When I first set eyes on Blue he was a pathetic sight; thin, dull coat, desperately hyperactive, and obviously no stranger to a beating. But something about his eyes told me that we were going to be good friends. So this said, a scrap of a dog came to live with me and his ‘sister’ Tess, my Staffy mix, who was my constant companion and best friend for 15 wonderful years (but that’s a whole different story).
To skip along a bit after much love, patience, and veterinary care Blue finally recovered from his nervousness, and fleas, and tapeworm, not to mention the distemper he was harboring, quietly and secretly – with no complaints, and just a fever and instinct to let me know what was going on. Within a year he was a happy, healthy, loving and good-tempered gentleman.
After a little investigation into his background, I found out his mother was a black Lab, and his father was a Border Collie. Not having any previous experience of these breeds I don’t know whether his problems have any connection to this fact.
Watery feces again and again
The first signs were passing vast amounts of extremely watery feces, at first I thought he must have picked up something while out on his walk, and 24 hrs without food seemed to sort him out. A couple of weeks later, it happened again, then again… and again!
The vet is clueless and I start to panic
The vet was also baffled when the blood and stool samples ruled out parasites and infections. By this time Blue was looking rather the worse for wear, his beautiful coat was looking dull, and his bones were starting to stick out. The only thing that didn’t change was his lovely nature. By this time I was starting to panic, the vet recommended all the usual things – nothing worked. Eventually, he looked like one of those dogs you see on the rescue shows, and to make things worse he was now passing blood and had stopped passing solid stools altogether. People were starting to avoid talking to us when we went out, they were talking about us though! and I think the only thing that saved me from actually being ‘lynched by an angry mob’ was the fact that Tess was still obviously healthy and happy.
Then my dog collapses
Then, on the way back from what had become a very slow, careful, stroll; to my horror Blue collapsed and couldn’t get back on his feet. I thought this was the end, but he was incredibly strong. After a passing stranger realized my predicament and fetched his wheelbarrow and a blanket I managed to get my dog home – bundled him into the car and yet another trip to the vet followed. By this time I didn’t have much faith in the veterinary profession, but I thought having him put quietly to sleep was better than letting him suffer anymore.
Blue must have recovered somewhat during the 40 min nightmare that was the journey I was all too familiar with by now (my car seemed to drive there on its own), and when we got there, he managed to get up on his feet and walk into the surgery. Unfortunately, in all the panic, I hadn’t rung ahead to let the vet know I was coming – so while I was ‘discussing’ my lack of appointment with the ‘Rottie’ who served as receptionist – Blue passed a motion that was 100% blood; nasty, black clots and, thick, dark red blood.
This seemed to motivate the Rottie into believing that this was a genuine emergency, and not just my attempt to mess up her carefully planned appointment system, and, with a terse comment along the lines that my usual vet wasn’t at the surgery, and I would have to ‘make do’ with his ‘junior’, she scuttled off into the back, emerging a few seconds later with a young lady vet, who looked as if she should still have been at school! – just goes to show that appearances can be deceptive.
I thought I had to say ‘goodbye’ to my beloved boy
She looked at the mess my dog had just produced; went slightly pale; asked me to kindly bring my dog into the consulting room and; the rest of the visit is somewhat blurry. I thought I was going to be saying goodbye to my beloved boy, so when she started talking about transfusions; bowel lining; and colitis she might have well been speaking ‘Martian’ – my dog’s lead was then gently removed from my grip and he was coaxed, reluctantly, through the rear entrance to the small, white room where I stood – crying like a baby….I tried to object; explaining that I wanted to be there when they gave him the injection that I didn’t want him to be scared, or think I had left him alone…
….When things started to make sense again, I was sitting in an altogether friendlier room, with a cup of very strong, very sweet tea in my hand. The fresh-faced young vet was smiling at me and asking if I felt better now. It seems that Blue wasn’t the only one to hit the deck that afternoon, and the stress and worry of the last few months had finally caught up with me, as I passed clean out.
Many people underestimate the detrimental effects of owning an animal with severe illness can have on you, especially one that is unexplained and seemingly, terminal.
Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s disease?
Anyway; after a long consultation with this newly qualified young lady, she said she wasn’t certain what was wrong with my dog, and she would have to confer with the other vets in the practice,- I’d heard it before and my heart began to sink, but then; like a ray of sunshine breaking through the thick, black storm clouds hanging over Blue’s head, she said two names – the first one was ‘Ulcerative Colitis’- a nasty disease that basically leads to the bowel losing its lining, and, as the name suggests, leaving nasty ulcers behind, a painful problem, or ‘Crohns’ disease,- which also strips the lining of the bowel away, leaving scarring and reduced food absorption capacity.
Not good in either case. The future looked bleak, but Blue had perked up after the very kind donation from a donor dog and some fluid, and; a couple of days on intravenous steroids had him feeling much better – and home – and hungry!!
You may wonder why I put this on the allergy page, but both these problems stem from food allergies – one to wheat, the other to various things; most often protein!!- often milk, meat etc.. Which cut out most of the major food options. By chance the first alternative to regular dog food I tried worked – It was what I had in the cupboard at the time – A tin of rice pudding and a tin of tuna. I started with a spoonful of each and waited, there was no pacing, no quiet whining, and it didn’t fly through his digestive system at the speed of light. So after a couple of weeks, it was a much happier dog that greeted the young lady vet who had saved the day.
Lifelong steroids? No!
She told me that my dog would have to be on steroid treatment for the rest of his days and would need an op to biopsy his bowel to decide which of the possible problems Blue was suffering from.
By this time I had done a little research of my own, and when I suggested that an alternative medical approach may fare better than a life on steroids, she, to my surprise wholeheartedly agreed.
Let food be your medicine
I had read an article in a magazine about a man who was solving all sorts of behavioral problems in dogs by putting them on a totally natural diet; (If you are a rabbit lover you may want to stop reading now). This diet consisted of 100% organic fresh meat, partly processed vegetable protein, fiber, and vitamins. All conveniently available in a neat, dog-sized package, in perfect nutritional balance – whole rabbits – skin, bones, fur, the lot – including stomach contents, – one, to be given whenever the dog needs feeding which, to most peoples surprise is not necessarily every day!
Admittedly this is a rather gruesome looking diet, and everyone I spoke to about it warned me that once my ‘nice friendly dog had tasted raw meat he would become vicious and uncontrollable’. Luckily I never have taken much notice of what people say, and after some inquiries, I found a person whose job was controlling rabbit numbers on a local farm. These bunnies were going to be killed whether I took them or not, and it made more sense to put them to good use than to throw them away – that’s a waste of a life.
Blue is now a changed dog
This diet turned Blue round in a matter of weeks, and, it suited my other dog too.
I can honestly say it had no negative effects on my dogs at all, the dogs took a little time to get used to it, but they would to any change of diet. I can’t say that it was all plain sailing, as the illness did recur now and again, when my dog was exposed to any kind of stress, eg; when we moved house, and when my husband left, or, if he managed to get his jaws round commercial dog food – stolen from one of the neighbors dogs usually – and I recommend this diet to everyone.
I know it’s not for everyone – and I would recommend that the dog is fed outside, as it can be a conversation stopper when your dog fetches a half consumed bunny, and offers it as a gift to one of your friends. Also, you have to have a regular supplier of rabbits, or whole poultry etc. whom you trust. But if you are having problems with food allergies, or temper/behavior problems it is worth considering.