Some Things to Think About by
Priscilla K. Stockner, MS, DVM, MBA
I think about "Zipper" a lot. She was my first dog.
That makes her special. A purebred smooth-fox-terrier who lived
next door to my aunt, on the farm in Illinois, had a litter and we
came to visit when the litter was 7-8 weeks old. Our family had
not had a dog since "Pal" my dad's collie got out and was killed
on the road; this was an event that was very traumatic for
all of us. The time seemed "right", and we came home with a
loving, happy female puppy.
I think about her a lot. She was never vaccinated, it was
before such procedures were ingrained into the psyche of the pet
owner. She ate what we ate. Mom always made a little extra meat
portion for her. Saturday, she got a fresh bone which my Grandpa,
who owned the general store, brought by the house. She had a
litter of pups with the three-legged male terrier next door and
was spayed thereafter. This was to be her only visit to a
veterinary office -- the garage of the local veterinarian. She
lived to 20 years of age. We ended her life because of her frailty,
not her spirit. No vaccines, no chemicals, no processed diet, no
drugs, no disease.
Today the health and longevity of purebred dogs, and to
some extent purebred cats, is in serious jeopardy, I think. Is it
iatrogenic (describing a condition that has resulted from
treatment, as either an unforeseen or inevitable side effect)?
Maybe so. "Iatro", definition, doctor or medicine induced, in
this case I extend to all of us who care for animals. It's a case
of errors of omission and errors of commission.
In the domestication, taming to an environment, our dogs did
make some changes in their behavior, but was it prudent? The dog
is related to the wolf, but with great differences
in physical form. It is this difference that makes it easy to
forget the carnivorous nature of our family pets. In a recent
headline in one of our veterinary magazines, a new organization
was expounding its merits to "discover" how to provide "better"
nutrition for pet dogs and cats. The make-up of the group is the
manufacturers of processed pet foods. What's wrong with
this picture? Why would I trust the manufacturer of pet foods to
use "unclouded judgment" regarding its selection of the
composition of pet food? Not in today's business climate where
making a profit every quarter for the shareholders is the driving
force. Yes, they say they follow the National Research Council's
(a government appointed Council) recommended nutritional
guidelines, but that Council hasn't met since 1981. It's data is
based on laboratory animal studies, read research Beagles. I guess
you can see I'm skeptical. It was a government
agency that said that a rubber stabilizer (ethoxyquin) was safe
if added to grains as a fat
preservative. I believe that nothing can be as good and nutritious
as a home-cooked meal based on fresh ingredients, meats, grains,
and vegetables and the love you put into the
preparation. Are we doing the right thing by following the easy
path and feeding our pet
commercial diets? I haven't had a family dog since "Zipper" that
lived beyond 15 years of age.
I think we have to take a careful look at where the
"information" we use to make decisions about what is the "right"
way to care for our animals originates. When I asked the
vaccine companies for data, read scientific, that confirmed the
need for annual "booster"
vaccinations, I was told, "there isn't any such data." The theory
is that the blood titers go
down after 18 months post vaccination so, we should build them
back up with a booster.
Despite the fact that the immuno-suppressive effects of booster
vaccination might cause
immune-mediated disease? Well, that's another column.