Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Raw Diet Experiment

Well in case you didn't know one of the biggest factors in bloat/torsion is a dry dog food diet. Recent studies have shown that feeding canned food reduces the risk of bloat by 30%, while feeding actual human food, in other words non-processed meat, cuts the risk by 60%.

And if you didn't know it, torsion is the second leading cause of death for large breed dogs.

I've already had 3 cases of bloat among German Shepherds I've owned. Two ended in the sudden deaths of the dogs, and the third cost me a lot of money in surgery. So I've decided to throw out the dry kibble.

My first stab at it involved a plain raw diet of food I picked up at the grocery store. I got the idea for this from leerburg kennels, a nice website that has lots of info on raw dog food diets. I followed their suggestion and began feeding my dogs chicken leg/thigh quarters, raw ground beef, and eggs.

Apparently the bones are safe to feed to dogs if they're raw. They are softer and pliable and the dogs chew them up pretty good, so no chance of brittle shards injuring the dog. I wasn't so sure about that and found one of my shepherds basically swallowing the chicken legs whole. Then they got diarrhea and my Weimaraner, Lucy, had a major vomiting session. OK raw chicken is out.

This was kind of disappointing because it wasn't all that expensive. Compared to dry kibble it is, but I was feeding one of the shepherds canned food. He weighs 90 pounds so was getting 4 cans of Purina One per day. These run roughly a buck a can, so that's $4 per day.

Chicken quarters have been going for 89 cents per pound at the local grocery store. You're supposed to feed a 90 pound dog about 2 pounds of meat per day, so on chicken he would be costing me around $1.80 per day! WOW! Less than half the cost of canned food.

But alas I couldn't use my dogs as guinea pigs any longer, and had the good fortune to come across some mildly processed raw dog food. First I found some "Country Pet" rolls at Whole Foods, which are pasteurized rolls of chicken and lamb. I am sure they have beef available too but I haven't seen it. Besides being pasteurized and eliminating the bacterial pathogen factor you've got from raw chicken at the store, they have ground bone it it, so the dog still gets the benefits of eating bone.

The problem is this stuff is pricey. It costs $6 per roll. Not bad if you have a small dog, but a dog like Jake, checking in at 90 pounds, is going to eat a little more than an entire roll per day. So he would be costing me around $7 or so in food per day. That is a bit much.

Learn About Country Pet Dog Food

I also came across some patties at a local specialty pet store called "Stella and Chewies". This is frozen raw meat with some veggies, vitamins etc. thrown in for good measure. Also certified to be bacteria free. Jake seemed to really like those. It was $25 for 16 patties, which lasted about 4 days.

Read About Stella and Chewys

The food is frozen, so you have to plan ahead and defrost. But the dogs definitely LOVE the patties. Another good side effect is their poops get a lot smaller when on a raw meat diet, so less cleaning up to do in the yard.

I'm not quite done with the experiment, I ordered two cases of chicken patties from barfworld. Check out their website, you can learn all the wonders of the raw dog food diet.

Prophylactic Gastropexy

Update on the bloat. I call my regular vet, and he proposes doing a larthroscopic prophylactic gastropexy. Got that?

Basically this is an operation where the surgeon uses some kind of microscope thingy to look in the stomach area. They grab the stomach, and basically staple it to the body wall. The idea is that while the dog may bloat again, his stomach can't turn over and kill him. While its initially stapled, over time the tissue grows together and the stomach becomes permanently attached to the body wall.

I've already had 2 dogs die of bloat/torsion, so its a no brainer to get this done. Here's the catch: the cost is $1263.

Well I went ahead and got it done. Once a dog has bloated, and Tony is only 3, chances are very high they're going to bloat again. Next time I might not be so lucky and get him to the vet on time.

The surgery was scheduled and I dropped him off at 7 AM. Everything went smoothly and I picked him up and took him home the same night. Instructions were relatively simple, keep him quiet and don't let him romp around for 21 days. Kind of hard since I've got 4 dogs.

