For Anyone Who Has Wondered Whether Phone Consults Are Worth It
by Amber Keiper
I recently had the to opportunity to chat with two experts in the field of pet health and nutrition and discuss with them the merits of seeking qualified advice from an expert using phone consultation services to improve the quality of life of ailing pets.
Integrative veterinarian, Dr. Cathy Alinovi and raw pet food guru, Robert Mueller have been providing pet owners with private pet health consultation by phone and email with great results. Since this is a new concept for many pet parents, I thought I would ask some of the common questions that people have when considering whether to seek phone consultation services for their dog or cat. I’ll let you decide whether phone consults for pets are worth it.
Amber: Regarding your phone consultation services, what is your primary expertise? What do you typically handle on these consults?
Rob: I guess the first thing that I have to share is that I have been doing it a long time. I am one of the pioneers in the [raw dog food] business and have being doing it for about 38 years. I’ve had three manufacturing facilities and I have a degree as a registered pharmacist so those are my credentials. I think that one thing that I am able to offer is that credibility...to get people to engage in changing the way that they’re feeding their dog.
Dr. Cathy: [There are] a lot of similarities in what Rob is sharing, with the conventional background, that gives [me] the perspective of all the normal things that we do to our pets...traditional medicine is intending to do good things but there can be side effects. That is one of the good things - is having the training is that we know, “Okay - antibiotics do X, but then they have side effects of Y”; then what can we do to help the body to heal and to make a healthier patient?
For some reason, since I’ve been practicing integrative medicine, the universe has given me the “last hope”, “last ditch” cases. And I have learned an awful lot from them - and there are a lot of things that I have learned to help other patients.
Amber: Why did you decide to offer consultation services in addition to what you already do?
Dr. Cathy: I had started blogging because I wanted to share what I knew with people and boy, they really shared! My blogs have reached across the states and I have also recently consulted with a cat in Thailand which was actually pretty exciting. People start asking the question, “Who does what you do near me?” There are a few people to recommend but then they ask, “Well, can you help?” - and so that is where it was born.
Rob: I guess I came to the conclusion that some of the things that I have amassed in my brain have been offered to people, and have been a help to them - and it just expanded from there. I use a completely different philosophy than what they’re used to getting with feeding dry food and the results of what we’re suggesting are making amazing differences...really that’s what keeps me going. Like I said, I’ve been doing this for a long time and some of the testimonials that we’ve received in just the last 30 days have been fantastic. I’m really excited to be able to expand the knowledge that people will get in regards to feeding [their pets] properly...It just keeps adding to my excitement of being in this business.
Amber: What are one of your most memorable consultation success stories?
Rob: I had one here just within the last ten days that ended up being one of the best ones that I’ve had in 38 years. We had a gal that called in and she had a dog that was suffering from pancreatitis. She was very upset because the blood levels for her dog had exceeded from a level of 200 to over 1,000...I basically took her by the hand and gave her the direction that I would take had it been my dog. After she restricted the diet the way I had suggested, the levels went down to 54. The vet couldn’t believe it and asked what I had suggested to make this happen. When she told him, he said, “Well, you better stick with it because it’s working.” You see, prior to that, the vet had suggested she put the dog down - that he was past the point [of recovery] and it wasn’t worth it. The lady, when she called me was so enthused that the suggestions I gave made such an amazing difference in her dog that she wrote us a fantastic testimonial. That’s what keeps me going.
Dr. Cathy: That’s awesome what Rob just shared - you saved that dog from death by helping the dog’s mom to feed [him] better and not only did you change their lives, but you probably impacted the vet’s life; because that’s different than what we’ve learned in vet school.
I find that nutrition is 80% of what I spend time in the office with, and that fixes 80% of the things. But there’s that other 20% that needs to be addressed with whatever the condition is. I have dogs that come in that are on their deathbeds… and what is shared with me again and again is that I’ve added years of life to these animals...with the right combination of good food, chiropractic, herbs - or whatever it is that the patient needs - we extend lives. I had a dog who came in for a second opinion with a mouth tumor and the dog was given six months to live. Two years later, she went for other reasons. That oral cancer never changed in all that time once we got her on a raw diet - and we got her on BARF - and that has made huge differences in these animals lives. I’m with you Rob - that what keeps me going.
Amber: Being able to go from “your dog only has months to live” to still going strong a year later is amazing.
