Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chewy's Story

From Julie C. in Austin, TX:

A million thanks for starting this website. I feel like I have spent a million bucks on Royal Canin prescription foods over the years and am very disappointed at their response to this issue. After trying other foods, I was going to go back to feeding one of my dogs their Potato/Rabbit allergy formula but have decided against it based on Royal Canin's response to the issue of RCDLF. At $59 per 16 pound bag, I will find an alternative.

My Chewy, an 8 year old Wire Fox Terrier, was first diagnosed with pancreatitis in March of 2005 on what we now know was his 3rd bout of this insidious disease. With a history of severe allergies and hypothyroidism, I first noticed that Chewy was extremely lethargic and was running a high fever. This bout, on Easter weekend, came on very suddenly and within half an hour, he began very heavy panting, arching his back in pain and cramping so badly that you could literally see him having contractions. After a day and a half in the hospital, he was sent home with his fiesty terrier temperament, on the prescription allergy formula he had been on prior to the attack with no mention of the terms Pancreatitis or fat. After a week, late one evening he was wracked with fever and writhing in pain again and ended up in the emergency hospital. Again, after a day and a half and back to his normal bouncy self, he was sent home with a diagnosis of Pancreatitis, a disease I knew nothing about. I was instructed to feed him boiled, skinless chicken breast and rice in several small meals a day for a few days and then to resume his normal diet. Two weeks later, he had yet another bout, again coming on suddenly and becoming an emergency within an hour of first symptoms. This time he was referred to a wonderful veterinary internal medicine specialist. He was very sick with a badly inflamed pancreas. The specialist felt that he had never fully recovered from the prior two attacks and though he perked up quickly again, she kept him in the hospital on IVs for 6 days until his ultrasound was normal. This was not easy on the hospital staff as this loveable dog bounced from wall to wall in his cage when staff would walk by with other animals, pulling out his IV several times. Still, he pulled through and came home with a new diet -- Royal Canin Digestive Low Fat. Chewy did wonderfully on this food for a year until a problem with the formula caused it to be recalled.

After a year of stability, the vet felt it was safe to return him to his allergy diet, also a Royal Canin formula after RCDLF was recalled. Chewy thrived for 2 more years, continuing to fight off allergies with the help of shots and Cyclosporine and hypothyroidism, controlled with Thyroxine. Couple all that with a few benign tumors and some serious doggie disputes requiring stitches, Chewy is a living, breathing miracle.

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend, 2008. The nightmare returned out of nowhere. First the lethargy, then the fever and then the panting and cramping. I was able to find a vet that was open who immediately admitted Chewy. This time he did not bounce back like before. Six days later, he was transferred to the internist in critical condition. On day 10 he had a nasogastric tube inserted to begin slowly introducing nutrients into his system. He kept pulling out the tubing and with no strength and looking pathetic, I told him it was ok if he didn't want to fight anymore. On day 11, he finally started to improve and finally got a taste of real food; again prescription Royal Canin Digestive Low Fat canned food. On day 12, Chewy finally came home.

Fast forward again, another year. Things have been going great with Chewy still on his RCDLF canned mixed into RCDLF kibble. Not one to take chances with Chewy's food, I don't wait until the last minute to refill his prescription and when I opened the last can from a case, I was secure in the knowledge that I had a full case waiting in the closet. Upon opening the first can of the next case, I knew immediately that something was different. It looked different, it smelled different, it had a different consistency. Puzzled, I finally looked at the label to discover, in shock, that Royal Canin had completely changed the formula of the canned food. Where the first ingredient of the food he had been eating without problem for a year was fish, the first ingredient was now water. Second ingredient pork. Next came pork liver and so on. What happened to the fish? Royal Canin's customer service reps say they were not able to maintain a stable source of fish. Apparently pigs are more consistent and plentiful. The protein has decreased, the fat has increased. Royal Canin tells me that after all, there was always pork in the was just called "meat by-products."

I knew this would not be good and above all, I knew better than to completely change Chewy's food without introducing a new protein source slowly. Upset, I called the vet's office only to learn that Royal Canin had not notified them of the change (Royal Canin disputes this) and they had just been notified by the owner of another patient. I am told that they do continue to receive price changes that Royal Canin sends in the mail so they are reasonably sure that if a notice had been mailed, they would have received it. While the vet thinks that this new pork formula would probably be ok to try, she had purposely not changed Chewy's diet when he developed calcium oxalate crystals and bladder stones several months ago. We both know that he will not make it through another bout of Pancreatitis and that a change in diet could very well trigger one. And while there are other reduced fat fish-based prescription diets, none is as low in fat as the old formula of RCDLF, now discontinued without any regard for the patients that need it and have been faithful customers for years, Anyone who knows how much prescription foods cost will do anything they can to avoid them if at all possible. In Chewy's case, it is not possible and it could mean the difference between life and death for a dog that should live for many more years. I was lucky that I was able to find 43 cans of the old formula through vets in other cities to feed Chewy while a new diet is found.

We have been through formula changes and and the recall with Royal Canin before and Royal Canin has been very helpful and willing to work with us and do what is best for the dogs in the past. This time, apparently not so. We are being read to from the same script that other customers are being read, word for word. The same script that even my vet's often has been read. But hey, it's a tough economy for Royal Canin too . What's a few dogs lives?

Message to Royal Canin: I don't mind paying a bit more to keep my dog alive. I don't want to be gouged but I don't mind paying a bit more. I have lost track of how many "flavors" and formulas you have just for dogs with skin problems. There may be people who are able to and want to feed the pork product to their dogs. I am not one of them. The reason you couldn't add the pork product additionally while still carrying the fish formula...there are not enough fish in the sea? Please don't chase your loyal customers away. All we want is healthy dogs. Even just stable dogs. You have always been helpful and reasonable. Please consider your customers. It should not be necessary to beg.

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