Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Much Power Do Vets Have?

One of my puppies, a beautiful yellow 5-month old, was hit by a car, breaking his right tibia and inflicting several bloody wounds.  Owner needed to rush Bear to a vet hospital from a remote area -- a nearly 2-hour drive. While driving toward Kailua-Kona vet hospitals, he telephoned every vet in the phone book.  His wife, who was at work in Kailua, made similar calls.  One vet practice said they are not taking new patients (even though they advertise emergency care).  Most simply did not respond to the emergency.  Only one vet returned their calls in time to get Bear the treatment he badly needed.

When they arrived at the vet hospital, Bear was diagnosed and treated.  He has a full leg cast on his right rear leg and some stitches to close wounds.  He was admitted to the vet hospital for a 4- to 5-day stay.  Owners asked to bring his raw-meaty-bones food for him.  They were told, Absolutely Not!  Vet delivered a salmonella and broken teeth lecture and told them they were irresponsible to feed him rmb. So, Bear was to be fed kibble for the duration of his hospitalization.

When they visited Bear in hospital, vet told them she will not release the puppy from hospital until they show her they have purchased "real dog food", by which she meant kibble.  Owners reluctantly purchased a large bag of kibble to retrieve their puppy.  After 5 days in the vet hospital, Bear was skinny.  His ribs and backbone showed through his coat.  His teeth were yellow. He was lying in a cage with a full bowl of kibble beside his head.  As soon as Bear got home, he ate rmb voraciously.

I took care of Bear yesterday, 5 days after he was released from hospital.  He is a handsome son of my lovely Ella (Gamefield Enchantress) and Am/Can Champion Timberline Ben of Fawnhaven, Senior Hunter.  Bear is still thin, but his backbone is no longer visible.  After a week on his raw-meaty-bones diet, he gained weight, and his teeth are only spotty yellow, on their way to white again.

This vet told Bear's owners she knows me.  Yes, she does, unfortunately.  Here are two incidents I had with this veterinarian.  In December 2007, I took my pregnant bitch Emily to this practice to have an x-ray to see how many puppies to expect.  Emily was due to deliver in about two weeks, and this vet had told me she could count the puppies at this point in the pregnancy.  After the x-ray was done, she told me that Emily's puppies were "poorly developed", because I was not feeding her a proper diet.  She told me to put Emily on puppy chow immediately, if I hoped to save this litter.  This was shocking news.

Rather than acquiesce to her demand to buy puppy chow, I asked, "What does puppy chow have in it that makes it essential food for a pregnant bitch?"  I was told that canine nutrition is very complex, that I could not possibly duplicate the nutrition in commercial pet foods.  "Which ingredients are so critical?", I asked.  Calcium, vitamins, and proteins, I was told.  She launched into a diatribe about kcals-and-43-essential ingredients.  She asserted I was ignorant about how to feed dogs properly, which had to be high-quality commercial pet foods, sold by the vet practice.  I didn't buy any kibble, but, unlike Bear, she was not holding Emily hostage.

When at home, I looked again at Internet sites on rawfeeding, gathered data on the values of the diet I feed and wrote a letter to the practice owners to complain about the treatment she dished out.  Emily had 10 fully developed, healthy puppies two weeks later.

In March 2008,  Bonnie was showing signs of advanced pregnancy, although I had not seen any signs of her coming into season and did not arrange for her to be mated at this time.  Evidently, Stormy and Bonnie had another plan.  I took Bonnie to the same vet practice, and unfortunately found this vet on duty.  After several hours, she found time to examine Bonnie.  She took her into an examining room and returned in less than a minute.  "It's a false pregnancy", she said.  "There are no puppies in there."  "What should I do about a false pregnancy?", I asked, never having seen one before.  "Nothing", she said, "the symptoms will go away in a few months."  If I had not been so surprised, I would have asked for an x-ray to confirm her diagnosis of false pregnancy.

That night, Bonnie was lying on her side on my bed,  I could see bulges in her abdomen, and when I felt along her side I could feel puppies inside.  Bonnie gave birth to 8 healthy puppies a week later.  Again, I wrote a letter to the practice owners complaining about the treatment I had received.  I met with them when the puppies were examined.  Their defense of her behavior was apologetic but unyielding.  It's very hard to diagnose pregnancies in dogs, they said -- yeah, so hard that I could feel the puppies the same day she diagnosed a false pregnancy.  The treatment this vet gave Bonnie is malpractice, in my opinion.

