Nutrition advice

Who do you get your nutrition advice from for your pets?

If you watch a popular dog food commercial, it looks like you SHOULD be getting advice from anyone but your vet. Why is this?

Why has a quasi-major dog food company dissed vets in this manner? I’m gonna go ahead and guess that I’ve had more nutrition training than a trainer, your neighbor (unless he/she is a vet), or the random layman that was sent to push a particular brand at your local pet food store. I also know more than the guy at the feed store or that lady you met who knows a lot about pets because she works for a rescue group.

I don’t say this to be a show-off; I say this to make a point. I don’t get many questions about what to feed your pets and why. Sometimes, when I DO get asked and make a recommendation it’s not followed through on. Why is that? Do they not believe that I have any knowledge because, after all, I’m just a vet. Or is it because I don’t have a shiny fancy commercial that talks about things that sound bad like “by-products” or grain.

My job in guiding a food choice for your pets was pretty eloquently put by another vet on VIN: it depends on your budget, your pet’s preferences, your feeding style and your pet’s preference. I can recommend only one food that I think is outstanding but that’s not realistic. What if Fluffy loves the food but Pookie doesn’t and you free feed and it’s too expensive for you to keep up long-term? Then it’s not a good food (for you).

I feed my 4 dogs Iams.It fits into my budget, my dogs love it, my dogs are doing well on it, and it’s convenient for me (which was one of the most important things.) I had them on a more expensive brand of food but it got to  be more than I could afford at my student loan payments went up and it was difficult for me to get to the specialty pet store to purchase it. I love that I can run to Walmart at 10pm when dinnertime rolls around and my husband forgot to tell me that the dogs are out of food. My largest dog has seemingly grown out of her food allergies and so we’ve been able to switch from Avoderm to Iams so everyone can eat the same food (also helpful in my world). A $50/25# bag of Avoderm for a 125# dog gets expensive real quick compared to $35/40# bag of Iams. Plus, the food store commonly was out of the two bags they stocked in the flavor I fed her. Frustrating. So we did an experiment since her skin problems have been well controlled for awhile. We tried the Iams Lamb & Rice. She’s been doing fabulously for several months now. We’ll see what happens when spring rolls around. :)

In general, main things I tell people to avoid is: Beneful, Ol’ Roy, and anything else in fun shapes/colors (ie: Kibbles ‘n’ Bits, Meow Mix, Friskies).  Beyond that, yes there are further recommendations but that varies from patient to patient. Yes, foods that have been through feeding trials are more proven and therefore more reliable. Do I think that means they’re “better”? Depends on what you’re comparing to. Most of the smaller food companies that claim to be more “natural” or that are grain-free don’t do food trials. Why? I don’t know. My guess would be money. But you would think that one that is trying to become a “big guy” *cough* Blue Buffalo *cough* would go ahead with that.

So, to make a long story short, if you need a pet food recommendation, talk to your vet, not your brother’s girlfriend’s uncle’s neighbor. And Blue Buffalo: why don’t you try supporting vets rather than insulting us?

I haven’t met you…

I love it when a client will ask me to introduce myself because they haven’t met me before…

Except that there is more than one medical record that I have entered for that patient so clearly I HAVE seen the pet before.

Now maybe it’s because a spouse, friend, or other family member brought the pet in previously but I have had times that I’m darn sure I’ve met that person before.

Wow… heartbreaking considering the amount of time I typically spend with a client in the exam room.

I’ve also got someone who for the longest time, for whatever reason, was calling me by my boss’s name. And there’s one whom I’ve corrected on my last name before but continues to call me “Dr. Morgan.” Close, but no cigar.

Closed means closed

I’m a bad person. If it is 1 minute past closing time, I either will not answer the phone or I will tell the technicians to tell whoever is on the phone that the doctor is already gone. Why? Because I work enough hours and most of the time, it’s some schmuck calling at noon on Saturday to bring his dog in for a very important bordetella vaccination because he’s going out of town Tuesday.

Uh….

Ever heard the saying “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”? Or the nimrod who’s dog has been vomiting for 3 days and seems to be really sick. To the emergency clinic with thee! Because even if I stayed and examined the animal, did x-rays, bloodwork, etc… it would still have to go to the emergency clinic for IV fluids and whatever care. So why should I stay when the outcome is the same???

I value my time off; I NEED my time off. Plus the boss gets pissed when the techs get overtime and what am I gonna do on my own? I don’t think it’s safe or appropriate to ask owners to help do things.

