My dog Scooter and his life with IBD... Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Scooter, is a small, seventeen pound terrier mix. You can try and figure out just what that mix may be because I cannot. He's a rooter. He just loves to root around outside with his nose to the ground. He will do this by the hour if you let him.
Two mile long walks are his specialty. Those little legs just never seem to get tired, apparently. Just keeping up with him helps me stay in shape. But, then again, he's a terrier. He makes up his mind what he wants to do and I'm just there to follow along. Let him near your face and he will proceed to lick it off. For the ones he's closest to he is pure love and so very protective. Scooter takes no guff from anyone... dogs or people. He has a keen sense of what is in your heart and he shows that either with his tail or his teeth. Scooter is a gift from God and I cherish every day I have with him.
Scooter was adopted from a shelter back in April of 2003 and was about a year old when I got him. His papers said he was born in South Carolina but he was sent up north to try and get him adopted. It was clear to me he had had a few homes along the way but things just did not work out. One reason may be he has a bit of an attitude and he's not afraid to show it. You know the old saying "three strikes and you're out"? Scooter has one too. Three growls and then I nip!
He's also a marker. He marks every tree and telephone pole he meets up with. I almost did not take him for that very reason but after holding him one warm, spring-like afternoon I decided to take a chance. A little paper work and some money and he was all mine. After first removing a few rather large ticks and clearing up a bad case of worms I thought the worst was over for him. At least that's what I hoped. He was a few pounds underweight when I got him but I thought that is more nerves from the move he had been through than anything medical. The reason for his low weight would soon become apparent. He was a very picky eater. He had no interest in even trying the the dry food I still had from my last dog. I switched foods several times trying to find something he would eat. He seemed to have little to no appetite no matter what I gave him. He would eat some of the new food a few times and then not go near it the next meal. He showed no signs of gaining any weight. I also noticed Scooter would have these recurring bouts of moaning during the night moving from one part of the bed (my bed) to the other. He just could not find any comfort. During the day he was constantly licking his belly and he'd growl if you tried to rub him there. I could hear these boink, boink sounds coming from his tummy when he was sitting in my lap. I know now it was the stomach acid dripping and gurgling inside him. When taken outside to mess he would often choose to eat grass rather than do his business. He would have diarrhea often but he rarely, if ever, vomited. His stool was runny and discolored and he seem to strain when trying to go. A sure sign to me, at least, he was not feeling well.
So... off to the vet we went. In the end he was diagnosed with Canine IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) by his vet, a board certified internist. Inflammatory Bowel Disease? Those were scary words to me. My new little bundle of joy had a disease! Barely a year old and he was very sick. I was devastated, to say the least. The vet's first suggestion... the least invasive treatment... was to put him on a bland diet of cooked chicken and rice for several days to help bring his system back to normal. He also put him on 250mg of the antibiotic drug Flagyl (metronidazole) for a few days to kill any bad bacteria in his intestines. I was told me to give him half (10mg) of a 20mg Pepcid AC (famotidine) to control the stomach acid production if he seemed to be suffering. Both of these are human medications that are also used to treat pets in certain cases. This regimen seemed to be working although he would still have his bad days now and again. There would be mornings he would wake up at 5am and be crying at the back door to go out and eat grass...sometimes for ten minutes straight! Dogs are omnivores, which means they eat plants as well as meat, so I was never that concerned about it but I only let him eat my grass in the back of the house because I knew there was nothing sprayed on it. Some vets say the grass tickles their stomach and makes them feel better. The grass seemed to help him so I always got up to put him out on a leash and watched from the porch.
Finding a pet food he would eat was a challenge, though, and it took quite a bit of trial and error. It did teach me how to read packaging labels to know what was really in each bag or can. This is something I recommend we all do for our pets... and for us. You'll be surprised (and shocked) what you will find out. It was not until I put him on Nutro's Natural Choice pet food that I had luck getting him to eat consistently. Natural Choice is a well formulated (and reasonably priced) food that he seems to tolerate well. Both their lamb and venison based foods, especially. The trick, I learned, is to limit the number of different proteins he consumes to just one or two. In addition, Natural Choice does not use wheat gluten as a filler, which is hard for dogs to tolerate (for people as well). They use a brown rice which is much easier to digest. I used both their wet and the dry and mix them into a sort of damp clay consistency. Then I'd chop that up into small bites. Sometimes he would eat it all but usually he left a portion. There were many days he would eat one meal (he's fed twice a day) but not the other. This is the way it was for Scooter and I. I was glad he was feeling better and eating something and glad he was starting to put on some weight but I did not rest on my laurels. I kept reading and learning and modifying my system to make life the best I could for little Scooter.
