Food Review Two and Bath Time at the House of the Fox Dogs

Freshpets Select Review Two

I’ve been steadily  feeding the dogs Freshpets Select, especially Toby, and we’ve finally made a dent in the giant roll of  Vital Smoked Salmon and Ocean Whitefish:

Smoked Salmon and Ocean Whitefish

We got quite a lot of this food, and because I’m not giving Toby chicken at the moment, he’s getting most of it.  This Vital roll contains salmon, ocean whitefish, spinach, blueberries, pomegranate, cranberries and a variety of vitamins and minerals (see the list on my other post about Freshpets Select food), plus broccoli, natural flavors, inulin, sunflower oil and green tea extract.

You can actually see the berries in it when you slice it, and they add a little color to what is otherwise a kind of grey mass (but hey, the dogs don’t care about the color!):

Toby's dinner

As for reviews, this food was pretty popular:

Oskar gives it an A+  As soon as I started to open the package, he came over and tried to get his big head on the stove near the package.  He’s not quite that tall yet, luckily, so when he realized he couldn’t actually reach the food, he cleverly offered a sit, and got a sample, which he barely even sniffed before eating.   When I put some in his dinner, along with some pieces of chicken and a part of a fresh sardine, he ate the Vital first, even before he started in on his sardine.

Toby inhaled it.  A+  However, I should add that so far, almost everything is an A+ with Toby, including frozen peas and carrots, bread crusts, and small pieces of paper that he mistakes for something edible.

Bel gives it an A-  She was quite interested in it as a treat (she did a leap and twirl for it!)  I gave it to her with dinner a couple of days in a row, and when her dinner contained a bit of chicken, the Vital, and a fresh sardine head, she went for the sardine head every time.  After that she ate the Vital. In Bel’s mind, a fresh fish head is much superior to fish mush, but fish mush is much better than a chicken back.

My review:

Overall, I think this is pretty good food.  My dogs like it, and after a couple of weeks of at least one dog eating some form or an another everyday (Toby), I haven’t noticed any loose poops or excessive gas.  In fact, Toby has had significantly less gas since he’s been off chicken, and he’s lost weight!  (I’m not sure if this has to do with Freshpets Select which is a small portion of his diet, or more likely his “spa menu” of fish and veggies, or if it also might have to do with the fact that we upped his thyroid meds.  In any case, he’s slimmer!)  My dogs are much less interested in the Homestyle chunks, but they’re really into the Vital, and I prefer it too since it doesn’t contain grains.  I think this is a good alternative food to grainfree kibble, and I’d definitely feed it to my dogs if I needed to give them a break from their regular raw diet, or if I was kenneling them.

So yay for Freshpets Select, and thanks for including me in their blogger program and giving me the opportunity to test out this food on my canine crew!

Bath Time at House of the Fox Dogs

Friday was bath time here.   Toby has been having a problems with his coat for several months, and while we suspect allergies (and he was on steroids for a while), we just weren’t sure what was going on, and I noted his coat was both slightly oily, and still somewhat thin and brittle, which to me indicates possible thyroid issues (even though he’d had been tested in the fall).  He even had some bald patches that have since started to grow in, and the hair on his belly and underarms was particularly thin.  Because he’s also blowing his coat, I couldn’t get a good sense of how bad the problem was, so I decided he needed a super brushing and a bath.

Toby before his bath

The problem is, Toby doesn’t do baths.  He really doesn’t.  There has been biting during bathing (not me, but there were unfortunate incidents with a groomer and with a vet tech).  The only time he’s let loose with the Shiba scream was during a bath.  He doesn’t even like to get his feet wet.  So bathing is always….an adventure.

So while I can’t recommend this as standard practice, I might as well just confess:  I drug him.  I know, it’s not ideal.  But 1/4 of an acepromazine, and I can give him a bath.  (As I discovered, 1/4 is not enough for me to clip his nails by myself, though).   So yesterday, after brushing a kitchen garbage bag full of Shiba hair off him, I slipped him a “special cookie” (ace+cheese).  About 45 minutes later, he was looking decidedly mellow:

After the "special cookie"

Bath time!  We hadn’t yet started when U. came home, so he decided to document the bath.  (He has found some program to give special effects to his phone pics, so you’ll see some of his handiwork here).