The first night after the surgery he was quite groggy. They gave me some pain meds that would last about a week, and let me tell you the first week was kind of rough. His belly got kind of swollen and he was just acting "under the weather" the whole time. I was worried something had gone wrong, but then he started pulling out of it. By about 2 weeks time, he was getting back to his old self.

If you are considering getting prophylactic gastropexy, I strongly advise it if you've got a large dog prone to bloat. Generally this includes breeds like Great Danes, Boxers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, etc. and to a lesser extent labrador retrievers and the like. It is expensive, but its alot cheaper than surgery for torsion and better than risking the sudden death of your dog.

Another Case of Bloat

About 6 weeks ago another one of my dogs bloated. It was about midnight and he was kind of puffing air out of his mouth. I thought that was odd so stayed up with him for awhile. It seemed to stop and he went and laid down, so I went to sleep thinking I had come ever so close to another bloat and potentially dead dog, but avoided it.

I woke up around 6:30 AM and found him puffing air out again, and then he began throwing up foam. OK at this point there is no doubt that it was bloat. I quickly got dressed, put him in the car, and drove to the nearest emergency vet. Luckily I got him to the vet on time, and they were able to stick a tube down his throat and evacuate the gas.

But while I was waiting, they are thinking they're going to have to do surgery. So they get in and do x-rays to see if he's had torsion, and how bad it is. Then the vet comes out with a cost estimate. She says $6,000. I about fell out of my chair. At this point what are you going to say? They wanted half down, and I wasn't going to say "yeah OK just euthanize him". I gave her my credit card and ouch! they charged me $3,000. I slinked away depressed, they said they would call me later and let me know how things were going.

It was a few hours later that they called and informed me the surgery wouldn't be necessary. Turns out there had been no torsion-so death looked in the eye and averted-this time. The dog is a German Shepherd so I knew he was at high risk.

So they sent me home with some gastric motility medication, and instructions to feed him 4 times a day and get a prophylactic gastropexy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dogs are smarter than they look

You always hear that cats can find their way home but with dogs, well that proposition is kind of dubious. But one summer I found out that dogs are pretty smart about finding their way around.

One night I was out walking the two German Shepherds I had at the time, Sam and Brandy. I lived right at the entrance to the foothills of the Sandia mountains, so usually took them on mountain hikes, but since it was at night I was just walking them around the neighborhood.

When we just about got home I saw 3 dogs out running loose. Being a nut for animals, I always try and save dogs that have gotten out loose. There was a black lab, a small pit bull cross, and a boxer. I was able to get the pitbull and the boxer but the black lab got away.

Sam kind of had a reputation for being vicious because he was a big male German Shepherd who barked with vigor. But he was all bark and no bite, so I never hesitated bringing dogs home. I tied Sam's leash through the collars of the little dogs and we went home.

It was kind of funny but the instant we got in the house the two little dogs I had picked up seemed happy as could be. The little pit bull immediately got attached to me and followed me all over, and he ended up sleeping right next to my bed on the floor. The boxer kind of fell into the "pack" with my two shepherds and slept with them-they liked sleeping on the leather couch in the living room.

The next morning I put a lost pet ad in the news paper. For the next week the two little dogs became members of the household. They were having a great time, playing a lot with Sam and Brandy and each night the little pit bull would sleep next to me.

Sam on the leather couch

Finally someone called, and a man described the dogs perfectly so I knew they were his. It turned out that the pit bull's name was Max, which seemed to fit him perfectly because he looked like a little gangster. The man said his son (who was about 20) was devastated by losing the dogs.

That afternoon he comes to the house and picks up the dogs. To be honest, he seemed kind of harsh with them and it seemed like they didn't want to go with him. But he finally got them in the car and off they went.

My mother, who was following this little episode, said that the little dogs would be back. Sure enough her observation proved right.

About a week later, I was reading in my bedroom one afternoon. I heard this scratching sound by the window. I looked out and to my surprise there was Max the pitbull!

Brandy the Shepherd

Somehow max had found his way back. I let him in and he was full of cactus needles. If you aren't familiar with the area, the western face of the Sandia mountains is desert at lower elevations. Not only that but little max was dying of thirst. The poor little fellow had escaped from his home and crossed through the mountains and come back to my house!

