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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lack Of Problems Doesn't Make It Right

The week before last I received an email from Paul, responding to my comments on a recent post about table food for dogs.  Here are some snippets from his letter.

I liked this post -  it spoke to me.  For 19 years I had a border collie – a wonderful healthy and active dog all his life; dying of old age coming up to his 19 birthday – missing the day by a week.  This border collie drank – a pint of milk a day – diluted with water – sometimes with osterfeed thrown in for good measure (my brother was an infant and ends of his formula feed was sometimes added to the water and milk mix that my collie loved).  Never a problem – he never was sick after drinking it and although he also had a bowl of water always he rarely drank much of it.  He ate raw marrow bones regularly – several a week.  He got scraps from the table – only what we knew was not harmful – mixed with porridge, brown  bread,  potatoes, left over meat from meals (steak, chicken, liver, mince etc), cooked vegetables (his were always taken out before salting)  – mainly turnip, cabbage and carrots – he hated peas and parsnip!! – so he didn’t get those.  He had an egg every day and either braised chicken breasts or cooked offal  all in this mix.  He also got a bonio or two every day and every week  “bob martins – vitamin supplements”.  This dog had wonderful energy, fantastic coat and was never sick..........I am not saying I disagree with you with regard to feeding a dog non commercial dog  food (quite the opposite - animals need to be fed properly - correct quantities and right kind of stuff)  but I can understand where your original poster is coming from........As I say this dog lived to be 19 years old (well missing it by one week)and died of old age.  My dogs are now fed high end commercial foods - science plan - but the oldest they have lived to have been 11 and 12 - and that was with health issues a year or two before they died. So I can really understand where your poster Liz is coming from with her question - and while I agree with you that lots of people smoke and don't die of cancer - I have not come across many dogs living long and healthy lives - with no health issues like my collie did.

This is actually a great point for discussion as it addresses a situation I commonly deal with in all aspects of medicine.  I often get clients who think and even say "Well, I've never done it that way and my dog/cat has always been healthy."  I've had clients virtually gloat when their dogs come up negative on their annual heartworm test despite not being on preventatives.  There have been similar responses from people who have only ever had their dogs get rabies and have never seen them get sick from parvo.

Unfortunately people often assume that if the do things (or don't to things) a certain way and nothing bad happens it means that they're doing the right thing.  This couldn't be farther from the truth.  A similar situation would be have someone walk across a four-lane major highway, making it to the other side without injury.  Since they performed this task and weren't run over by a car or truck, they can conclude that it's safe to walk across highways.  Right?  Obviously not.  But that's the kind of logic some people are employing in regards to their pets. Just because someone isn't killed going across a highway doesn't mean it's safe.  And just because someone's dog doesn't get heartworms when they decline prevention doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do.

Heartworms really do infect pets and kill them.  People food and table scraps really do cause pancreatitis and gastrointestinal distress.  Home-cooked food really can be an unbalanced diet.  Parvo really does kill dogs.  All of the things we veterinarians try to talk to clients about really are intended to let pets live longer and healthier.  Discard and ignore our advice at your own peril.