Complaining

Here’s the sitch (yes, I said “sitch”): you can complain about your boss to other employees, everyone can complain about pain in the ass clients, bosses can complain about employees to spouses or other bosses but the owner/boss is not allowed to complain about employees to other employees.

Because, really? What are you trying to accomplish with that?

If we agree with you, we agree with you. Even if we don’t agree with you we’re either stuck saying nothing or lying and agreeing with you. Plus it’s just highly inappropriate unless we’re the ones who came to you with a problem and you’re explaining how you went about solving it. Just standing there bitching as we’re trying to leave just makes us want to leave even more.

So, there you go.

No bitching about employees to other employees, please. Kthnxbai!

Funny stuff

Small child farted in the exam room today while trying to muffle it by standing in the corner.

It did not sound muffled.

Mom seemed embarrassed.

I couldn’t help but laugh. A lot.

Puppy Mills

It’s generally pretty safe to say that a puppy is from a puppy mill if it meets 2 or more of the following criteria:

  • There are more than 3 breeding females on the premises that are actively being bred.
  • More than 1 female at a time is pregnant.
  • The breeder lives in BFE Missouri.
  • The breeder offers to bring the puppy to you or meet you somewhere “because it’s such a long drive”.
  • The vaccination/care record consists of a piece of notebook paper with a date and “shots” or “dewormed” written on it.
  • The breeder is trying to supplement income by selling puppies.
  • The puppy your purchased is a “malti-poo”, “shi-poo”, “ba-shar”, “puggle” or any other “designer” mutt that they charge out the butt for. Seriously… it’s a mutt, people!!! (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but don’t pay more than $150 for it.)
  • You are not made to sign a spay/neuter promise.

If you have unknowingly purchased such a puppy, you may not be the pet savvy owner you think you are. Just sayin’.

And why you would want to purchase two “shi-poos” at a time and then complain about their lack of housebreaking at the age of 9 weeks is beyond me. Alternatively, that could also read: “And why you would want to purchase two “shi-poos” at a time and then complain about their lack of housebreaking is beyond me.”

I’m not impressed that you have a friend who is a chiropractor or dog food brand rep (and by “rep” I mean the type who mill about in the pet stores, not those who are at least somewhat knowledgeable and speak to veterinarians on a regular basis). I also don’t think you deserve a discount at our clinic just because you have an animal related business. I don’t expect such things and neither should you. Discounts for rescues only, thank you very much.

Financing

I understand money problems, trust me I do. What I don’t understand is when someone shows up at my clinic, agrees to and accepts services while being fully aware of the cost and then goes to check out and tells us she doesn’t have any money. Ugh…

I didn’t surprise you with the cost. Did you honestly think you could show up here and receive treatments/medications/etc for your pet without paying for it? And don’t you dare get mad at me because I tell you we can’t hold your check or give you everything for free. Shocker: we have to pay for whatever supplies were used, lab machines, an office, and the staff isn’t likely to show up unless they’re getting paid. So, no, we can’t just give you everything for free.

There was a no-money woman with a dog that had mastitis (read: not life-threatening)recently that, oh so smartly, commented to someone on her cellphone that “this vet isn’t going to do anything for me.” While in the exam room. And not quietly. Very sweet of her. Particularly considering the vet agreed to see the dog at no charge and only charge for the antibiotics. What else did she expect? And why was she not grateful of what she was given??? She also proceeded to scream and carry on in the lobby. Lucky for us, one of our best clients was there to set this woman straight and say the things we couldn’t. Then the cops showed up and hauled the bitch out. What a class act.

I am also generally ok if your pet has a life-threatening illness/injury that you need to make payments on as long as you tell me up front and can leave a reasonable deposit that covers MY costs at the very least so I’m not out the money for the supplies when you never come back to pay the rest. Sorry to say, happens a lot. Yes, I realize you’re nice and would never do that to me but that’s what the last guy said, too.

Bottom line: I understand when you’re having money trouble, but give me something to work with. Don’t just expect everything for free because you feel it’s our job and then call us money-grubbing when we can’t do everything at no charge.

Steroids are bad… m’kay?*

Call it what you want: steroid shot, allergy shot, itch-no-more shot… whatever. Long-acting steroid injections are, in general, bad.

I pretty much refuse to give them to dogs unless they can’t take pills. Cats can have them occasionally but, to clarify, occasionally means less than twice a year. If your pet is getting a steroid injection every month this is really really bad.