I have to admit I was tempted to keep him, but I gave them another call and once again the man came to pick him up. This time the man was not happy at all and was even kind of stand-offish towards me.

This was back in the summer of 2006 and I often wonder what became of those little dogs. But it goes to show that dogs can find their way around.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bloat: A Top Dog Health Threat

Pet Dog Health: The Danger Of Stomach Torsion

Author: David McMahon

It may be the worst thing that can happen to a dog owner: coming home and finding your "best friend" suddenly dead-when the dog had seemed completely healthy. Unfortunately that's exactly what happened to me one October afternoon, when I came home to find one of my German Shepherds dead on the floor. What could it be? A stroke? A heart attack? After getting over my complete state of shock-the dog was not "aged" and seemed completely healthy-I began digging for answers.

It turned out that the cause of death was an event called "stomach torsion" that comes about from "bloat". This is a serious issue in pet dog health, its the second leading cause of death for large dogs. But at the time, I didn't know very much about it.

Becoming educated on this issue could mean the difference between death and several extra years of life for your dog.

OK-so what is it? Let's try and describe it in laymen's terms. Bloat is basically a condition where a lot of gas or fluid gets trapped in the dogs stomach. This really isn't all that different from what might happen to you if you drank too much root beer on a full stomach, but in dogs, and in particular large dogs, this is a serious problem. This is because the stomach isn't as well set in the body cavity as ours is, a dogs stomach is kind of hanging loose if you will. When it becomes over-engorged with fluid or gas, it can twist around.

When it does, the result is a medical emergency. The blood supply to many vital organs gets cut off when this happens, and the dog goes into shock. Death will result if surgery is not performed. A symptom that this is happening is that the dog will be throwing up clear liquid or attempting to throw up.

One tragic aspect of this condition is that onset can happen rapidly, and so you may become aware of it when its too late. That's what happened in my case, my dog was fine when I left the house. I was gone for a few hours, and when I got back she was dead. Its a sad state of affairs but the progression from bloat to stomach torsion to death can happen in as little as an hour.

We can't be with our dogs 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but what we can do is take steps to reduce the risk of it happening. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Break up your dogs feedings. The less food a dog takes in when it eats the lower the risk. A dog that eats just once a day has a higher risk than a dog that has its meals split into two or three portions a day.
  • Watch out for dry food. Dogs that eat all dry food have a higher risk. Consider feeding canned food, or mixing dry and canned together. When you do this substitute a can of moist dog food for a cup of dry food. This helps because dry food tends to expand when liquified in the stomach adding stress to the stomach.
  • Feed using raised bowls. There is a bit of controversey about this one, but feeding using raised bowls may help reduce the risk. This is because some dogs gulp down air when they eat, and its believed by some that bowls raised off the floor cut down on the amount of air gulped in. This in turn cuts the risk of bloat happening. Raised pet bowls are available for sale on the internet.
  • Watch out for diarrhea. If a dog has chronic diarrhea, it may increase the risk. Make sure to get diarrhea treated.
  • Never exercise right after feeding. Let the dogs stomach "settle" for an hour or two before going out for exercise.
  • Avoid feeding immediately after exercise. After a long walk, a dog probably wants to drink lots of water. Doing that and then eating can be a fatal recipie.
  • Don't feed late at night.

Before this happens I had no idea what a serious problem this was in pet dog health. Interestingly, it often takes dogs in their prime: most victims are aged between 4 and 7 years of age. But dogs of any age can get it, and although males have a higher risk, female dogs die from it as well.

In the end we can't prevent every bad event from happening. But at least taking these steps will put your mind at rest since you'll know you were aware, and took responsible steps to control the risk.

More information on pet dog health: click here

About the Author:

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/pets-articles/pet-dog-health-the-danger-of-stomach-torsion-815044.html

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dog Food Secrets

Do you ever wonder what's really in your dog food? I know I do, and that's why I've been checking out ingredients on dog food packaging for some time. When you do that you're probably not going to be too impressed in a lot of cases, and you may consider a home made dog food diet

When reading dog food labels, the order of the ingredients tells you how much of each item is in the food. This isn't an exact amount, but what it does tell you is relative amounts. For example, if the label reads like:

corn meal, chicken, rice

Then the dog food has more cornmeal in it than chicken, and more chicken in it than rice. 

