Friday, July 31, 2015

Making the move

Why, yes, you DO see 5 bowls there...

We have made an unexpected addition to our crew. I won't yet say he's permanent-- he's barely met all 4 dogs, so we'll have to see if he's right for our home and if we're right for him.

But in the meantime, I am training him (you can see that over here at The Education of Alfie) and starting his transition to raw. Since this is the first time since starting this blog that I've done a (so far) straightforward transition the way I like to do it, I thought I'd chronicle it here, too.

Since his ultimate home was still undecided, I thought I'd start with a mid-grade, but overall quality, kibble. I didn't want to shock his system with something rich if he's been eating Ol' Roy (and he sure smells like it) or start him on raw right away if he's going to go to a non-raw home. I chose Simply Nourish, the house "higher quality" brand at PetSmart. He likes it. It's fine.

A few days I ago, I started the raw switch.

Currently he is getting kibble in the mornings. I like to start raw on straight boneless chicken thighs. I want to ease a dog into bone so I can gauge how much bone is right for that dog, how interested he is in raw meat at all.

I've also added a probiotic for good measure, but he seems to have a pretty solid digestive system.

And he's only 25#, but is young, so I'm starting with 2% (so his one meal is 4oz) and we'll go from there.

I'll keep updating as we start adding other things!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Raw Diet and thyroid: a pain in the neck?

We've had some ups and downs in Luna's Adventures in Hypothyroid... Some potentially related to her raw diet... A bit of a long lead up, but I'll get to the connection, I promise.

AS I think I've discussed here, Luna had developed some crazy behavior that we believed was linked to her low thyroid. It showed up mostly as fear of all sorts of things she was previously unafraid of-- the kitchen, the car, her harness, loud noises, the agility tunnels... You name it.

Once we got her on Soloxine (.4mg BID), those issues sort of melted away. Kitchen was no longer an issue, she harnessed up and rode in the car with no problems, and she became an agility superstar...

Protocol is generally to monitor the thyroid levels periodically, since they change as the dog gets older. We didn't do the full panel this time-- just an in-house SNAP test. And she tested just above normal. Not a LOT above normal, but enough that her vet wanted to see how she would do on the next dosage down (.3mg).

Within a couple of days, she seemed a little more skittish. Over the next few weeks, she didn't seem quite right, but I thought I was probably imagining it.

In the heat of this August, we bought a couple of sprinklers for the pups to play in out in the yard. Andre took to it right away. He loved it.

Luna stayed in the background barking. Finally, she decided to attack the sprinkler. It was pretty funny to watch. But her focus on the contraption was way too much. WAY too much. Too intense. Too obsessive. TOO. MUCH.

To make a long story less long, the intensity over the sprinkler was the last straw in a list of Very Exciting Things in Luna's day and it seems that she snapped. She and Robin got into quite a fight. Puncture wounds, a broken tooth, and hurt feelings. And keeping the two of them separated while we work on lots of classical conditioning and desensitization and allow everyone's hormones to reset.

And while we allow her thyroid medicine to kick back in. As many of you may know, a low threshold for aggressive behavior is one of the behavioral signs of low thyroid. The vet agreed to put her back on the higher dose, and as long as her behavior is ok and she's not losing weight, we're going to be happy with it, "Tests be damned," as he said.

And she is better. Much less fearful. Calmer. Happier.

So what does this have to do with her raw diet?


I started trying to figure out why her numbers were higher than they were the last time we tested over the winter.

One thing that might be contributing is the spirulina supplement. That has some iodine in it.
The other thing I came across was this study from the Journal of Small Animal Practice. Basically, this study looks at a number of cases of dogs who exhibited symptoms of HYPERthyroid and were fed a raw diet. Turns out, they received higher quantities of neck material-- beef gullets, etc.-- in their diet, which contained, in some cases, the thyroid itself, and almost unavoidably thyroid hormone and other material.