As soon as Toby saw me put towels on the floor of the bathroom, he had an inkling of what was up, and he tried to hide, but of course I caught him, and dragged him into the bathroom, then U. plopped him into the tub, where Toby sighed deeply, and sank right down into the tub (don’t let the photo fool you:  he was not in the least bit happy):

Toby says "I hate this"

There were, of course, attempts at escape:

Toby is a blur of outrage!

Before he finally surrendered:

But overall, he was easier to handle then usual, and his bath was successful.  After a good towel drying, some more air drying, and yet more brushing, he turned out very handsome indeed:

Toby is Clean!

One of the other big discoveries:  Toby is really a bright orange dog, not a reddish-brown one!  You can see, however, that his coat is thin on his chest.  That’s where he had bare spots from allergies, and his coat is only just beginning to grow back in there.

After Toby’s bath, the tub was filthy, and I had to clear it of an awful lot of hair.  As I was doing this, I thought, well, it’s already dirty, why not give Oskar a bath?  So into the tub with the big Akita boy!

It took two of us to get his 106 pounds in the tub and hold him in, so there are no pics of the bath in progress, but Oskar went in happily, and seemed to enjoy his bath.  He especially liked having the shower on him, and of course, the massaging in of the shampoo was also quite popular.  There were  more color discoveries:  Oskar is a cream-colored dog, overall, but his undercoat is still charcoal grey!  When he was wet, it was quite noticeable:

Oskar looking for Bel after his bath

Of course, his loop, as we call his tail, looked particularly magnificent and bright after the bath!

I did have some problems with matting in his coat, both before the bath and after.  His coat is longer and silkier than the Shibas, and it tends to mat at his elbows and under his collar.  I brushed him as well as I could before the bath, but afterwards, I sprayed on some ShowSheen, which worked as a detangler, and I was able to comb everything out.  It also protects against dirt, and leaves the coat very silky, but it does have silicone, so I’d like to find another, more natural product eventually.

He looked great after his bath:

Oskar after his bath

Of course, once I got done with those two, I was on a roll, and though Bel sensed what was going to happen next and tried to flee, I caught her.  Her bath was uneventful, except for the fact that I ran out of shampoo.  She still has her “poodle cut” as her hair has not grown back in after her surgery, so she didn’t need much.   She’s the smallest and has the least hair, so she was in and out of the tub fairly quickly.

After she got out, she tried to do the Shiba 500 through the house, but it’s hard to get up to speed when a very large Akita thinks this means a fun game of chase, so Bel took some quick spins around the living room, then hid from both me and Oskar:

No one can see me

Since Bel was getting the worst of it in the game of Shiba/Akita tag, I decided to put her in her crate, where she settled down prettily:

I was able to coax her out about an hour later with a promise of a cookie…..the much appreciated salmon and white fish Vital!

Bel says "Get out of my way, Oskar!"

And that was that:  everyone had a bath, a brushing, and finally, dinner, and everyone survived just fine, humans and canines.

Toby did have some later trauma when I decided I’d better take care of his nails, too.  I managed to clip four of them before he began to growl, and I decided to leave the rest for another day.  Once he was clean and brushed, I was able to look him over fairly well.  His coat is thinner than I would like on his belly and in some other places, but it’s not quite as bad as I had originally thought.  I think I’ll keep an eye on him, and if it gets worse, it’s off the vet again.  Right now, however, his diet and slightly higher amount of thyroid meds has really improved his health:  he’s slimmer and more lively, and I hope his coat condition will improve as well.

Overall, bath day was a success!

Big clean boy!

FreshPets Select Review (Part 1)

Time to start our reviews!  These reviews are the result of a box of food sent to us to review by FreshPets Select.  We’ll begin with the “Fresh Bites” line:

 

Fresh Bites

FreshPets Select Fresh Bites Beef and Vegetable:

This product is little meat balls which come in vacuum sealed plastic bag, which is in a bigger (resealable!) container as you can see above.  There are two plastic bags per container.  It is not grain free:  it contains ground oats and rice bran (no doubt to hold the little meat balls together).  It’s also something of a misnomer to call it Beef and Vegetable–the second ingredient is chicken, and the third is chicken liver.  I find this problematic: why call it beef if it includes chicken?  This might also be a problem for dogs that have a chicken allergy, though of course I would hope that anyone with an allergic dog would be reading the labels carefully.

Fresh Bites "Beef"

I fed some of this to my three along with their regular dinner, with a little bit of pumpkin for everyone in case the switch to something new caused problems with digestion.  My dogs are pretty good about switching food, though, and they usually don’t have problems with loose stools just from a diet change, as some other dogs do.