The Oatmeal Miracle
I'm not sure how I found it but one day while on line at the office I read where plain old Quaker Oats oatmeal (the one in the round cardboard container) was a good source of fiber for dogs and that adding it to the food would help with their digestion. I had some around so I gave it a try. I mixed about a tablespoon in with his food and gave it to him. Mr. Picky is not one to dive into anything without giving it a complete going over... but, after he surmised it was OK to eat he cleaned the bowl and sat there looking for more. Seeing him do that was my Ah-ha moment.
I continued to put the oatmeal in every meal and Scooter continued to clean the bowl every time. I mixed the wet, the dry and a heaping tablespoon of Quaker Oats into a cookie dough consistency. Then I'd chop this up into small pieces. I didn't let it get too dry or he does not like it. Frankly, I was surprised he would even eat it. It cannot be very appetizing what with it's bland, dry taste. But he seems to like it. I spilled some on the floor one day and before I could pick it up he had eaten it all. I'm amazed to say the least. It has to be good for him. Oatmeal is high in fiber, low in fat and well stocked with protein.
How could such a simple thing like Oatmeal completely change this little dog's life? Well, I can tell you that it has. He's so full of pep these days I sometimes cannot keep up with him. He's also much, much happier and that's the best part! His bowel movements have also improved. I know this sounds to good to be true but it is the truth. I cannot explain it. All I know is it's working and I hope it continues to keep working for Scooter's sake.
Today, some eight years later, Scooter is still going strong. He's still on the very same food and he get's his oatmeal twice day without fail. He occasionally will have a bad day now and then. Remember, Scooter is a rooter. Like most dogs when he's outside he will usually eat just about anything he may come across that appears even close to looking like food ... good or bad. Living in the American Northeast that means he has around eight months where the ground is soft enough for him to pick up (and sometimes even eat) crud he should not. This will usually end badly for him. I'm quick to nip any signs of discomfort in the bud. If he turns his nose up at his food I know what to do. The next meal he gets is his chicken and rice. I also immediately give him half a Pepcid AC to calm the stomach acid and give him some relief. In about a day he's back to his old self and we revert to the regular food. With winter, Scooter (and I) get a reprieve. Rarely does he have any bouts during the hard ground, snow covered season.
Stop the Madness
Working with Scooter these last eight years has taught me something about the pet products industry and not all of it is very nice... so just let me add this. If you're giving your dog treats of any kind... STOP. Do not let them have Greenies, Nylabones, cowhide chews, pigs ears or any other products like this. This is all garbage and will only harm your dog. The only thing I allow Scooter to have is a real (unflavored) hard hollow cow bone (calcium bone) to chew on. It gives him the chewing and scraping he needs but he can never swallow it. All he'll do is wear it down and that will take him years.
It's important, when treating a pet with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), to be consistent with your feeding. Do not give your dog strange things to eat just because he may be begging you. No chips or cookies. No milk products... ever. No ice cream and no cheese. Avoid feeding your pet from the dinner table. They simply cannot tolerate any change in their daily diet without suffering for it. Do this and your dog will thank you. When Scooter deserves a treat I give him a piece of cooked boneless chicken breast. It's easy for him to digest and is high in protein. I buy bulk packages at the warehouse store and cook up one or two breasts each week to keep in the fridge. This way I have chicken at the ready for any bad days.
Scooter is now on Nutro's Ultra dog food trays, as they are called. These are small, 3 1/2 ounce plastic single-serving sealed packets that give him a good amount of food once in the morning and again around 7pm at night. I alternate between their chicken, turkey and salmon "pate's". He loves them and cleans the bowl every time. I tried their stew version and he just refused to eat them... but that's Scooter for you. They are not cheap costing around $2 per serving but I will soon start buying them online for around $1.50 each in cases of 24 units. I have a cold storage room I can keep them in so there should not be any issues with shelf life. It appears to be a quality product and so far no bad news in the press about them. Knock on wood!
