Hospital may not allow Daxter to become a therapy dog because he's fed raw.......

I don't even know where to begin with this..........okay, so I've been waiting since last October for my application to be approved so that I can take the next step towards Daxter become a therapy dog. He comes with me to work at least 2-3 times a week and is basically known as "the front-door greeter". He's always been extremely friendly and outgoing and absolutely LOVES people, so becoming a therapy dog was an easy decision for me to make. I've gone through all the processes and filled out all the paperwork. The next step was an introductory meeting and a Q & A with the directors of the program we were applying to. Everything started off great, they went through all of the requirements and made sure everyone was on the same page. Then they said something that I couldn't believe. Any dog that is fed a raw diet needs to discontinue it for 3 months prior to visiting patients........WHAT?! I was in shock... I wanted to argue with the director...sure, I understand their concern about dogs passing harmful bacteria and illness onto patients, but c'mon....how many dogs that eat kibble have been tested for harmful bacteria?..I listened the rest of the meeting to the director talking about different toothpastes and ear cleaners (things that a dog on a raw diet never need). I meant to talk to the director after the meeting ended, but never got a chance to, so the next day I sent her this email:

 

Hi Leonora.
I had a quick question about something you mentioned at the meeting last night. You mentioned that dogs that eat a raw diet need to stop immediately and cannot start visiting patients for 3 months after the fact. I didn't react to your statement because I was a bit surprised. I saw in the information booklet you gave us that it is only "highly recommended" that the dogs not be fed a raw diet. Daxter is fed raw. I wanted to let you know after the meeting last night, but everyone dispersed so quickly, i didn't get a chance to. When I first got Dax he was a very sick little guy. He had digestive problems, his skin and coat were in poor shape and he was very underweight. I tried every kibble/canned food under the sun to try and give him releif, especially from his allergy ridden skin, but I couldn't find anything that helped. I started him on numerous supplements and vet recommended medications, but nothing except massive doses of steroids seemed to help. When I started working at my current place of employment, I learned about the different types of commercial raw diets that we sell. I was always hesitant about feeding my dog raw meat. But then I started doing intense research and realized raw is the most natural way to feed a dog (or cat). As you said last night, "dogs are carnivores and thats how they've been fed for years"....or something like that (i'm paraphrasing a bit...haha). I decided as a last resort to try Dax on raw....I wish I started him on it sooner. He is completely healthy, and apart from his seasonal allergies, his skin is completely healthy and he's off all medication. I thought about it for a long time last night after the meeting, if I wanted to switch him back to kibble and risk having his previous illnesses come back, and I don't think I can do it. I understand the concerns you guys have about the bacteria and illnesses that can spread to people through raw meat, and I have the same concerns for my own home, which is why I do everything I can to ensure that he is completely clean after he eats his meals (wipe him down with a hot towel w/antibacterial soap). He also gets bathed at least once a week or so, especially if his allergies have been particularly bad. I know you all have probably heard this story before, and I understand if you guys have made it a rule to not allow dogs that eat raw meat to become therapy dogs, however, I feel like Daxter has a lot to give, and I'm hopeful that our application won't be reconsidered because of what he eats. I look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully I'll talk to you in person again soon. ~Samantha Day.

 

 

I'm hopeful that the email may at leat allow Daxter to be seen by the hospital's volunteer vet, who checks each dog's health and temperment prior to them doing any visits. I hope he will see how healthy he is and how I keep his hygeine above-average. I know Daxter would make a great therapy dog and hopefully the fact that he eats raw food won't hinder that in any way.........it's just a waiting game, now.

 

Has anyone else had issues with this? I know certain Therapy Dog Organizations don't allow raw fed dogs to become therapy dogs (aka- one program has someone that speaks for Purina on their board of directors- and i wonder why raw fed dogs aren't allowed?)

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Comment by Ellen Andersen on April 25, 2011 at 11:08pm
Best of luck to you and Dax!  TDI's been great for Nimh and I.  Even with therapy dog certification, each institution /med center /nursing home will have their own stuff.  But having a certified therapy dog certainly will 'grease the skids' and should open most doors for you!
Comment by Samantha, Daxter and Seeka! on April 25, 2011 at 5:02pm
so unfortunately, it looks like Dax isn't going to be able to visit the hospital after all. the director decided that the risk of contamination was too great and feared that allowing one raw-fed dog will open the door to others who may not keep their dog's hygiene up-to-par. i'm going to look into TDI, and see if they have any programs in my area. thanks again to everyone for all the support and helpful comments, it is much appreciated!
Comment by Jane Christensen on April 19, 2011 at 6:13pm
Hi! I asked our instructors at class today and they said that Delta does not let dogs on raw diets in. I was checking out Therapy Dogs Inc. which was recommended by our AKC club and it looks like they do but of coarse I don't know much about them...yet.
Comment by Ellen Andersen on April 18, 2011 at 1:28am
My dog Nimh is registered with TDI (Therapy Dogs Inc).  He's not on a raw diet, but that question never even came up in the registration and things.  Health certificate, shots records, fecal exam negative for parasites, evaluation by a certified tester...that's what we had to do.  But no questions or anything about his diet.  We do weekly therapy visits to a local hospital.
Comment by Peggy Woods on April 17, 2011 at 5:24pm

Samantha: I don't know of any organizations that go to those types of places; maybe they would just let you do it on your own once you were certified?? I was just trying to come up with ideas...