Dr. Cathy: Doesn’t that count as a miracle? We know our pets aren’t going to live for 50 years (as much as we want them to) but shoot, two more years for a dog’s life - that’s 15 years - that’s great!
Amber: Any obstacles that you encounter when doing phone consultations?
Rob: Well, there’s always an obstacle. The biggest obstacle I have - and Dr. Cathy, please cover your ears - but the biggest obstacles I have is the person going to their vet and vet says that they’re going to kill their dog by feeding a raw diet. So we have to cross the barriers to convince them that our way and our philosophy is better than what they’re feeding.
Amber: What do you think, Dr. Cathy?
Dr. Cathy: I think he’s absolutely right. You want to hear something really funny? When I did my Master’s degree at Purdue in epidemiology (the study of patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease), I was studying Salmonella which you know they think, “Oh, you’re going to get Salmonella from feeding raw food” and I was even asked to review journal articles that discussed that. But we never looked at Salmonella from the chicken fat in the dry food from all the recalls that were being put out on dry food.
It’s culture, right? We’ve got 40 years now of culture that says, “You can’t feed people food. You can’t feed real food - it’s unhealthy. You have to feed this 100% balanced kibble.” So we’re retraining everybody, and now we’ve got generations of people that have heard nothing but that [philosophy] since birth. Whereas Rob, you’ve been doing this for 38 years. That means when you were a kid, you would feed table scraps to the dog...
Amber: The “doggy bag” right?
Dr. Cathy: Right! Remember those? Well, you can’t find those anymore because it’s ‘not cool’. But you know, the doggy bag was pretty much okay. So it’s a culture change. The culture has been changed by the dry pet food companies so now we have to undo all that, one person - one veterinarian - at a time.
The times when I’ve had the biggest obstacles have been when the pet owner can’t make a decision what path to use; because if you go to three specialists, you’re going to get three completely conflicting views and then what do you do? It’s commitment…
Amber: Commitment from the client.
Dr. Cathy: Yup.
Amber: So in order to perform a successful consult, what would you need from the client?
Dr. Cathy: What helps me save time is all the records - and pictures are nice. Sometimes that really helps me right there, and that’s what I need up front. And what is nice is that by the time someone is looking for a phone consult for someone out of their area, that they are calling me, is that they know what the problem is in their minds. They’re really good at being able to spell out a lot of different things so that I can put it all together and get the big picture. Often people call with one issue and there are a whole bunch of things that go into it - and the people who call in for a phone consult really are in touch with their pets, so they provide the rest of the information when we’re talking on the phone.
Amber: So the pet owner’s intuition really helps then?
Dr. Cathy: Yes.
Amber: What about you, Rob?
Rob: My approach is a little bit different. I feel my role is really trying to dig into the areas where nobody else has dug before. I get a lot of above-surface information about the dog and what the condition is but a lot of the times I have to dig a lot deeper to find out what is involved in the trigger, whether it’s an allergy response, or another condition. What kinds of treats are they feeding? Where do they walk their dog? Are there pesticides involved in lawn care? Do they live by the lakes? That sort of stuff. And I find that a lot of my consultations are digging in deeper into the situation to find out the core problem, and then try to treat it from there...
I’ve instituted a program for all people who first come onto our philosophy of feeding called the 90-Day Challenge. People who come onto our product sometimes expect to reverse some of these scenarios within 30 days of switching, and it isn’t fair to them and it isn’t fair to us to expect such fast results. So if they’re willing to commit to a 90-day challenge and allow me to tell them how to get started, how to do a proper conversion onto the diet, how to use our E-BARF Plus supplement to regulate the intestinal flora, use the omega oils to improve the skin and coat, etcetera, etcetera...at the end of 90 days, I will give them a different dog.
Dr. Cathy: That’s where what you and I do piggy-back on each other very well because if you’ve worked on a patient for a while and have made some improvement but have not been able to make the complete improvement - by the time I talk to them - I get to save a whole lot of time by not having to educate them about the food and the nutrition. You’ve already done that and that patient is already down the right path. Now we just have to figure out, and unwind, all the other things that happened so that we’ve got a healthier patient.
Amber Keiper is the Marketing Coordinator and Raw Pet Food Specialist for BARF World Inc. She is “mom” to two animal rescues - a spoiled Havanese mix named Chewy and a sassy tabby mix named Chiquita. For more holistic pet health, nutrition and wellness tips, go to barfworld.com or sign up for the FREE weekly newsletter, The Intelligent Pet.
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