Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Daisy, demodectic mange, Ivermectin, keeping an open mind and the problem of vets who don't support raw feeding

Last Saturday afternoon I received a call from one of colleagues worried about one of the dogs we feed - Daisy. On Friday night she has been indescribably ill (throwing up, diarrhea, drooling, sort of half collapsing, lack of appetite) and, as you can imagine, her owners rushed her into the vet who gave her a shot of something unknown and also put her on a course of antibiotics. The vet was horrified that Daisy was being fed raw and said that undoubtedly this was the cause of the problem. The owners had got straight onto us Saturday morning and we had got onto Tom, Darling's Chief Veterinary Surgeon, on holiday as it happens, but naughtily checking his email anyway because that is the sort of chap he is. Tom had made some suggestions, I will come on to those in a moment, but my colleague didn't feel experienced enough to talk them through with the customer, would I do it? One of the principles we hold dear at Darling's GHQ is that if we don't know something, we admit it. So I looked up Daisy's medical history, had another chat with Tom, and rang our customer. (Stick with me on this, I will get to the point eventually.)

The first thing I said was that we are, naturally, terrified by the thought that there might be something wrong with our food. If they could put some of Daisy's - look, I won't beat about the bush, I used the word poo - into the vet for analysis we would pay for the tests. Daisy was, in fact, better and they had been feeding her Pedigree Chum every four hours on the vet's advice, so that was out. I explained that it was, in fact, unlikely to be the food because she had been eating the same batch for two weeks, we had had no calls from other customers and the symptoms seemed to differ from ordinary gastroenteritis. The customer wondered if Daisy might have built up an intolerance to our food over time. I called Tom again to discuss this possibility. We both agreed that it seemed unlikely but not impossible.

What of Tom's suggestions? Well, Daisy has been suffering from something called Demodectic Mange for months and none of the topical treatments had worked so her vet had put her on something called Ivermectin. Demodectic Mange is often a symptom of a compromised immune system so Tom felt that it would be better if her food was cooked, at least for a while. As you may imagine he was rather against the Pedigree Chum diet the other vet had prescribed. Tom also recommend probiotics and FOS (fructo-oligo-saccharides...but you knew that) to counter the effect of the antibiotics and thought a short course of multi-vitamins might help, too. Most importantly, he was concerned that the Ivermectin could have affected Daisy's liver. This might account for the falling around, dazed symptoms. Interestingly, the FDA in the US do not approve of Ivermectin being used for mange because the dose is so high. This is what it says on suite101.com about it:

Ivermectin is used in higher dosages to treat both demodectic and sarcoptic mange in dogs. Ivermectin used in these dosages is considered to be an off-label use of ivermectin as the drug is not approved by the FDA when used at these dosages. Off-label usage is common and Ivermectin is frequently used by veterinarians to treat mange in dogs but dog owners should be aware that the dosages are much different than those dosages used for monthly heartworm prevention.

The same site lists the symptoms that dogs can experience as:
  • depression
  • lethargy
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • lack of appetite
  • incoordination
  • seizures
  • excessive salivation
  • It doesn't follow that this was definitely Daisy's problem - but it had to be worth investigating.

    The customer was now facing a dilemma. On one hand she believed in raw feeding even though she had only been trying it for two weeks, and she could also see the sense in what we were saying. On the other hand her vet was telling her that we were wrong and that raw feeding is dangerous. Also, she really wanted to end Daisy's suffering with the mange and the vet was promising that the Ivermectin would achieve this. I was also facing a dilemma. I didn't want the customer to feel under pressure. Although we provide dietary advice and always consult with Tom if a dog has any health issues we rarely get to meet the dog so there is a limit to what we can offer. If I was responsible for Daisy I would have chucked the Ivermectin and consulted a homeopathic vet to discuss other options. But I couldn't say that to my customer. She had to make the decision.

    In the end she decided that she wouldn't feed any processed food to Daisy but would use fresh ingredients and cook them for her. And that she would stick with the Ivermectin. This may well be the right decision because Daisy does seem a lot better and that would suggest she isn't suffering from side effects but that it was due to something she ate. (I should have mentioned Daisy ate some non-Darling's raw food last week, too). We are sending the customer a cheque to cover the cost of the Darling's food in her freezer and we have asked her to donate it to a good cause. I didn't feel we really had to do this but my concern is always to make sure - if at all possible - that customers retain a good impression of us. There isn't really a moral to this tale except that it does highlight what we raw feeders are up against with vets who don't really understand what we are talking about and don't keep an open mind. Also, I hope it give you an idea of how involved we are with the health of all the dogs we feed.

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