This week’s Spin Cycle is about pets. If you’ve been reading here any time at all, you know I have an 11-year-old dachshund mix named Scooter. He’s been a frequent subject here, but most recently because when we changed our diet, we changed his, too. I wrote about it last year, and thought I’d rerun it again, with a brief update.
About a year ago, I wrote about Scooter – our little beagle/dachshund mix – and the autoimmune disease centered in his anal glands that he developed after years of eating commercial dog food (Kibble and Bits Beefy Bits, to be exact). The ingredients are horrible:
Corn, soybean meal, beef and bone meal, ground wheat flour, animal fat (bha used as preservative), corn syrup, wheat middlings, beef, water sufficient for processing, animal digest, propylene glycol, salt, hydrochloric acid, caramel color, potassium chloride, sorbic acid (used as a preservative), sodium carbonate, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), choline chloride, titanium dioxide, calcium sulfate, red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, BHA (used as a preservative), potassium sorbate, dl methionine.
You have no idea the guilt I feel because I let my sweet little dog eat that garbage for so many years.
When Scooter began having his problems, they were accompanied by terrible inflammation and infections. I was pretty sure that much of this could be mitigated by diet, but when I spoke to the vet about it, he said I should keep him on commercial dog food, because if I fed him anything else he would run the risk of nutritional deficiencies. In fact, his only solution to the problem was to put Scooter on steroids for the inflammation and give him antibiotics for the infections. So we did, and the minute his course of steroids ended the inflammation returned, and eventually the infection did as well. This happened three time before the vet decided that he was just going to have to be on steroids permanently – he could even end up on low levels of the antibiotic for the rest of his life, as well.
In the meantime, Scooter was miserable. The inflammation was somewhat better, but he was still constantly licking his backside and dragging it across the carpet. Because of the steroids, he was constantly, ravenously hungry and even though I wasn’t feeding him any more than usual, he was still gaining weight – at his heaviest, he was 24 pounds. That may not seem like a lot, but for a dog that’s only supposed to weigh 16 or 17 pounds, that’s a lot of weight gain, especially in a very short period of time. He also lost all of his spunk; he’s always been a happy, active dog – even at 10 years old, he’s more than happy to play fetch, or zoom around the house if he can get you to chase him, or run around the yard or take a walk. But no longer; all he wanted to do was eat and lay on the sofa. It was breaking my heart.
Now, as soon as he became ill and the vet told us to keep him on commercial food (and tried to sell us a brand that cost almost as much per week as we spent on groceries for the three of us), I began to make Scooter’s food myself. After doing a little research on what was in most home-prepared pet foods, he went on a mixture of cooked beef, rice and vegetables, mostly peas, carrots and green beans. He loved it at first – he’d always preferred “people food” over kibble – but when those initial courses of steroids were over, he began to lose his appetite and often refused it, which worried me a great deal – Scooter NEVER left food in his bowl. By the time the vet said he needed to be on steroids permanently, I decided it was time to get drastic – so I put him on a raw food diet.
When I told the vet this, he said that was unsafe; it was simply not a “balanced diet” for a dog. But the more I thought about it, the sillier that statement seemed and when I began researching raw food diets for dogs, it became even sillier. So Scooter began eating raw meat – mostly beef and pork, with some chicken thrown in every now and then and liver or other organ meats about once a week. (We do give him bones from time to time, but even before he became ill bones messed with his digestive system – when we give him one, we have to confine him to areas of the house that are tiled because there will be a mess.)
Scooter loved the raw food diet – he ate it enthusiastically, and it wasn’t long until we began to see some improvements. He continued to gain weight, because that’s just the nature of the Prednisone beast, but he regained some of his spunk and began acting more like the dog we all love so much. And after much deliberation, we decided that when it was time to get the steroid prescription refilled, we’d wait a bit and see what happened.
What happened was astounding…or maybe not. The inflammation not only didn’t return, it became better. Not entirely better – it may never go fully into remission – but remarkably better. The lingering infection, which the vet said might not ever entirely go away, even with long term antibiotic use, cleared up almost immediately. He immediately began to lose weight and is now back down to 17 pounds. More importantly, he is his old self again – active and happy and feeling pretty good for a 10-year-old dog with what amounts to nagging case of hemorrhoids.
Update: Scooter is still on a raw food diet, and is still happy and thriving. I’ve begun adding small amounts of pulverized egg shells and sea salt to his food once a week, since he no longer gets any edible bone.
However, recently he became quite ill as the result of a rawhide chew stick. I’d had people tell me that dogs shouldn’t have them, but I’d been giving them to Scooter occasionally for years without anything bad happening to him. I wish I’d listened, because it was truly awful; we thought we were going to lose the little guy.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I can give him to satisfy his need to chew? Bone is out of the question, since it gives him diarrhea.