This winter, we pulled Luna off of chicken and began using turkey as her primary bone source. Necks are the cheapest and boniest cut for us. And they frequently get a mix of gullet and tripe. So she's received a lot of neck material lately.

So what does that mean???

Don't worry. It doesn't mean that we will be stopping the raw diet. And no it doesn't mean we're getting rid of necks altogether. And it also doesn't mean that this necessarily had anything to do with her higher numbers. She's a young dog. Frankly, she probably should run a little high.

But it is an EXCELLENT reminder to diversify the diet. We're adding in more turkey legs. I'm also researching sources for duck frames and rabbit backs. And we may revisit chicken for her. It was kind of a random stab at seeing if she's sensitive to chicken as one of her allergies. And I've increased the amount of plain tripe that I buy and less of the mix with gullet.

It's also a good reminder that adding supplements to a diet willy nilly has the potential to cause some unintended consequences. While iodine is really important, when you're trying to balance the thyroid medically, pharmacologically, adding things like additional iodine can skew all of that and put it higher than it needs to be. Alone, adding iodine wouldn't be enough for her. So she needs the soloxine. So it's possible that me adding the spirulina put her over the top. I am still giving it to her. I think its benefits are good ones. But if we still have trouble after diversifying the diet, I might rethink the spirulina at that time.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is raw feeding THE cure-all?

Spoiler alert. Sorry to pee on your party; it's not.

If you've been doing any research into raw, you'll likely have read a number of miraculous accounts of dogs cured of disease, acting like puppies, cats who live forever, etc, ALL DUE TO A RAW DIET. Hell, I have my own seemingly miraculous tales of improved life through diet change.


Here's the thing. Raw diet wasn't exactly the cure. It's more complicated than that...

In some cases, a raw diet means eliminating things that cause problems-- whether it's a grain or a protein or a preservative or a coloring agent. Raw isn't solving the problem so much as getting rid of the shit that's causing it.

In other cases, the raw diet, because it's healthier overall, is strengthening the body, supporting it and making it better able to cope with disease or illness. In some cases, parasites like fleas prefer broken skin. It's easier to penetrate. By making the skin healthier, we make it less desirable for fleas. But if you live somewhere that is flea infested, no amount of raw diet cures your problem. It may mean your dog is better able to recover from the flea bites or get fewer, but it's not solving the problem. It's HELPING, for sure, but it's not the only solution.


Modern medicine, at some point, made a turn away from treating the whole being. Diet became a management tool to keep existing issues from getting worse-- issues that were sometimes caused or exacerbated by poor diet to begin with-- rather than a way to create a strong foundation for the body to avoid these issues in the first place.

In response to this, many people have gone entirely the other direction: complete mistrust of the modern medical machine and insistence that good diet cures all.

It seems to me that the smart thing to do is allow these things to work in tandem. Good diet can prevent disease, can help the body fight disease, and can provide support to perhaps minimize the need for medical intervention. No, our ancestors didn't have these things, wolves didn't take heartworm prevention-- they also died. They died sooner and sometimes more tragically.

Modern medicine has its place.

Yes, if the root cause of a dog's allergy is grain-- removing that grain from the picture is going to fix things. A raw diet will do that. Or maybe your dog is far too hyperactive. Removing carbs might fix that. Raw diet is great.

But what if your dog's allergy is hayfever? Yes, a raw diet may help reduce symptoms, make the body better able to cope with those symptoms. But it might not be enough. Maybe local honey will help. But again-- that's not always the right answer.

Sometimes supplementation is the key, sometimes medicine is the right answer. And a good diet will form the healthy foundation for those things to work better.

But please don't discount the right treatment at the right time for the sake of an ideology.

And don't believe everything you read on the internet.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Crunch time

It's crunch time around here in more ways than one...

This weekend, I've notice that our male kitty Chester Pete has not only gained a fair bit of weight, but he has also started limping again (he has thickening from osteoarthritis in one knee). He's already on a glucosamine supplement, but the years of crappy kibble and his voracious appetite have left him yet again overweight, in pain, and with a fairly poor coat quality.

