Friday, 3 March 2017

Feeding a dog with renal problems - part 2

We went to see the vet yesterday for a medication review for our dog, Missy. We're continuing with her heart tablet which we do believe has made a difference. I've explained the difficulties of getting Missy to eat the prescription diet for dogs with renal problems. She's explained to us that Missy has 25% functionality, if we support her kidneys by feeding the prescription diet, she could have a good quality of life for several months, a year even. So it's better if she eats the prescription food which I agree with but what if that's not possible? Missy turns her nose up at it, I do keep trying to reintroduce it but so far no luck.

I felt like such a bad owner for not being able to get her to eat the prescription food, I didn't have the courage to admit for the last few days I can only get her to eat freshly cooked items such as sausages, chicken, cold haslet or fishfingers (though I had to take the breadcrumbs off at first and then she has the breadcrumbs after she's got started).

Our vet isn't a fan of home cooked recipes. We ran through the ingredients of the ones I've tried, she wanted me to omit the calcium carbonate for Missy. Her blood work indicates her calcium levels are fine; excessive calcium risks bladder stones. In the end, she's agreed if Missy rejects the prescription diet, we can't force feed her, we have to work with the hand we're dealt. She's suggested another brand of prescription food for us to try and we're picking some up tomorrow. Fingers crossed she will eat it for longer than 2-3 days!

I've described in an earlier blog entry on 21 February how I managed to feed our dog, Missy, with a home cooked low protein diet using a variety of tricks but she has started picking out the bits of meat to eat and leaving the rest. My latest deception is to put it in the food processor to make the pieces smaller so she can't selectively eat it; it still smells like mince or whatever other meat she fancies that particular day. This worked for a few more days but now she rejects anything that has rice/egg/bread/pasta in it.

She seems to crave protein, even though it's bad for her.

The way I see it is there's a choice. 
  • Keep trying to feed low protein foodstuffs and she starves to death; that's option one.
  • Feed her anything that she will eat, even if it's protein and bad for her and then her kidneys pack up at some point in the future. That's option two.
  • Option three is to give up and euthanise.
Bit of a Hobson's Choice. I don't like any of them. As the least awful of a bad bunch, I'm going for option two while she still has a quality of life. 

With sausages. I have to vary the brands every day or two, she will just stop eating a particular brand. It's like she thinks to herself "oh, I had that yesterday and it made me feel poorly so I'm not having that again". She takes a really good sniff at it and if it smells like something that made her feel poorly, she rejects it. She does seem to forget over the course of time so something that she rejects time and time again on the trot, doesn't mean she won't eat it again several days later.

The key to her eating is to just get her started, once she has taken a first mouthful, she will eat quite a bit. Sometimes, a mouthful of food I've freshly cooked for her will get her started, sometimes I have to try something else even more tempting and go back to the main food item.

I have had quite a bit of luck with small pieces of Hobnob biscuits and then give her something else. Sometimes when she was eating the low protein food, I could get her going with cold sausage roll and then she would eat the main meal. Sometimes I have to try lots of different things before she got started. Sometimes I have to thrown whole meals away (or have them in sandwiches cold myself).

Who knows, she may even go back on the prescription food and/or low protein diets, I will keep trying.

Most days I'm constantly cooking and washing up the grill pan and food processor pretty much all morning. As a consequence, I'm not getting much work done. It's too cold for her to join me in the shed when I'm beadmaking but I don't like to leave her on her own in the house. Her diet is so varied and her mealtimes can be any time I can get her to feed, she's not as predictable as she used to  be about when she needs to go out. Sometimes she needs to go quite suddenly, bless her. When MTM is working from home, he can keep an eye on her and I maybe get a couple of hours in my studio beadmaking. Fortunately, MTM earns enough for both of us so I'm really just dedicating the vast majority of my time to the care of Missy, my business can wait for the time being.

