Thanks for the advice!
How do pet owners know what is best for their pet? Every day they see it in advertisements, read it on packaging, and options available in the ever-growing industry of pet foods or alternative veterinary options (i.e. holistic, alternative, behavior, or Chinese medicine) available. With more selections available to the owner and information from various sources, it is crucial that owners become attuned to what information is accurate and what information warrants further investigation.
First, let’s glance at the pet food industry. From personal experience, it can be overwhelming for an owner to walk into the local pet food store, walk down the multitude of food aisles, and try to determine which brand or formulation is best for their pet. The options can vary from grain-free to novel protein to low-fat/diet to raw/dehydrated to prescription and everything in-between.
The truth is what may be recommended for one individual pet may not be recommended for another. Diet choice should be individualized. The starting point to try to determine what may be recommended is the family veterinarian. The veterinarian can determine if any underlying disease processes are present that may preclude the use of a certain food, or if consultation or referral to a veterinary nutritionist is warranted. Veterinary nutritionists are veterinarians who have completed advanced training to become certified in nutrition. Many of the larger companies (Hill’s, Royal Canin, Purina) have veterinary nutritionists on-staff that the veterinarian may contact if any questions arise. When receiving nutritional advice from additional sources (i.e. pet store employee, company representative), it is important to review their credentials to determine their degree to be able to offer pertinent medical advice.
Second, there is the growing field of alternative veterinary medicine. If an owner is interested in these options, it is extremely important to talk to the family veterinarian as they can recommend veterinarians nearby that may specialize in this field. Typically veterinarians interested in this path will undergo additional specialized training and continuing education.
There is also the opportunity, however, for individuals who are not licensed to practice veterinary medicine to be able to offer some of these services. It is important that when seeking alternative veterinary care outside of a veterinarian’s office, the individual’s credentials are verified to ensure the safety of the pet. This also stands true for behavioral training opportunities. There are numerous behavior training courses available to lay-people (those that are not veterinarians), and what the trainer is certified in should be readily available for the owner to view.
The main point is that everyone wants to ensure that the pet’s best interests are being met. It is just important to ensure that information that is received is medically based and takes in to consideration the individual pet. As always, the best place to start with questions regarding the pet is with the family veterinarian, who can then direct you along the appropriate path.