So it’s that time of year again! The rain is falling, the flowers are blooming, the ticks are out and the allergies are off the charts! If you are reading this, the chances that you already feed raw are pretty high, so you’re off to a great start, but during this time of year it is crucial that we pay special attention to our furry friends and what their skin and coat are telling us.
A couple years back my husband and I opened our home to our German Shepherd, Stark, who came with a host of issues both physically and mentally. He had chronic ear infections, hot spots, a head tilt ad was always uncomfortable. He was not socialized properly as a puppy and spent most of his youth locked in a crate in a basement, which led to his mind not fully developing as it should. We immediately switched him to a raw diet and saw great changes. We thought we had things turned around for him, but then a year went by and we were in for a bit of a windy road.
It was this time of year when we began to notice that he was getting a bit more irritable. We chalked it up to the warmer weather and the excitement of all the blossoming smells and small animals running around. Slowly, Stark began to itch more and we noticed his ears we becoming red and inflamed. But we were feeding raw! We were doing everything right, or so we thought. We had an excuse for everything. We would bring the dogs down to the beach and blame his hot spots and infected ears on the salt water in the air. When he began to get anxious beyond belief and extremely irritable in July, we blamed it on the thunderstorms and fireworks.
By the time we reached August, he was walking with a constant head tilt and shake. His ears were bloody from scratching. He had hot spots up and down his belly. He was skin and bones and eating over 5 lbs of food a day, which wasn’t cheap! We were traveling a lot with him and he was not adjusting well to the new environments. He was a target for his siblings and we were at our wits end. I felt terrible for him. I had tried supplements and oils, allergy tests and calming products, nothing was working. What could I do differently?
At this point I had skimmed the surface of Traditional Chinese Medicine in regards to feeding raw, but hadn’t fully dove in. I was aware that there was such a thing as hot and cold
proteins, red and white meats. I had no idea that the combination and the way that you fed them could influence the well being of your dog. Noticing that Stark was always restless and panting and just straight up uncomfortable, it became apparent that he was Yin deficient. His body was seeking cooling proteins. I began to feed him a consistent diet of cooling proteins and saw some small changes, but nothing trans-formative. I made the decision at this point to seek conventional veterinary attention.
While I try to avoid putting harmful things into my dogs bodies, I will also do what I feel is best for their well being. At this point we needed some help. A complete reset. The vet flushed his ears, gave him an allergy shot and put him on an oral steroid and antibiotic. I will admit that we actually never gave him the oral medications, but put them in the cabinet in case we needed them. We made a commitment to take his allergies more serious and not let them get out of hand and the only way to do this was to piece everything together.
There are plenty of arguments against feeding a raw diet and some of them are very accurate. Educating yourself to provide the very best for your dog is almost a full time job! Missing important vitamins and nutrients can be detrimental and we saw that. Stark’s body was shutting down. Not because he wasn’t eating a complete diet, but I believe that he wasn’t eating a balanced diet that he needed. He was on a premade raw formula that was listed as Complete & Balanced, but his proteins were always the same. They were Pork, Bison and Beef with no real variety and none of which are cooling proteins. The mix had added amino acid complexes and vitamins, but contained no nutrition from either organs or fruits and vegetables.
From this point we set him up on a diet that revolves around his skin, coat and mental stability. Our best defense against an episode like this again has been a strong offense. Knowing his allergies in combination with following Traditional Chinese Medicine, the appropriate balance of protein and brand rotation and the additional support he may need. We recognized that his mental and physical stability laid closely hand in hand. When he is mentally unstable his allergies spike and when he begins to show signs of allergies his mental stability fatigues quickly. In addition to his daily mental and physical stimulation, we have added a calming mushroom complex to ease his mind when we see it slipping as well as making sure that brain is included in his meals to help reinforce his mental state. We make sure that on a weekly or daily basis, tripe and fish each consist of 15% of his diet.
I tend to follow a much more PMR with him than I do my other dogs, that way I know exactly what he is eating and if he has a reaction to something. For the last couple years we have been happy to say that we have been able to figure out what works for him. We had been told by our vet that he might just need an allergy shot every month, which since his last episode we have been able to prevent. I am not above seeking conventional medicine when necessary and for Stark at that one point we needed it. The reasons I tend to stay away from conventional treatments for my dogs is because if they are suffering, I feel it is on me and what I am providing for them that is failing. Although it is a lot of work, I feel better knowing that just by feeding a species appropriate and individually tailored diet for each of my dogs, I can assist in both their mental and physical well being.
Be observant and on top of your feeding. What you do or notice now, could affect the next couple months for your dog and maybe even longer. Don’t repeat my mistakes and think things will get better in time as the weather dies down. This time of year can be brutal on our pups. Make sure that their immune system is being reinforced with the appropriate nutrition. That their diet is actually complete and balanced for their needs. That is you need some help, you reach out and ask for it. And most importantly, don’t let things get past the point of repair. There is no problem with a reset every so often. It is the over medicating that can pose a long term problem.