New York Times and Pet Health Advice: Bad Combination

I used the think the New York Times was a reputable newspaper and source of reasonable information. However, considering some of the articles I've seen, I no longer have a good opinion of this newspaper. One example from a few years ago came across my desk recently.  The article is basically an infomercial for an unqualified person that sells pet health products.  The person in question is an industrial designer by training - you'd think a reasonable news source would look for someone with training in veterinary medicine, nutrition or pharmacology when discussing pet health. (Given the level of expertise they require, I guess I'm qualified to comment in the New York Times about how to solve conflict in the Middle East or fix the economy). Among some of the gems in this article are:

  • People "have to include raw and whole foods in their pets' diets..." and "[Pets] don't get E. coli or Salmonella." Tell that to the dogs and cats that get sick and die from Salmonella. I can't believe people that sell raw foods continue to falsely claim that pets can't get Salmonella. Outbreaks of salmonellosis associated with raw foods have been reported. Dogs have even been sickened in the recent peanut butter Salmonella outbreak.
  • The big problem with the pet food industry is that people treat pets like televisions and get a new one if they're sick. Apart from the last part being ludicrous, what does that have to do with the pet food industry?
  • The alley dogs this guy grew up with in the Bronx lived a long time.  Now, a dog is considered old if it lives past 7 years. Show me any evidence that feral dogs live longer than household pets. Not a chance.
  • Pets are dying younger because of low grade nutrition and pharmaceuticals. Again, show me evidence that pets are living shorter lives. I'm certain it's the exact opposite.

People need to make sure that they critically assess things that they read about pet health and diseases. Just because something is written in a high profile newspaper doesn't mean it's necessarily correct. In the internet era, volume overload and differentiating good sources from bad sources can be difficult. Here are some tips:

  • Look for advice from qualified individuals. That's not a guarantee, but I'd rather have my car fixed by a mechanic than a gardener.
  • Beware of advice from people that are in a conflict of interest, such as people selling a product. For most reputable companies, representatives can be sources of good information, but unfortunately it's not always true.
  • Ask your veterinarian about questions relating to animal health and nutrition.
  • Use common sense. If something seems too good to be true, it probably isn't. Something that claims to cure all that ails you probably cures nothing.

A rebuttal to this article can be found here.

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Ark Lady - February 23, 2009 9:47 PM

I agree with you and was going to rant on my blog about similar topics--such as dog food.

There is a lot of bad information and personal opinions that are taken as gospel without anyone checking the facts.

I too am disappointed with recent reporting...here on the West Coast it is the LA Times that is sinking to new lows.

Checking into sources and using discernment is something people need to revisit to glean the truth out of the volumes of information circulating out there--not just on the Internet but also in the media.

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