Friday, April 27, 2007

Pet Obesity

The following letter was written by Bud Stuart, DVM, of Santa Barbara, CA, to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and appeared in their April 15, 2007 edition. Dr. Stuart has graciously allowed us to post the content of his letter here, as he spells out very clearly his thoughts on pet obesity and nutrition. Dr. Stuart is compiling information for a book on pet nutrition which he hopes to publish soon, so be sure to look for it!

"As a pet practitioner for over 40 years who puts nutrition first, articles dealing with any aspect of pet nutrition always catches my attention. Allow me to say that I was rather disturbed by your recent news article on the newly introduced drug for pet weight reduction.

I wasn't bothered by the fact that still another large pharmaceutical firm has come up with yet one more money making medication to treat a clinical sign, not a cause. That's what they do to produce a large profit flow. We all understand that.

What does continue to disturb me is my own profession's continued inability (or is it a choice?) to deal with the major cause of pet obesity in the United States. During almost half a century of pet practice, my patients have been trim and healthy when their owners followed my instructions. The pets maintained a proper weight, had healthier skin and coat, had less urinary tract problems (including stones), and lived into a happy old age.

In my experience, the magic key to this dietary success, which all of your so-called experts can be counted on to consistently ignore as they always have, is to restrict the overuse of dry pet foods. To blame table scraps is to act as a spokesperson for the enormously powerful pet food industry. To be satisfied with merely "reducing 10 to 15 percent of body weight" in obese pets is to fail your patient.

When will the AVMA and all other veterinary organizations take a clear, unbiased look at what high-carbohydrate, grain-based diets do to our pets when fed according to instructions on the bags? My poster pet for obesity control was Jimmy the 47-kg (103-lb) Labrador Retriever that once waddled into my examination room but quickly and easily got down to 29.5 kg (65 lbs) on a properly balanced diet. My clients who view Jimmy's before and after photos were not hard to convince to follow my advice. Why can't I convince my own profession?"

Bud Stuart, DVM
Santa Barbara, Calif

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Food Testing

(Contributed by Lori Whitwam)

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Julie. She agreed to participate in a nutritional study being performed by a large national food corporation, testing a new line of vitamin and mineral enhanced foods. She, along with 7 other adults who were of normal weight and health, participated. All they had to do was have some basic bloodwork done before and after the six month testing period, and during that time they were to eat only the company’s new products, a fortified bologna and Ramen-style noodle cup.

After a month or so on the diet, she noticed she was losing weight, though she was eating an even higher than usual amount of food. She was tiring more easily, she noticed her skin was breaking out, and it seemed she kept catching the same cold over and over. But it was so easy to eat this convenient, processed food, it was pretty tasty, and she always felt full.

By the end of the test, Julie had lost 14 of her slim 130 pounds. She was also shocked to learn that two of the study’s participants had passed away toward the end of the testing period! One, a woman in her early 40s, had died of kidney failure, though her pre-test bloodwork had not indicated that she had a problem. A 50-year-old man had also died after contracting a serious infection. While the food company’s staff was saddened by these deaths, they were not due to “nutritional causes,” and so did not affect the outcome of the study. The new foods were certified as safe and providing complete and balanced nutrition.

Yes, the above story is totally fictitious. There is no way that a human dietary item would receive such inadequate testing! However, that is exactly the testing required for pet foods to receive certification from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which must appear on every product offered as a maintenance diet for pets.

The requirements for a food to pass the AAFCO test are:
8 pets older than one year must start the test.
At the start, all must be normal weight and health.
A blood test is taken from each animal at the start and finish of the test.
For six months, the animals must only eat the food being tested.
The animals finishing the test must not lose more than 15% of their body weight.
During the test, none of the animals used are to die or be removed because of nutritional causes.
6 of the 8 animals starting must finish the test.

