No, this is not a blog about Taylor Swift. And I’m sorry for putting that song in your head. But putting a Band Aid on a problem does not solve it, yet is something some of my fellow veterinarians often do. Let me explain…
Veterinarians, like other professionals, receive a lot of trade news magazines, journals, and mailings from manufacturers of animal health products. Some days, my mail consists of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dogster, Clinician’s Brief, and Pet Product News! (Hey, at least no bills!) With my most recent Clinician’s Brief came a mailing called Products in Brief, a 60 page guide to new products and services for the veterinary practitioner. Intrigued by what innovative products might be on the horizon, I started flipping through the pages.
It quickly became apparent that this publication was heavy on advertisements, including short articles written by manufacturers in support of their offerings. I get that, who better to tell us the what, why, and how of the products. But I was also struck by the problems these products were addressing.
Inside the front cover was an ad for a product to manage inflammation. Then four pages on new vaccines. A couple pages on digestive disorders with prescription foods to combat it. The next pages were devoted to a new ear infection ointment that is especially suitable for long term preventative care as well as treatment of acute cases. The next pages were devoted to a calming supplement for anxiety and stress disorders, followed by a glucose monitor for home use on the diabetic dog. And finally, the back cover — another ear infection product.
Can you see the trend here? More and more products being sold to veterinarians, and in turn, you, to address a problem without ever considering the underlying cause. Many of these products are recommended for long term use to “manage” the problem. This makes no sense to me, and certainly does not seem to be promoting the health of my patients.
So, why are our dogs so plagued by inflammation, diseases, ear infections, stress, diabetes, and more, such that a free 60 page guide to new products shows up in my mailbox on a regular basis? Because we often fail to meet their biological needs, for generations. And with each generation, individuals become a bit weaker in constitution, resiliency, and overall health. External or environmental influences play their part as well. Exposure to chemicals and toxins over generations, changes in foods, and the pace of everyday life and its stresses also have an impact.
We need to think of the dog as what he truly is — a creature with a biology different from our own, whose needs need to be met in the way his biology dictates. It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that. He needs to be fed a species-appropriate diet, that is fresh, not processed from waste products from the human food chain, and loaded with starches. He needs appropriate exercise and social interaction with other dogs, as well as his human family. He needs protection from infectious diseases and parasites, but not over or inappropriate vaccination, or anti-parasite medications when there is no risk (how many fleas do you see in NY in January? Do we really need to treat dogs for tapeworms each month?)
Changing from a traditional approach to dog care (feeding dry dog food, vaccinating every year, using heartworm and flea and tick prevention monthly year round, and treating health issues with medications) to a wholistic approach (natural diet, minimal vaccines, judicious and thoughtful use of preventatives, integrating medications with supportive strategies and products) is akin to removing the bullet. It helps and in many cases heals, but sometimes leaves scars. Never starting down the traditional path with your next puppy is like putting a bullet proof vest on him, preventing problems before any damage is done.
In my experience, almost everyone who pursues a wholistic approach to dog health was once a traditionalist. Many of us had our eyes opened by a dog health crisis. It’s sad that we had to take some bullets to be able to see beyond the Band Aids. And it is fortunate that there are more and more complementary and integrative veterinarians today, with a variety of bullet proof vests to fit our dogs.
I’ll be writing more about following a natural path right from the start in upcoming blogs, as my litter of Australian Shepherd puppies grow. I’ll share how I manage their health, from their first food to going off to their new homes, and more. Stay tuned!