It's hard to imagine a feeling worse than watching someone you love suffer and not be able to help. When our cuddle-pup Truffle, a then-12-year-old fluffball Pomeranian, began slowing down early last year, my husband and I were worried, but attributed it to his age. Then he just stopped moving, period. My heart cracked in two the day I left him in the kitchen and came back 30 minutes later to find him in the same spot, sitting stock still.
We started to carry him everywhere: up and down the stairs to bed, outside to take care of business, to the kitchen for his food bowl, which he would ignore. Our sturdy little guy once nicknamed Mr. Happy Paws, this silly pup known for his high-stepping prance, was growing scrawny and frail and would do nothing but sit and look helplessly around. The worst was that he wouldn't look at us. We offered his favorite treats and toys, tried heating pads on his poor joints, begged him to eat and to look at us, took him on outings in a borrowed puppy stroller, but he just grew worse.
The vet he'd seen since he was a puppy pronounced it arthritis and prescribed various pharmaceutical pills, one of which left him completely dazed, but none of which relieved his pain. He'd sit, frozen, for hours. We were sick.
Then a friend suggested a visit to a holistic vet. Of course, we thought. We would rather see our holistic practitioner than an MD for most things, so why not take our Truffle to his own?
The vet was wonderful. She sat on the floor with Truffs, examined everything from his tongue to his eyes to his coat, and told us that essentially, he had severe inflammation. Besides massage therapy and some supplements, she strongly encouraged us to stop feeding him kibble that was causing the inflammation and start giving him "real" food.
Wait, people food? Everybody knows dogs shouldn't eat table scraps!
Changing Our Pup's Diet
Well, at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I learned that we've been convinced through (very expensive) marketing that pets should eat highly processed, dried … well, I'll leave it to you to google what's in most kibble (or if you have a strong stomach watch the Pet Fooled documentary). Before some massive campaigns in the mid 1900s (after a wartime tin shortage and the advent of extruding machines like those that make breakfast cereal prompted the move from canned horse meat to dried pellets) dogs ate what their people ate. Now kibble is a booming business and veterinarians even peddle it at their offices. And we should listen to our vets about anything to do with our pets, right?
Except that in veterinary school, this vet told us, they received only a few hours of nutrition training — a session hosted by a popular pet food brand frequently found for sale in veterinary clinics. With Truffle basically immobile and wasting away before my eyes I would have tried anything. So, with some printed-off copies of recipes from Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, we were off to the grocery store.
Literally within days of eating meatloaf, beef stew, and other goodies featuring various kinds of fresh meat, organs, veggies, and some fruits and grains, Truffle was a brand new animal. And he LOVED his new menu.
For the first couple of months, he stationed himself by the kitchen stove every waking hour as he waited for the next batch to be finished. Where he had often ignored his kibble or eaten only a little of it, frequently spitting it out, he would now jump up and down in anticipation, and scarf down his "people food" — even try to shoulder his 85-pound "brother" aside to get to his bowl. (Our big pup Cassius Thunderpaws also heartily approved of the new meal plan, and good thing, because we wouldn't be able to carry him around if he were in Truffle's situation.) Truffs put weight back on (in fact, we're veering on too much now!). He not only started walking around again, but he also got his hops back, leaping on and off the couch, running up and down the stairs, even jumping onto our massively tall bed.
We have since weaned him off the prescription pills and have continued to feed him real food. On occasion, when we're traveling or haven't had a chance to get food prepped for him, we'll try to give him (some new super-high quality) kibble, but he ignores it and looks at us like we are punishing him. So we have officially become the people who will order doggie room service at the right kind of dog-friendly hotel!
People may laugh, but all that matters is that Truffle is back to his happy, chipper, prancing little self. He runs at the park like a puppy, and pulls at his leash during walks. I wish we'd made this change years ago, but am just grateful that he has this new lease on life.
Do you make food for your pets? Have you experienced anything like what we went through with Truffle? Tell us in the comments!