Selling Dog Food Makes Me Feel Weird

My stint at Pet MD taught me that pet food is a really, really controversial topic.  Probably one of the top three subjects that really set off the angry people. 

It’s like raising kids.  Everybody thinks their way is right and everybody else is wrong.  Well, not everybody, just the really vocal opinionated types who like to pick fights with others or at least beat them over the head with their points of view.

Anyhow, I’m pretty open-minded about food.  Which I guess makes me a target for the trolls (Per Urban Dictionary, a “troll” is: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.  A very apt term to describe these folks. Stupid trolls.).  I think folks want me to take a strong stand in one pet food camp: Raw vs Cooked, home-made vs. commercial, organic vs. conventional, made in somebodys bath tub in a commune in Oregon vs. a factory in Kentucky, human grade vs. byproducts, grain free vs. grain full. 

I’m sorry to say (to the mean people) that the way I look at it: a) dogs eat poop and dead worms off the sidewalk.  They lick their own butts.  I don’t think they care if their ingredients are human-grade or not.

Maybe I’m just naive, but the way I judge a pet food is reflected in the pet.  Is his coat shiny? The right color? Does he have small stools? Normal stools? Is the pet in good flesh? Is the pet gassy, stinking up the exam room with his extreme flatus? Is there a lot of borborygmus (gurgly stomach noise)? 

If the pet doesn’t look vital and healthy and he’s having GI signs of maldigestion, it could be a medical problem or the diet.  I can pick out a dog who eats “Old Roy”, the wood-chip filled big-box store brand food out in any lineup from his dull, dry coat and death farts. Sadly, I’ve seen dogs on a certain “Bene-ficial” diet that’s supposed to be all wonderful and healthy who look pretty poor. 

Anyhow, I’ll admit that nutrition is one of those subjects (along with dentistry) that were woefully under represented in vet school.  What little nutrition education we got was spectacularly boring and virtually impossible to translate into daily practice.

Which makes me:

a) Not exactly an expert on nutrition

b) Open to discussions involving what I do know and believe to be proper feeding and care of pets vs. what you the client/consumer knows.  As long as you’re nice.  I don’t deal well with dogma.  I’ll listen to your point of view if you listen to mine. 

Anyhow, geez did I get off track.  My point for this whole blog was to tell you about my latest experiment involving my dogs. 

Scully, my 15-year-old lady has been virtually crippled with arthritis over the last few years.  She had gotten to the point that she would barely make it out the back door to use the bathroom.  She would pee/poop on the decking  just outside the door (which is gross but better than my floor inside the house).  She has a bad shoulder and pretty much just shuffled around the house at a sad, creaky old dog pace.

I kept the pain somewhat at bay using supplements like Dasuquin (glucosamine/chondroitin, MSM, Soybean/Avocado stuff), fish oil, and Platinum Performance powder.  I used non-steroidal antiinflammatories as needed.  She’s had a few acupuncture treatments.

She also had this weird nail disease called lupoid onychodystrophy which made all her claws brittle and misshapen. 

Well, Dr. Sharp and I noticed that all the guys at the Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center were putting their arthritis dogs on the Hills prescription Joint Diet (J/D).  If it went to the surgical center and the diagnosis was hip dysplasia or other arthritic degenerative disorder, it got some pain pills and a bag of this food.

Food to treat joint disease sounds like voodoo marketing to me.  What’s next? Food to cure cancer?  Treat behavior disorders? 

I like to treat diseases with pills that you give for a finite time, then hopefully the pet gets better and that’s it. I like to go for the quick fix. Food is such a personal thing for a client, a long-term commitment, and a slow way to treat disease.  Plus I never know for sure if the food does what it’s supposed to do or if the big fancy pet food company is just trying to make money.  I do have an arsenal of prescription foods that I think help, but am always leery of new foods.

Back to the story, Dr. Sharp and I noticed that the people whose dogs were on J/D were happy and buying more food.  Thus, we decided to do an experiment: I’ll put Scully on it and see how she does.

Well, I am pleased as punch to report that after about 5 months on the food, Scully is a new dog.  She now goes out into the yard to potty.  She trots around (granted she’s 15 so it’s a bit of a wobbly trot, but it’s a vast improvement from her previous shuffle).  I was clipping her nails a month or so ago and I was truly shocked to see that her claws are totally normal now. 

So I guess I now recommend Hills J/D diet.  It’s not perfect, Scully still has some days where she needs the extra help of an NSAID, but it definitely helps.  I have Katelin on it too, because she’s old.  Mia the Lab also is on it because she has bad elbows.  (Mostly everyone is on it for convenience sake too). 

It’s really nice to see the old lady looking so spry. Maybe this can help some of your creaky old pets too…



10 thoughts on “Selling Dog Food Makes Me Feel Weird

  1. This is very interesting Vivian, Booger has lost quite a bit of weight the last couple of years, I took him in for his annual check up, the doc was obviously concerned, additional tests were run, everything came out just fine, he looks happy as a clam, runs like a puppy dog. Doc has told me to start feeding him puppy food for additional calories, and mix with our leftovers (rice, carbs), twice a day. We’ve been doing this for a few months now, he’s still skinny (might be skinnier), and it makes me kinda sad he’s wasting away. Any suggestions?

