Some of you may remember that a year and a half ago, I threw myself into a panic over Beloved Dog. Some routine bloodwork based on my paranoid suspicions revealed that he tested positive for pancreatitis, despite having none of the symptoms of it.
I put him on a low fat diet, rechecked him a month later, and he STILL tested positive. So I sent the blood to the lab for a more detailed answer. I wanted to know HOW positive.
Well, apparently a normal Spec CPL number is between 0 and 200. Over 200 is borderline. Over 400 is definitive. Beloved Dog was at 600.
Cue panic and tests.
Well, ultrasound showed pretty much nothing. Ditto when, a month later, Beloved Dog began urinating tea brown liquid. A little thickening of the bladder, some funny nodules on the spleen that, when tested, turned out to be nothing significant.
So, on the advice of the ultrasound vet, I dismissed it as nothing. He said that the spec CPL test is wrong sometimes.
Just to be sure, I put Beloved Dog on an extremely low fat diet. But his weight melted off and he got skinny as hell. And I’ve always kept him pretty lean to begin with, so we’re talking prominent ribs, sticky-outy spine, etc.
I changed his food to a more moderate level of fat and simply kept him away from fatty treats.
And he seems to have been doing fine.
It’s just the little things:
The fact that he has taken to having bowel movements in the house. Even if he pooped outside earlier that day. Several times.
He isn’t cuddly.
I mean, he was never a CUDDLY dog. Not the way a Lab or a Pug might treat you like their personal cushion. But he liked to lean up against you, It seems like over the last few years that has faded away. Now he wants to curl up in a corner and for you to leave him the f*** alone.
Then there’s the abdomen thing.
Whenever a dog comes in for an exam, vets always palpate the abdomen. Sometimes if there’s a cancer or something in there they can feel it, and how well the dog tolerates it can tell them if his stomach hurts or not.
That test doesn’t work on Beloved Dog, because he always grunts and hunches if you touch his belly. I dismissed it as a mannerism, until the pancreatitis test last year. Now I’m not sure. Humans with pancreatitis report it as excruciatingly painful, even in chronic form.
Anyway, I just left the matter to rest. After all, he SEEMS fine. Likes to run, loves to eat. Gets into mischief occasionally. Hell, compared to a lot of the fat, greying, stiff-limbed 9 year old dogs I see at my clinic, he seems remarkably youthful.
Then, on Sunday, I fed him a piece of lean steak leftover from Owl’s bowl. I was thinking “to hell with the pancreatitis thing. He’s been fine for a year. There’s no fat on this piece, anyway.”
My nose woke me up at 6 the next morning. We pulled back the closet door and nearly wept. Messy, stinky poop everywhere and judging from Beloved Dog’s hunched and guilty posture, he wasn’t done. I shoved him out in the yard for a good hour.
Then I brought him into work.
Physical exam was about the same – tense abdomen, grunts when palpated, otherwise nothing unusual noted. I did some repeat blood work, and his organ function looked the same as last year.
In fact, strangely similar. His cholesterol was up a bit last year, which often doesn’t mean much. Except a year later, despite having eaten nothing for 12 hours, his cholesterol was, if anything, higher than last year.
So I ran another Spec CPL, to see how his probably-false-positive for pancreatitis was coming along. Now it was 764, instead of 600. I asked the lab to add on a check of his amylase and lipase – two enzymes secreted by the pancreas as well as several other organs during gastronomic upset. They were elevated, too.
Now, when you look at results like these, it’s very hard not to feel concerned, considering that usually when we see these kind of numbers, the patient is in acute pain and vomiting everywhere.
I called in the ultrasound vet, who kindly came in just for Beloved Dog, carefully looked at all his organs – even his heart – and then only charged me $150 for what was essentially a two-body cavity ultrasound – a $400 value.
His results were interesting, if frustrating.
Those nodes in his spleen are still there. There’s a slight thickening in his duodenum, like corrugated cardboard. He apparently has stones in his bladder – those weren’t there before – but small ones, “not clinically significant”. A possible “mild fibrosis” on his pancreas, not so much indicative of pancreatitis.
“I think maybe it’s the beginnings of a mild Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” said the Ultrasound vet. “It doesn’t look like pancreatitis. Might not hurt to put him on a hypoallergenic diet for a month or two just to see. Sorry I can’t see more.”
Well, at least it’s not cancer.
I took Beloved Dog home and cooked up some freezer-burnt chicken breast and rice and pumpkin for his stomach. Chicken isn’t hypoallergenic, but that was what we had, and at least it’s low fat. He gobbled it and the stools solidified. In fact, once his poops firmed up, they seemed firmer and more regular than when he was on his commercial diets. Has hasn’t had a poop accident in the house all week.
So I thought for a while.
They may not be able to give me a definitive reason for why my dog’s blood tests so abnormally, why it looks like the blood of a dog who is vomiting up all its bodily fluids and slowly wasting away in agony, while he seems fairly normal inside and out.