Taste Test

Bel:  D

She didn’t like it.  She looked at her dinner, and then she looked at me as if I were horribly cruel.  She sniffed everything, and took portions of everything out of her dish.  She buried her chicken in her blanket, and she simply dropped the Fresh Bites in front of her dish.  She sniffed it, and pushed it around with her nose.  She ate one piece, and rejected the rest.

Bel doesn't like it

Granted, she didn’t want her chicken either, and she spent some time staring at me as if to remind that there was delicious kibble available (Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream) and why didn’t I give her some? She did not eat the Fresh Bites until Toby came in later, when she decided she’d choke it down rather than risk him getting it.  She never did eat her chicken, so I suppose she found it slightly better than her regular meal, or perhaps just more desirable to Toby, therefore, worthy of eating so he wouldn’t get it.

Toby:  A-

Inhaled it.  But he pushed it aside so he could inhale his fish first.

Oskar:  C-

He was not pleased with his dinner last night.  In the morning Oskar gets the more meaty parts of the chicken (thighs mostly) and in the evening he gets chicken backs, which he does not like nearly as much as the thighs.  He does not always eat his dinner, partially because he likes breakfast more, but also because at 10 months, he’s growing more slowly and is less interested in two meals a day. It’s not unusual, then, for him to not eat his dinner, but I thought that he’d be more interested in it with the dog food on it.  He was not.  He took all the chicken out, and he sniffed at the Fresh Bites suspiciously, as he does with all new food.  He took a few of the balls out of his dish and dropped them on the floor and licked them.  He pawed them.  Then he took some more out of the bowl.  Same routine:  suspicious sniff, tentative lick.  Then he decided to ignore it entirely, and get to work burying his chicken pieces in his blanket (an important part of his dinner routine).  After about 1/2 hour*, he decided he might eat something after all, and so he ate about half of the FreshBites.

Then he was done with eating for the evening.

*My husband has encouraged Oskar’s slow eating by letting his food sit out for quite a long time in morning.  I used to take the food back up if the dogs didn’t eat after 10 minutes or so, but now Oskar seems to have been “trained” to be as leisurely with his meal as he would like, so I’ve given up, and I leave the food down for an hour or so before picking it up if Oskar or Bel are refusing to eat.  Of course, this never happens with Toby, who licks his bowl clean.

Amount to Feed:

This is a little more economical than the Chicken and Rice Homestyle (below).  Dogs 21-40 pounds (as in the Shibas) should get 1/2 to 3/4 of a pouch per day.  80 pounds is as high as the instructions go, and that would be 1 to 1 1/4 pouches, plus 1/4 pouch per each 25 pounds over 80 pounds.  (That would mean Oskar, who weighs 106 pounds but is still growing) should get about 1 1/2 pouches per day.  Of course, he probably wouldn’t eat that much of it.

FreshPets Select homestyle

Chicken Vegetable and Rice recipe (ingredients linked here) comes in a tasty looking gravy, and is mostly meat with a few peas and carrots.  I was a bit concerned about the rice, but there is not a lot of rice that I can see in this–just a few grains here and there, though it may be that the rice, like the like ground oats, helps to make the little chicken balls hold together.  That said, rice is pretty far down the ingredients list, (the only whole food after rice is peas) so I don’t think they’re using a whole lot of rice in here, which is good, as I don’t generally feed my dogs grains.

Freshpets Homestyle Chicken and Rice

Everyone got a smaller portion of their regular dinner along with some of the Homestyle Chicken Vegetable and Rice.   I gave Bel the most, as she is the fussiest eater, and the most likely to want to eat dog food rather than her chicken.

Taste Test

Little Miss Fuss-pot (ie. Bel):  A-

Bel's dinner

She liked it.  She was methodical and fussy in her eating, as usual.  She lapped up all the gravy, then very daintily ate the rest.

She’d been hungry all day (after rejecting most of her dinner last night), but she seemed to like it well enough, because she ate it in amount five minutes, which is pretty good for her.  She did not eat her partial chicken back (her regular dinner) but buried it her in blanket, though after about 1/2 hour, she ate that too, which does suggest hunger. While this was not a great success as with the Vital line, it still met with her approval.

Oskar:  A-

He did his usual routine with new foods (see above), but he did eat it all, and he pushed his regular chicken back pieces out of the way to get to the FreshPets Select first.  After he ate it all, he ate the rest of his dinner, and this time he did it without first burying his dinner.  I’d say he liked it.