So, what does that tell us about our processed pet foods? We cannot take the labels at face value, and must work to educate ourselves about what ingredients are used, and whether they are something we want our pet to eat. Huge pet food companies pay advertising agencies millions of dollars a year to present their foods in the best possible light. Is a slick ad campaign enough? Don’t you want to know more about what you are feeding your pet?

At Central Bird & Animal Hospital, we talk with clients every day about the importance of proper nutrition. It truly is the cornerstone of our pets’ health. One thing that we frequently hear is, “Those foods are too expensive.” Yes, in most cases a quality food does cost a bit more than something with a lot of fillers, by-products, and questionable ingredients. However, the reality is that by feeding a food that supports your pet’s health, you actually save money in the end. You will feed less of a high-quality food, because it is more digestible and contains more nutrition than “bargain” brands. You will also spend much less money treating recurring or chronic problems such as ear infections, hot spots, other allergy-related problems, immune system problems, and kidney disease, just to name a few. And the best benefit of all is that your pet will have a longer, healthier life and more energy.

The fact is that any processed food is, by its very nature, less than ideal nutrition. Much of the nutrition, the essential fatty acids and probiotics, vitamins and minerals, are lost during the necessary cooking process. While a raw natural diet is best, for most owners, a kibble or canned food is a convenience that they are unable to give up. In those cases, choosing the best quality food you can find, and supplementing it with raw food and whole food supplements is a good alternative.

Nutrition truly IS the most important decision you will ever make regarding the health of your pet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Homeopathy Milestone

(Contributed by Dr. Jessica Levy)

This past weekend I graduated from the Northwestern Academy of Homeopathy. This is a four year program dedicated towards treating humans with classical homeopathy. I am a member of the fifth class to graduate from this program.

My homeopathic studies began in 2002 with the Veterinary Homeopathy course taught by Dr. Richard Pitcairn, a veterinarian who also has a PhD in immunology. It's interesting how many homeopaths have a background in immunology. I had come across many mentions of homeopathy throughout the years, and had always thought it sounded too far out to be applicable to my practice. Then one day I saw the ad for the veterinary homeopathy course, and something shifted in my brain and I thought, "I've got to take this course!" I registered two weeks before it started and flew out to Eugene, Oregon, for something I really knew nothing about.

Needless to say, it blew my mind. Once I graduated from that year-long course, I felt frequently stumped while trying to integrate homeopathic philosophy into the conventional practice I was working in at the time. Then suddenly the information about the Northwestern Academy of Homeopathy jumped out at me in the same fashion, and I thought, "I've got to take this course!" Again, I registered within two weeks of starting classes.

I am so glad I've had this training, and feel privileged to have been a part of this educational program. The first two years were largely didactic, mostly lectures and discussions with the opportunity to observe cases taken by the instructors, who had all been practicing for over 20 years. The last two years were student clinic years, during which the instructors opened their private practice for our use and taught us how to practice homeopathy in a real life setting.

This experience was priceless. It was like being back in vet school, where you are responsible for animals and clients in your care, but you have a senior clinician assisting you and making sure you don't make any huge mistakes, while guiding you through the diagnostic and treatment processes.

This allows me to practice homeopathy with much greater confidence than I would have otherwise. In 2005 I attended the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy annual conference, and met veterinarians with a wide range of experiences and practices. It was gratifying to see the advantages that the education I've had has granted me.

I graduated in a class of 24. The ceremony was held at the Jewish Community Center on Cedar Lake Road in Minneapolis. There were over 300 people who came to cheer us on as we stepped into the world of professional classical homeopathy. My husband, who is a devout adherent of conventional medicine, was amazed at the attendance and at the grace and dignity of the proceedings. He was quite impressed!

I definitely had reservations when I started this program, and it was not easy for me, as a time commitment and as a personal commitment as well. It has completely changed the way I practice medicine, and encouraged me to open my own hospital so that I could practice as I see fit, focusing on promoting true health and well-being for my patients.