Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trust me on this one

Sometimes, every once in a while I wonder. Here I am, calling myself “The Pet Food Examiner”. Granted, some people know that my name is Paul Richey. Others know that I am the General Manager of a pet food store where only healthy pet nutrition is being sold online. I am giving advise to pet owners all over the country. Advise on healthy pet nutrition. I make my opinion known all over the internet, in e-mails to pet owners asking for it and during conversations over the phone. I constantly attempt to crush mass market pet food manufacturers because of the quality of the products they sell. At the same time I support the smaller business in the industry because I say that they have the better products. And I sell exactly those products every day in and out. I repetitively make it known that I am not a vet, nor a nutritionist nor have I ever received a degree or any other certified qualification on and for the particular subject matter pet nutrition. On every thing I write and publish on our store website and any communication I send out I attach at the end a lengthy disclaimer that what I say and make statements about is my personal opinion and should not solely relied upon by pet owners. This disclaimer in many cases exceeds in length the actual answer I am giving in response to an inquiry.
But you want to know something? I am doing this now officially for about almost 2 years. Nobody has ever asked me “What qualifies you to advise me on my pet food? Why do you think your advise is correct when I ask you for alternatives to the vet prescribed food I am feeding my pet?”
Granted, consumers make assumptions. Just like when we visit a dealership to buy a car we assume that the sales person knows her/his product, or our banker advises us on how we should invest our savings. In my case pet owners just assume that I know what I am doing because I am in this business of selling pet food.
Now theoretically there is nothing wrong with that. After all, I do the same, I trust that the people I buy stuff from know what they are talking about and that I’m safe if I listen to their recommendations. Though, I have to say that I am a very skeptical person and it is not quite so easy for someone to convince me. Don’t give me the slightest indication that you maybe really do not know what you are talking about. In that case, trust me, you’re not going to make any progress with me and you’re fighting a lost battle.
So, coming back to my own “qualifications”, where do I get my information from? It’s simply studying, researching, reading, watching, listening and then start studying, researching, etc. all over again. Day in and day out. About at least 50% of my time at work is research. My typical work day is on average about 12 to 15 hours This is after deducting breaks for cooking (I love it and gotta make sure there’s a home cooked dinner on the table every night), eating (I like that too, because of course it’s the food I cooked myself), smoking (yep, after all, I am not that perfect and do have at least one bad habit), spending about 30 to 45 minutes with our 2 dogs and 5 cats (an obligation they take for granted now and will make sure that I don’t forget), watching the history and discovery channels (and from time to the 150th time my favorites The Godfather, James Bond and a few others), and finally even some little time with my wife (I’m sure she believes it’s not enough).
So when I do my research, I come up with a lot of information. The world these days has become so easy, the Internet took away any boundaries we may have had in the past. No more running to the bookstore, spending money on books or if not spending money reading the books right there and pretending I may buy it. No library visits, no endless inquiries with qualified resources. It’s all here at my fingertips on my desktop (and if I get lucky on X-Mas this year maybe Santa turns that desktop into a fancy laptop, you know, one of these new fancy awesome, superfast wireless ones). So much of it, that I will never have the time to study it all. But I am going to put it to use and make something out of it, something what will benefit anybody who is just interested in pet nutrition. I have to be careful though. One has to figure out, which of the information available to us is qualified, i.e. sort of scientifically proven and backed, and what is less qualified and even garbage. Like for example, the other day I was on a forum where the participants were discussing raw bones for their dogs. The discussion was sort of ok, but it really blew my mind when one participant stated that she “heard that Nylabones are good for pets”. Now that’s not the kind of information I want to pass on to the world. It made me laugh though, I just couldn’t help it.
What I want to pass on however is more like for example what I found in the American Journal of Veterinary Research. There in one issue it says: ”Effects of a high protein diet on mineral metabolism and struvite activity product in clinically normal cats: …high protein diets have the potential ability to increase solubility of struvite crystals.” The Veterinary Times in 2004 confirmed, that “cats need at least 50% of the diet to be protein and less than 5% should be carbohydrate, but pet food contains nothing like these levels and may contain up to 50% carbohydrates and far too little protein. Additionally this protein is heat processed, thereby has nothing like the same bio-availability that raw food has. Therefore the lack of protein in pet food is an important factor in causing life threatening struvite in cats.” The VT even mentions a couple brands known from the mass marketer shelves and some (surprise!?) vet waiting room displays.
The latter example is more the kind of information I search for and then base my advise on. And now I can do that with confidence, because the underlying backup is based on documented research.
So after all, maybe I don’t have to wonder that pet owners trust my opinion. It’s not like I’m talking nonsense. And that people trust me is ok with me. What really worries me a lot more is the fact, that a vast majority of pet owners trusts, with similar blinders, the marketing gimmicks of the country’s large pet food manufacturers. I understand this even less, because after all, by now we all should know that this, scientifically proven, causes devastating problems for their pets. How long are they going to trust their vet on his pet food recommendations, despite the fact that he, the vet himself, they, the pet owners and the rest of the world know that this diet falls into the same category as the one mentioned in the Veterinary Research Journal quoted a couple paragraphs earlier?
My almost last question to this people is: Have you ever tried to get a meaningful Nutrient Dry Matter Analysis from your mass market pet food manufacturer? It’s like you’d be pulling their teeth, isn’t it? Ever wondered why? How much longer do pets have to suffer, even die, before their owners take off their blinders? Just remember, at the funerals its too late.

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