Caring For Canine ‘Kids’

Use common sense for dogs’ health care decisions.


We receive a lot of calls from readers whose dogs are in the midst of a health crisis. Sometimes, they are simply asking us to help them locate information, something we are more than happy to be able to do.

For instance, they remember reading about an alternative or complementary treatment for a given problem in some back issue, but since, at the time, their dog wasn’t afflicted with the same condition as the dog in our article, they didn’t really pay attention. But now that their dog has the same disease or problem WDJ discussed, they are desperate to find the article. “Don’t give those back issues away; you never know when you are going to need them again!” I tell them. “Put them in a binder; we’ve already punched the holes for you!” Because, if they really need to read the whole article again, they have to call our publishing office (800-424-7887) and purchase a copy. If they just need a phone number or the location of a practitioner or product we discussed in the article, I can pass it along.

But in other cases, they are looking for someone to help them make a treatment decision for the dog’s health problem.

Of course, I can’t tell them what to do. I can listen, and tell them whom I would call, but only the dog’s owner can decide what’s best.

However, I’ve noticed one thing that keeps coming up in these conversations: Many people don’t seem to trust their own instincts when it comes to their dogs. Their veterinarian will tell them something outrageous, and they will acquiesce, but go home with a knot in their stomachs. After thinking it over a while, they’ll call me and say, “Do you think that’s right?”

I’m not a veterinarian; I can’t say what’s right. But I tell everyone who wants my opinion to ask themselves the following question: If you were dealing with this same problem with a child, would you follow the advice you’ve gotten from that doctor?

For instance, I recently got a call from a man whose veterinarian told him he should put his allergy-prone Spaniel on a prescription dog food, and never allow the dog to have table scraps or any other type of “human food.” The man told me, “This just doesn’t seem right to me . . . What do YOU think?”

I gave my standard answer. “If this was your five-year-old son, and your doctor said you should put the kid on a prescription-only, ‘nutritionally complete,’ vitamin and mineral-fortified cereal for the rest of his life, and avoid all other foods, would you do it?”

“Well . . . um . . . no!”

Then why, I ask you and all the concerned dog owners who call me, should we think that it’s OK to take this kind of approach with our dogs? While researching alternatives to the traditional doctor’s “orders” may take time and effort, I think that most of us instinctively know, if we think about it for a few quiet minutes, whether a given solution for our dog’s health problems are the right ones or not.

Caring for our dogs isn’t all that different than caring for children. They are smaller than us (usually!), they can’t articulate their needs very well, and they need us to make the healthiest decisions for them regarding their diet, education, environment, and medical care.

So, if someone told you that it was in your child’s best interest to vaccinate him against several diseases every year for the rest of his life, would you do it? If someone said it would spoil your child if he EVER got a yummy treat, would you cut him off of all snacks forever? If you were told that to solve your daughter’s itching, she would have to take medicine that might cause liver enlargement or loss of bone calcium, would you have that prescription filled?

I know you know the answer.


  1. I don’t like that last paragraph’s implication; the correct answers are yes, no, and no. Structurally, you seem to be implying three no answers, which would mean you think you shouldn’t vaccinate your child/dog/pet. That’s definitely wrong. Makes me question all the advice and takes on this site.