So we have now, several years after beginning the journey, moved on to step 3 of the cats' transition to raw-- step 4 maybe? I don't know. First we got them on decent kibble, but that didn't last all that long. Then we got them on scheduled feedings, and my god that took some time. Five cats can be tough to feed all at once and individually when you have a couple who are picky pants and couple who will eat everybody's food all at once. Then we got them eating a mix of kibble and wet food.

Now we are moving to all wet food. Chester has made this transition pretty much immediately. However, because he's had a history of urinary crystals and a blockage, we will continue using the Health Meter litter in the litter box that he uses most often. Fingers crossed that we can someday make the switch totally to raw.

For the dogs, it is finally crunch time in a much more literal way. I bought a case of turkey necks and good god they're huge (and kind of obscene!). I ground about 1/4-1/3 of the case-- the grinder had a bit of a hard time. I had to frequently reverse it. But it did ok.

Then I took one giganto neck and took each dog outside individually and held it while they had a chance to gnaw on the thing. Everyone was thrilled. It took Andre a little while to figure out that he could chew it and not just lick it. And Luna was an absolute bitch when she came back inside, her resource guarding shit-headness coming out in full force-- a reminder of why they have to be fed separately and these chew times minded with caution. Then everyone had a boneless meal.

At any rate, I will be making a point of doing this once or twice a week for the teeth benefits and to give everyone some one-on-one time away from the others.

I've taken a round of "before" pics of everyone's teeth. None of them are horrible, but they all have some plaque and some redness at the gum line. And some have smellier breath than others. Here goes nothing.





Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An unexpected twist...

Yes, Luna Bird-- we're talking about you...

I'm learning a lot of lessons these days.

With Luna's persistent yeast issues, we started adding Animal Essentials Green Alternative. It has spirulina, nettle, garlic, and some other stuff that helps keep yeast in check. I think it has made her very soft, so I've started incorporating it in with the other dogs' food in place of some of the other supplements they get.

If you recall, Luna is also low thyroid. She takes .4mg of Soloxine twice a day. It has turned her around completely. She is muscly again, and all the inexplicable weird fears she had developed have melted away.

She went in this week to have a routine test of her thyroid levels. We opted to just do the in-house test since things have been going just fine, for the most part, and we'll do a full panel at Michigan State or at Hemopet if there are problems.

So I did what I'm supposed to do. I gave her a pill first thing this morning, fasted her, and took her in 5-6 hours after the dose for the blood draw.

And it was high. Her levels were high. Not just high-normal (which is what we want in a dog her age), but high.

So we've taken her dose down to .3 twice a day. The only thing I can think is that there's enough iodine in the spirulina to aid in thyroid function. We'll see. I really, really, really hope we don't backslide.

The supplement is literally the only difference I can think of. I pulled her off of kelp when we started using the Soloxine, even though Dr. Dodds (a canine thyroid expert) says it's ok if the dog is being fed a homemade diet.

In addition to all of this, I'm supposed to be getting a small bottle of Herbsmith's Clear AllerQi in the mail today to try for Luna's still itchy paws. I do believe I'll be double-checking all the herbs and how much they might contribute to thyroid function before I dive on in...

And last but not least, I think I've found a supplier for duck necks (and perhaps rabbit), so I'm hoping to add those to the mix, and maybe even try those for Luna instead of turkey.

Just need to choose one thing at a time so I'm not changing everything at once...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rotten dogs and herbal remedies

Those two things don't really have to do with each other. I'm just annoyed slash pissed off slash worried sick about River. She raided the bathroom trash can this morning. She may have eaten some tampons (gross). Or maybe not. Too late to induce vomiting, so we shall see what, if anything, comes out the other end. She makes me want to pull out my hair. I'll spare you the photo.