Toby:  A

Inhaled it.  This time he ate it before he ate his fish, hence the slight difference in grade.

Amount to feed:

The problem with this is it comes in very small containers.  According to their website, linked above, 21-41 pound dogs, like the Shibas, would need to be fed 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 containers a day.  As before, the instructions only go up to 80 pound dogs, which would need to be fed 3 1/2 to 4 containers a day. I suspect this would be cost prohibitive.

FreshPets Select Vital:

 

Apparently this is a new food, because it is not on the website.  This food comes in tubes like the Slice and Serve rolls.  It is, however, grain and potato free.

I started with the smaller roll (the one with the Basenji on it!), which I thought was salmon, but it was not; the salmon roll is the huge one I still have to try.  What I have been giving the dogs as a treat is the Lamb and Ocean Whitefish Recipe.

The ingredients are lamb, ocean whitefish, lamb liver, spinach, cranberries, blueberries, carageenan, then a whole bunch of vitamins, and after that, the list continues with sunflower oil, inulin, broccoli and pomegranate.  Also according to the label, this recipe contains 85% lamb, ocean whitefish, and lamb liver.   It is  9.0 % protein (min), 8 % crude fat (min), .5 % fiber (max) and 77 % moisture (max)

 

click for larger picture

This seems low to me on protein level, though their FAQ addresses this, and it may be that I’m simply not comparing correctly between a grainfree dry (say Taste of the Wild, which my dogs like) and this.   I don’t feel like doing the math, so if you’re interested, check out the FAQ which can be accessed from any page on the FreshPets Select site.

Vital Lamb and Ocean Whitefish

Taste Test:

(I did not feed this to them as a meal, but I gave it to them as a treat).

Bel:  A+

Yes, even Little Miss Eating Disorder liked this.  Inordinately.  After her initial bite, she immediately began offering different behaviors to get another treat.  She sat.  She laid down.  She targeted my hand with her nose repeatedly.  When that didn’t earn her a treat right away, she just jumped up and put her paw on me and pleaded.  Later, when she was outside and saw (and smelled!) that Oskar was getting some more, she pawed on the screen door to come back in.    Don’t know how it would be as a meal, but as a treat?  Success!

Fat Boy Slim (Toby):  A

He inhaled it.   He liked it as much as he likes any treat, which is to say he nearly took my fingers off for his piece.  Since he doesn’t seem to like it more or less than cheese, freeze-dried liver, kibble, a toast crust or a tiny dried fish (his favorite), I figure it rates an A but not an A+.

Oskar likes it!

Oskar:  A

He was initially suspicious, of course, and did his drop and sniff routine, but then he decided it was very tasty, and after that he also tried all his tricks for more.  I even offered it to get him used to the Gentle Leader Head Collar I’m trying out on him, and this was enough to get him to entirely ignore the head collar!  Something I learned from this experience:  teaching him to give me his paw can be annoying when a high value treat like this is involved.  I had those big old paws on me repeatedly.

Amount to Feed:

Like the Slice and Serve, this does have guidelines for feeding on the wrapper.  I didn’t check them as I am only using it as a treat (I’ll post what they are when I review the other Vital  food, in my next review post).  I will say what I like about this is that it smells good (like smoked fish) and it is pretty easy to slice, and best yet, it didn’t give the dogs gas, as lamb sometimes does.  I didn’t, however, give them much, so I don’t know if that would be true of a whole meal.

My Overall Thoughts:

These reviews are based on initial feedings, and I haven’t made it through all the kinds of food we were sent, nor do I have results from the poop test yet (ie. does or does it not cause problems with the digestive system?)  Since my dogs usually eat raw with a high percentage of bone, I will be surprised if the poop is the same as usual; anyone who feeds raw with bone knows that dogs produce much less and it is much firmer and easier to pick up.    I live in a wooded half acre, though, so I’m not always immediately aware of what is coming out of the other end of the dogs.   Right now, I don’t think there have been any problems, but I may have to report back on this.

I’m having some difficulties coming up with a price for this dogfood;  I couldn’t find prices online.  I’ll have to do a research trip to a retailer, no doubt, but I can’t imagine food of this quality will come cheap, so I suspect it may be out of reach for people with large dogs, or with a multiple dog household.

My Grades:

I’d give the Fresh Bites a C, simply because two of my dogs were less into it, and also because I really don’t like that they call it beef, but it has a lot of chicken in it.

