Max’s Tumour – Recovery and Going Forward

Following up from part one talking about Max’s tumour, the biggest challenge for us with him was trying to keep the incision spot dry. That’s not an easy thing to do while it’s winter in Edmonton and there’s about 20cm of snow on the ground.

The 12 days following his surgery seemed like 12 months. He couldn’t go for long walks or back to daycare until his stitches were out. While it was amazing to see him return to his normal active self the day after surgery, it definitely meant that he was going to get bored and annoying (to me) very quickly. He also was not a fan of having to go on a leash to go out in the backyard because we needed to prevent him from running into the snowbank to do his business.

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Max and Nurse Freckles

The following Friday after his surgery, I took him back to the vet for a check up and to get his stitches out. I also had not heard anything regarding the results of surgery and if I needed to brace for bad news. Enough to say that those 12 days were filled with anxiety and worry of not knowing.

When the vet tech brought him back after removing his stitches (he had healed exceptionally well), she said the vet wanted to speak with me about his results. I started to sweat and my mind went to a very awful place.

When she sat down and spoke with me, she told me that it was a mast cell tumour and that it was a level 2. Immediately, I thought she was going to tell me he required more surgery and radiation. My head began to spin.

Then, she told me that it was a very low grade level two and that the lab results from the wide margins taken came back clean. The tumour had been removed successfully and he was cancer free. I started to cry. There are no words to describe the ultimate relief I had in that moment. While she said there’s always a chance of it returning, she said that will be very unlikely in his case. I’ve never been so happy from a drive home from the vet in my entire life.

One big factor that I truly believe contributed his tumour being such a low grade and not spreading was because of his diet.

Prior to his surgery, I researched the role that diet plays in mast cells and cancer in dogs. And not shocking, it plays a huge role.

One of the biggest things mast cells feed off of and thrive off of his grains and sugars. That’s why one of the things I found when I looked up different holistic options was eliminating all grains and starchy carbohydrates from his diet. Nutrition for your pets matters, so make sure you know what you are feeding your dogs.

Thankfully, all of my dogs had been transitioned over to a raw diet, so really the biggest thing I did was change up his treat options. Instead of treats with any sort of grain or wheat in them, he strictly gets dehydrated meat such as chicken breast, lamb lungs and trachea, rabbit ears and kangaroo liver. I’ve also started to add in supplements such as turmeric and coconut oil as both has been shown to help reduce inflammation and fight off cancer cells.

In the end, you are not going to be able to prevent things happening to your pets (or yourself). The advice I will give to pet owners out there is check your pets and if you see something that doesn’t look right, do not wait to get it looked at. You never know if a lump is something more than just a lump.

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Finally able to go for a long walk.

Why I’ve Started To Feed My Dogs Raw

For years, I have been feeding all my dogs dry kibble (with the odd time of adding in wet food, specifically if one of them had dental work done). Recently though, I’ve started transitioning all my dogs to a primarily raw fed diet.

Before I go into the reasons why, I want to say the following things:

I 100% understand the reasons why some pet owners are unable to feed raw. Not everyone has the option (both cost wise and location if you are based in a rural and remote area) to feed your pet raw. And that is OK! There are people out there who think if you’re not feeding raw, you’re a bad pet parent and you are “killing” your animal. There is more than enough judgement in the world and when it comes to feeding your pet, as long as you are feeding them, that is a good thing. Do what works for you!

Being involved in animal rescue, any food donations we get are greatly needed. We focus on feeding animals first and foremost. I would never expect someone who is fostering a dog to make the transition to raw. 

I am NOT a veterinarian so I’m not here or able to offer any sort of medical advice.

I am also aware that not all dogs can eat raw as I know someone who’s dog consistently throws up any time they give him raw, so they make and cook his food instead. So once again, do what works best for you.

