Small Fish…Huge Pond: Holistic and Raw Food vs. Traditional Veterinary Medicine
by Evan Price
In late August, Amber, Rob, and I traveled to Kansas City, Missouri for the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Conference (AHVMA). Our goal was to link up with vets who are open-minded to raw feeding, ask them to recommend our food to their clients, post their information on our website (so our customers could potentially find a holistic vet in their area), and ultimately: help more and more pets live long, happy, and healthy lives.
What I did not realize was that this year, the conference for holistic vets was being held in the same convention center as the conference for traditional vets. In fact, the only separation between both events was a large curtain. Some of the traditional vets wandered over to the holistic side, and many of them looked like they were in outer space.
I had heard rumors about what was on the other side of the curtain, but what I found shocked me!
As I snuck behind “enemy lines”, I felt like a deer in headlights; the showroom floor was MASSIVE. Every conceivable animal business was there: food companies, pet insurance, companies that produce surgical instruments, pharmaceutical companies, even companies that provide loans to get new vet practices started. The Hill’s Science Diet booth even had an education center, teaching vets about canine nutrition (I found this funny, yet tragic). The traditional side was ten times bigger, filled with booths that cost $50,000-$100,000, not counting the equipment. No wonder it commanded 85-90% of the foot traffic.
Meanwhile, back on the small side of the curtain, I was having fun with the vet students. You see…veterinarians are only required to take one classroom hour of canine nutrition, which is generally done by a guest speaker (usually a Hills or Purina rep). One might think that more education than this is given, but one would be wrong. As they would approach our booth, I would ask them “So…have you had you canine nutrition classes yet?”. Every single response started with “Well…um” (not a good sign).
But these vet students are the ones that can be impacted and made to listen to the idea and concept of feeding a raw dog food diet. The vets who have been practicing the same way for 30 years are a lot harder to break through to than the ones still finding their bearings. And they are not to blame either. How can we expect someone to go against everything that has been taught over a lifetime?
I think the only real meaningful way to break through to veterinarians in mass is to reform the curriculum. What would happen if vet students and techs were given more info about canine and feline nutrition in school? What would happen if the Hills rep was counterbalanced with a BARF rep, and we let each vet decide which path to take?
While this works in theory, the reality is that far too much money is at stake to allow raw feeding to become the standard.
But...there is a bright spot to all of this. While we are in no way the majority, the raw community IS growing. There were at least 8 other raw food companies present. There were acupuncture, acupressure, and reiki practitioners. There was a company that makes mobility devices for handicapped pets, and another that made a periodontal supplement for gum support. The varieties of raw/holistic/homeopathic treatment options are becoming increasingly popular for a reason…people are seeing the benefits of non-traditional pet care. I didn’t even mind being positioned right next to a competitor…I was just happy to see that there are others who share our passion AND our philosophy.
We even had a chance to meet one of our new vendors, face-to-face. Wapiti Labs is our supplier of elk antler chews, which was our “Product of the Month” for October. They also supply us with a canine Mobility supplement, as well as with some other homeopathic tinctures. We had already been planning to carry their products, but it was nice to have the opportunity to actually meet the people on the other side of the phone.
There are many great people working for great companies with great pet products, and we are lucky to have found another wonderful partner to help us in our commitment to helping pet parents raise healthy, happy, and thriving animal companions.
All in all, the experience was eye-opening to say the least. While I was disappointed at the disparity between the AHVMA and the traditional veterinary practice, I remain hopeful that one day, the gap may be closed. In the meantime, the struggle to educate people (and vets) continues.
Until next time…happy BARFing!
Evan Price is a Raw Pet Food Specialist for BARF World Inc. He is a true dog lover at heart with a particular interest in Daschunds. Evan is also an avid sports enthusiast and bridge player. For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for The Intelligent Pet weekly e-zine at The Intelligent Pet.
Want to use this article on your website or in your blog?
You can as long as you include this blurb as well as the short bio of the author above with all links intact.