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« And Your Little Dog, Too: Ethics Always Matter | Main | And Wouldn't THAT Just Be Terrible? »

23 March 2005

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Gil.

"Disease resistance is something that will ebb and flow for every individual, and even the strongest, best-fed, most dazzlingly healthy animal can succumb to something in a moment of weakness, fatigue, or sleep deprivation."

Don't I know it. But when you see a dog get better, clear a condition that's lasted perhaps for years as the result of a change of diet, as quite a few people have, it's easy to succumb to the notion that natural feeding, which we're talking about here, can fix anything if you can only figure out what part of the diet to tweak.

Generations of careful breeding...a whole 'nother subject in itself...and rearing (I thought only Southerners used that word) won't guarantee a thing, if you ask me. There may be a trend toward better health, but sports will pop up, buried defects will out, and it is the rare breeder (you, yes, but how many others?) who will admit that "natural rearing" is not a 100% assurance of healthy animals.

And what if it is? Most of us do not have dogs from naturally raised lines and most of our companions will never have the chance to produce little replicas of themselves. That's what gets me most about the attitude of hardline natural feeders, the cold response to those whose dogs have the best of food, the best of care, and still become seriously ill: too bad, go get a dog from one of our ilk, from generations made fireproof against disease, and you won't have to watch him die. Sometimes, I wonder if they really believe that. They remind me of someone who is so fond of a theory he can't let go of it even when reality slaps him in the face.

Not that I don't believe natural feeding and attention to genetics can bring about healthier dogs, but it is no panacea and it amazes me that people who should know better can't accept that.

Kim

Very well written, as usual. Touched a bit of a nerve though.

Three and a half years ago (just a drop in the bucket, I know) my once-in-a-lifetime dog almost died of liver failure due to the side effects of Phenobarbital (Pb), his epilepsy drug.

My vet at the time suggested that we switch to a "natural" diet, and see if that would aid in being able to "reduce" the Pb. Her expectations? That he'd die before the end of the month.

I went home with my hypothyroid/epileptic/anaemic/dysplastic Golden Retriever, and spent the next 24 hours in front of my computer. The next day, I bought and read at least a dozen books on natural feeding/rearing/remedies.

The day after that, we purchased an unbelievable amount of supplements, food items, therapies and herbs. We stopped the kibble (yup, Hill's, go figure) and started feeding a raw diet based on Wendy Volhard's recipe.

We started giving him herbs for liver support, including milk thistle, and dropped his Pb from 240mgs a day to nothing over the course of two weeks.

I must say first that it was the removal of the Pb that ultimately saved his life. But it was the complete change in everything else he consumed that allowed us to do so. He got better. Fast. Not just his liver, either. His teeth, his fur, his ears, his personality... he just... got better.

A month or so later, we had the tests run again. He was a very high normal, but he was no longer at risk. The vet asked me what I had done. I told her. Everything. With pride, thinking that she would be supportive... after all, it was her idea!

Nope. Not even close. In fact, she promptly informed me that her "natural" suggestion was preservative-free kibble. You know, the ones with the pretty cuts of meat on the front of the bag and the snazzy packaging? And the Pb reduction? Her timetable for reduction was a year. Far cry from my few weeks. She then proceeded to tell me that if I couldn't take her advice correctly, she could no longer treat our pets.

We now have a holistic veterinarian, feed a MUCH simpler raw diet, with no grains, no vaccines, no heartworm or flea poisons... and we have a dog that is alive. He still has very mild seizures about every four to six weeks, but he's free of medications (including his thyroid meds!) and he's clear across the board. He suffers from a low immune system, and gets skin infections occasionally, but he's alive.

I suppose my point of telling this exceptionally long story is to stick up for those of us who believe that raw feeding can produce the "miracles" people speak of.

But it's a matter of context. He's not perfect, and never will be. Genetics saw to that. But he's alive... and THAT, is a miracle.

Christie

Oh ya know, I've had my miracles too. I wouldn't go back to kibble if you paid me (well, I think I established in an earlier blog entry that I probably would do it for $52 million a year, as long as I could choose a really good kibble ). I do truly believe in the holistic approach and yes, I've seen it turn animals back from the brink of death, time and time again.

My rant was really at those who stubbornly insist that any dog can be completely healthy if you just do everything right, or, as Gil put it, "someone who is so fond of a theory he can't let go of it even when reality slaps him in the face."

Rachel

As usual I enjoy reading your articles. I have never believed that the natural way was a cure all. But I am enthusiastic in recommending it to my puppy buyers so your comments started me wondering if I might be giving that impression to the new owners. I always give them the run down on all the deerhound problems but maybe I need to balance my recommendations to feed natural and avoid toxins with more info on what it can't do.
Thanks for the ideas.

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