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.

Adopting an Older Dog

“Oh my goodness! Puppies! They are so cute and I want one”

This is a statement I see on a regular basis whenever an animal rescue posts photos of puppies that has just been born or are available for adoption. People love puppies. How could you not? They are adorable beyond all words. Puppies always put people in a good mood and with everything going on in the world, we need things that brighten our days up a bit and puppies do that.

While puppies are adorable, they are a lot of work. I truly believe that people have no idea how much work they actually are until they are around one. It’s basically like having a toddler (except you can crate train the puppy and leave them at home without the police or child services being called on you).

My sister and brother in law recently added a puppy to their family. One morning, I was asked to watch my six year old nephew and the puppy while my sister was out. My nephew was easy and you hardly even noticed he was there because he entertained himself. The puppy on the other hand was exhausting. For 90 minutes I had to chase him down trying to get shoes he had taken to chew, hide all the pillows and blanket on the couch (as you guessed it, he wanted to chew them), make sure he went outside shortly after drinking water and had to make sure he did not jump on to the counter (he’s a Swiss Mountain Dog and is 7 months and around 80-90lbs). Then there were those razor sharp puppy teeth which you try to avoid, but he’s still learning not to bite at feet.

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As adorable as he is, all spending time with him did was made me happy that I adopted older dogs.

I will state that we were incredibly fortunate with our three that they were house trained (with the exception of Freckles and her separation anxiety) and had no major behavioural issues.

One of the things I commonly see being involved in animal rescue is puppies getting adopted right away (once they are ready) but often see older dogs in care for a much longer time (some being in care for up to and even longer than one year).

So, why are older dogs not wanted? Why do rescue organizations not get the amount of applications for a 8 year old dog as they do a 15 week old puppy?

Many people see older dogs as “less desirable” and some even see them as not as “cute” as a puppy. They want a “fresh start” with a puppy. People see older dogs in rescue as “damaged goods” and because they are older, people assume older dogs won’t “live as long” (even though you can NEVER predict any animal’s life expectancy).

Sound harsh? Sadly, these are reasons why I’ve seen people not adopt older dogs. All you need to do is follow some animal shelters on social media and you will see how many older dogs get dropped off compared to puppies. It’s heartbreaking.

But I don’t see older dogs that way. I see adopting them as giving them a second chance at life and being able to give them the life they deserve.

I will be completely honest in saying that prior to Dolly, I wanted a puppy. Around the time where I was trying to convince my husband to add another dog to our family, I saw Dolly.

When I first saw Dolly, I instantly fell in love. There was something about her sweet grey face and soulful eyes that I knew she would be a perfect addition to our family. What’s interesting is that she got barely any applications to adopt her. So when I was contacted by her foster mom, I knew she would become part of our family. And when we met her, it was love at first sight and now I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.

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My beautiful girl.

Older dogs adapt to new situations just as easily as puppies do. Yes, it can take some time but you have to be patient! When we brought Dolly home, she hid under the desk in our office for two days and shook because she was so stressed. We let her come out when she was ready and after two days, she jumped up on the couch with me and now she thinks she owns the place.

The first time Dolly jumped on the couch with me. She felt safe.
They think they own the place. They kind of do.

Can older dogs be as much work as a puppy? That depends on the dog. If you have a dog with behavioural issues (such as separation anxiety) or health issues, it can definitely be a lot of work. BUT, all dogs require a lot of work. Regardless of age, you still need to feed them, walk them, clean up after them, play with them and take care of all medical needs (including regular vet visits).

But, with most older dogs, you will not need to worry about house or crate training them (not always the case but any good and reputable rescue will work on addressing that), train them (Max already knew how to sit, stay and shake a paw) and depending on the age and breed, are much lower energy and do not require as much exercise as a puppy would.

You know the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well, I’m here to say that’s false. We taught both Freckles and Dolly how to sit (especially if there are treats involved) and are currently working on getting Dolly to shake a paw.

Will sit (for treats)!

The love that older dogs will show to you is something truly special. Max is affectionate when he chooses to be, Freckles is a little too affectionate but the love that Dolly has shown melts my heart. It’s like she constantly says “thank you for taking a chance on me and loving me”.

The next addition to our family will not be a puppy. I already know I want an older dog.

There’s absoluty nothing wrong with wanting a puppy (as all dogs need a good and loving home), but the next time you are looking to add to your family, take a look at some local animal rescue organizations first. You never know when it’s going to be love at first sight.

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