A dozen or so rawfeeders left this practice when another vet came to town.  These vets' opposition to raw-meaty-bones and BARF diets is so extreme they are not able to provide good care for our pets.  They are so brainwashed about commercial pet foods, they despise alternative diets. Their advocacy of junk pet foods is very emotional. They fail to see evidence (well-developed, healthy puppies; healthy older dogs with white teeth and sound gums).  They try to use their power over clients to force compliance to commercial diets. When the villainous vet, who treated Bear, feels she has leverage, she actually forces clients to buy bags of kibble. 

Vets do not have the power to retain a dog in hospital until owners comply with their diet "recommendations".  But picture a worried, young couple with their injured baby.  They are grateful to the vet for setting his leg and treating his wounds.  They feel guilty for allowing the accident to happen.  They want the best treatment for their beloved Bear.  If the vet demands they show proof of purchasing kibble, they comply for the sake of their baby. 

Imagine if a pediatrician gave emergency care and admitted a child to hospital.  The child's usual diet is fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, breads, and meats, the parents say.  May they supply these foods to the child while hospitalized? Pediatrician says, Absolutely Not!  In hospital, child will be fed only commercial cereals, which are "100% complete and balanced nutrition".  And child is not allowed to brush his teeth as long as he's in hospital. Parents have to purchase commercial cereals before pediatrician will release the child from hospital.   Child emerges from hospital thinner and with cereal-coated, yellow teeth.  I guarantee this physician would be reported to the disciplinary committee of the state medical society, and his license and hospital privileges would likely be revoked. 

So, what ethical boundaries are there in veterinary medicine to prevent the incidents described here or to levy consequences for bad behavior?.  None, it seems.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Taking RMB Dogs to the Vet

My 10 Labrador retrievers seldom see a veterinarian.  They get annual leptospirosis vaccine, because Hawaii has epidemic lepto, and there's no sense in having them get sick and spread lepto to me and my friends.   Other than an annual inoculation, the dogs hardly ever need veterinary attention, because their diet is entirely raw-meaty-bones.

On Wednesday, five of my kids and a friend's Lab (a former puppy of mine) made the 200-mile round trip from Kona to Hilo to see Dr. Brundage.  Dr. Brundage retired to Hawaii Island, after spending her career in Honolulu as a reproduction specialist.  I suspected she actually knew how to do proper hip and elbow x-rays for certification by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the major US registry for dogs' joints.  Dr. Brundage successfully inseminated Emily and Ella last spring, so I know she knows how to do AI.  When I asked her about OFA x-rays, she said she'd done a few, by which she meant a lot.  Unfortunately, the vets on the Kona side of the island are neither skilled nor interested in AI or OFA certification.  I have had expensive, bad experiences with their incompetence in both.

So, we took two vehicles to Hilo, to keep two puppies, Cody, 11 months, and Abigail, 7 months, separated from the pack of four -- Zoe, Frances, James, and Koa -- all of whom are two years old.  Zoe especially does not appreciate new dogs moving into her pack.  She will accept them after a few growls and scoldings, but we didn't need that aggravation on a long trip.  Besides, having four Labs in an SUV with two people is quite enough.  My friend Joslyn drove my truck with the puppies.

We left at 7 AM and arrived at Dr. Brundage's Aloha Veterinary Center at 9:30 AM.  Thanks to advanced planning, with competed forms on my side and a well-oiled veterinary service on the other, all the dogs were examined, sedated, x-rayed, and mostly awake by 5 PM.  During the long day in Hilo (not a major tourist center), we went to the zoo, and found it much nicer than we imagined.  The animals have huge outdoor enclosures, beautifully landscaped, and the grounds offer many shady benches and picnic spots.  Signs said the carnivorous animals, such as the white tiger, are fed raw-meaty-bones!  The tiger gets three live chickens a day.  I don't know why they don't feed him goats and pigs, which are plentiful.  I will ask.