So why did I start feeding my dogs raw? Well, it’s quite simple. Max and Freckles literally did not want kibble any more. I had been feeding them Acana Pacifica and then switched to Orijen Tundra earlier this year and found they both were indifferent when it came to their food. So I decided to start adding in some freeze dried raw (such as Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers and Open Farm) to their food and found when I did that, they devoured their meals.

I eventually decided to try freeze dried raw patties from Stella and Chewy’s and Primal nuggets as well to see how they did. While both ate them up, I noticed Freckles would have a bit of an upset stomach if I gave her too much. So, it has been a slow transition for her.

I then started reading a bit more about the benefits of raw such as better digestion, shinier coats, healthier skin, better immunity and smaller stools just to name a few. I had noticed that all the dogs would occasionally deal with very smelly and loose stools from time to time when feeding just kibble but noticed as I started adding more raw food to their diet, the stool quality drastically improved (because there is nothing worse than trying to pick up a runny stool on grass).

I also found following accounts such as The DIY Dog Mom and Holistic Pet Radio helped me out significantly when it came to questions I had regarding feeding my dogs raw. They are not only great educational resources, they are also very supportive and are  both willing to answer any questions you have in a very non judgmental way (which to me, is super important). Amanda of Holistic Pet Radio even has an episode called “Super Charge Your Kibble” for people who choose to or can only feed kibble to their pets. Adding things like raw goat’s milk, blueberries, broccoli and a pre & probiotic can really go a long way in enhancing your dog’s food.

The wonderful thing about raw is that it comes in so many different forms as well. If the raw meat options gross you out (which I totally understand) or DYI (do it yourself) seems overwhelming to figure out, you can get raw in freeze dried form, air dried (I really like Ziwi Peaks) and commercially prepared raw you can find any most pet food stores.

Right now, I am using the commercially prepared raw for all my dogs. Max and Freckles are currently rotating between irRAWsistable and Primal and seem to do the best with duck, lamb, turkey or beef. Dolly’s been a big of bigger challenge to switch over to raw food through due to her allergies (as she can’t have any sort of bird, beef, pork or wheat). Thankfully, she does well with venison and rabbit. I have found raw kangaroo at Homes Alive and not only does she love it, she’s doing amazing on it.

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This is Max’s bowl with duck, veggies, pre & probiotic and half of a cooked asparagus as he loses his mind for asparagus. He got it as an extra treat.
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Dolly’s bowl included some venison, veggies and goat’s milk.

I found adding a pre & probiotic to every meal (I personally love Adored Beast Apothecary’s Healthy Gut) has also made for a much smoother transition.

For Dolly though, she still does get her Zignature kangaroo as she’s been doing really well on it. Eventually, I plan to have her on complete raw but am slowing transitioning with her as I need to be very cautious of her allergies and make sure something does’t flare them up (as I found she does well with one brand of venison but will have a flare up with another brand). When she does get kibble or a mix, she will always have goat’s milk, veggies and a dehydrated rabbit ear. I know there are many people out there who will be horrified by my feeding kibble and raw but it’s what works best for us.

I’m still in the learning process of everything there is to know about feeding raw but from what I’ve seen from my dogs, I feel I made the right choice. I plan to take a few courses over 2019 to help me learn and understand a little bit more of the science of it as well as I hope to help educate and support other dog others if they chose to also make the transition to raw.

Managing Dolly’s Seasonal Allergies

A few months ago, I wrote a post talking about how I manage Dolly’s allergies. Today, I wanted to do another post how I manage her seasonal allergies as the first post talked primarily about her food allergies.

Over the winter, Dolly’s allergies were finally under control and she was off her Apoquel and only getting baths once a week. We were even finally able to use a regular shampoo instead of her medicated one from her vet. This was a huge step and we were so happy to not have to go to the vet every month for refills and skin check-ups. We found that feeding her kangaroo as well as adding in some raw venison was working for her (as I like adding raw to her diet as much as possible and recently discovered raw kangaroo in the city). We also started adding an Omega Oil to her food and her skin and coat were the best they’ve ever been.

