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Why You Should Use Furniture Cleaner on Your Pup

Barbara Royal, Oprah’s go-to veterinarian, explains her secrets to healthier, happier pets.

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PHOTOGRAPH: KERRY BOLGER

What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about their pets?

Things like thinking we can feed them anything out of a bag as long as it says “dog food."

What’s wrong with dog food?

Dogs are not omnivores. Their GI tract is made to be carnivorous. They’re scavengers, which adds a level of tolerance. Dogs can live on shoe leather and blueberries, but I always want to know, for every species I work with, not just what they can process in a pinch if they’re starving — I want to know what makes them vibrantly healthy and live forever. Within reason.

So what should we be feeding our dogs?

Fresh raw food.

Doesn’t that get expensive?

It is less expensive for many reasons, not the least of which is that you spend less at the veterinarian. You don’t have these chronic problems.

What about cats? Can you just leave a bowl of food out for them to graze on?

Have you ever seen wild cats? They don’t kill something and nibble on the toes and say, “I’ll come back later.” They need fresh meat. Cats are desert animals — they would expect to get all their moisture from their food. If they don’t, they wait way too long before they drink; they’re stressing their system all the time.

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It’s hard to see something like a Pom with a blowout and think of its wild ancestors.

There’s a misconception about grooming, where people think it’s fine if you shampoo your dog every week. Skin is a very complex combination — of the skin cells themselves, and then there’s oils and sebaceous material and bacteria and yeast and mites and different little microbes. All of that creates a really elegant coat of armor for the skin — the protective immune system layer. If you’re using an antibacterial shampoo or something that has a ton of fragrance or chemicals, you destroy that beautiful matrix of protection.

So how do you clean a dog?

My favorite shampoo for a dog is Murphy Oil Soap — it’s a furniture and wood cleaner, but it doesn’t denude the hair’s oils. I can use that to spot-treat an area.

I’ve heard you believe we overvaccinate pets.

It’s not black and white for every condition. As the result of certain vaccinations, you see autoimmune diseases, growths at the site, cancers, things like that. We want to minimize the frequency with which we challenge the system this way. It doesn’t mean that I’m an anti-vaxxer.

What can pet owners do about it?

There’s an easy blood titer test for immunity. All puppies get their puppy series. Then a year or two later, do a blood test.

Why don’t more people do that?

It’s expensive. You can do a vaccine for a third of the price.

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