Monday, August 31, 2009

We Are What We Eat

We rescued our dog, Benjie, five years ago now. He was found on the streets of a nearby-town, so matted that he couldn’t defecate. He became completely devoted to my mother and her to him - he was soon living with her. Their mutual devotion manifested itself in many ways but particularly with food.

I’ve long been an advocate of the raw food diet for our dogs. I know it saved my beloved Labrador’s life. I thought I was feeding her the best pet food money could buy but when she was one year old she developed a terrible allergy that was so agonizing it even changed her personality. After many, many vet visits, I finally found wonderful Pat McKay*, who diagnosed Ceilidh (kay-lee) as having an out-of-control yeast infection fed by all the starch in her food. Under Pat’s guidance, we stopped the vicious cycle of steroids and antibiotics and built up Ceilidh’s immune system with supplements and raw food. Soon the constant scratching and itching stopped; her ears that looked like red cracked mud went back to their beautiful creamy softness; her hair re-grew (she was almost hairless) and most importantly the yeast let go of its grip on her internal system.

I learned that pet food is full of starch and processed food, completely alien to a dog’s natural diet, but the favorite of yeast and parasites. Nobody bakes cookies for dogs in the wild.

So our habit for the past 11 years is for her to lie beside me in the kitchen while I spend ten minutes in the morning putting together a mixture of raw meat mixed with organic vegetables and vitamins. What takes me ten minutes, takes her ten seconds to eat. This diet is more expensive than commercial dog food but, believe me, the vet bills have shrunk to nothing. Better yet, she’s almost 12 and still leads the pack of her Labrador buddies on the daily walk together. She’s a running, jumping anti-aging commercial.

Benjie (our little rescue) has been more of a problem. He has been so lavished with treats and nibbles to “make up for the terrible time he had on the streets, dear” – a regular rationalization from my mother - that he grew obese and lethargic. (He’s a terrier mix so lethargy is unusual, but he has this adorable way of sitting on his hind legs and lifting his front paws up and down as if he were saying, “please, please, please!” Even I, with my purist heart, find it difficult to resist him – but I do.) So, eventually we took him to the vet for a check-up to find that he has diabetes.

My initial reaction was, “Oh, no! How on earth are we going to manage this? Two insulin shots a day after meals 12 hours apart.” It’s still a major challenge but there’s no doubt that his energy is better and he’s a happier dog – always good to see. In order for me to give him the insulin, he has to eat a certain amount of raw food twice a day – no treats! This took an enormous concession on my mother’s part who is convinced that Benjie thinks that she doesn’t love him any more. That hasn’t been my problem. My problem has been getting him to eat my raw food. I have to hand-feed him to get anything passed his lips because he would much rather have a piece of toast – preferably with marmalade. I’ve come to realize that he’s addicted to starch. He literally had the shakes one night. This addiction means that I can spend up to 45 minutes a session getting enough food into him in order to give him the insulin. There have, of course, been many trips to the vet to monitor blood sugar levels. Now he has a urinary tract infection – common with diabetes, I’m told.

All this, of course, has led me to think in the larger terms of what diabetes means to humans and the strain on the country and the world of this epidemic. There’s nothing like having it in your own backyard to get a real sense of how complicated, dangerous and time-consuming this disease is. Apart from those truly unfortunate people who become diabetic at an early age (Type 1 diabetes), so much of diabetes is avoidable. Benjie didn’t have to be diabetic; it was the result of those around him not understanding the consequences of what seemed like small, harmless actions – expressions of love – like the mailperson who used to slip him a biscuit every day. From Benjie’s point of view, I suppose the moral to this story is that looking cute and getting what you want, isn’t always best for your health.

* Pat gives free consultations on any aspect of your companion’s health. She also offers homeopathy for animals.


Cosmetic Brushes said...

Wonderful reading that I have to stop by and thank you for it.Yes we are what we eat and raw foods are the best for health,ad organic makeup for the skin.

Hooked On Beauty said...

I loved this post! I've been a vegetarian for many years along with my husband who draws enough energy from our diet to run marathons. We started feeding our dogs organic chicken, rice, and veggies and saw an immediate difference in their behavior and wellness.

My husband prepares the food every 4 or 5 days which takes a little more time than dry food of course, but we always say that if it gives us even 6 more healthy months with them, it's worth it!

Meatball (terrier mix) was also a rescue and was matted to the point of being unrecognizable. His story was so sad that my mother in-law fed him blueberry pie when she first met him our of guilt for his former situation.

We're now all healthy, alert, and active.

Thank you for reminding us to keep even the littlest members of our families healthy!