This is a difficult issue that is guaranteed to offend some people, particularly those in the profession. Nevertheless, the harsh reality must be discussed. Should people fully trust the nutritional advice dispensed by their vets?
This myth is quite false. While veterinarians perform much-needed services for our pets, these services should not include a) selling pet food, and b) administering nutritional advice. Veterinarians receive very little nutritional training. The training they do receive is often advocated by or even administered by the pet food companies. Their nutritional training comes from the incorrect view that dogs are omnivores (see omnivore myth) and can safely be maintained on a grain-based diet, even when scientific research has proven that canines and felines have no evolved need for carbohydrates and fiber (see the Carbohydrates myth for further detail). That's right: dogs and cats do not need the carbohydrates that form the bulk of their processed foods. Perhaps that is why pets today are soft, doughy, and suffering from a variety of ailments linked to carbohydrate-rich, processed food (cancer, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperactivity, seizures, etc. To read more about epilepsy and its relation to diet, please click here.).
Veterinarians are invariably linked to the commercial pet food industry. They advocate and even market commercial foods, receiving substantial revenue and kickbacks. The pet food companies make sure of this by promoting programs in the universities and by giving FREE FOOD to the up-and-coming vets to sell at their practices. For example, Colgate-Palmolive, the company that manufactures Hill's Science Diet, spends
The very profession is tied closely with commercial pet food companies at every turn. A tour of veterinary teaching hospitals or vet clinics shows equipment, products, and posters sponsored by and endorsing commercial foods and pharmaceutical companies. Vets are, in essence, paid for by the pet food and pharmaceutical companies, and are hardly in a position to offer sound nutritional advice. They are in direct violation of the oath and creed they swore to uphold: "First do no harm." In spite of this oath they are promoting foods detrimental to animals' health, advocating a product that will harm their patients and ensure a returning clientele and source of revenue. But remember: this is due in large part to the great lack in the education the universities have administered to them! Nothing but commercial pet food dogma is being repeated in university after university after university; these are institutions of higher learning where people are supposed to be thinking critically and evaluating things analytically, yet in reality are being told to shut off their common sense and ignore the overwhelming amount of evidence against commercial pet foods. Here is one excellent example of the ties veterinary universities and veterinarians themselves have with the pet food industry:
How are veterinarians supposed to be educated on proper nutritional practices when the very institutions from which they receive their instruction is in bed with the pet food companies? For an example of what occurs in vet school nutrition courses, please read the "A First Year Veterinary Student Comments" article in the Raw Meaty Bones 13 April 2004 Newsletter (scroll down about 3/4 of the way to see the article). For yet ANOTHER example of pet food company/veterinary alliances, visit the Purina.com site and check out Purina's Other Alliances.
Simply put, vets are not educated on proper nutrition; it was not until recently (past several decades) that pet owners started looking to their vets for advice on diet. Interestingly, this corresponded with the increase in commercial foods. Prior to the advent of commercial foods, people did not request nutritional advice from their veterinarians. Only after commercial foods arose did vets need nutritional training, and early vets also recommended feed fresh whole foods along with the dry 'biscuits' of the day (To read how kibble came about, click here.). Veterinarians today cite the nutritional deficiencies they see in their clinics as proof of raw diets being 'bad', but if you press them further, these deficiencies typically result from home-cooked diets or improperly formulated BARF diets, NOT prey model diets (which are the kind found in nature!). Interestingly, they may tell you to cook your dog's food, which will result in the kind of imbalances they see with "natural" diets that aren't formulated correctly. They then use this "evidence" to "prove" that home-made diets (into which they lump raw diets) are bad for your pets. Or they may tell you that 'science' has shown that raw diets are not good for our pets. Ask them: "what 'science'?" Press them for the answer, and what they tell you will most likely be nothing but pet food propaganda about salmonella poisoning in pets (undocumented in HEALTHY animals) or the 'reputable research' performed by pet food companies. Almost all of this research is undocumented, 'anecdotal' evidence or evidence that does not pertain to proper raw diets. For example, they will cite that all-meat diets create severe calcium deficiencies. This is true. But a proper raw diet is not all meat. A proper raw diet is a wonderful blend of meat, bone, and organs from a variety of sources.
