I would hate to be new to owning dogs in our current society, it’s difficult enough to be a seasoned, experienced, knowledgeable dog owner these days at times. I can’t imagine being so over whelmed with all of the new information people are bombarded with on a second by second basis from all directions, all day, every day. I’m going to do my best to stay on topic this post and focus on the ins and outs of the modern medical approach to canine care. I will be stating opinions based on over 40 years of practical experience, education, training and insider knowledge.

Canine medicine has come a LONG way and while the research and advancements have their advantages, I also see at times where “prevention via modern medicine” often leads to other problems, some more serious than the issue being addressed.

We have corporate medical practices for our canine companions now that have resulted in the need for “pet insurance” to cover the costs of taking Fido in because he’s not been feeling quite right, to be met with a list of things the vet wants to do first; diagnostic skills at the human end seemed have been abolished in favor of the default:
“He’s been throwing up” – “Okay, lets do some tests”
“Has he eaten anything unusual? Lets’ do a full blood panel on him, X-Rays and maybe an ultrasound and see what we can find out. Hopefully he won’t need exploratory surgery”

This is typically done before a physical examination by default at many clinics these days; when it used to be – Listen to the client give you every detail and typically TMI, EXAMINE the dog, take it’s temperature, palpate, check for dehydration, listen to its heart rate and breathing, check CRT (Capillary Refill Time), look at its eyes, ears, gums, teeth, ask when and what it ate last, when it pooped last, if it’s drinking normal amounts of water, if it’s been to ‘doggie day care’, a boarding kennel, done any traveling or to a dog park….you know, check the dog for obvious signs that may go hand in hand with the ramblings one gets from the dogs owner (valuable ramblings when trying to diagnose a problem via human knowledge of canines!)

Then your dog is whisked away by a technician, poked and prodded, radiated and poked some more, brought back to you by a technician, you sit and wait for a doctor to come in and tell you “we’ll have the blood work results back within 3 days, but we saw nothing on the X-Ray, I’m going to prescribe some antibiotics and something for his upset stomach, feed him a bland diet for the next week – we have some prescription diet up front I recommend and we’ll call you with the results. Call us if he gets worse, so sorry he feels bad poor little guy”.

Then the check out – typically the cash in your pocket won’t cover this visit so out comes the credit card to cover the $300 to $400, sometimes more trip, still leaving with a not-so-well dog and no answers; just a load of worry, a couple of prescriptions and a brand new bag of prescription dog food that you never knew you needed!

In so many cases, after my clients have told me this same story over and over and over again only to follow up the next week with “the vet said he probably had a stomach bug, it’s going around and not to worry about it unless it gets worse.” (I hear this mostly in spring and mid-fall – humans are not the only ones to have seasonal problems, bugs, colds and flus!)

Really? You’ve got to be shitting me.

Vets, media, social media, the over load of ridiculous information available have us all thinking we need to rush to the vet every time Fido looks at us sideways and doesn’t want to play fetch. All for not. So that they can pay for all of that fancy equipment just to tell us what they likely knew at the onset and had already seen a dozen other cases of that week, Fido has an upset stomach and it’ll pass in 3 to 4 days.

Do they then take back and refund those unnecessary drugs? No.

Do they then take back and refund that unnecessary food? No.

They tell you “it won’t hurt him to be on it, so let’s just run the course of medications and food and see if it helps”.

How can it possibly help if all Fido has is a stomach bug that will pass in 3 or 4 days and didn’t need any of it to begin with?

Antibiotics are handed out like candy, as are pain killers – now “modern medicine” has brought that to our canine companions on a whole new level.

Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Rimydil are prescribed for many a dog over the age of 7 that is stiff or sore from the onset of age (I’m 60, being stiff and sore….it goes with the territory, trust me), and while the claim is long term use of it does not harm the kidneys or liver, I have seen proof that it does in fact damage both, as well as causing upset stomachs, excessive water consumption (damaging the kidneys and also resulting in per-mature bladder leakage and the need for frequent urination) and fickle appetites. But all of those side affect will be happily addressed by many a vet with MORE medications to counter the side affects of an over dose of first unnecessary medications. They’ve got a once-a-day pill for the mild incontinence, more prescription diets than are available for human kind, and even pills to help with the “blues” or anxiety sometimes brought on by all of this other crap; “doggie valium” is a big hit at some clinics and prescribed for everything from behavior problems to a dog “just getting old”. But I believe they can make these claims about “no damage” because the damage is not a “direct result” of the drug but rather ‘side affects’ of the drug which aren’t really discussed and are in fact the drug itself doing damage in my opinion, just taking a back road to get there and leading to more drugs along the way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the idea of seeing any dog suffer, but a balance with reality needs to be struck if we are actually going to see our dogs live reasonable, happy, healthy lives, but the extreme measures often taken these days in fact do more harm than good to the QUALITY of life a dog leads, and pain is the body’s way of telling the brain “it’s time to slow down some”; removing it entirely results in dogs who will over exert themselves, whose owners are then eventually advised by their vet to up the amount of medication given to compensate for the fact that the dog was “doing great but now seems to be even more stiff and sore”, hence escalation of the cycle of “benefit vs. determent”.

I’ve had a Saint Bernard who despite the “breed standard” and being assessed with hip dysplisia at 6 months and subsequently spayed at that time, live a health, active life of swimming, camping, hiking, biking, etc. with NO drugs until she passed at the age of 12. She “told” me when she could no longer go hiking or participate in extraneous exercise due to the aches of aging, so her activity and diet were adjusted to accommodate for it and 2 more years passed before she died – drug free – yet still perfectly able to go up and down stairs, move about and tend her to personal needs (toileting) on her own.

I’ve had a mutt acquired from a dog pound that lived to be 17 years old – drug free.

I’ve had another mutt acquired from the streets that lived to be 13 – drug free – and probably would have lived much longer had another dog not killed her.

I got swept up into “modern medicine” and found myself ordering ‘belly bands’ for a 13 year old dog who is in superb health with the exception of an old back injury bothering him from time to time and being convinced I should put him in an anti inflammatory drug, which resulted in excessive water consumption and when combined with the deep sleep of an old dog, wetting himself during the night at times. It was belly bands or another drug to be given daily. Neither would ever help the damage being done to his kidneys by the first drug.

Then I found myself treating my 10 year old dog, naturally a bit stiff with age, with this drug to experience not only the excessive water consumption, but vomiting and a lack of appetite and over all generally feeling like crap to the point that I was convinced she had cancer or some other illness that was rapidly taking her out because it couldn’t possibly be the very drug I was giving her to make her feel better (“better” equals “younger” in most of our minds and denial of the passage of time is the most played human game I know of today). I was convinced that all of her problems were the result of “something else” and worried myself useless until I decided to take matters back into my own hands.

So I decided to try something and do what I’ve always done and allow my dogs to live out their lives with as little intrusive nonsense as possible and that meant removing all nonessential drugs, which leaves them…eating regular food, not trying to drink an ocean whenever there is water around, no need for belly bands, no vomiting, no feeling generally crappy…just getting old, as the fortunate are apt to do. They are not suffering, they are not in excessive pain, merely feeling the years and slowing down as all things that age do. For me, my dogs being happy; mentally, emotionally and physically, are paramount, without those things ALL if those things, there is no quality of life. It is hard to watch our dogs grow old, slow down, no longer want to run marathons. It’s hard seeing our dogs sleep the deep sleep of age where we find ourselves checking from time to time to see if they are in fact still breathing; but it is all part of the circle and responsibility of accepting that love and dedicating that time. And if a little stiffness from age is the worse your teen years old dog is “suffering” then I’d say you’re both in pretty good shape.

Specific mineral supplements help, as do leafy greens and a weekly dose of certain herbs and plants to help internal organs survive the onslaught of toxins our dogs are exposed to; and I believing a more natural approach to having dogs is in order, took a step backwards if you will, in how they are cared for. I prepare and employ these simple and natural approaches to dealing with my dogs and always did prior to getting caught up in the fever of running to the vet with every ache and complaint and now that I’ve returned to a specific regiment for the benefit of my dogs, they are all feeling healthier, happier and more natural – abet a little slower in the case of my two “ancients”, but being slower is okay especially when the benefits of that natural life style have greatly improved their quality of life.

I’m not suggesting one not take advantage of modern medicine when needed, but the actual times it’s needed are grossly over exaggerated in my opinion, but it is up to dog owners to be more educated where dog health and practices are concerned, and the better informed they are the better they will be able to care for their dog with the dogs best interest in mind. Sometimes, just as with humans, doctors and drug companies are not always to our advantage.