Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Feeding the dog Part II

If you feed your dog a Raw diet he is a health hazard T/F

This really is a serious issue that needs to be given careful consideration if your dog does therapy work. Unfortunately, just as with the question of the health benefits of feeding your dog Raw the scientific evidence is, to say the least, inconclusive. Or to put it bluntly the evidence is all over the map and often contradictory; one study shows a greater degree of e-coli shed in the fur of a Raw fed dog, another that there is less Mersa on a Raw fed dog’s coat. Yet another study indicates more salmonella on the coat of a dog that is fed Raw and still another that there is less salmonella on the coat of a dog that is fed Raw and more on the coat of a Kibble fed dog. There really is no definite information one way or the other. So what do you do? You can do like the Delta Society and prohibit Raw meats in a dog’s diet if they do Therapy work. That’s one solution. Of course this solution forces people to choose between letting the dog do the work he was born to do or feeding them the diet they have determined is optimum for their dog.

Ranger and I are registered with Therapy Dog International. They didn’t take the militaristic approach of banning all Raw fed dogs. Instead it was left to the individual human partner. I much preferred this approach. Don’t get me wrong there is a very real concern about passing pathogens from the therapy dog to the person they are visiting. Human partners of therapy dogs are encouraged to carry hand sanitizer and to offer it to anyone that has been petting their dog. Dogs are expected to have been bathed within 24 hours of a visit. Good hygiene is the rule and not the exception.

When humans interact with other animals there is a risk. The trick is to manage the risk. Since Ranger is a rough coated dog and there is possibly a greater chance that bacteria will get caught in his coat he will not be visiting high risk populations; in other words no visits to the local Chemotherapy ward for him. So what do we do to keep the populations he does visit safe? When we arrive for a nursing home visit I wipe his face, shoulders and all four paws with an antiseptic wipe. He’s already had a bath and been well brushed out so with the addition of the antiseptic wipe down we’ve done our best to minimize any health hazard he might pose. Additionally he is on Sentinel which not only prevents heartworm but also some pathogens that are contagious to humans. We take reasonable precautions and get on with letting him do what he was born to do. 

Something that has been well documented and demonstrated is the health benefits conferred by visits from Therapy animals. The lowered blood pressure, the boosted immune system, the increase in oxytocin all of these benefits have solid scientific proof behind them. Personally, I believe that the well documented benefits outweigh the potential risks.

Until next time. 

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