Sunday, January 9, 2011

Researching advice: Why it's so important

Today being Sunday, I thought it might be appropriate to repost something I originally wrote for another blog back in September of 2010. The message is important enough to bear repeating, as it has to do with making sure the advice you are given by companies that sell pet foods and other products is sound advice.

Sometimes people overstep their capacity to advise, and we need to be cautious when seeking and following any advice, particularly when it comes from the untrained.


Sunday Pet Peeve

I just visited the Facebook page of a company that makes a premium dog food, of which I am quite fond. However, today I was dismayed to read a discussion there about feeding a variety of their products, which contain different protein sources, as a way to keep dogs interested in the food.

This probably isn't horrible advice in and of itself, but someone then asked about advice they'd been given by their veterinarian for their own dog, who is young but is beginning to show signs of food allergies (reacting to certain types of treats with hives and itching). She said she'd been told to stick with one kind of food and not to vary the dog's diet.

Here's the pet peeve part. The company spokesperson came on and told this person that a varied diet would be healthier for her dog.

I found myself compelled to post and express my dismay that a corporate spokesperson (whom I assume is not a veterinarian) would be giving veterinary advice to a customer, particularly advice that contradicts advice given by an actual vet. I then went on to explain that dogs who show allergic tendencies often end up needing to be fed a novel protein and the more proteins you expose them to while young, the more difficult it will be to find anything they can eat if the condition flares up. This is a common path to IBD in dogs, which is very serious and life-threatening.

Now, I'm not a vet myself, but I know this because I've had to deal with these issues in my own dogs (I have two that are atopic) and I know the horrors of trying to do an elimination diet trial with a dog that has eaten just about everything. Unless you want to be stuck feeding exotic proteins like venison or buffalo for the rest of your dog's life (and even those are not really novel to many diets anymore), you may want to stop and reconsider what you're putting on your sensitive dog's plate every day and what you and your sensitive dog will have to endure if you ever do find yourself on a search for a palatable protein.

The thing that really bugs me here is that the question was asked of a corporation, whose best interest is clearly served by getting you to purchase all their products, and that the corporation was all too happy to trot out the corporate line suggesting nothing could possibly go wrong as long as you feed THEIR products.

This is a company I've respected a great deal, whose products I have used and recommended. I still love their products, but I'm starting to believe that they've gotten a bit drunk with their own success.

Bottom line in this pet peeve of mine: If you have questions about your dog's health, and if you want an educated opinion, it's best to talk to vets, to do research on your own, and learn all you can about the condition in question in order to form your own, educated opinion using unbiased resources. We shouldn't be too trusting of those whose interests are served by providing a certain answer.


  1. Sound advice. Even vets contradict themselves. I always go and see several vets when one of my animals is seriously ill and they always say and advice different and sometimes even contradictory things :-s

    Love your blog and just became a follower. I hope there will be many more of these articles.

    ~Avalon Lion,

  2. Thanks, Avalon Lion! I appreciate the vote of confidence, as well as the follow. I do agree that vets frequently have contradictory advice, and some conditions require the advice of a specialist.

    Best to check with people who are trained to know what to look for and what to ask, and if you're not getting answers, to keep trying.