So the first thing I look for is where animal protein figures on the list. The reason I do this is that dogs have descended from a long line of carnivores. Dogs were domesticated from wolves a long time ago. Wolves are meat eaters and so it makes sense that the best thing to do for your dog is give him what he naturally needs-meat. Sure he can get by on cornmeal, but that isn't necessarily  the best thing for his health. 

The second big item to note when it comes to analyzing dog food is that some meat items are listed as "by products". What on earth is a by-product? According to About.com, chicken by-products are described as follows:

Definition: Chicken by-product meal consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.

Well, that's not exactly breast and thigh meat. Do you want your dog eating chicken feet as his main source of protein? Probably not. I don't either, so I prefer brands of dog food that have by-products lower down on the list of food items. 

Unfortunately if you're looking for bargain food you're going to be getting items like corn, corn meal, and by-products as the top ingredients. An example I like to use is comparing Purina Dog Chow to the more expensive line sold by the same company, Purina One. Dog Chow consists of lower quality ingredients like chicken by-products and corn meal. Purina One, on the other hand, has real meat in it. How do you know this? Its going to say "chicken" instead of "chicken by-products". I think this is better food for dogs.

Here's a secret tip: be careful changing your dog's diet. Dogs have sensitive digestive systems and changing your dogs diet abruptly can lead to problems like diarrhea. It could even lead to bloat, but I can't prove that. So start off by mixing in the new dog food a little bit at a time.

All of this begs the question-if you want your dog to eat real meat, why not just put her on a home made dog food diet? That's exactly what thousands of people are doing.

If you do a home made dog food diet, some items you might consider are cooked chicken, steak, pork, and a carbohydrate like rice. You're going to need to do some research to make sure that your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs, to maintain proper dog health supplements are going to be necessary on that kind of diet. Vegetables will also have to be included. 

I own a large number of dogs, so preparing home made meals is just not realistic for me. I barely have the time to make my own dinner. But if you only have one or two dogs, it might be something you should consider. But talk to your veterinarian to make sure your dog is getting all of the nutrients she needs. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

Every dog gets diarrhea from time to time, but in most cases it will disappear pretty quickly. But while most cases of diarrhea in dogs are not serious, there are a few occasions when diarrhea means more than just cleaning up the mess. Two things immediately come to mind: when your dog has diarrhea that lasts more than a couple of days, and second, if your dog has bloody diarrhea. In this article we're going to address the second issue. 

The first thing to note is that diarrhea really isn't a "condition" or disease all in itself. When a dog has loose stools that is a symptom that something else is wrong. For example, it could mean that your dog is passing his stools more rapidly than he should. If the diarrhea is bloody, then that tells us (obviously) that the dog has internal bleeding somewhere. 

Here's our first clue. Bloody diarrhea in dogs can come in two colors:

  • Black
  • Red
If the diarrhea is black, that means the blood has been in the stool longer, because the black blood isn't "fresh", so to speak. This indicates bleeding further up in the gastrointestinal tract. it might even be in the stomach, or it could be in the small intestine. This could happen if the dog had ulcerations in the stomach, for example.

If the blood is red, then there is bleeding in the large intestine closer to the exit or even bleeding in the rectum. 

If you have a puppy, bloody diarrhea especially red, bloody diarrhea is a serious concern. This is because bloody diarrhea is a sign of a parvo virus infection, a serious medical emergency in dogs that is often fatal for puppies. If your puppy has bloody diarrhea get her to a vet right away. 

Actually any case of bloody diarrhea in dogs should mean a trip to the vet. Besides parvo virus, the list of possible causes is very long. It may be that the dog has eaten something that led to ulceration somewhere. Or it could mean cancer if its chronic, although dogs don't get colon cancer as often as we do. Dogs are much more likely to get other types of cancer. However when dogs do get cancer of the GI tract, it tends to be aggressive. 

The bottom line: Get your pet to the vet at any sign of bloody diarrhea in dogs.