Then the snow melted, the grass and pollen came back and so did her allergies in a really big way. We would wipe her paws anytime she came in from outside using hypoallergenic wipes and it seemed to work, but only for a bit.

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As the weather got nicer, I was finally able to take the dogs for longer walks, so one day I took them for close to an hour. Multiple times during that walk Dolly stopped, sat down and start scratching. I knew something was up as she never does that. The scratching was more intense as the walk went on so when we got home, I took a look at her skin and she was covered in hot spots everywhere. So I grabbed her and gave her a medicated bath right away as I knew she was having a major reaction to something outside. After her bath, I gave her a ½ tablet of Apoquel an called the vet to get her checked out. I had a feeling all the progress we made with her would take a few steps backwards.

I took Dolly in and I could see her poor paws had hot spots everywhere and she would not stop licking and chewing them. The vet did some skin swabs on her paws and in her ears (as I had a feeling they were a bit of a mess as well) and sure enough, along with hot spots, she had yeast and small amounts of bacteria in her ears and paws and was the result of seasonal allergies as the vet said we were the fourth patient that week that came in with a flare up.

We came up with an action plan and to help put the fire out as my vet would say, Dolly would have to go back on her steroids for a week to help calm things down. She would also have to back on regular doses of Apoquel to help manage her itchiness. She was also given a medicated ear drops and a home ear cleaning solution for us to use with her. We would have to go back to bathing Dolly twice a week using her really strong medicated shampoo and on days where she didn’t get a full bath, we would have to bath her paws every day (something that will have to continue until the snow falls sadly).

I did however recently start using a natural solution to clean and moisturize her paws called Reliq. The great thing about this line is they use all natural minerals instead of harsh chemicals like alcohol to clean and sooth skin and paws. There is nothing I hated more than putting something on Dolly’s paws all the time that hurt (and only like to use it if things get really bad).

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I also found an all natural hot spot spray that is also free of alcohol and instead uses Aloe Vera as an ingredient so it soothes rather than burns. I find this great not only her paws, but her belly, neck and a spot on her tail that irritates her once in a while.

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I really love my vet because she would rather treat topically through bathing than medication and only use it when things are bad. She agrees with me that Dolly being on a lot of medication (like steroids) are not good for her long-term health and are only a band aide solution. She prefers to take a natural approach as much as possible and actually likes that we do our research on natural solutions (as I know not all vets sadly feel that way).

As I knew I wanted something that would be more of a long-term solution, I started to do some research on dogs and seasonal allergies. It was incredibly interesting some of the things that I was able to find out. I recently discovered Holistic Pet Radio on Instagram and they recently did a podcast regarding seasonal allergies and your pets. I actually was able to learn a fair bit from it and highly recommend you check it out (along with many other great topics they cover).

One of the biggest take always I got was regarding how gut health plays a huge factor in things like seasonal allergies. So, I have recently started adding a probiotic to her food, coconut oil and on occasion, small amounts of kelp to her raw venison (I only use about ¼ of a teaspoon as I don’t want to feed her too much of it as I know it can cause issues if you do).

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A really good piece of advice I got from the podcast was giving your dog bromelain and quercetin as they act as natural anti-inflammatory and anti-histamines. Some people have even referred to it them as “Nature’s Benadryl”. I was fortunate enough to find treats that contain both and give one to Dolly two or three times a day (there is a listing of how much to give your dog based on their weight).

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I can say that since starting a more holistic approach to dealing with Dolly’s allergies, she has been doing amazing. The biggest thing that I am finding is if I go more than two days without bathing her paws, she does start to lick them (even though she just chews her claws for whatever reason but there is a difference from when she does that compared to when her paws are irritated). Dolly’s allergies are finally under control and she is the healthiest she’s ever been. I can’t do anything to stop seasonal allergies, but I’m happy that there is a plan in place to manage them.

I want to add that I am not an expert no and highly recommend speaking to your vet about things. And if you are not happy with what they recommend, seek another opinion as you are your pet’s caregiver.