Pet Food Life Long Lessons
I just went through an interesting and scary ten days with my little dog Kirby. He’s fine now, but wow did I learn some very valuable lessons. Here’s what happened and the lessons I will never forget.
Very recently, I woke in the middle of the night to find Kirby had vomited his dinner…on the carpeting (of course, and I stepped on it…of course). The next morning, when I offered Kirby his breakfast – he had no interest in food. Back several years ago, when I fed my gang commercial pet foods (high quality) – it was common for Kirby to sniff the food and walk away – I’d guess once or twice a month. That was normal behavior then. But since I started home cooking for the gang, neither dog ever walked away from a meal. This was the first sign that something significant was going on with my little guy Kirby (9 pounds of love).
This breakfast was a favorite of both the dogs; chicken, chicken liver, and veggies (baked chicken, sautéed livers, steamed veggies). Since Echo wasn’t sick, I didn’t think it was the food. But – being a huge believer in ‘listening’ to our pets, I noticed when I picked a piece of chicken and a piece of liver out of his breakfast to offer Kirby – he had a look on his face that became a sign of what had happened. Have you ever had food poisoning? And the next day (or two) when you look at or smell that food that made you so ill…that was the expression Kirby had on his face.
By noon, Kirby vomited (in small amounts) ten or so more times and began to have diarrhea with a bit a blood. Off we went to the vet. I was concerned.
My regular vet (a one vet clinic) was on vacation – but this couldn’t wait. At the clinic, I went through the typical ‘3rd degree’ when I told the young doctor I prepare my own pet food. And then a second ‘3rd degree’ when he read Kirby’s chart to learn I don’t use flea preventative, heartworm preventative, and only do minimal vaccinations to keep the pets legal. After defending my turf, it was assumed that Kirby had some type of bacterial infection. The young veterinarian replacement suggested to treat Kirby’s symptoms and we’d see what happens. I agreed. Kirby was given an injection for the diarrhea, the same drug in pill form to take home, and antibiotics. I was encouraged to give Kirby a small amount of bland food (chicken & rice) with each pill. $160 later, we went home.
My first ‘bad’. I did not stop to ask about the drugs that Kirby was given. To be honest, I was so distraught over what could possibly be wrong with him – I turned into a blubbering fool. Looking back, had I been in my right mind I would have asked detailed questions about everything given to him. It turns out, I was lucky. The drugs given to him were of no concern – but it remains – I should have asked.
Kirby vomited about three more times when we got home. My worry became panic. What was going on? Kirby is NOT a dog to eat something foreign out in the yard, is always at my feet, none of this made sense. Next, I turned to some very knowledgeable friends I am blessed with.
I sent an email to Dr. Cathy Alinovi (my friend and partner on the cookbook). I explained the situation with Kirby. Dr. Cathy responded with a very specific warning – that the replacement vet never mentioned – and a HUGE lesson…
Do not give Kirby any food until 24 hours after the last vomit. Dr. Cathy told me that so many dogs can die because owners give them food too soon after they vomit. Their bodies begin to heal, and food too soon can start the whole vomiting cycle up again. They can become dehydrated and things can spin out of control quickly.
Another trusted friend, Kim Kalendar of Murphy’s Pet Store in the Orlando, FL area is a nutritional supplement wiz. I called Kim for help on getting Kirby back to norm through natural methods. I was continuing with his prescriptions but I wanted additional help for Kirby. Kim suggested I prepare Kirby fish, brown rice, and a bit of pumpkin. Kim shared fish is the easiest protein to digest and the rice would work as an abrasive to scrape the walls of the ‘gut’ (stomach and intestines) to help rid the body of the bacteria. Kim wanted me to give Kirby some high quality probiotic. And to make certain he got a dose each evening to give the probiotics time to aid in his healing during the night. She also wanted me to add digestive enzymes to Kirby’s diet and suggested another supplement for him – she would put them in the mail right away.
The whole event started on a Monday in the wee hours of the morning. By Thursday of that week, Kirby’s stools were beginning to take shape, no vomiting since the first day, but he still wasn’t himself. I remained concerned. His diarrhea meds ended on Friday, his antibiotics ended on Saturday. By Sunday morning, Kirby stopped eating again and had that ‘look’ on his face when any food was offered. Sunday evening – still didn’t eat. Monday morning, no interest in food. And soon after, Kirby had explosive bloody diarrhea. A lot of blood.
