Monday, December 12, 2011

Vegetarian Dogs

If you have been here as a reader for a while, you know that I am nuts for my dogs and that each one holds a special place of healing in my heart over difficult journeys. This particular post is about my westie named Kekoa. I try to tell my stories in a short manner but it never seems to work for me. I apologize. So the abridged version here is: Kekoa was very sick and now is much better.  If you'd like to know details, please keep reading.

Back in the end of September, Kekoa had a sudden  acute allergy attack. He ran around the house absolutely miserable. His eyes became so swollen and red. He kicked up his feet like a bucking horse while trying to dig his paws into the carpet with all his might. He would lean up against me and sigh for comfort and then jump like he was being poked in multiple places.  We had been on a walk that day so I thought maybe he walked in something. Giving him a bath proved useless and he acted like the water felt of fire. It took 3 separate doses of Benadryl* before he had relief enough for us all to be able to sleep the remaining hours of the night.

I was at the vet clinic when the doors opened the next morning. The vet agreed that maybe he walked in something, or maybe he swallowed a bee, or maybe it was sheet rock debris from the bathroom remodeling project we had going on, or maybe.......yeah maybe it could be anything because a 3 year old westie can show allergen aversions to anything under the sun. He gave Kekoa a steroid shot and orders for me to do Benadryl around the clock for 2 weeks to give his system time to sort itself out.

I followed orders and we made great progress. The kicking stopped, he slept and we were relieved.
It didn't last though. Every time I backed off the Benadryl he would begin to go after his paws with fevor and his eyes remained continuously red and swollen. 3 weeks later he broke out in hives and looked like he had measles from head to toe.  His demeanor changed as well. Going outside wasn't fun. He didn't want to bark and protect anymore.

Another vet trip and I was giving him a daily dose of steroid. The steroid helped but it seemed every day was a day for monitoring. No matter what, I couldn't seem to find a pattern to solve the mystery. The only thing I knew that gave him comfort for sure was that he wanted me to hold him ALL the time. It broke my heart to see him so miserable. In my arms with his head on my shoulder was his constant preferred position. I could see he was losing weight and his skin lost elasticity. His skin was so red that it glowed under his coat. We cut off all of his hair so we could gain a better knowledge of what was happening. Poor guy was so cold I had to get him a sweater.

Almost 2 weeks ago I began a desperate strategy (with the approval of our vet) and started Kekoa on a vegetarian diet.  After much research online I learned it to be quite the controversy but I didn't know what else to do for him that had hope of offering a solution.
Within 3 meals (a day and a half) I saw changes in him. Within 7 meals he was a new dog and so full of happiness. He had been sick for so long that I had forgotten what he was like well. He had been so ill over that period of time that I didn't realize just how sick he was getting and now I truly think his body was starting to shut down.

The change was so quick that I figure he developed a severe allergy to chicken. (Though chicken is good for us humans, it seems many dogs have an aversion to it.) One day on his road to recovery, I made his food with boiled eggs as the protein source. Bam! His health crashed again in a single day.  I had to really scramble to get him to a place of comfort.

At this point, I don't know if he is allergic to meat proteins in general or if it is a chicken/chicken product allergy. I don't want to test him out on anything for a while. He is doing good with lentils, cottage cheese and soy beans/tofu being his protein source. Our vet is helping me research supplements. There are so many on the market and they all boast of being just what is needed.   I want to make sure though that we are doing all that is possible. A diet lacking important nutrients will lead to cardiac issues down the road.

Now Kekoa has energy, wants to play, Conguito plays with him (that had stopped as well because dogs know), his eyes are no longer swollen and red, he is putting weight on, I can't see his ribs anymore, his skin bounces back, the fire red glow has been replaced by soft flesh colored skin and the hives are gone. He bounces, prances and teases. And even his output has increased with a desire to go out in the yard. He still has times of paw licking but it isn't with the intensity he had before.

I don't think that he is completely better yet but I am so very grateful for the progress that he has made. There is no denying that going vegetarian has made a huge difference in him. I think maybe now we are dealing with his body doing waves of purging all of the toxins out of his system as he intakes the healthy vegetable protein and loses the meat proteins that have been stored in his body.

It is simply crazy all that has happened. Remember those "nevers"? When I first started making dog food for 'my boys', I never imagined I would be graduating them to a vegetarian lifestyle. It is certainly interesting. There are some commercialized dog food brands that make vegetarian but making it myself is much more cost effective.
I have been spending much of my free time online researching recipes and daily nutritional health for dogs. I found some long term studies last night that show dogs to live longer on vegetarian foods and even longer on a vegan life style.  For now I am following a basic recipe and supplementing with a multivitamin, omega 3 and brewers yeast. If you are on a health journey for your fuzzy friends and would like recipe guidance, I'd be happy to share what I have found so far.

Here are the boys this morning in their favorite spot. They love to look out the widow and be our protective surveillance. Conguito bounces between perches in the window like he is here and curling up on the sofa while Kekoa uses the arm rest to full advantage.

Thank You God for the joys, comforts and health of my dogs.

*You'd think that because my dog is only 20 lbs he would get an infant dose of histamine blocker. However, according to my vet, because a canine's metabolism is so high, they sometimes need as much medication as we do.


  1. Oh, poor little Kekoa! Our dog is part of our family so I understand how helpless you must have felt when he was so sick. Your boys are beautiful and look so happy and content now.

    Jules, thank you for your comment and prayers on my last post. It was sweet, genuine and very much appreciated.

  2. Thank goodness you found a relatively simple way to ease the reactions for Kekoa.

    Even for humans allergies etc... can develop after years of eating something - my sister has asthma and she developed sever allergies to some fruit types, hazelnuts nuts and mussels in her 30s. Previously she could eat them all without any difficulties.

    Our pets are such an important part of our lives - we learn so much from their love and dedication to us. It is so good that Conguito settled into his (her?) new home so well, and that your two doglets get on so well together - a reflection of your own love and care for them.

    Sending care and huggles, Michelle xxx (Zebby is sound asleep - hooray!)

  3. Thank you Glenda. It is so funny how the jump up and down and do tricks for squash and cucumber slices.

    Michelle, I am so glad your sister was able to figure out her allergies. Does she miss being able to eat those kinds of things?
    And yes Conguito is a boy. That is the funny and hard thing about their relationship in getting along in our home. Both boys love to play together but they are both territorial over me. The get jealous so easily and I have to make sure I give equal attention. They are both always trying to sit in my lap at the same time. Silly boys.



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