So two things happened with her. One, she got an Adequan shot about 10 days ago, so it should still be going good in her system, and two, her Herbsmith Soothe Joints ran out late last week. I decided to just wait and see how she's feeling without it. It's cheap enough that I'll keep giving it to her if it works, but expensive enough that I don't want to feed it unnecessarily.

I've noticed some creakiness, less enthusiasm to come upstairs, and she seems to be holder her head down a little more than she was recently. So while she feels good enough to get into trouble, I think the Soothe Joints was helping her after all. I guess I will go ahead and spend the money on the big canister. 

I mentioned several posts back that some interesting things were going on with Robin.

First, I want to brag on her success. Robin is extremely fearful of strange people. After many years of counter-conditioning (using clicker training) and some agility for confidence classes, we had a gorgeous, successful walk at the park this week. With people! Pushing strollers!! And children!!! I'm so proud of her.

Now onto the less fun stuff. She had some strange bowel upset recently. Not sure what she got into, but it involved some bloody stool and vomiting, which are fairly unlike her.

When these things happen, we always go back to basics-- super bland meat and bone, in Robin's case, chicken. And good quality probiotics.

That seemed to do the trick.

I know I've discussed her ongoing problems with UTIs. I had recently noticed that she dripped on occasion, but it wasn't enough for me to move to using Proin. Proin is basically Dexatrim, so it's not exactly my first choice for her if I can figure out something else. I ended up doing nothing, as it was really just a few drips here and there.

I did notice, however, that the dripping was causing her to lick herself a LOT. I think this may be the cause for continued UTIs over the years. Switching to raw reduced the frequency, and it nearly eliminated the crystal issue. But her dripping became more persistent, until it was finally puddles.

Poor girl was finding herself in little puddles on the bed.

My old guy Simon had old age incontinence, possibly brought on by some neurological problems and spinal arthritis. But I used a number of natural herbs to help him-- a blend made by NaturVet (Senior Bladder Support) and things like saw palmetto and corn silk to encourage complete bladder emptying. These things worked very well for a long time.

Now, spay incontinence, which is likely what Robin's issue is, is a hormonal issue. But I figured these herbs were worth a shot. Some folks treat it with soy isoflavones, and the bladder blend I'm giving her currently includes soy (I ran out and couldn't pick up more right away).

Still, even before that addition, it worked. I haven't been dealing with puddles and the dripping is pretty nonexistent. it may be that she needs the prescription stuff some day, but the later we have to deal with that, the better.

Andre has just this week been introduced to plain pork. He's been eating hearts and organ for a while now, but I cleaned out the freezer and found some old freezer-burned chops that I'd bought for us and he seems to have handled it like a champ. Normally, I'd say that most grocery store pork is pumped full of sodium and so not appropriate, but this was not the entirety of his meals-- he got organs, heart and turkey necks, none of which are enhanced with sodium, so I figure it shakes out in the end. No one at my house reacts badly to a little extra salt, and so the occasional inclusion is ok for us. Not to mention, I hate to see meat go to waste. I'll use it whenever I can!

And on that note, now that agility is over for Luna (did I mention she's a freakin' ROCK STAR???) Robin and Luna are turning their attention to the World Cup semis this afternoon. Who are you rooting for?


Monday, June 30, 2014

Supplement updates, etc.

Not much to report on Dre these days (thankfully...). Appetite is as, erm... voracious as ever.

Biggest problem we have right now is that he's discovered the plum trees and wants to eat them all. Thankfully he doesn't crunch the pits (inside is where the toxins are), but unsurprisingly they agitate his system, so he's being closely monitored.

As for River's hip, we have been continuing Adequan and she has been on the Herbsmith for several weeks now. And I do think it's helping her. I'm ready to dive into a big bulk canister of the stuff now. And once she runs out of Glycoflex, we may try Herbsmith's glucosamine supplement.

She is springy and spry and spending much more time upstairs with us.

Luna's yeasty paws seem to be continuing to do well with the spirulina and no chicken; I've faded out the Zyrtec for her and for Robin, so we will see how that goes.

Onward and upward.