Q&A/I. Scott Pollak; Crusader for Health and Wellness of Pets
By DONNA GREENE
Published: January 23, 2000
PROZAC for dogs? I. Scott Pollak, president of a company that sells food and health products for pets, thinks it is a bad idea. But, while he says there are many nutritional supplements that can be good for a dog or cat, the best thing an owner can do is first make sure the pet is eating enough fresh meat.
Mr. Pollak, whose company, Viand Pet. is in White Plains, says he is horrified by the trends in the pet food industry to promote canned and packaged food for pets. Mr. Pollak, an industrial designer by training, says his lifelong love of animals and the influence of several relatives in the veterinary field, prompted him to give up a shoe store in Yonkers in 1995 and start his holistic pet food company. Here are excerpts from a recent conversation with him:Q. What is wrong with the pet food industry today?
I think they are dying sooner because the pet food industry was basically created out of leftover grain from products for humans. So if you're feeding the pets garbage that's what you're going to get. Without all of Madison Avenue's hype, basically the pet food industry is a horrific industry. It's not a nice business, and the lobbying and the labeling is very deceiving. You have television stars endorsing foods who know nothing about pet food. And that's what people buy, and it's pretty scary. People don't eat canned dead meat every day. Why would a dog or a cat? The whole industry is cooked products.
Q. What do you do differently in your pet food preparation?
A. We basically promote education. We do sell products, of course, and we sell herbal supplements. But with that goes the understanding that the owner has to become proactive. They have to include raw and whole foods in their pets' diets, which is very anti-establishment because you don't sell more products this way. But my concern is to raise the level of health and wellness of that animal.
Q. Do animals have any of the problems humans have with eating raw meat?
A. No, they don't. They don't get e coli or salmonella. If this were otherwise, they'd be all dead prior to the pet food industry.
Q. So you can give your pet raw hamburger meat?
A. Absolutely, but not just abruptly. There's a program of cleansing and de-toxing so if a consumer comes to me, I'll say: Continue feeding whatever brand you are now using, but you have to include raw whole food. Feeding any commercial food exclusively is like us eating Burger King or McDonald's exclusively. In five years we won't be dead, but we'll feel awful and look awful. And that's what you have with a 5- to 7-year-old dog or cat that just eats processed cooked food. They are basically ill. Anything that comes by them they get sick because they don't have an immune system anymore; it's dormant. Why should it be alive? You're just feeding them dead, processed junk every day.
Q. So, people are taking the easy way out to open a can of dog food or a bag?
A. Welcome to America.
Q. Are there really herbs and things that can help a dog's moods?
A. Absolutely. And all of our products are designed as boosters; they aren't crutches. These aren't things that you overdose on by giving in massive quantities. You use very, very little and only for the period necessary to bring them back. Then you put the stuff away. What we try to tell people is it's not quantity, it's quality. Once you're feeding properly, it's very inexpensive to maintain a very vibrant, healthy animal.
Q. Which herbs do what for dogs when given in the right quantities?
A. Well, not only herbs but we also recommend flaxseed or safflower oil, which can be bought at a health food store. We don't sell the product because it has to be refrigerated and alive. And that's for skin and coat and a source of omegas. It's the only way you're going to get it. We also recommend the raw meat because there are amino acids and there is bacteria -- good and bad -- that is only available in raw products.
Q. With humans there is considerable controversy about vitamin supplements. How much testing has been done with supplements for animals?
A. Most of the studies that have been done as far as basics for dogs and cats are not based on dogs and cats but are based on either chickens, pigs or cows, because that's where the money is. And those facts and tests of growth and fat and meat and everything else don't apply to dogs and cats. Who is going to test a dog for growth rate?
Q. Let's say you give a dog an arthritis product. How do you know if it helped the dog?
A.In a dog you can see it easily, if he gets up easier from lying down, you can see their energy level. We know it has helped when the consumer calls back and says two days after he used the comfort product that the dog is not yelping anymore. That shows something.
There are also good products that help break down the food so if you are feeding good food the animal can use it better. All dogs have a parasite concern, so there are products out there that will keep things in balance. You have immune boosters for seasonal changes. But the consumers tend to jump on bandwagons too quickly; they want the silver bullet. These are things that take time.
Q. What about the supplements and medicines claiming to help with the emotional well-being of a dog?
A. In my opinion you have three major aspects of any living creature, and that's nutrition, environment and emotion. We can all look at an environment and see if the animal is being housed properly. We can improve the nutrition. If an animal is eating a product that he is undetectably allergic to, if his stomach hurts all the time, he is not going to be happy. That's why when we take on a customer, we put the pet through a cleansing program, which doesn't involve any of our products. You have to allow the body to detox. A dog can't go from food to food to food. As far as emotionally, is the dog abused? You can have a loving woman who loves her dog, but every time the woman goes to the bathroom the husband kicks him across the floor.
Q.What do you think about magnets for dogs?
A. We've had customers use magnets on dogs successfully. I personally have used magnets on myself, and they have not done anything for me.
Q. Pet owners, obviously, come in all stripes.
A. Yes, it goes back to the owner. I think the most valuable lesson I learned was from a trainer in New Hampshire, April Frost, who has a wonderful book, ''Beyond Obedience: Training With Awareness for You and Your Dog.'' She says that before she starts her training session, she has a session with all the owners without the pets. And she has a three-page questionnaire, which includes: Why did you get this pet? What do you expect from this pet? What do you expect to give in return to this pet?
A lot of people have pets for all the wrong reasons. Puppies are cute; babies are cute, but you just don't make a baby every year.