Most veterinarians are highly qualified individuals; however, their qualifications are for surgery, conventional disease diagnosis and treatment, and conventional drug prescription, NOT for nutrition (although holistic vets are more aware of the importance of fresh raw foods in keeping animals healthy, and are also amenable to alternative therapies). Additionally, veterinarians need to respect their clients' wishes to feed a natural diet rather than berate them with pet-food company propaganda (also known as 'nutritional advice') each time they come in. Veterinarians and pet owners alike need to remember that veterinarians are consultants. A pet owner consults a vet when their pet has a specific problem or need. The pet owner pays the veterinarian's wages; the veterinarian works for them. A client is perfectly within their rights to deny treatments or request that things be done differently. Additionally, a client is perfectly within their rights to feed their dog a diet different than that which the veterinarian recommends, and a client is within their rights to ignore a vet's 'nutritional advice.' For a veterinarian to bully a client toward feeding a certain way or to blame the diet for every possible illness is unacceptable and demonstrates a lack of professionalism.
Even more unacceptable (downright heinous!) is for a veterinarian to refuse their services to a client because the client does not feed the diet the vet recommends, as is the case with a California Bay Area emergency clinic. During the summer of 2005, a raw-feeder brought her dog to the emergency clinic with a possible case of bloat (bloat is not only possibly genetic and food-related, but possibly vaccine-related as well.), and the attending veterinarian began to berate her for her choice to feed a raw diet instead of attending to her dog's possibly life-threatening situation. The raw-feeder requested a different veterinarian so as to avoid confrontation and receive an unbiased medical report; this second veterinarian proceeded to check her dog over thoroughly (as the first vet should have done), and came to his diagnosis (which was not bloat, but simple enteritis with no particular reference to diet issues.). Several days afterward, the raw-feeder received a letter from the clinic stating that she was no longer welcome as a client because she was reluctant to follow the advice of the first veterinarian, presumably regarding the raw diet. For an EMERGENCY clinic to act this way is tantamount to animal cruelty; their decision is punishing the dog (who is innocent and has no voice in all of this) for a well-informed choice his owner made to feed fresh foods. This is similar to refusing to treat a person for cancer or a heart attack because they ate processed foods instead of fresh whole foods like the doctors recommended (notice the irony in that what is recommended for humans—fresh whole foods—is the exact opposite of what is recommended for our pets.)! It is an unacceptable act of animal cruelty and an outright denial of the creed veterinarians must uphold.
Pet owners, you have every right to demand that your vet honor your decision to feed a raw diet. Make it known that your pet's diet is not up for negotiation unless you so choose. Unwarranted nutritional advice is not welcome, nor should it be necessary since you are paying for your vet's MEDICAL opinion, not nutritional opinion. Be aware that vets have been admonished to sufficiently inform their clients of the benefits and risks of various dietary practices. But considering how feeding fresh, raw foods to pets is NOT taught in veterinary school, their knowledge in this area will be very minimal, and will most likely be restricted to the negative aspects of raw diets (most of which are half-truths and myths, and are dealt with in these myth pages). After all, whenever studies on raw foods are published in publications like the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the negative aspects (such as bacteria) are all that are researched (and not very well, I might add). The studies start out with a distinct bias that is seen in the way they are structured in addition to the topic they are studying, and rarely include good science that should involve scrupulous methods that can be repeated, large sample sizes, and a sound hypothesis.
Veterinarians and vet technicians: please respect the rights of your clients. Respect their wishes to feed a raw diet, and they will respect your skills as a trained professional. Be open to their choice to feed fresh whole foods to their pets instead of letting prejudices get in the way. When it comes to the welfare of their pet, you should be one of their strongest allies instead of one of their harshest enemies, particularly since you possess valuable knowledge and skills in emergency situations.