But my gut is telling me that my dog’s insides, for whatever reason, are not functioning properly. Furthermore, if he DOES have a very low grade chronic pancreatitis going on, one that isn’t visibly detectable, then humans with similar problems report chronic pain.
My dog isn’t digesting things well. He may be in pain, even if he doesn’t really act like it (and THAT, by the way, is why your vet encourages you to bring your dog in once or twice a year, even if you aren’t planning to vaccinate. Because sometimes this stuff shows up on the bloodwork FIRST. How often have I explained that to people? I can’t ignore it or brush it aside when it happens to me.)
My big fear, besides cancer, is that one day all of these little signs that Beloved Dog isn’t handling fat well – elevated pancreatic enzymes, elevated cholesterol- might go from whatever it is now (low-grade pancreatitis? Irritated bowels?) into a full blown case of actute pancreatitis. And dogs can DIE from that. We euthanized one last week.
Meanwhile, on his bland chicken-rice-and-pumpkin diet, he has stopped pooping in the house. At least for now.
So I made a decision.
I drove out and bought 15 small Ziplock containers, 6 cans of plain un-spiced pumpkin, and two boxes of chopped spinach. I also bought a small cheap kitchen scale. I know the recipe for a home cooked diet. I write them down at the vet’s request all the time. I’ve seen dogs with intractable allergies clear up on a home cooked diet. I’ve seen dogs who can’t lose weight on diet kibble melt it off on a home cooked diet. It works. It’s just a pain in the ass.
And so, from now this is what Beloved Dog will be eating:
Beloved Dog’s Homecooked Diet
*DISCLAIMER: I am not a veterinarian. I am only a veterinary technician who works at a clinic that believes strongly in raw and home cooked diets. This recipe is based off of my experience working with those vets. Let it be noted that different things are appropriate for different dogs. A puppy would need more protein and fat than you would find in this recipe, for example. If you want to home cook a diet for your dog, seek out a vet who is supportive of such things and ask their guidance.
- Boiled Lean Meat (whatever I can find cheap in bulk. For now, chicken. I hope to go to something more hypoallergenic like turkey or kangaroo if I can find it at reasonable prices).
- Plain White Rice (I may eliminate this entirely at some point since it’s not really necessary and he’s never been huge on rice)
- Chopped Spinach (the smaller it’s diced, the more digestible it will be. Can also substitute kale or bok choy)
- Canned Plain Pumpkin (can be substituted with sweet potato/yam)
Portions will be fed at 2.5% his current body weight a day, which for him means 300 g.
50% meat, 50% carbs and vegetables
So each container holds about 75 g of chicken, 30 g of rice, 25 g of pumpkin and 20 g of spinach.
I will also need to get a vitamin and mineral supplement to add to each meal, and since it’s so low fat, I may add coconut oil to give him some medium chain fatty acids. But I’ll add one thing at a time and watch his stomach.
It’s going to take me a couple of hours every week to boil up his meat and then plop correct portions into each container. I’ll store them in the freezer and just take out a new one to defrost whenever I feed him a meal. If I get more containers I might be able to do two weeks at once.
I didn’t really involve poor PH in this decision. I think he accepts that I make the health decisions regarding our dog and it doesn’t seem to bother him from a financial standpoint. If we can get meat in bulk from the states than really the monthly cost won’t be too much different from what we were feeding before.
Either way, my dog is worth it. And right now, I feel like it’s the only thing I can really do for him.
I hope this works. I don’t think that providing a family member with a medically necessary food plan is spoiling them.
I just hope it slows the progress of whatever this is!
Nicki Hunt said:
Poor dog, 😦 really hope this helps, I can no longer have furry pets as my PH is allergic, but I totally understand your willingness to “pull out all the stops”. He is clearly a beloved dog. Get well soon beloved dog xx
PH is a little allergic too, but I can’t live without animals, so he has to live with them :-p I hope it helps too!
Tara Dong said:
Hey Carol, if you’re looking for super economical pet grade meat — Surrey meatpackers is great. The one thing (your vet would know better, but mine told me this) is that he recommended pureeing fresh veggies in the blender over steamed or whole and mixing the “slush” into the meat. Apparently doggie tummies can break down the fiber like we do to access all the nutrients inside them so pureeing gives them more nourishment than whole veggies — raw veggies over steamed also preserves more of the nutrients.
Hope my favourite wooly mammoth is feeling his spunky little self soon!
No, sorry, Surrey meat packers is considered anathema at my clinic! Too fatty, questionable quality standards. (one client found an embryo in ther dog’s food!) most of our raw or hone cooked diet patients are skinny, except those who eat Surrey meat packets. fat is super vital in BD’s case so I can’t risk it. Besides, since I will be cooking it I don’t want raw diet preparations since they usually contain bone which should not be cooked. But yes, I chop/purée his spinach! Your vet says the same thing as mine 🙂 I am looking at veg preparations from 3p or Amore.