Homestyle might get a B for the taste test and the ingredients, but I’d likely lower the grade if it is high priced, given how much you have to feed.

I’d give Vital an A- based on the taste test and the fact that it is grain free.  Why not an A?  Because treats like this need to serve an important dual purpose in this house:  first as a treat, and secondly, I need to be able to put thyroid pills in them.  So far, cheese and liverwurst work better for this (Vital is firmer in texture and the pills fall out).  That said, I’ll probably buy it as a high value training reward, especially for Oskar, who doesn’t need to have pills hidden in his treats.  It certainly keeps the dogs motivated!

Up Next: Choosing a good dog breeder, and later, FreshPets Select review part deux

Something exciting….

Today, I woke to a huge box that had arrived while I was still lazing about in bed. The box said “perishable” on it, and I thought, what could that possibly be?

It was a box of dog food! We’d only just applied to the blogger program from Freshpet Select and we got a box of goodies already!  It came in a cooler, with cold packs, and was full of tasty treats for the dogs:

 

a box of doggie delights

I’ll give a full review of it in the next few days, but for right now, I know that the salmon  (the smaller roll pictured above with a picture of Basenji on it) was a great hit with all the dogs, and even Little Miss Eating Disorder (aka Bel) loved it!

 

 

 

Toby’s New Regime

Today, Toby got to go for a ride to Long Leash on Life, the natural food store for pets.  He enjoyed himself, though he lingered longingly by the bully sticks and other dog treats.   He only curled his lip at one dog in the store, too, which was quite good behavior for him.

While we were at the store, M. decided that she would buy Toby a belated birthday present to help with his weight loss.  So now Toby has two cans of this:

 

I’m not entirely convinced I couldn’t come up with something similar on my own, but it is fun to try, and Toby happily ate about a 1/4 cup with his dinner tonight.  It smelled, and looked, mostly like pumpkin, but according to the can, the ingredients are pumpkin, ground oatmeal, inulin, tomato pomace, spinach, choline chloride, blueberry pomace, cinnamon, and vitamins B5, B6, B9 and B12.

But the best part?  Check this out:

 

17 calories per 1/4 cup!  Granted, I just checked the calorie content on regular canned pumpkin, and it is 40 calories per half cup, so I guess this is not so different. This does have added vitamin B, which regular canned pumpkin does not have.  The price is not as different as you might expect.  This cost $2.39 a can, I believe, and while occasionally canned pumpkin can be had for significantly less (mostly around the holiday baking season), I usually find it to be about $2.00 a can or a bit more, at least at our local grocery store.  And the pumpkin is easier to get, so while I kind of like this product so far, I don’t know how often I’ll purchase it.

This is what Toby has been getting for dinner for the past four days:

 

Toby's dinner

 

It looks like a lot, but it is really only 3 ounces of frozen pollock, along with some green beans.  Serving them frozen doesn’t slow him down in the least in terms of eating, but the bigger amount makes him seem less ravenous than his old dinner.  There are only 85 calories in 3 oz. of pollock, and about 35 calories in 2/3 of cup frozen green beans.  This means that poor Toby only got 110 calories or so worth of dinner tonight (and the last few nights).  This seems shockingly low, but he seems much less hungry than he has with his previous dinner.  I’d say he also gets at least 50-100 calories of snacks during the day, from the tiny liver treats to the liverwurst or string cheese he gets his pills in.  Still, let’s say he’s getting 210 calories a day.  That still seems pretty low to me.  But he doesn’t seem nearly as hungry as he did.

This is a picture of Bel’s dinner, but this is also what Toby used to get (and seemed to still gain weight on):

 

Bel's dinner

 

That’s a portion of a chicken back, her salmon oil capsule, and a stray green bean or two.  She also usually gets SeaMeal, but apparently I took the pic before putting that on.  Bel often gets a little more than this–maybe two pieces this size–though she doesn’t always eat both of them, and sometimes, like tonight, I supplement her dinner with a half cup to a cup of grain free kibble.

It’s hard to believe, but Toby was only eating about that much chicken, and still he gained weight.  Since I started writing this post, I decided to do some investigation into calories, and I discovered that one chicken back  has 137 calories, but with the skin, it goes up to 319!  I’m not entirely sure of the accuracy of this calorie count, as I found it here and this is no doubt aimed at humans and thus doesn’t count the bone, which the dogs do, of course, eat.  Still, it gives me a rough idea.  I suspect on most days, unless Toby was successful in his foraging, he probably was getting about 500 calories a day, tops.  Often less, because once he got so fat, I stopped giving him a whole chicken back, and gave him a half of one, or a chicken neck.  I don’t know how many calories he needs–I’ve seen wildly conflicting estimates of canine calorie requirements–but apparently 500 was too much.  I’m going to have to do more research on this–it will be good for Toby, and I’d like to be more informed about canine nutrition.