When we returned around 5 PM to talk with Dr. Brundage, she said all the dogs are in great condition, ideal weights for their frames, and their joints look good.  Except for Frances, who has some arthritis in her right hip.  Frances was imported from Australia at 8-weeks of age.  No one can tell that early how dogs' hips and elbows will develop.  Having sound parents is a help but still probabalistic.  I am personally and financially saddened by Frances' hip problem.  I will have to spay her and find her a pet home.

I asked Dr. Brundage about the dogs' shiny white teeth.  She chuckled and said their teeth and gums look great.  She laughed because, when I left Ella to be bred last spring, I took 5-days worth of frozen, packaged rmb for her.  Dr. Brundage accepted this deviation from their kennel practice, and she noted then how good Ella's mouth looked at age 7 years.  Seeing 6 more rmb-fed Labs with perfect teeth and healthy gums did not surprise her, I suppose, but I am quite sure she will not recommend a rmb diet to other clients.

It's odd that Dr. Brundage can accept my feeding rmb, examine my healthy dogs, and still refuse to see how other dogs will benefit.  Actually, I have heard vets' reasoning on why I can feed rmb and no one else can be trusted with a rmb diet.  They make me an exception: "you know what you're doing; other owners do not."  When I try to explain how easy feeding a diet of whole prey or rmb is, their eyes glaze over, and they give the canned lecture on "balanced and complete" food in bags and cans.

When I imported a Maine coon kitten from Australia last January, I took her for a routine exam to Dr. Brundage, who was at the time in Kona.  Her diet lecture astonished me.  She, who has bred Russian Blue cats for decades, told me that cats are "obligate carnivores" that require a carefully balanced diet of some 43 nutrients.  I must feed her a balanced and complete, commercial food.  I wrote to Tom Lonsdale at the time to express my surprise that her sentence, which began with "obligate carnivore", did not mention meat in the rest of the sentence.  Needless to say, Daisy enjoys her rmb.

Sometimes, I dream of convening a meeting of veterinarians to expose them to the rmb diet.  It would be fun to take along a few dogs to demonstrate how they wolf-down rmb -- chewing meaty hunks, cracking bones, gnawing, and consuming a meal in a most efficient manner.  I don't suppose the local vets would come to a meeting I organized, because they think of me as a lost cause.  Oh well, I have more and more puppies being fed rmb and a dozen loyal members of Kona Raw, who have switched their dogs from kibble to rmb and rave about the results.  Word gets around....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The AKC, Brought to You by Eukanuba

Okay. We're used to advertisements for the symbiotic AKC/Eukanuba Championship Dog Shows, hyped endlessly on TV. The American Kennel Club is a nonprofit, animal welfare group that purports to promote the best interests of (purebred) dogs and their owners. The fact that the world's largest dog registry has inextricably linked its championship shows to a commercial dog food is not in the best interests of purebred dogs and their owners.

Today, another affront came to my e-mail box. "This sponsored message was sent to by the American Kennel Club. It includes information that may interest you."

What follows is an advertisement for Eukanuba dog food with extravagent claims of bringing show dogs to peak condition with prebiotics.  I suppose they spray bacteria onto the kibble after it's baked and extruded, because nothing of any value survives their processing. 

"Our cutting-edge approach: customized nutrition, based on breed, size, age, and even special needs, such as sensitive skin.  No other dog food offers these choices for your dog's health."  Thank you, Proctor & Gamble, for bringing us another, useless version of cooked starches that will make carnivorous pets sick.  I must ask them about the research on which they base their customized kibble formulations.  Do you imagine they tested Afgan food on 100 randomly-assigned Afgans over several years, and contrasted those results with a control group of Afgans fed non-Afgan food?  If you think so, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you at a great price.

The American Kennel Club is selling its good name to pet food companies that fund a small perentage of their activities.  My analysis of their published budget shows that only 7 to 9% of 2008-2009 funding comes from pet food companies.  Problem is that these funds are used for the most visible, public aspects of the AKC program, where the pet food companies want to have their names entwined with the AKC emblem -- at dog shows and in public advertising.

As a Labrador retriever breeder, I am forced to interact with the American Kennel Club to register litters of puppies and to keep dog breeding more-or-less honest.  It's painful to see this venerable organization controlled by Eukanuba's commercial interests.  For the AKC to send out a Eukanuba advertisement to millions of purebred dog owners on their mailing list is so degrading to the AKC and to purebred dog owners everywhere, it's hard to put into words.