  2. I so agree about the meanness!! I hate the attitude that “my dog is healthy BECAUSE of what I feed him; your dog is healthy IN SPITE of what YOU feed”. I believe that no one food or method of feeding is right for ALL pets. Every owner has to find what works for them.
    All I ask of any vet is that they trust their eyes and nose like you describe: if my dog is glowing with health and has normal labwork, don’t try to make me change what I’m doing.

  3. I’ve not heard of J/D so I Googled it and, boy, you were right about folks being steadfast with their opinions! (No, it wasn’t a surprise to me.) Of course, I found the message boards that went from “Should I try the new J/D for Fido?” straight into “Don’t trust what the vet tells you because they’re all getting rich selling this stuff.” Yeah. We all believe THAT one, don’t we? 🙂

    The Hill’s site wasn’t helpful about what makes this a “Joint Diet” so I wasn’t able to see what supplements are in it. Are the supplements in the food something that could be given in pill form or would the number of pills overwhelm the critter?

    However, I totally agree with you. If it works for your critter, and it sounds like it did for yours, go for it.

    When it comes to Fluffy or Fido’s quality of life and their health, there’s nothing wrong with trying something that may not help, but certainly won’t hurt.

    Any thoughts why J/D helped Scully’s nails?

    Regardless of anything else, it’s great to hear that Scully is doing much better.

    1. Hi Old Broad 😉

      The J/D food is supposedly super high in antioxidants/Omegas and supplemented with Glucosamine/Chondroitin. The surgeons think for some reason the antioxidants and stuff are better absorbed than in supplement form (which seems to be the case with Scully since she was on all the same stuff in supplement form prior to the food change). I did look it up and man, the ingredient list for this food is horrible, just a bunch of crap (corn, by product meal, soybean mill run, powdered cellulose), I hate that Hills uses all this junk, but I can’t argue with the fact that the dogs look great, and Scully fells tons better (later today I’m going to try and post a video of her). I talked to the dermatologist and he thinks that the high omega 3/fish oil is why it helped her claws.

      1. I totally agree about all the junk in Science Diet and have moved to Blue Buffalo Weight Management and Authority Sensitive Systems turkey. It wasn’t for health reasons, I just didn’t like the junk in the food.

        There hasn’t been a noticeable difference in the kitties since the only “patient” right now is Owen who has HOCM. He’s doing great on Atenolol and Enalapril once a day.

        I know that if one goes off the food, though, all I have to do is add some dry R/D to the mix. Weird, huh?

  4. By the way, if any of your readers are wanting to try J/D, the Hill’s website has a $7 coupon for it.

  5. Hi! I just discovered your blog (via petmd). I have a GSD that is 11.5 years old with SLO. It was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through with a pet. She is now in remission and looking good. Our doggie dermatologist has Sierra on Omegas, E, & Niacinamide twice daily. Do you think the Hills J/D would push her over any limits as far as these supplements go? She is about 70-73 lbs & she is starting to limp around a bit, so I’m wondering if this would help her out as well. She is just a puppy in an old lady body.

    Thank you for posting about SLO. I had to bring information I found on the web to my vet to help with the diagnosis (she had never seen it before). By the time we got a definitive diagnosis, Sierra had lost all of her nails! Poor girl went through biopsies, scrapings, and all sorts of treatments! We did draw the line at taking a toe off… of course it didn’t come down to that since we had ruled everything else out. Since that time, Sierra has helped to educate at least 2 vets that I know of who had never really heard of SLO. Thanks for putting information on the web to help others.


    1. Glad to help. Fortunately Scully’s SLO never got beyond a couple broken nails and a bunch of deformed ones (in hindsight it sure did make her sore though). I’m still pretty amazed at the response to the JD. I spoke to our local Dermatologist and he thought the results were pretty neat, but probably won’t be typical for most dogs. Worth a try though. I don’t think you’ll be pushed over any limits with the J/D, but I’d probably ease her onto it over a couple weeks since excessive consumption of omegas can cause diarrhea. I did eventually take Scully off her omega pills when she was on the JD, mostly because I’m a bad pill giver. Good luck.

  6. Whoa! My beagle has SLO too! :/ I actually need to make an appointment to bring her in, because I think one of her nails is growing onto her pad because she’s been slightly limping periodically, but we’re coughing up $1k for my husband’s CT scan tomorrow morning. Ugh.

    This makes me wonder if Penny’s toes would improve on the HIll’s JD. Can’t be worse; I’m supposed to give her niacinamide but I am the worst pill giver, partly because Penny is so awful at taking them. PB, cheese, doesn’t matter, she gets it off the pill and PTUI! spits it out. If it’s inside her mouth at ALL she spits it out. So I have to literally stick the pill down her throat with my finger. And of course, nobody at our house can do that properly except me. Mmm, nasty dog throat slobber.

    Anyway I’m really enjoying your blog, slowly working my way through to these older posts. (We actually brought Penny in as a new patient a while ago because I found this blog, but unfortunately you were out and I had to see someone else.)

    Can’t wait to meet you in person… but maybe after our next paycheck.

    1. I fed Scully the JD for years until her kidneys crapped out and I switched her to KD. The nails never really flared up again. I know the pain of giving that Niacinamide/Tetracycline combo, so JD is definitely worth a try. I’m seeing a Great Pyrenees with SLO who is on JD but it didn’t help so she’s on the pills too. I’m quite the part timer lately on account of the kids, so I’m hard to catch, but hopefully I’ll meet you soon 🙂

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