The people at the dog food store were surprised that he is fat on a raw diet, and suggested the same things I would suggest:  check his thyroid.  And while I may check yet again just to be safe, I’m pretty sure we’ll come up with the same thing we did before:  his thyroid is ok with his current medication rate.

Also at the store, they thought he was a Jindo, because they said they’d never seen such a big Shiba.  I pointed out he is fat, but they thought he was rather tall too, and I suppose he is.  He’s almost 20 inches at the withers (about 16 inches is max for a male according to the AKC), so fat or not, he’s still a big boy for a Shiba.

We also stopped and had coffee and a snack after shopping.  Toby did not get anything to eat, but he accepted some compliments and behind-the-ear scratches from some passerbys.  He tried some foraging–figuring he could sneak a scone away from M. while we were talking–but he was foiled!  Still, I think he had a good day overall.

Toby!

 

Next post:  a review of another kibble we bought to try out.  Kangaroo!

Toby’s on a Diet

 

That’s not Toby, of course, but the point is relevent:  our boy is not as svelte as he used to be.

In fact, the last time I took him into the vet, he weighed a whopping 44 pounds!

Granted, Toby has never been a small Shiba, and he looks positively thin at 35 pounds.  Also, he’s been on prednisdone for allergies (poor boy lost the hair on his neck and chest!), and that made him retain fluid and look a little puffy, so I supposed he was more like 42 pounds off the steroids.   Even so, there’s no way around it.  He needs to lose weight.

I’m a bit puzzled as to why he has gained so much.  Granted, he doesn’t exercise much (Toby’s idea of exercise is moving from the sofa, to the crate, to the chair).   And he’s a master scavenger.  But still, he usually only gets one chicken neck or half a chicken back a day, so it’s not like he’s eating much.  And as you know, HE’S HUNGRY!

So we’re trying something different.  He’s getting a bit of pollack (half a fillet) and some frozen green beans.  Normally, Toby doesn’t much like vegetables, but HE’S HUNGRY, so he’s eating them with gusto.  What I’ve noticed on day three of the fish and veggie diet for Toby is that he’s not acting quite as ravenous as usual, so I’m hoping this is filling him up a bit more (while still being relatively low in calories).

I hope with a new diet, and some exercise (yes, Toby, we are going to resume our walks), he’ll soon be his only mildly plump self, rather than the enormous great pumpkin Shiba he has become.

Of course, Toby is a scavenger par excellence (or forager, as he prefers to call himself), so I have to make sure there is nothing out that he can forage.  Or we’ll have something like this:

 

 

And our boy does not need to be eating cake.  I’ll keep you all posted on his progress.

And speaking of progress, Bel is NOT on a diet, but she is much improved.  She’s eating well (or as well as Bel ever eats), and her hair is slowly growing back in:

 

Bel has a snack

 

She is also able to walk–and even run!–on her leg now, and though I’m trying to keep the running to a minimum, it’s encouraging that she’s not carrying the leg anymore, or limping.  She can’t sit normally yet, but she is able to get into her “froggy” pose, with her legs out behind her, and she seems to be feeling well overall.

On a near final note, Toby  would like to remind everyone that there is still time to get a great Shiba print here, with proceeds going to ARK.   We finally ordered this one, which Toby liked because it shows a Shiba pissing on an Akita (ok, the Hachiko statue!) and Toby finds that deeply satisfying.  He still is not happy with the fact that there is an Akita in our household!

And I’d like to thank the Shibal Inu crew for the great fundraiser for a good cause,  and for drawing my attention to the Soft Bank commercials, which fit in so well with this post!

And this really is the final note:  if you’d like to hear more  Shiba adventures from another perspective,  check out this and this from Mornings with Birds.   Shibas and birds: it’s all fun and games til someone gets hurt.  Or til the humans intervene before  damage can be done.

Feeding Bel

Bel is sick.  She may be ill because of liver damage from her meds, as I suspect, or  she may simply  not  feel well from all of them–I won’t know until I get a full liver panel done next week.  But in any case, the little girl does not feel well, and has not eaten a full meal since Thursday.

