Where Are Vets Getting Their Nutrition Knowledge?
My veterinarian knows a lot about my pet’s health, but not very much about what I should be feeding her. That is the lesson I learned when dealing with the constant—let’s call them messy—stomach issues my dog, Bella, recently experienced over a period of several weeks.
After a number of (expensive) office visits, stressful exams, (even more expensive) blood tests and poop samples failed to uncover the cause of the problem, the vet finally turned her attention to the food Bella was being fed. When I told her it was one of the brands that are only sold in independent pet specialty stores, I was expecting kudos for sparing no expense to make sure that my pet is well nourished. What I got instead, however, was an admission that the vet was unfamiliar with the brand I was feeding, and a recommendation to try a grocery/mass brand, or one of the veterinary brands that I could conveniently purchase there at the office.
As someone who has closely followed the evolution of pet food over the past two decades, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Of course, I wasn’t surprised about the recommendation of veterinary diet, but I was unprepared for the suggestion that I trade down from a super-premium brand to a diet that can be found in Walmart.
That is not to say the food brands sold in grocery and mass can’t be healthy and nutritious. I grew up feeding some of those brands to my pets to great effect, and I have gotten enough insight into the companies that produce them to know that most do put sound science and great care behind their products.
Still, my vet’s recommendation seemed to indicate a lack of knowledge about pet nutrition and the options available to pet owners today. But it’s not necessarily her fault. What I’ve learned from telling others in the industry about my experience is that veterinary schools provide very little training on nutrition, and the vast majority of educational resources provided to vets about nutrition comes from the same companies that were recommended to me.
This begs the question: Are the independent pet specialty food brands doing enough to educate veterinarians about the latest science behind pet nutrition and the benefits of super-premium diets? Are they working with veterinary schools and providing practices with informational resources, the way some of the big mass and grocery brands are? I suspect not, which is a shame.
For the new year, my hope is that all of the great pet food companies that focus on the independent pet store channel commit to being more engaged with the veterinary industry—for their own sake, for the sake of their retail partners and, most of all, for the sake of our pets.
P.S.—It turned out that Bella had actually developed a chicken allergy, so switching to another protein cleared up her digestive issues pretty quickly. If only a recipe change was suggested from the start, I could have saved hundreds of dollars in vet bills, not to mention about a dozen rolls of paper towels.