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.
Since I first posted this article two things have changed for Scooter and for the better. First, I changed his food from Nutro's Natural Choice to Blue Buffalo. Originally, because I had read some bad press about manufacturing issues with their product. That has been rectified by now, I'm sure, but I've kept Scooter on the Blue Buffalo anyway for a few reasons. First, he seems to like it much better than his old food. I still mix the dry with the canned, as I've always done, and I still add a fist full of dry Oatmeal in each of his two feedings, morning and late afternoon. Then, there is the variety. Blue Buffalo has a number of meat and veggy stew-type canned products Scooter has really taken a liking to. They appear to be very easy for him to digest as he seems to have an easier time of it and he cleans the bowl most every feeding. I stay clear of any that contain beef buying only their chicken, lamb, turkey, and salmon canned products. I use the same bag of dry all the time. Their Adult Lamb and Brown Rice formula.
I also began giving Scooter a probiotic in this 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.
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 2011, 2013 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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