My corgi has assigned himself the position of Town Greeter, so I understand where you're coming from :-)

and I am a raw feeder, btw. (and I eat paleo myself)

Comment by Samantha, Daxter and Seeka! on April 17, 2011 at 4:56pm

thank you everyone for all the advise and well-wishes, they are much appreciated. I have yet to hear from the director of the program. Although I really hope that everything works out with this particular hospital (it's the hospital where my grandmother went for treatment for pancreatic cancer years ago), I'll understand if they deny us for the program. It only takes one person not making sure all precautions were taken to prevent the spread of illness causing bacteria, to ruin it for everyone :( Don't get me wrong, I would HATE it if people were made sicker because of my dog! The directors of the program have been doing this for a lot longer than I have, so I'll trust in their judgment.

And I just want to make it clear that I wasn't trying to bash Delta. I've done a lot of research for work on canine nutrition and am biased towards big name pet food companies and the stores/vets that support them. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I was hoping that by posting this, I would get some other raw feeders to speak up about any similar experiences they may have had. Delta is a great organization and they change people's lives! they just aren't the right organization for me or Dax.

@Peggy: I've never heard of any organizations that allow dogs to visit those sorts of places! do you know of any?

Comment by Peggy Woods on April 17, 2011 at 1:02pm

Samantha, you are feeding your dog the best diet you can & what he was born to eat. Especially with all his allergy issues. And the fact that you are cleaning him, his bowl & the surroundings are above & beyond. If the organization you are researching is worried about what your dog eats over the services he can provide, maybe there are other organizations that honour your feeding choices, or don't think that matters.

How each of us feed our pets is our own choice. We each choose an option that works for our pets and ourselves, taking in to consideration many factors. We here are all mature enough to honour each others choices.

I would tend to believe that there might be other avenues that Daxter might offer therapy? Maybe in environments where sterility is less of a concern? Maybe places like homeless shelters, halfway houses, shelter houses for abused women & children?

I feel confident that you should be able to continue to care for you dog in the way that is healthiest for him and also be able to share his abundant corgi-love with others who need it so.

(ps:I think your e-mail was worded very nicely, without getting too emotional. good work!)

Comment by Jane Christensen on April 17, 2011 at 8:31am
I've worked with people who have gotten MRSA from being in the hospitals and I don't know how it is tranferred (well I guess I do) but it's scary and can be transferred to others:( I actually did not bring my dogs to work when this person was there because I didn't want them to be in contact with any possible body fluids either.
Comment by John Wolff on April 17, 2011 at 12:03am
A real irony is that MRSA infections, unless I'm mistaken, are often hospital-acquired; and a dog's mouth is always going to be loaded with bacteria, even if it lives on sterilized food, and might even be dirtier than a typical human mouth. It may seem unfair, but I guess I can see where the fears come from; MRSA infections are a scary problem.
We've allowed the livestock industry to destroy our precious lifesaving antibiotics in the name of short-term profit. I'm old enough to find this absurd criminality commonplace.
Comment by Beth on April 16, 2011 at 11:06pm

I just wanted to add that I DO sincerely hope you have the chance to volunteer.  Please do consider the fact that at hospitals and nursing homes, you have a lot of patients with extremely compromised immune systems.  Mine is just slightly affected by medication I take for my arthritis, and I just missed 3 weeks of work with a bug that my husband and father fought off in 2 days.  It is NOT fun to get sicker and sicker from something that most people just shrug off because your immune system is on vacation.


There are lots of therapy opportunities with kids and in behavioral health and other areas where your dogs diet is less likely to be a factor, and if you certify with TDI the diet won't be an issue.  Like I said, please do consider the fact though that trace amounts of bacteria that would not make you sick might make a frail person very sick indeed.  


It sounds like you personally take many precautions, but most raw feeders don't; they sanitize the dish but not the dog.  The rules tend to be set up across the board.  Perhaps if they know you personally and it's a smaller group they might make the exception, but then if others have been turned away it might create a very sticky situation. 


Best of luck to you and your Daxter.

 

@Jane, I'm with you and mostly use vinegar and water to clean, though I do always have disinfectant wipes around for cleaning up counters from raw chicken.  I also keep Lysol in the house for the odd dog accident or toilet overflow.  :-)    I don't use it for everyday, though, and I use alcohol-based hand sanitizer but not the anti-bacterial stuff. 

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