Steroids in general shouldn’t be used constantly. There are just too many big bad long term side effects. Yes, they work fabulously but they’re only a band-aid for long term issues such as food or seasonal allergies. But it’s a really dangerous band-aid. Long term steroid use can cause liver disease, diabetes, Cushing’s, or heart disease.

Unfortunately, steroids are cheap and people with no money think this is their only option and the best way to go. But flash forward 4 years of almost constant steroid use and now this same no money person has a pet with diabetes. Great. If you couldn’t afford the allergy testing or to even follow some simple recommendations about food changes from your vet, how are you going to manage a diabetic pet? Sure, insulin is cheap but it’s the constant testing and glucose curves that are gonna kill ya. Not to mention that this dog still has allergies that are still not under control so you think we should leave your pet on the steroid while we treat the diabetes. Did I mention that being on steroids makes controlling diabetes next to impossible??? So… yeah. Maybe you should have followed our recommendations to begin with.

Because steroids are cheap and they work so well, people also enjoy the “steroid shot” which usually refers to the long-acting version that lasts for over a month. People love it because it doesn’t involve them doing anything at home. Here’s the rub: repositol injections (long-acting ones) have variable rates of metabolism for each patient. Not even just a difference between dogs and cats but for every individual. This means no one has any way of knowing how much steroid is present on any given day (other than day 1) in your pet’s body. So how long does that injection really last in Fluffy? No tellin’.

If we really need to do steroids, and there are legitimate uses, I strongly recommend the pills. The pills are equally cheap, small and easy to give, and we can easily control the dosage your pet receives. We know how much is going in on a daily basis and there are known wash-out times if we needed to switch medications. Likewise, if your pet suffers too greatly from the well-known side effects (increased thirst, urination and appetite) we can taper the dose sooner than originally planned. You can’t take away a shot once it’s there; there’s no antidote.

So that’s my steroid rant. Next time your pet need steroids, please choose the pills over the shot and don’t keep your pets on it long term. If your pet keeps needing steroids over and over and your vet doesn’t suggest anything else for the allergies, it’s time to seek a second opinion.

*Ok, so they aren’t really bad so much as they’re commonly used irresponsibly. Steroids can do wonderful things for patients that have cancer or severe immune system problems and we take the consequences of their long term use with a grain of salt because the more immediate concern is more life threatening. It doesn’t matter if your pet could get diabetes from steroid use for cancer if they will die from the cancer without the steroid. Make sense? Plus, the saying is “no pet should die without the benefit of steroids”. True story.

New puppy

Puppies are ridiculously cute. I truly believe they have to be that way or no one would have one with all the pooping and peeing in the house, chewing, crying at night… no way. So I really do understand the draw of getting a new puppy. It never gets old when someone brings their new pup into the clinic for it’s puppy visits. It makes all of us giddy!

But what people don’t seem to understand is, no matter how much money you spent on that puppy, it’s going to cost more to get him/her through the first 6 months of life safely. If you get your puppy at 8 weeks of age, there are 3 sets of vaccinations to go through, deworming, fecal checks, spay/neuter, and microchipping. Cost is likely to be around $400 for all of it and whether you got a free puppy or spent $1500, it doesn’t matter.

So what kills me is when someone brings in their newly purchased, purebred puppy and can’t afford to do all of the things necessary to keep that puppy safe and healthy. These are the things that need to be factored into the cost of a new puppy but few people consider it. And it’s the puppy that suffers when it comes down with parvo due to not following vaccination recommendations and the owner can’t afford to treat that either.

Appreciation

Appreciation comes in many forms: a simple “thank-you”, a commendation, or, in some cases, a paycheck.

So when you tell me that I (and only me) can’t deposit my paycheck for 3 days, that’s disheartening. That makes me feel unappreciated. That basically tells me that what I’m doing isn’t worth paying me on time. And when I bust my ass at work and go above and beyond my duties, pitch in on optional projects, and cover the days you want to be off, it sure would be nice if I could get a little sign of appreciation. Like what I earned.

This is why it’s called “earning a paycheck” and not “gifting a paycheck.” I earned that shit. I worked hard and I earned it. Not to mention I earned quite a bit more than that on a commission pay schedule that I’ve seen very little of. Like, I got a check once. Like, I earned a check 10 of the 11 past months and received only one of them.

That’s ok. I’ll just keep that in mind. Next time that you ask me to cover your day or you need a favor see how quickly I volunteer.

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