The Public Interest in Pet Foods

8 December 2009

Center for Science in the Public Interest
1875 Connecticut Ave. N.W.
Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20009


Your analyses of foods and additives provide very important guidance for people to understand healthy and unhealthy diet choices. I write to ask you to look at pet foods from the same perspective. I can provide documentation and scientific information for all of the points cited below.


More than 90% of companion animals (cats, dogs, ferrets) in the US are fed commercial diets. Kibbles and canned pet foods contain high percentages of cooked starches. Cats, dogs, and ferrets are carnivores that evolved to eat diets of whole prey – raw muscle and organ meats and meaty bones. Carnivorous pets’ health depends on having a diet of raw-meaty-bones to clean their teeth and to provide appropriate nutrition.

Kibbles and canned mush coat pets’ teeth with gummy sludge that harbors bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Veterinary dental authorities admit that 85% of dogs and 75% of cats have diseased mouths by three years of age. Gum diseases pour toxins into the blood stream, infecting major organs and stressing the immune system. Commercial pet foods condemn carnivorous pets to chronic illnesses and premature deaths. Pet owners are victimized by unnecessary veterinary expenses, and pets suffer shorter lifetimes of poor health.

Commercial pet foods are made from human waste products by the same global companies that dominate the human, processed-food market. The Big Three -- Mars, Nestle-Purina, and Proctor & Gamble -- enjoyed $15 billion in 2008 sales in the US alone. Globally, these companies sold more than $40 billion in pet foods in 2008. Pet foods are enormously profitable for these companies, a bright sector in an otherwise stagnant processed-food market.


For 50 years, the Big Three have invested in veterinary training, research, and practice. Pet-food companies fund small-animal, veterinary medicine. Vets employed by pet-food companies teach small animal nutrition in vet schools. They write the textbooks. Mars, Nestle-Purina, and Proctor & Gamble provide scholarships, prizes, and research support for veterinary students; research and travel funds, and continuing education for faculty. Pet-food companies teach and fund a large percentage of continuing education courses in small animal medicine. Veterinary buildings, professorships, hospital wings, and pet memory gardens are named by pet-food companies. Once in practice, veterinarians earn up to 40% of their incomes from sales of commercial pet foods.

The Big Three fund animal welfare and purebred pet organizations. Employees of, and consultants for, pet food companies populate pet food regulatory committees in the NRC and AAFCO. There are no appropriate standards or safeguards for pet foods in this country. Advertisements of commercial pet foods are permitted to make outrageous health claims that are simply untrue. Pet-food labels are allowed to be entirely deceptive. Put simply, the pet-food industry funds and controls companion animal medicine, advocacy organizations, and pet-food regulatory bodies.

Information for Consumers

Pet owners do not know that their dogs, cats, and ferrets require a diet of raw meats and meaty bones to stay healthy. They do not know that expensive vet bills for continual allergies, digestive problems, heart, kidney, and liver diseases come from feeding monotonous diets of cooked starches. Most pets today are considered family members. Pet owners do not knowingly feed diets that make their cherished pets sick.

CSPI can make an enormous contribution to the health of some 66 million dogs and cats, and to the finances of their US pet owners, by informing consumers about pet diets. Because the same collusion of veterinarians and animal welfare organizations with pet-food manufacturers exists in all developed countries, CSPI’s investigation and publication of reliable information about pet diets will have worldwide impact.

I have extensive information from FOI inquiries in US veterinary schools on pet-food company influence on training and research. A few veterinarians, who have worked for pet-food companies, have written exposes of pet-food company corruption of their profession. The Internet provides a treasure trove of data on pet-food company control of regulatory bodies and animal advocacy organizations.

Like the pharmaceutical-company scandal in medicine, pet-food companies’ control of small animal medicine is a scandal waiting to be exposed. Of more importance to consumers, commercial kibbles and canned mush must be examined and exposed as the junk pet-foods they are. CSPI has done extensive research and published widely on human foods. Informing consumers about commercial pet-foods is a natural extension of that work. I stand ready to help in that effort in any way possible.

