Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dog Food

Some of the supplements for Ginny
This will be a longish post so if you don't have a dog, you might want to skip it. I was recently asked to share my whole food dog food recipe on my blog. I'm happy to do that with a disclaimer:  I cannot guarantee this is the best way to feed a dog. However, my poor girl Ginny was going to die if something didn't change. 

Ginny had begun vomiting on a daily basis and it got to the point that she vomited several times a night and was unable to keep anything down. The vet gave her anti-nausea pills; she couldn't keep those down. She certainly couldn't keep down the antibiotic for a potential ulcer or the medication for acid reflux. After a couple of unproductive weeks of treatment, Ginny spent three days at the animal hospital where they did as much testing as possible without surgery. The afternoon I brought her home, she went to her water bowl, drank, and immediately threw up. That was when I knew I had to do something radical.

So I researched natural remedies for acid reflux in humans, as well as dogs. First of all, I read that it was important to have the dog fast for a day or so to help her esophagus heal. So I didn't feed her for a couple of days. Then she actually chose to not eat for a day beyond that. Then, DGL licorice and papaya enzymes kept popping up in my research so I started giving those to Ginny. I knew that the antibiotics plus vomiting had taken it's toll on her gut flora so I added some probiotics. I also added the homeopathic remedy rhus tox. for nausea. I had started giving her canned dog food right before she went into the hospital, thinking it would be easier for her to digest. However, I discovered that even the "natural" foods had cargeenan, a known stomach irritant! Even though the vet told me I didn't need to change Ginny's diet, I realized she wouldn't heal if I didn't.

I came up with a plan to give Ginny whole foods. I know some experts say dogs shouldn't eat grains but I decided to give her some anyway. I thought brown rice would be easy to digest. We had some extra butternut squash and green beans so I cooked and pureed them, thinking that would make it easy on her stomach. We also had a bumper crop of black-eyed peas and I thought they would be a good source of protein. I started feeding this mix to her and added Udo's Choice Pet Essentials, along with the herbal and homeopathic remedies. She started getting better. Last winter, when Bill killed two deer for his red meat for the year, I asked him to save the livers, with a plan to make my own dog food. I got nervous about it, thinking I didn't know enough about it and that Ginny wouldn't get appropriate nutrition, so I left them in the freezer. Once she got so sick, I realized there was no down side to feeding her the liver, along with the vegetables and rice, so I started cooking those up, cutting them into small pieces, again for easy digestion. 

Once I started this program, Ginny got better. She would vomit occasionally, but this occurred less and less frequently. I decided to continue feeding her deer liver. Every year, we allow a group to hunt on our farm across from our main property. I had Bill ask them to save the deer livers for us as they would be discarded otherwise.

Now I've stopped giving Ginny the herbal supplements, except for the Udo's and occasionally giving her probiotics. Her current diet now consists of either brown rice or oatmeal, some type of vegetable (usually sweet potatoes), and a protein. For the protein, I rotate (and sometimes mix up) black-eyed peas, venison liver, eggs, and leftover chicken pieces and broth. (I pour the broth over the peas to make them more appetizing.) This feeding program seems to be working as Ginny hasn't thrown up in weeks - nor have I seen any of the signs of acid reflux that I noticed in the past. 

I firmly believe that making this big change in diet saved Ginny's life. She's a senior girl (11 1/2 years) with a few other health problems, but the stomach issue would have ended her life if I hadn't intervened. While some vets might not approve of this diet, it's working for us.


EcoCatLady said...

Sounds like you're doing a wonderful job caring for her. I haven't had a dog since I was a kid, but the dog we had then suffered from horrible digestive issues (could it have been from eating my crayons and anything else she could get hold of?) Anyhow, when her issues would act up my mother would feed her brown rice with hamburger and it always did the trick.

The summer before last, one of my cats (Smoky) got really sick and nobody could figure out what was wrong with him. He was seen by just about every specialist in the city and nobody had a clue - his serum protein levels were really low and they concluded he wasn't absorbing his nutrients - their best guess was that he had some weird form of lymphoma that somehow didn't have any of the other symptoms of lymphoma.

Smoky's always been a picky eater, and this all happened shortly after his normal food was pulled from shelves because of a recall - so he'd been eating all sorts of different foods - and the prescription food the vet wanted him on made him even worse. Anyhow, the vets were saying he'd be lucky to make it a year, so I finally took matters into my own hands. I basically pulled him off of all foods that contained corn - since this seemed to be when the problem started, and gave him a variety of probiotics and omega 3 supplements - and he made a miraculous recovery!

The vets still have no idea what happened - don't know if my dietary stuff fixed it or if whatever it was just ran its course, but they pronounced him cured.

Anyhow, hang in there. You know your dog better than anyone, and when there's no clear solution from the vets, I'm all for doing whatever you can with whatever information you've got.

Cherie said...

Glad Smoky was cured! My cat (who passed away this past Nov.) was diagnosed with kidney issues a few years back and was put on Rx food. I've since been told that the vet's food is not very good. If I ever have a pet put on it again, I'm going to read through the ingredients to confirm for myself. I'm actually very suspicious of pet food now and wonder if sometimes it's what causes health problems. After all, some of the reasons they formulate the foods the way they do is for human and not pet issues (i.e., less poo, reducing smells, etc.).

EcoCatLady said...

I have incredibly mixed feelings about the whole pet food industry. Princess is my second kidney kitty, so I've done hour after hour after hour of research, and everywhere you turn you get different advice.

When I first started suspecting that Princess might have kidney issues brewing I switched her to an all natural raw foods diet - which she loved - but she lost a lot of weight and her kidney function (at least as measured by the blood tests) went downhill quickly.

So now we're trying prescription food - I've found one brand that she likes, and we'll see how it goes. So far she seems to be doing well and gaining some weight, but we'll see what the blood tests show in a few weeks.

I dunno... I just wish there was a "right" thing to do, but I think the frustrating truth is that there just may not be one right answer - either for kidney disease or for feeding animals in general.

I mean, I've fed my cats the "best" food I could find, and they've lived an average lifespan of about 12 years. Meanwhile, my mother always fed her cats cheap dry food from the grocery store, and her cats lived an average of 20 years!

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that opinions on this topic are all over the map since we can't even seem to agree on what the best diet for humans is! Maybe it's just one of those individual things - some people & animals do better on one diet and some do better on another. Or maybe it's all just one giant illusion of control, and diet is less important than we like to think.

Anyhow, sorry to blather, obviously the topic is one that leads me to great consternation!