One full week later, things were no better and perhaps worse. My vet appointment wasn’t until the afternoon. I couldn’t just sit and wait, I called on another friend with extensive natural pet care experience – Laura Lassiter. Through my blubbering, Laura managed to understand Kirby’s situation. Her insight and advice changed everything. Laura suggested for me to make a trip to the health food store for activated charcoal. She explained that just why they use activated charcoal in fish aquariums to remove bacteria and waste from the tank, the same can be done for pets (and people). She shared that she believes activated charcoal is something that needs to be in all first aid kits.
Had this not happened to me, I’m not certain I would believe it. But I assure you – it happened just this way…
As reminder, we are one full week into a bacterial infection that had been treated for six days with antibiotic. This very morning Kirby had very bloody diarrhea and our second vet appointment was a couple of hours away. Kirby had refused food for the past day and a half – including this morning just a couple of hours ago. I went to the closest health food store and purchased human grade capsule activated charcoal. Back at home, the capsule was large – Kirby is very small – so I coated the capsule in olive oil (to slide down) and gave it to him. Laura told me the activated charcoal would help him quickly – I was blown away at just how quickly that was. Almost exactly 30 minutes after I gave him the activated charcoal, he was VERY interested in eating. He eagerly ate a small plate of chicken and rice. I was dumbfounded. No vomiting, no diarrhea. His energy and attitude changed – literally in 30 minutes. Again, I was dumbfounded.
About an hour later we leave for our second vet visit in a week. My vet was still not in the office (of course he was returning the next day), this time the replacement vet didn’t give me the third degree. Laura had suggested perhaps the antibiotic that was given the first week, wasn’t the right drug (antibiotic resistant bacteria plagued my brain all week). This second replacement vet didn’t budge however, he felt the previous antibiotic was the correct drug. I didn’t argue; my little boy was a ton better from the activated charcoal, my concern wasn’t with an argument with the vet.
I am happy to report that Kirby is almost back to normal. He was given a second dose of activated charcoal as Laura suggested (however I did wait until he had a bowel movement). He is eating and acting normal.
So what happened to Kirby? Though nothing was confirmed, I firmly believe it was either the cooked chicken or the cooked liver that was the culprit. I believe it was food poisoning. Just like most people, I try to save money when I can – I purchased ‘regular’ chicken and ‘regular’ chicken livers from the grocery. By ‘regular’ I mean non-organic. Never again. As I said, it is not confirmed the chicken or the liver was to blame, but I’m confident it was. Kirby’s ‘look’ told me so from the very beginning. Laura made the suggestion of purchasing Murray’s Chicken – which is available in my Publix grocery here in Florida; it is cheaper than organic and as close to organic as you can get. As it turns out, I realized I had written about Murray’s Chicken on TruthaboutPetFood.com in the past – as the only poultry processor that uses the safest method of killing bacteria there is – electrolyzed water. Murray’s also has chicken livers available in some groceries; Publix if you live in their area.
I’ve learned several valuable lessons from Kirby these past two weeks….
1. Never again will my pets (or the human family) be eating anything less than organic poultry or Murray’s poultry and livers. Never.
2. Activated charcoal (Crisis Care Paste, Acute Care, Fast Balance G.I. or Immediate Responses) will forever be in my medicine cabinet.
3. Not one drop of food will be offered to my dogs until 24 hours after they vomit (no matter how much I feel like an Italian Mom – eat!, eat!).
4. Probiotics are killed by antibiotics. If another pet becomes ill like Kirby was, the probiotic dose will be given at least one hour after the antibiotic and especially late evening (giving them time overnight to do their magic).
5. No matter who the vet is, no matter what the drug is – I will ask questions of side effects. This wasn’t a concern for us with this, but it remains something I regret I didn’t step up with for Kirby’s protection.
6. I have the best and smartest friends ever! I don’t tell all of you that often enough, so…thank you! Kirby thanks you too!
I seriously wonder if Kirby would be with me today if not for the information shared by Dr. Cathy Alinovi, Kim Kalendar, and Laura Lassiter. Antibiotics and the diarrhea meds did play a role in his recovery – he probably wouldn’t be with me without those drugs as well. But, as a personal opinion only, without the activated charcoal, probiotics, and no feed after vomiting rule – this story could have easily ended up as a nightmare. I am so thankful it didn’t. Lessons learned that I will never forget.
Always consult with your veterinarian before giving any supplement.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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