Are we hunting wabbit?

At last report, Reggie needed to be stable to move to a food challenge. Rabbit. Did we do it? Nope. We did lamb. My gut said rabbit was not going to work on this guy.

He finally got some stability and we were ready to start the transition to a limited ingredient diet of lamb and sweet potato. Given his tendency towards gastric distress, he kept the same wet food and a ratio of 3/4 : 1/4 with the dry food (existing to new). It was a very small amount of new food mixed in with the existing food. The plan was to keep that ratio for a week or more before bumping it up.

It lasted for three days. He started eating less and less and by day five he was on a full blown hunger strike. So I decided to pull the new food from the mix. I didn’t get a chance to see if this worked because on day six Reggie woke me up at an obscene hour of the morning (a Saturday to boot) to go outside and dine on grass. Poor guy felt so bad he vomited bile three times. At this point he wouldn’t eat anything and we had to do the pills the hard way.

However, the next day he felt better and ate! Amazing recovery! He began eating right away- only the prescription food and no new food. This was a light bulb moment. Reggie will never go back to regular dog food. He will be on prescription dog food permanently now.

The goal is minimizing, and hopefully eliminating for the longest stretches possible, the gastric/intestinal inflammation. It’s not in his best tummy interest to cycle through different foods and hope they work, they most likely won’t. I understand why the prescription food is designed to work and thank goodness he likes it!

So we’re not hunting wabbit…or lamb…we’re hunting hydrolyzed proteins 🙂

Liver function in dogs

Reggie has been having bile acid problems lately. This is not completely unexpected; he has had these problems on and off his whole life and because of the seizure medications his liver function is already compromised. This time, though, was a little worse.

His liver enzyme count was much higher than it was back in February, and his bile acid count was abnormal. He stopped eating- for about three weeks. He would eat treats (of course, right?) and handfuls of food every couple of days, probably just when he got really hungry and needed to eat something. He already takes Zantac twice a day to control the stomach acid, and now his vet has him on probiotics. After about a week, he returned to normal eating.

Being me, I googled the heck out of everything related to a dog’s liver, the liver processes, liver failure, what would cause the abnormal bile acid count, how to fix it…you get the idea. I learned some interesting things- first the liver.

The Liver Process

The liver is pretty amazing. It performs a zillion functions, but the main ones are: production of proteins, metabolism of carbohydrates, vitamin production, digestion, and detoxification. Reggie’s particular problem involved digestion. The liver excretes bile which ultimately goes into the small intestine to help breakdown food, particularly fats. The bile acid is secreted by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. The gall bladder releases bile as needed during the digestion process and bile acids are absorbed into the small intestine and returned back to the liver. In Reggie’s case, the bile acids were not removed from the bloodstream and recycled back to the liver, resulting in an abnormal test result. This impacted his ability to properly digest food and, to put it simply, gave him an upset tummy.

The very serious side of this is that these are signs of liver inflammation, potential liver disease, or ultimately liver failure. Because the entire organ performs all of the same functions, up to 80% of it can be diseased or damaged before failure sets in. In dogs this is especially hard to tell because of their stoic nature.

The Liver and Food

In the beginning, I went down the rabbit hole and panicked and thought that Reggie’s food (duck and oatmeal) was duck being manufactured in China. I know better; due to his allergies I have researched the heck out of food and manufacturers and I feel pretty confident about the quality of what he eats. Nonetheless, I called to make sure (it’s not). However, I learned some interesting things.

High protein food and high fat food is taxing on the liver, particularly for compromised dogs. There is controversy regarding high protein diets. Most information states that anything over 25% protein isn’t appropriate for any animal. The type of protein comes into play too- a high protein food made up mostly of soy isn’t as good for a dog as meat. Dog food manufacturers that reference wolves forget that; 1) dogs aren’t wolves; and 2) the 40% protein “wolf” diet they promote has very little moisture which is not like a true wild wolf diet of raw meat. Raw diets get controversy as well, but most of the information I found indicates that once you factor in the bone, tissue, etc. the protein is about 25% which is where you want to be.

Fat is another potential pitfall. Diets with 10-15% fat are considered normal and over 20% are considered high fat. There is not really any controversy over fat- just your veterinarian’s recommendation for your dog for whether they should be on a normal or low-fat diet. Considering Reggie had a high bile acid count and bile aids in the digestion and breakdown of fat, I checked his food for fat content. Turns out his wet food has a whopping 30% fat! This will require some reworking- he needs the wet food with his dry food but it may have to be cut back as this could be contributing to his liver issues.

A Final Note

In my research I came across these interesting abstracts about high protein diets and aggression. The nutshell is that in the test groups of dogs with territorial aggression (in one study) and dominance aggression (in the other study), the high protein diets scored highest in behavioral scores, and reduced protein reduced aggression. Fascinating topic if you have a dog with these issues, and another tool for your toolbox.