Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vet School Deficiencies, or Why Not To Trust Your Vet's Advice on Feeding Your Pets

To earn a DVM degree in the US, students complete four years of training at one of 27 accredited veterinary schools. The four-year curriculum focuses on treatment of illnesses in large farm and small pet animals and some exotic species. Courses are organized around diseases and their treatments. Little attention is given to normal development or healthy feeding, topics of great importance to pet owners. Why ?

Veterinary Medicine in History
Historically, veterinary medicine had an important role in the economy by keeping transport and food animals healthy. Think back to centuries before the Industrial Revolution (mid-19th century) when animals powered plows and millstones, and before trucks and automobiles (early 20th century) carried goods and people. Horses, mules, and oxen carried loads, plowed fields, and transported people from one place to another. Keeping stables of work animals healthy had enormous economic importance. Control of epidemics, vaccination, inspecting animal feed, and the like were the backbone of veterinary practice.

Cattle, sheep, chickens, and pigs fed the population, and their health was extremely important. Food animals were raised on millions of small farms where animals needed veterinary attention. Wealthy people kept packs of hunting dogs and household pets, which required veterinary care, but this was a minor part of veterinary practice before mid-20th century. Ordinary people kept cats and small dogs for rodent control, but they were not household pets and unlikely to receive veterinary care.

Today, engineers and mechanics keep industrial machinery and transport vehicles in shape. Food animals have been taken off farms and into feed lots and industrial sheds for intensive, mechanized feeding. Veterinarians certify what others design and operate.

Veterinary and Human Medicine Evolve
The evolution of veterinary medicine is similar to the evolution of human medicine. The big issues in human health are clean drinking water, waste disposal, and control of epidemics. Once these public health problems were resolved in developed nations, human medicine became largely the treatment of individuals' diseases and illnesses. Because people value their individual health, human medicine has continuing economic value. Veterinarians' work changed from economically vital control of epidemics and assuring the health of work and food animals to marginally useful treatment of illnesses in individual household pets.

Contemporary veterinary curricula are similar to medical school curricula. Both focus on treatment of illnesses, not on maintenance of health. Little to no attention is given to normal species development, evolutionary biology, or optimal nutrition. The implication of this focus on illness, and not on species-normal development and health, is a lack of knowledge of how to feed and raise healthy pet animals. By failing to understand the evolution of pet animals, veterinarians are woefully ignorant about appropriate feeding. That the feeding advice they do give makes animals chronically ill goes unnoticed.

In the human health system, physicians are paid to treat illnesses and conditions that require intervention. In general, other professionals advise on healthy diets, normal child development, physical training, and so forth. In veterinary medicine, veterinarians are expected to cover all matters pertaining to animal health and illnesses. Today, they are paid largely to treat illnesses and conditions that require intervention. Thus, there is a huge gap in promoting healthy animal care that veterinarians are not educated to fill and no other professionals fill.

Let's look at one vet school's 4-year currculum. In their tri-mester system, vet students take 15 credits per term or 45 credits per year. Over 4 years, they take 180 course credits to earn the DVM degree. Nine credits in the third and fourth years are electives, chosen from a list of optional courses, which allow vet students to "specialize" on diseases of and treatments for large or small animals, marine animals, or exotic birds.

Among these electives is a one-credit, one tri-mester course on small animal nutrition. This course is taught by a pet food company representative at no charge to the veterinary college. Needless to say, the course focuses on commercial pet foods for "healthy" pets and commercial prescription diets for sick pets.

Vet students are not exposed to information about the evolution of carnivorous dogs and cats or to species-appropriate diets for carnivorous pets. No wonder they know nothing about feeding a raw-meaty-bones diet. They are taught about bacteria and digestive illnesses, not about how to keep a carnivorous pet healthy or how to make a sick pet well by feeding a rmb diet.

Your vet is unlikely to know that dogs are a sub-species of gray wolf, with a wolf digestive system. Wolves eat whole prey -- meat, organs, and small bones. This is the rmb diet dogs need to develop well, to keep teeth clean, and to live healthy lives. Vets know that cats are "obligate carnivores", which they interpret to mean that cats need more proteins and fats in their processed diets than dogs allegedly do. They fail to see that cats need a whole prey, rmb diet, not higher percentages of questionable nutrients in processed foods. Cats fed dry kibble, high carbohydrate diets are even more likely to become chronically ill, earlier in their lives, than dogs are.

Unfortunately, your vet is ill-prepared to advise you on any matters pertaining to diet and health, because their education omitted those topics or handed them over to commercial pet food companies. That's the bottom line.

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