Our little sick girl

I was quite worried about her on Saturday and Sunday, but since then, she seems slightly better.  Until today, she was not willing to eat anything on her own; I had to syringe liquid into her mouth.   However, she’s since taken a bit of her puree by spoon, and we just had a victory!  She ate something out of a dish on her own:  1/4 cup of vanilla ice cream!  No, that’s not a normal part of her diet, but at this point, I’m more interested in getting something in her to keep her blood sugar up.

She has managed to keep everything down, so far,  though she did vomit up some water earlier today.  She’s not out of the woods yet.  But the fact that she takes anything is a plus.

When I had to force feed Toby, I hadn’t thought of the idea of pureeing the food and then squirting it down his throat with a syringe.  I had to stuff food in his mouth, then hold his mouth shut until he swallowed.  It was a VERY slow process, and so far, Bel is unwilling to chew anything.   She utterly refused her fish and potato mush (which is very much coveted by the other dogs):

No! I don't want it!

So I made a puree.  I took the fish mush and mixed it with goat’s milk, chicken broth, and a little Ensure to add to the calorie count.   Sometimes I give it to her just like that, squirted into her mouth.

Last night, after syringing the liquid into her mouth every two hours, I noticed that she was starting to lick at the syringe, which suggested to me she might be ready to progress to the next step.  So I made her puree a bit thicker by adding some chicken and rice flavored baby food.  At first, she was unimpressed:

I'm not eating!

But I’d heated it a bit too, hoping the smell might get her interested, so eventually she had to take a sniff:

Hmm...what is that?

And then finally, she decided to take just a little taste:

 

It's not bad!

And then, a little more:

 

She likes it!

Success!

Leave it to a Shiba to refuse to eat unless it’s off a spoon!

Feeding Bel is a pretty time-consuming, though.   She won’t eat much at once, which is ok, because I’ve read that small meals are better anyway for dogs who have overtaxed livers.   The most I manage to feed her at one time is about a 1/4 cup of anything, whether it is the puree, the puree/baby food mix, or ice cream.   That’s not very much, and I’ve really only gotten up to the 1/4 cup at a time yesterday and today.  To put this in perspective, we still haven’t worked through an entire bottle of Ensure, and each bottle has 250 calories.   Since I mix it with other things, I’d guess she’s managed to get maybe 300 calories today, so far, maybe closer to 400 now that she just had her ice cream.   It’s not enough.

But it’s better than Saturday, when I could barely get her to take anything at all.  And she’s drinking on her own, so she’s not at risk of becoming dehydrated.

Toby, who has clearly entirely forgotten his own experience with liver disease and forced feeding, is a bit demoralized by all the attention Bel is getting, but because she’s sick, they’ve been able to be together in the house:

Toby dreams of fish mush

You may have noticed that in the feeding pictures she doesn’t have her “cone” on.   I take it off when I feed her, even though it does kind of function like a giant plastic bib–all the things she pushes out of her mouth end up in the cone for easy clean up!  I can’t leave it off very long, though, because she immediately starts licking at her incision site if I do.   The wound itself looks good–it’s clean and healing well,  and her fur is growing back:

Unfortunately, she keeps licking at a spot that the splint rubbed on, and she’s polished it down in to bare skin.  This is why I have to keep the cone on.  I also put a bit of calendula cream on that spot and on the incision a couple of times a day to help speed the healing along.

The dark spot is where she licks

Poor Bel!  Between being shaved and being sick and not eating, she’s looking positively thin:

Little Miss Wasp Waist

But she is doing better today, and I’ll keep feeding her every few hours and dosing her with milk thistle and B vitamins, and I expect she’ll continue to make progress.   And next week, she’ll be back to the vet for a full liver panel.

And there is some good news:  she’s walking on her leg quite normally these days, and is even able to get into her “froggy” pose, where she stretches her back legs out behind her when she’s laying down.  So the surgery, at least, seems to have been a success.