Grace Goldragon said:
😦 Every time I see a black and white sheltie, I think of Beloved Dog with fondness. It makes me sad that he’d be anti-social as it’s so outside of my experience with him. I know adding more time consuming commitments on top of your already overflowing plate is not a small thing, so I wish you luck and I hope that your efforts help make poor puppy feel more like himself.
In some ways he’s still social – when my mother came to visit he FLIPPED OUT he was so excited to see her – but in general he’s curled up in a corner most of the time. Of course, it’s come on so gradually that I might not even have noticed the full change in him. Maybe I should ask Jon or someone if they remember how cuddly he was when he was young…
Poor beloved dog; but it’s great that things do seem to be improving.
Well, overall, things are much worse. But we’ll see if the new diet reverses that!
Good luck with the home-cooked diet! Keep us posted on his progress, although I’m sure you will. 🙂
I’ve switched my cats to a no-grain kibble, as I’ve seen that recommended in a few places. Tried a raw food thing as well (the raw version of the food they normally get), but all three were very disinterested in it. It was like “you’re expecting us to eat THAT? Puh-leaze.”
Yeah, it’s hard to get cats to eat raw. Wet food is good, though – higher protein, which is what you want. Preferably greater than 40% protein for proper nutrition in cats.
Yeah, the brand I use for wet food is 70% meat (as opposed to 4% of most commercial brands) and all natural ingredients. Only the best is good enough for my fur babies! 🙂 The vet said Daisy is very healthy, especially considering her age (14?), so it seems to work. Will see what they say about the boys tomorrow, as they’re booked in for their boosters.
My friend has a cat with multiple allergies and mysterious skin issues which she has tried to address with every food under the sun (after exhausting available tests from numerous vets). Nothing worked as well as raw food, and the cat LOVES it. She refuses to eat anything else unless unless she’s starving, and then she will complain loudly (the raw food she uses is somewhat difficult for my friend to get locally, so she has run out on occasion and had to substitute one of the other limited-ingredient foods she’d previously tested). I always viewed the extremely high protein and the raw food fanaticisms with skepticism, but I have to admit the cat is practically glowing with health: her fur is glossy, she has tonnes of energy, her skin issues are few and far between now, she poops less and her litter hardly smells at all. Her food is not homemade, though. She eats the Instinct brand lamb formula http://www.naturesvariety.com/InstinctRaw/cat/lamb. I swear I am not remotely trying to sell the stuff .I have no idea if it’s the food itself that is good or if the other foods all just had different things in them that she couldn’t tolerate, one anecdote is not data, individual biochemistry is a thing, etc. But it has made me reconsider my bias somewhat. Darwin still gets vet-brand kibble, though, at least for now.
Oh no, there are definite benefits to raw/homecooked. In general, I believe in home cooked over raw, because I don’t eat MY meat raw and I don’t really see the benefit of getting my pets to do so. But real food is always better than fake food, especially since so many pet foods are full of terrible ingredients. Most cats will eat home cooked, but I only know a couple of cats who will eat raw – they tend to be too picky about it.
My local vet used to sell a book of vet-and-nutritionist-tested dog food recipes, as well as the supplements to go with them. If you have any trouble locating the supplements, I can check if they still have them there and send them out to you. I guess it would be pretty unlikely not to be able to find them where you live. I wish there was something I could do to help, though. I hate to think of BD suffering. He couldn’t possibly have a more dedicated owner, though (and no, that is not code for: I think you’re spoiling him; a cooked meal is small potatoes when it comes to taking care of someone we love, canine or otherwise). I hope the diet turns out to be just the thing to make him (and you) feel better!
Keep in mind I work at a vet clinic that is strongly behind home cooked diets. We have recipes and supplements up the ying yang!
Thanks for sharing the recipe! That will come in handy. I too have cooked for my dog in the past, when she was recovering from serious illness. It’s a pain in the butt to have to cook for yet another family member, but you know you will do anything your loyal companion needs. He really does sound like he was in a lot of pain! Have you tried hypoallergenic kibble already?
I found your blog while I was searching about acetone breath in toddlers. I read your post about your sons breath smelling, your description is exactly our situation with my son! Did you ever get any answers what the acetone smell is from? I’m so extremely scared of diabetes being the cause but his drs think I’m crazy when I bring up the breath smell!
I keep meaning to test his pee. He SEEMS fine…!
You’re an awesome dog mom–that meal looks really yummy to me! Hope beloved dog feels better soon. That is heartbreaking when they want to be alone. I wish I could mail you our leftover Tramadol for his pain. It’s the only med I have from Schmoopy the vet won’t take back to donate. 😦 Let us know how that goes. Yay for no poop accidents!
Tramadol is a good pain reliever, too, because it’s easier on the tummy than, say, metacam.
I’m so sorry to hear that BD is having troubles. How mysterious that you can’t get it figured out! Hopefully, this diet will make the difference and you’ll see an improvement soon. 🙂
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