Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Future for Veterinary Medicine

From my observations, companion animal medicine is a termite-ridden edifice verging on collapse.  Commercial pet food influences have so undermined the intellectual foundation of teaching, research, and practice, there are no solid pillars to shore up.

The public is not yet aware of how rotten the pet vet enterprise has become.  Veterinarians who care for people's pets are trusted advisors on health matters for four-legged family members.  Vets have much the same role pediatricians have for young, two-legged family members.  Parents rely on pediatricians to help them promote children's healthy development.  Pet owners rely on veterinarians to promote pets' healthy development.

What will happen when pet owners realize the vet-recommended diet of cooked starches rots pets' teeth and gums, and leads to myriad chronic diseases? 

How will pet owners feel about vets when they learn that most steroids and antihistamines prescribed for allergies, expensive dental treatments, and most anitbiotics given to fight repeated infections are prescribed for disorders attributable to a diet of commercial pet foods? 

How will people feel about vets' diet advice when they connect commercial pet foods to their pets' diabetes, cancers, congestive heart disease, or renal failure? 

What will happen when pet owners realize that starchy kibbles and canned mush don't deserve the name, food, for carnivorous dogs and cats?  

Here's are some ways pet owners will wise up about vets. 
  • First, they will realize they are paying enormous sums to treat illnesses their pets should not have.  Increasing numbers of pet owners already question the too-numerous maladies their pets suffer.
  • Second, they will learn more about the true nature of carnivorous pets and their natural diet of whole prey.  Pet owners are already helping each other to feed raw diets.  Internet raw feeding groups are growing in size and number, despite veterinary opposition.
  • Third, they will ask why pediatricians want children to eat fresh, whole foods, while vets want pets to eat a processed, synthetic diet.  It does not compute.
  • Fourth, they will learn that manufacturers cannot make healthy food from dissected nutrients -- anymore than chemists can create life out of molecules in a petri dish.
To elaborate on the last point: pet-food companies cannot create wholesome food from nutrient fragments.  It is an astonishing conceit that pet nutritionists pretend they can take bits and pieces of grains, rendered by-products, and synthesized nutrients and create wholesome pet food.  How preposterous! 

Real carnivore foods, such as slabs of beef ribs and whole chickens, are exceedingly complex organic matter.  No one knows how to synthesize flesh and bones.  No one has analyzed the many thousands of constituents of flesh and bones.  Charred remnants of living matter, extruded with processed starches, are not food for carnivorous pets.

Small animal medicine today is owned by pet-food companies, which sponsor all of its activities -- student support, nutrition teaching, research, and practice.  The $50 billion/ year pet food industry has infiltrated every corner of the edifice.  To have a future, small animal medicine must rid itself of this blight.

A few suggestions:
  • Small animal medicine accepts zoological and genetic research findings on the classification of dogs as a subspecies of gray wolf and domestic cats as close relatives of wild desert cats.
  • Small animal medicine accepts the dietary implications of dogs', cats', and ferrets' carnivore classifications;
  • Small animal medicine accepts the fact that the ideal carnivore diet is a varied selection of raw, whole prey.  Whole prey provide all the nutrients carnivores need for healthy development and chewy texture to clean teeth.
  • Veterinarians endorse raw-meaty-bones as a second-best but appropriate diet for carnivorous pets, with whole prey included when possible.
  • Veterinary medicine partners with meat producers to transform the pet food chain.  Rather than sending all waste meats to rendering plants, perhaps 20% of  cattle, sheep, and pig carcasses could be diverted into a new, raw pet food market. 
  • A raw meaty bones pet food section is set up in supermarkets and pet store chains to feature vet-recommended raw food selections.
  • Veterinarians educate pet owners to feed rmb, recommend and sell selected rmb in their clinics. 
  • Veterinarians insist that a natural diet based on raw meaty bones is required to prevent dental disease in dogs, cats, and ferrets.  Ground bones and minced meats are not acceptable substitutes for raw meaty bones.
  • Meat producers supply a portion of their revenue from pet sales to support to veterinary education and research. 

It is unlikely, however, that meat producers could keep the small animal veterinary enterprise in the style to which kibble-and-can, pet-food manufacturers have accustomed them.  If pet-food funds are lost, who will fund small animal medicine?

Pet vets are not the only enterprise that could suffer financially from the demise of kibble and canned mush.  Pet-food manufacturers support animal welfare organizations, purebred dog and cat organizations, and spend $$ millions to advertise kibbles and cans in print, television, radio, Internet and other media.  Displacement of commercial pet foods could create serious financial problems for many pet-related organizations. 

The demise of pet-food companies is, however, unlikely.  It is safe to assume that Proctor & Gamble, Mars, Nestle-Purina, Heinz, DelMonte, and their like, have contingency plans to transform their extruded and canned mush business into raw frozen and dehydrated products.  These companies produce similar processed and frozen products for the human market.  They know exactly how to capture markets for frozen and processed foods.  And they know the day is coming when they can no longer pass-off kibble and canned mush as healthy foods for carnivorous pets.

As their junk pet-food business becomes obsolete, they will likely market attractively boxed, foil-wrapped, and cello-packed frozen and dehydrated raw pet meats and meaty bones.  A lot of pseudo raw and pseudo meaty bones will be thrust into the pet market.  The same players will fund vet schools, students, teaching, research, professional meetings and organizations.  Life could go on as before, or the foundation of small animal medicine could be reinforced and rebuilt.

The intellectual-educational shift from manufactured pet foods to raw-meaty-bones offers small animal medicine an opportunity for salvation.  Honest teaching and scholarship can co-exist with financial investments from commercial raw-meaty-bones, if the terms of engagement are changed.  Veterinary schools and professional organizations must maintain intellectual independence from pet-food companies and meat producers.  If commercial interests threaten to encroach, their influences must be resisted.  Intellectual and professional integrity must be maintained.

Remember -- pet-food purveyors need veterinary endorsement just as much as vets need pet-food funds.  The challenge for small animal medicine is to set the standards for appropriate pet foods that deserve their endorsement, and that standard must be raw-meaty-bones for carnivorous pets.

The scenario outlined here could save small animal medicine from intellectual and institutional collapse.  By accepting the nature and dietary requirements of carnivorous pets, vets can greatly improve their health and longevity.  They can save pet owners many millions of dollars, now spent to treat chronically-ill companion animals.  Small animal vets' roles can be transformed to preventive care, lifestyle consultation, honest dietary advice, and treating accidents and illnesses that are not caused by inappropriate diets.

Perhaps, when pet diets promote health, fewer small animal veterinarians will be needed.  That's the price dentistry paid for switching from filling cavities in children's teeth to responsible caries prevention.  Fewer dentists were needed.  That's the price veterinary medicine paid when inoculations and antibiotics stopped widespread animal epidemics.  That's how the marketplace for services works. 

The alternative -- continuing to promote heath-destroying, commercial pet foods -- leads to a collapse of consumer confidence and the end of small animal medicine as it is currently practiced.  If small animal medicine fails to protect its clients and continues to do harm, another professional group will be licensed to replace it.


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