Dawny update here for any and all who care… and, honestly, who doesn’t care about sweet Dawny Virgil???

Bottom line:  She is doing GREAT!  I have certainly seen the difference.  Friends have commented on how wonderful she looks.  But it is always good to have solid clinical data to back up what our mere human senses detect and suspect.

The main thing the vets have been tracking through Dawny’s battle with kidney disease is her creatinine level.  Creatinine is a perfectly normal waste product produced by our muscles and filtered out of our system by the kidneys.  Kidney disease inhibits this process, though, and that is why creatinine builds up in the system and is a handy marker to test disease progression.

When Dawny was first diagnosed in March of this year, her creatinine was at 2.2 (1.6 is considered too high).  When I had her tested in May, the creatinine had more than doubled to 4.7.  The vet said she would not be able to survive another doubling of that value.  I figured that if she lived to see August it would be amazing.  She lived.  And she is amazing.

This visit, her creatinine level had only climbed from 4.7 to 4.9.  Incredible!

After the May appointment, I returned to the vet to be trained in subcutaneous fluid injections to help keep my girl hydrated, critical when combating kidney disease. I nearly fainted just looking at the needle and the bag of fluid I was expected to try to slowly squirt into the back of her neck somewhere, somehow.  Yeah, I failed.  And it made me miserable.

So I doubled down on the food side of the battle, shifting most of her meals to home cooked, supplementing with a prescription food from the vet.  In my post of March 21, I talk about Dawny’s diet, specifically what nutrients are best for someone with ailing kidneys.  I will repeat some of that here, although I go into more detail in the earlier post.  If you would like to check that out, you can find it in the archives box to the right.

Here is what we have been doing for the past six months:

Morning and evening meals:  Ground beef (not lean–fatty is better because it is lower in protein) mixed with a roughly equal amount of white rice (not brown, which can contain toxins in the hulls).  Add some sweet potatoes mashed with green beans.  Mix with water to make it like a stew (hydrate hydrate hydrate!).

Lunch:  Hills Prescription Diet K/D dry food (add water) and a heaping spoonful of plain yogurt, which helps her intestinal health–the evidence of which can be seen when she poops nice, solid poops compared to the horror that was exiting her backside last spring.  I feed her the prescription dry food so that she will get some of the nutrients that she may not be getting from my home-cooked meals.  You do need a prescription from a vet to get this food, but the nice thing for a traveler is that you can pick it up at any PetSmart around the country.

Since her original diagnosis last March, our girl has clocked in roughly four more years in human terms.  Four good years.  That is how it would be counted if you figure one dog year equals six human years, which is about what it is for a doggy of her size (30 pounds or so).  That is a lot of time.

In that time, sweet Dawny Virgil has enjoyed our journey from Florida to workamping jobs in Virginia and Pennsylvania, followed by a non-working trip through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to discover new smells and see old friends in Missouri.  A sharp turn back to the east brought us rolling through beautiful Kentucky and Tennessee and then to more jobs in Virginia.  She has witnessed a rare eclipse, celebrated a major birthday (mine), and relished cookies and lovin’ from the hands and hearts of so many, many dear friends.

So, as my girl and I celebrate another Thanksgiving together, I am most grateful for this gift of time–both its quantity and quality–with my best buddy.  I hope each of you have many wonderful things to be grateful for in your lives, as well, and that you enjoy a safe, peaceful, yummy holiday season.

I Love Google… & Dawny

Did you know that by the time blood work shows evidence of kidney disease in your dog, the kidneys have already lost about two-thirds of their function?  Google hit me with that little tidbit.

I love Google.  It puts a world of information at your fingertips.  I know there are other search engines out there, but I have been using Google for ages.  I like how the word “Google” rolls around in the mouth.

Having Google in your pocket is like having a best friend on beck and call any hour of day or night.  “Hey!  Google!  Wake up!  What should I do about…”  this or that bothersome little issue or full-grown crisis?  And Google calmly returns with answers.  Answers that can put your situation into perspective.  You have to sift carefully through search results because there is a lot of chaff mixed in with the wheat.  But if you look at enough of the hits (avoiding the ones that are advertisements for something they are trying to sell), you can start to separate the more reliable information from the junk.

So, last week after Dawny’s vet appointment, I returned to my computer and asked Frau Google:  “What should I feed a dog who has kidney disease?”

A low (but high quality) protein and low phosphorus diet was the common denominator from the Googlian hits to my question.  Also, she should be getting 35-50% more calcium than phosphorus.  I found a wealth of information from experts and common folk alike, including recipes for homemade food to help my four-legged loved one live as long and as well as possible.

Dawny’s new diet will be a work in progress and adjusted as I see how she does, but this is what I have determined so far:

Ground beef.  Beef has less phosphorus than chicken or turkey.  Also, fatty beef is better than lean since it has less protein.  Apparently dogs don’t have the same issues we humans do when it comes to cholesterol and heart disease from fatty meat.

Rice.  While brown rice has much more nutritional value (vitamins, minerals, and fiber), white rice has less protein and less phosphorus.  Because the outer hull is discarded from white rice, arsenic and other harmful minerals that are often absorbed by rice when it is being grown becomes less of a problem.  Given Dawny’s need for as clean a diet as possible, I am going to try white rice.

The need for a clean diet is also why it is important to provide high quality water.  Distilled water is great.  Nice to know, since that is what I have been giving her ever since she came to live with us.

Egg whites are a source of very high quality protein, but egg yolks are high in phosphorus.  So, more yellow for me on egg day!

Moringa Leaf powder–given to us by some good friends who love Dawny dearly–is loaded with nutrients that she might be missing out on by eating less commercial dog food.  Better yet, its protein content is high quality and it contains way more calcium than phosphorus.  Perfect for the kidneys.  I mix about a teaspoonful in with the dollop of plain yogurt she gets at lunch time and she loves it.  Yogurt is also a good source of calcium and is a high quality protein food, not to mention all the good it does replenishing intestinal flora.

Sweet potatoes and green beans nicely mashed together will give her great fiber content and more vitamins and minerals.  We had a dog once (yay, Buster!) who made it to 18 years old back when I used to always cook for our dogs.  His diet was primarily ground meat, rice, and green beans.

I will still feed my girl some commercial dry food, at least for awhile.  She simply eats too much (four to five times a day/night when she is feeling well) for me to keep up with her in the kitchen.  That will also help meet her need for certain nutrients that dog food manufacturers add to their formulations.

The dry dog food I’ve been using with good success for about a year, when Dawny’s digestive problems started in ernest, is Rachel Ray’s Zero Grain Salmon and Sweet Potato.  It is lower in protein and higher in fiber than most other dry food and fairly easy to find at many Walmarts and most grocery stores.  As I shop around, I will look closely at the nutritional info panel on other options and may switch if I find a lower protein and phosphorus mix.

If Dawny loses her appetite down the road, I will probably phase the commercial food completely out.  We shall cross that bridge when we get there.  Meanwhile, I am looking forward to spoiling her with home-cooked supplemental meals.  She has always been a food hound, so I know it will be greatly appreciated, and she will feel like the Queen that she is.

Thanks, Google!

I love you, Dawny.

(The photo at the top of this post is of Dawny in her camouflage-patterned winter coat, bought and modeled when we were in Texas.  She likes it waaaaay better than her stupid sweater.  All she needs is a gun rack!  Oh, and a final note:  Exercise, exercise, exercise!  Whenever your pup is feeling up to it, get them out for a lovely stroll, especially after a meal.  It helps with their digestive process and, most importantly, their frame of mind… and yours.)