The Liver Cleanse Diet

In my last post, I talked about Bel being ill, which I suspect is from damage to her liver from her medications.   As I noted, I found a great deal of information on the Canine Epilepsy Guardian Angel site, including this very important paragraph:

“Extremely important is dietary management. The liver aids in digestion and processes fat. When the liver is dysfunctional, it cannot process fat like it should and thus it has to work harder. You want to avoid fatty foods, processed foods, and undercooked foods (bacteria in undercooked meats in processed through the liver and another good reason we do not indorse the raw diet for our epi pups). When I went thru liver dysfunction with Alex one of the biggest helps in turning her liver around was the help I got from Dr. W. Jean Dodds and the liver cleansing diet. An excerpt from UC Davis Book of Dogs states that the Liver is able to heal if the patient is provided with a diet that supports an optimal return to normal function. The liver cannot heal if the patient does not eat, thus, it is important to ensure an adequate food intake.”

(taken from the Canine Epilepsy Guardian Angel site linked above)

I feed my dogs raw.  I have for years.  Most of the time I feed them chicken with additives:   kelp (Seameal), fish oil, and some leftovers.   Occasionally, I feed them other meat that is on sale, like the dinner on Friday that everyone ate with a great deal of delight except for poor Bel:

(That’s sirloin steak that was marked down for quick sale.  Toby and Oskar enjoyed it mightily!)

I also fed them fresh tilapia a week or so ago.  It was perhaps more of an adventure that I want to repeat:  turns out, tilapia has some wicked sharp fins that had to be cut off, as well as a super tough skin.  

 

Bel and Toby eventually liked it (Bel enjoyed gnawing on the head after she ate the meaty pieces), but Oskar never quite got the hang of it, and he buried his in his blanket:

 

Oskar caches his fish

(sorry for the blurriness….I take most of these photos with my phone, and action shots don’t come out well on my little LG Ally camera).

Anyway, I don’t want to tax Bel’s liver anymore that it already is, so I had to come up with something palatable for her that will also help her heal.  Luckily, the same site I linked above has a description of Dr. Jean Dodd’s liver cleanse diet.

The diet is basically 75% potatoes and easy to digest veggies, and 25% low-fat white fish.  So off I went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for the liver cleanse diet, as well as some recommended supplements:  milk thistle and B vitamins and SAM-e, all things that my vet had had me give to Toby when he had liver problems.

My little mountain grocery store had everything I needed except the SAM-e.   I only got potatoes and fish–I know from experience that Bel will not eat zucchini and isn’t much of a green vegetable fan in general, and I also know that it is very difficult to get a dog who is sick like this to eat anyway, so the food needs to be as palatable as possible.  (How do I know this?  When Toby was sick like this, he had to be force fed 3-4 times a day for over a month.  If you’ve ever tried to force-feed a Shiba, it’s not easy.  They seem able to grit their teeth closed so it is nearly impossible to pry them open, and Toby was a genius at holding food in his mouth and spitting it out as soon as I let go of his muzzle).

Turns out pollack was on sale for $1.99 a pound, so I got four pounds of it.   When I got home, I started assembling Bel’s meal.   I didn’t measure (I never do when I cook), but I cut up four small white potatoes to cook with a pound of pollack:


All of this went into a pot to boil:

while I microwaved some sweet potatoes (they’re so much easier to peel after they’ve been cooked!)

Once the fish and white potatoes were cooked, I added the sweet potatoes, and made a delightful mush:

Well, it was delightful for Toby, who was my sous-chef, and who got to sample some.   It didn’t look very good to me.

And unfortunately, but as I expected,  Bel would have none of it.   I had better luck with the baby food I also got (chicken and rice) because it was easy to smear on her lips and she tended to lick it off automatically.  She sniffed the fish/potato mush, and did manage to growl when Toby got too close to her bowl, but she wouldn’t eat it.    The thing is, it is critical that she eat.  So I spent some time forcing food down her throat, though I only managed a few tablespoons.   I’ll be giving her more in a bit.

She is drinking on her own, and is not vomiting, which is something, but has eaten very little–the last real meal she had was on Thursday night.  So until she is willing to eat on her own, she’s going to hate me, as I’ll be the one opening her mouth and pushing the appetizing mush down her throat.  It was a long process with Toby, but as I said in an earlier post, he was much more ill, so I’m hoping I don’t have weeks of this ahead of us.

And there was a happy ending for Toby; the liver can regenerate itself, and his did, and after months of recovery, he was fine, and got his appetite back.   With a vengeance.  In fact, I think that Toby believes he needs to make up for those weeks of not eating, because he certainly is all about food now.   He is always foraging:

Toby says, where are the cookies?

And as you can see, he’s hardly a waif of a dog!

I hope Bel will be able to make a similar recovery.   In the meantime, she’ll be eating fish and potatoes, whether willingly or not, as we rebuild her health.