Sandra Scarr

Friday, December 4, 2009

New to RMB? Watch a Puppy Devour One

When prospective puppy buyers come to Aloha Labradors to see a litter of adorable babies, their first impression is of cute, furry toys. Lab puppies are cuddly, happy babies who adore human attention. They lick faces, pounce on small moving objects, leap unsteadily on each other, and generally make themselves irrestible.

When I tell prospective buyers about their diet, some are shocked. RAW MEAT? BONES? Most have owned dogs, usually Labs, for many years. All their dogs were fed kibble. How was their health? Now come the stories of illnesses and early deaths. Often their dogs developed chronic illness, cancers, and the like. When I tell them about raw-meaty-bones, they are interested. I send them away with packets of my own materials and books and articles by Tom Lonsdale, author of Raw Meaty Bones and Work Wonders.

When they return to see the puppies again, they have questions and concerns about the rmb diet. How can young puppies eat chicken wings and gnaw on beef neck bones with their baby teeth? Time for a demonstration! Hand 6-week old Lab puppies chicken wings or drumsticks and step back! Puppies shake their meaty bones, bite into them, use their paws to steady them, while they begin to gnaw away the meat. Once at the bone, they crunch loudly. The bone disappears, puppies lick their lips, and nuzzle the ground, looking for more. It's a sure-fire demonstration of carnivores with their natural diet.

Nearly all puppy buyers adopt the rmb diet for their new companions. They see how clean the older dogs' teeth are and how trim and healthy they look. No puffy, overweight dogs or puppies at Aloha Labradors! New owners need support to implement the rmb diet at home, and I am happily available to help them. In fact, that is why I formed Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op to help local puppy buyers to learn more about raw feeding and to offer rmb at wholesale prices.

More than half my puppies go to families on other islands, where there are no raw-meaty-bones co-ops. They have to buy chickens and meaty bones at local grocery stores, and some get meats from friends who hunt. However they can, they raise their puppies to healthy adulthood on rmb.

Once people realize the huge benefits of a rmb diet for their puppies, they are committed. It's a joy to see puppies educate their new owners, before they go new homes.

Raw-Meaty-Bones Make Sense, Even to Old Ladies

Once people think about a raw-meaty-bones diet for awhile (time varies), they come to realize that feeding pets what they evolved to eat make sense. Today a conversation with a Kona Raw Co-op member exemplified the transition -- one might say, conversion.

She adopted raw chicken and beefy bones for her dog, while also feeding her high quality kibble "for balanced nutrition". After several months of talking, reading, and thinking, she decided that raw-meaty-bones probably is a complete diet for a wolf/dog. I can tell she's not entirely sure yet, but she didn't buy any more kibble and purchased a week's worth of meaty bones. We'll see how it goes....

She noted how hard it is not to feed kibble, because she's fed pets commercial pet foods for 50 to 60 years. I agree. I have had dogs and cats in my home since early childhood, and I am 73 years old. I don't recall what my mother fed the earliest companion animals, but it was probably not commercial pet foods, because they did not become really popular until after World War II. My earliest recollections are that pets were fed table-scraps. But I am not sure....

As a young adult, my Rough Collie was fed canned mush and kibble. A succession of dogs and cats suffered the same fate. It was only 8 years ago that an alternative vet told me she refused to treat dogs fed commercial pet foods, because they cause so many problems. Her statement was shocking. If you don't feed dogs kibble and canned foods, what do you feed them? I was baffled and alarmed, both by my ignorance and the dire implications of her words for my dogs' health.

Over the past 8 years, I have had to undergo the same unlearning experiences that other pet owners do, when confronted with the idea that kibble and canned mush are not perfect foods for carnivorous pets. To stop feeding kibble requires unlearning decades of veterinary advice and mountains of advertising, promoting commercial pet foods. Only when one searches out information on carnivores' natural diets does one encounter the truth -- a complete and balanced diet for dog/wolves and cats is whole prey, or its equivalent, raw-meaty-bones.

I predict that more and more pet owners will discover the truth about pet diets and save their pets from the sad fate of many millions, fed manufactured "foods". If a couple of old pet owners in their 70's can make the transition, surely younger, more cyber-savvy pet owners will discover the truth earlier in their pet-owning lives.