When pet advice is as bad as it gets

March 31, 2019

A look at what your veterinary colleagues report their clients have heard from pet store employees.

Having a pet makes many owners want to be a better person. Make sure they aren't hearing questionable advice from someone they may think they can trust. (Adobestock/victosha)In our dvm360 Leadership Challenge: Retail Revolution survey, we asked, “What's the best (or worst) advice a veterinary client told you they heard from a pet store employee?” The responses skewed pretty squarely to the worst. Pick a veterinary issue you face daily in your patients-any veterinary issue-and your colleagues reported bad advice from pet store employees. As you peruse the worst, stick around to the end where some employees got it just right.


Life stages

  • "Large-breed puppies need adult dog food."

  • "A dog is considered a puppy for only 6 months; after this he/she is considered an adult."

  • "A woman was asking about senior diets for her 12-year-old cat. She told us that the local pet food store told her, 'Cats are not seniors until they are 18 years old.'”


Many, many, many responses about nutrition. Here are a few examples:

  • "Any advice on goat's milk diet, raw diet or grain-free."

  • "That they should rotate their pet's food every few days."

  • "Just feed your pet as much as she will eat."

  • "Brachycephalic breeds need their brand dry food since it is bigger than most kibble, allowing their flat faces to reach it easier."

  • "That the food I recommended was crap.'"

[We're tackling the whole great nutrition debate in our next Leadership Challenge coming in August, so stay tuned …]


  • "To use a shock collar for training or going to a trainer who uses aversive methods."

  • "Rub their nose in it."

  • "The puppy will outgrow its biting behavior."


  • "Using Dawn dish soap for flea and tick control."

  • "All flea-control products are exactly the same."

  • "Pet store employee advised an owner not to buy any flea/tick prevention because it is all a scam."

  • "That you can use Frontline for dogs on a cat." [Hey, we've got a handout specifically on that one.]


  • "Diabetic dogs can be cured with garlic!"

But wait, there's more ...



  • "When a dog chews on a real animal bone, the muscle attached to the bone acts like dental floss."

  • "Local pet food boutique offers anesthetic-free 'dentals.'”


  • "Goat's milk can help cure cancer."


  • "Treat for ear mites instead of ear infection."

  • "Grain-free food for skin allergies."

  • "Salmon-based food because dogs are allergic to chicken."

  • "Hydrogen peroxide for ear canal cleaning."

  • "You can just use olive oil in the ear to kill mites!"

  • "Shave off all hair from the pet's body regularly to keep him healthy."

  • "Using motor oil on infected skin."


  • "That a dog was chronic vomiting because he had grass balls in his stomach but the food they recommended would take care of them."

  • "To feed canned pumpkin for every GI disturbance under the sun-diarrhea, constipation, you name it, they recommend it like it's a catch-all for all GI diseases. Most of the times they are feeding less than 10% of the required amount to get any appreciable amount of fiber for the pumpkin anyway. And don't me started on coconut oil …"


  • "To put Neosporin in their dog's eye for an eye infection."


  • "Vaccinations will kill their pet."

  • "To use a 'feed supply' location for pet vaccinations."

  • "That dogs don't need the Bordetella vax if they aren't boarding."

  • "Don't need to vaccinate for parvo because I don't have a cat."

Renal disease

  • "This food is the same as the prescription kidney food."

  • "A sales teenager recommended a urinary (UTI) diet to my client with a patient that had renal disease."

Liver disease

  • "To discontinue a prescription liver support diet in favor of grain free when the patient's ALT was through the roof and there were a whole other host of other medical issues going on, including newly diagnosed heart disease."


  • "That Vitamin C reduces the likelihood of developing hip dysplasia."


  • "Your cat does not need to be on that prescription urinary diet for FLUTD-it is a bad brand. Our urinary food is better and more healthy for them."


  • "Take your pet to the vet."

  • "I'm not familiar with your pet's issues. I would suggest a visit to your veterinarian."

  • "Told them to see a vet and gave them our business card."

  • "We had an office next to a PetSmart and a patron asked the trainer about vaccines because they thought their puppy might have parvo (pup was in shopping cart at the time). The trainer walked the owners over to our hospital in the cart. After we took the pup in the back (+parvo), she asked us to parvosol the cart before returning it. Sometimes people do everything right."

After that brief look at the best, still haunted a little by the worst? So ... where to go from here? Check out this advice on adding a little offense into your defense in this battle over pet healthcare advice.