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Pet Talk with Dr. Geoghegan - Ladue News: Special Features

Pet Talk with Dr. Geoghegan

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Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2009 12:00 am

Dogs and cats, living in the lap of luxury in our homes, are most content in an unchanging world. Of course, we can control only some of that world, but the best place to start is with the dinner bowl. Pets hate change in their diets, and even if they don’t hate it, it may hate them (right in the gut).  

    I’m talking about what the veterinary profession refers to as dietary indiscretion,  ‘garbage gut.’  The No. 1 cause of vomiting and diarrhea in animals is eating stuff they shouldn’t.

     For the sake of this discussion, I’ll stick to dogs here (we all know cats vomit just for the fun of it). Excluding any need for diet changes necessitated by certain medical conditions, pick a good-quality food and stick with it. There are many schools of thought on what constitutes a proper dog diet. Many are spot-on, some allow your ‘Benji’ to eat better than you do, and others are dangerous. There are some who subscribe to the theory that dogs are carnivores, descendents of ancient canids, and must eat only meat. More on that later. Others counter that too much meat causes protein-related issues with your dog’s kidneys. And the debate continues on and on.

    There are really good diets out there, without having to cook for your pet or feed him/her raw meat. I have observed that veterinarians seem to be seeing fewer of the maladies we used to encounter on a regular basis, specifically skin disorders. A dozen years ago, the appointment roster would be full of dermatitis issues that would plague our pets in the heart of the St. Louis allergy season. Throw in a good, old-fashioned, super-hot St. Louis summer with Amazonian humidity, and the itchy skin demons would be on the attack. Advances in flea control, a smarter pet owning public, and other preventive measures have done their part, but a stable, quality diet has helped enormously.

    Back to change. When presented a dog with vomiting and/or diarrhea, the first question is, Did your dog get into anything? ‘Anything’ can range from slippers to dead opposums. Many things can trigger the gastrointestinal equivalent of a volcanic revolt. That includes changes in diet. It holds true for changes in treats as well.

    Veterinarians hear it all the time: I wouldn’t want to eat the same thing every day. Well, that is a human emotion. In reality, dogs are evolutionarily cousins to the big dog himself, the wolf. Wolves do not have a discussion at the pack meeting on whether they have a hankerin‘ for elk or caribou as the main course for tonight’s supper. They pick the oldest, the youngest, the sickest, or the slowest of their target species, and that is what they eat. They also eat non-meat items on a regular basis.

    An individual dog’s stomach can be as sensitive as a cat’s whisker or an iron gut. Either way, keeping the diet the same avoids, once and for all, change being the cause of your carpet being ruined. Why not save yourself the money, cleanup and headache?

    So keep your pet’s food and treats the same. You’ll avoid feeling guilty about a problem that you caused. Just remember the KISS principle: Keep It Same/Stable.

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