasn’t given the choice, and it got me to thinking about Emmett and the hours writing prescriptions for chemo drugs and aspirating nodes for the same reason. There is always hope. And while I can gently try to guide people to reality, it’s not really my place to force them to stop hoping when they aren’t quite ready.
OK, I don’t know if they are myths so much as long-held veterinary standard talking points, but it was a lot easier to type “myths” than “standard procedures and protocols with which I disagree.”
1. Feed your pet the same food every day or they will get sick.
This is true in some cases, namely if you have a pet on a prescription diet or a pet with dietary sensitivities, but for most healthy pets, there’s no reason not to switch it up. You have to be careful if you are watching your pet’s caloric intake- the calories per cup can vary very widely from food to food- but the vast majority of pets do just fine on a rotating diet. And let’s be honest- the recent pet food debacles have made many of us more leery than ever of quality control issues, so switching it up may dilute the risk of having a problem with any one batch of food.
2. My pet needs to be on dry food because of her teeth.
Dry food is good for a pet’s teeth, don’t get me wrong. There are prescription dental diets that are clinically proven to reduce tartar, and hooray for that. That being said, there are plenty of other reasons wet food should be a part of your pet’s diet (and particularly if you have a cat, I think it should be the majority of their diet!)
Having moisture content as a part of your pet’s diet is a good thing. Food in its natural state is not dessicated. We all need water to digest our food. Dry food is convenient, and less expensive than canned food, and does play a role in keeping teeth clean. But there’s no reason you can’t rotate canned food in there as well.
3. The more expensive the food, the better.
The only way to know if you are feeding your pet a good food is to become proficient at reading pet food labels. (I did a blog series on this complicated topic here.) Generally speaking, the more expensive foods do tend to have better quality ingredients, but you’d be surprised at some of the things found in “premium” foods. When ownership of pet food companies changes hands, it is often accompanied by a change in formulation, so read often.
One of my employees is always telling budget-minded people to buy Kirkland dog food- you know, the Costco brand? When I overheard this, I asked her what the heck she was doing. She showed me the label, and I’ll be darned- they have a very decent ingredient list, far better than many other foods in that price category. So now, when people are reluctant to go for the super-premium stuff due to price, I often tell them get Kirkland.
I know most people probably know this, but I’m astounded by the people who pull out those little plastic trays of food and tell me how great it is. Behold the mighty power of marketing. That food is the exact same food you find in cans, except it’s processed one step further to force it into meat-shaped spam-like chunks meant to fool you into thinking it arrived straight off the cow there in its natural state. They then float it in some chemical laden sludge, slap on a label of a cute poufy dog in a fancy looking plastic tray, and charge you a huge markup for the privilege.
4. My dog is spoiled rotten. He only gets chicken and rice. Isn’t he lucky?
No. No more lucky than the cat fed only tuna. Nutritional hyperparathyroidism, taurine deficiency cardiomyopathy…there are lots of nasty things that can happen to a pet on an unbalanced diet. I have no problem with people who really want to cook for their pets- I think it’s wonderful, actually, to devote that time to your pet.
But if you’re going to spend the time and money to do so, invest in some research to do it correctly. There are some great- and some not so great- resources available online. I have used Balance It, one of several online services; many veterinary schools also offer services with veterinary nutritionists available to create recipes tailor made to any pet, with any health condition.
5. I don’t need to put my dog on a special diet for a food allergy trial. I tried the “sensitive skin” diet/ lamb formula/ coat formula from the store and it didn’t work.
I can’t say this enough: There is no reliable test for diagnosing food allergies. The *only* way to diagnose food allergies is to put your pet on a lengthy and regimented food trial for 8-12 weeks, and see how they do. No treats, no flavored Heartguard, no rawhides.
The diets used by veterinarians to diagnose food allergies have one solitary protein source and one carbohydrate source. The protein is something unusual- venison, hydrolyzed soy broken down enough that the body doesn’t recognize it as an antigen; as is the carbohydrate.
“Sensitive skin” diets are not appropriate for food allergies because they usually have the exact same ingredients found in most other pet foods. “Lamb and rice” formulas often have chicken in them as well- if you review the pet food labelling rules you’ll see why. I am only aware of one over the counter commercial diet appropriate for a food trial. The other options are prescription diets or home cooked diets.
*I will, as I always do, add in the disclaimer that this post is skipping entirely the topic of raw foods, which I remain neutral on. Those who have gone down that road often have devoted many hours of research into nutritional topics and don’t need to be told any of the things in this post anyway.