Well, we finished the survey at long last. It was a lot of work, for apparently very little result, unfortunately. The final document is lengthy and trawling through it to find what you want is probably a bit daunting, so we’ve picked out anything we thought could be of interest for future survey-designers. We put the whole thing out to those who helped by advertising it, and those who showed an interest. The interest obviously waned considerably when no conclusive evidence turned up, and we received very little feedback. The truth isn’t always what we want to hear, I guess. Is it possible that some dogs are evolving digestive systems that cope with pretty awful food when you look at what is in it and how it is processed? Is it possible that vaccination can hurt some dogs, while others sail along untouched? There is no doubt that something is harming our dogs. Just under half of the dogs whose owners completed the survey had something wrong with them. That’s a lot. But if you think it’s only food that is the culprit, you’ll be disappointed in the survey results because no clear picture emerges: 45% of dried-fed dogs are ill; 41.12% of raw-fed dogs are ill, but as noted in the survey results, many had switched to raw following an illness, and in 17 cases no longer suffered from that illness although these dog owners recorded an illness in the survey. (Future survey designers should note this and make it clearer than we obviously did!)
Of note in the feeding section is the difference in the number of ear infections: 15.48% for dried-fed, 9.09% for raw-fed dogs.
Behaviour problems occur in slightly more dried-fed dogs than raw, among the survey population. This is interesting because high protein diets have been implicated in aggressive behaviour in the past. (See “Effect of dietary protein content and tryptophan supplementation on dominance aggression, territorial aggression, and hyperactivity in dogs”, Denapoli, Dodman & Shuster et al, in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, August 15, 2000 Vol 217 No.4 Pages 504-508 if you’re into reading research papers.) And, of course, some dried food is quite high in protein, although most are not.
Unvaccinated dogs had a far lower percentage of illness, but there were only 51 unvaccinated dogs, as opposed to 527 vaccinated dogs. There were no cases at all of epilepsy or arthritis among the unvaccinated population. There was a higher incidence of ear infections and digestive disorders in the vaccinated plus booster category in the survey population. Ear infections, digestive disorders and allergies also occurred more frequently in those treated regularly for worms. 17.15% of dogs treated for fleas and ticks had ear infections, while only 8.55% of untreated dogs suffered from this.
So what caused almost half of the dogs in our survey to be ill? A combination of things? Environmental toxins?
Our gut feeling is – if anyone is interested! – that humans really ought to stop playing God and trying to organise everything to suit the human race. The human race is dependent upon a fully integrated living world, and if we get rid of everything that might cause us problems (antibiotics because our dog might get infected, vaccines because our dog might get parvo), we are likely to get rid of things that certainly are beneficial. Bees are a topical example of this. All highly controversial, but it’s worth thinking about.
On the other side of the coin, if we feed ourselves and our dogs good fresh food, and avoid assaulting our bodies and our land with toxins that we think we might need, as well as having exposure to some germs to build up immunity naturally, there is a two-fold effect of helping our immune systems to cope and avoiding the need for them to cope to the extent we currently demand that they do. But you decide what your dog should eat. Fresh raw or lightly cooked food, or something so zapped with processing that all the vitamins have to be added at the end because they all disappeared in the processing. We would just like people to think logically about it, and not blindly feed stuff because it’s handy on the supermarket shelf, or the veterinary retail outlet. Rant over! No conclusive evidence either way on the food front, but time – and your own experience – will tell.