I also began giving Scooter a probiotic several months ago in his morning feeding. I had been taking this exact same product myself for a great many years to keep my own gastrointestinal system in check and I knew it was working for me. I thought I'd try it on Scooter and see what it might, if anything, do for him. Needless to say, it was my second epiphany after finding the Oatmeal. I cannot stress enough how giving this to my best friend has given him an even bigger jump on life. Probiotics, if you are not aware, are what are often times referred to as "good bacteria". They can be found in yogurt, in yeast and can be had in capsule form. By filling your dog's gut with this living, beneficial bacteria you are basically overwhelming his system to the point the bad bacteria does not stand a chance of getting a foot hold and doing damage to his organs. Scooter gets the contents of one capsule mixed in his AM feeding about every other day. That's more than enough to keep his defenses up. It has essentially eliminated the need to use Flagyl in his case. He digests and passes his meals more completely now.
It's working! His bouts with IBD symptoms are now at their lowest point in all the years I've had him. He is the happiest he's ever been. He has not had a single case of stomach gurgling... not one!
This is a link to the product I take and the one I now use with Scooter. If the page cannot be found search for 1540 on their web site.
Make sure you keep this and all probiotics in the fridge to keep them alive and only buy them from someone who ships fresh product. That said, stay away from drug store brands that may have sat on the shelf for many months. You do not have to buy specialty "pet type" probiotics. The human type works just as well and costs much less.
Scooter is still doing fine. Will celebrate his fourteenth birthday this year, as best as anyone can tell... and he's not talking. Still getting his oatmeal in every meal, morning and evening and still on the probiotics most every day, as am I. He seems to have tired of the Nutro Ultra food packs. Was getting hard to please which is his way of saying let's try something else for a while. Switched to these Little Caesar food packs for a bit. They are not as good as the Nutro and seem to be mostly flavored meat by-products with beef in many of them but he seems to tolerate them... so far... and he just wolfs them down. His stool, the simple test for your pet's overall health at any given moment, has been consistent.
Water, water everywhere... but is it safe for your pet to drink?
Scooter will sometimes start to act a bit off when Summer weather comes and the heat starts to rise. He gets somewhat listless and acts a bit disoriented. It usually passes in a few days but since he's not getting any younger I got a bit concerned this year so I took him to the vet. They ran a blood screen and one of the things that popped out was an elevated level of sodium (salt) in his system. His blood pressure was also tested and found to be higher than what they'd like to see.
My comment to the vet was I had moved since the last visit and, after years of being on outstanding city water, I now had my own well. The water test done prior to buying the home did show elevated sodium. Sodium should be around 20Mg/liter (if you're on a low sodium diet) and my well was up around 76Mg/liter. So, almost four times times the recommended limit. The chemist said the water was not suggested for anyone who may have heart problems. I'm lucky, I can still drink it and I do. Compared to where Scooter and I used to live and having city water, the sodium level was around 7Mg/liter, so very low and very safe to drink... for everyone.
Since then I have been giving Scooter bottled water as much as I'm able to. However, I have come to learn that bottled water can also be higher in sodium than this (low sodium) recommended limit. That was frightening. You'd think it was better for you. Not always the case. I did some of my own testing, albeit a rudimentary conductibility test, but I was able to create a chart of the waters I was able to find or purchase in my area in order of their sodium level. I suggest you find out as much as you can about the water you give your dog. If you don't understand the results take them to your vet for an evaluation. It's very possible some of your pet's medical issues may be due to the water they're drinking every day.
BTW: Never use distilled water for drinking. Distilled water is salt-free, that is true, but it is also devoid of the minerals needed for living. Distilled water can actually remove necessary properties from the body. You can die from drinking too much distilled water, so beware.
I offer this story for what it's worth in the hopes that it will help someone else. I am not a vet and any treatments should be with the consultation of your own pet's doctor. This system of nutrition, supplements and medication has worked for my dog and, depending on the cause of your pet's IBD, it may also work for him or her. Not all dogs can tolerate a high fibre diet. Inflammatory Bowel Disease can be very serious but it can also be treated as my work with Scooter shows. Talk to your vet and get a second opinion if you feel you need to. Ultimately, it's up to you to take charge of your pet's care. Above all don't get discouraged!
Copyright 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 George Odell, All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with Quaker Oats or any pet food products or nutrition products company. Write to me at: tfg1 at snet.net
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