We have good days and bad days. She's better when it's sunny and both of us can walk her together. She seems to really enjoy the whole "pack" going out and about patrolling the village. Rides in the car if we're going somewhere perk her up as well so we take her even if it's just popping to a shop in town. She spends the evenings with us on the sofa, her head in one of laps enjoying being stroked. When either or both of us are working in the study on our computers, she will take the stairs one at a time to be with us. If I hear her starting up the stairs, I go down and carry her up as it tires her out. Sometimes she wants to get on my lap while I type, other times she settles down on the study futon under one of my crocheted blankets.

Here's what she's doing right now whilst I'm typing this blog entry!

She still keeps an eye out for the postman every morning so she can give him a hard time for daring to come to the door. I have noticed her bark has lost quite a bit of its power, it's like half as loud as it used to be, bless her.

We had a lovely day on Wednesday, MTM was working from home and I got two good meals into her. Her afternoon walk with her daddy was a real treat because the sun was out and she walked part way with Archie, a gorgeous springer spaniel owned by another couple in the village. Archie and Missy are great friends, it's the one dog in the village she really enjoys socialising with. She can be very stand-offish with many other dogs but Archie is her favourite. It gave her (and us) such a lift, her owners invited us to take Missy round any time we liked if we thought it would help her. Aren't they lovely?!

One cloudy, overcast day last week when rain was constantly threatening, we were halfway round quite a short walk, she was getting slower and slower, I'm patient with her and just let her sniff at the ground til she's ready to move on but at one point, she just sat down and looked round bewildered. I couldn't cajole her into going any further. Her look said "I'm too tired, I used to be able to do this but today I can't". It was upsetting for both of us, I picked her up and walked on.

Missy has the same colouring as a Doberman and as she's quite a little dog, people often mistake her for a Doby puppy. Because I was carrying her, I think people thought she was waiting for her injections before she could go on the ground. An elderly lady smiled at me, I smiled back, a couple of other people too. When we got to the play area, some kids on the swings came running over. They asked me if they could stroke her. I knelt down "One at a time so you don't overwhelm her". They took turns petting her, Missy enjoyed the attention and even took some dried chicken strip treats from them. I didn't have the heart to tell them "Actually, she's not a puppy, I think she's dying". I walked the rest of the way home sobbing with Missy licking my face, making my glasses go all blurry. 


  1. Ah Sue, I feel for you. Last year I had a serious conversation with our lovely vet, who had known all my dogs over the years, about whether or not I should let Clovis off the lead with his dicky ticker - his reply was basically that as the outcome was inevitable, I should think about quality of life above all else for my dog. So I let him off the lead to run and be happy rather than be safe on the lead and miserable. Perhaps that what it comes down to when caring for a sick dog, what makes them happy. Also, what heart pill is she taking? I think ours was called Vetmedin and once Clovis associated it with bad taste and feeling wonky, he refused to take it and I jumped through all kinds of hoops trying to get it down his throat. Towards the end when I was reduced to squirting it down his throat with a syringe and making both of us desperately unhappy, I stopped giving it to him - vet agreed as long as he was getting the diuretics (they were small and easy to hide. I'm tearing up as I write this as I understand totally your position - please accept a virtual hug. xxx

    1. Thanks once again for your support Caroline. Her heart pill is called Benazecare. It's so tiny and she only needs half of it, it's really easy to fold into a bit of chicken or sausage and she takes it as good as gold once she has started eating. Fortunately for us, I don't think she has even noticed it! We had a really lovely day with her yesterday in Lincoln. Aside from walking slower, you would barely know she was so poorly. She was bright and engaged and very affectionate when we got back.

    2. I'm glad she's not taking that horse pill then! They were huge and impossible to hide - I used to crush them but he knew by the smell, even sardines could not disguise it! Glad you had a good day - hopefully with the spring & better weather you wll have many more of those.

  2. I too feel for you Sue.
    Lulu died of kidney failure last year. Her end was both dramatic and traumatic, not helped by the bad management of her case by our UK vet. The French one was much more thorough and pragmatic but that's a long and bitter story.
    We think she must have had failing kidneys for some time but we didn't realise, putting her eating habits and occasional illness down to precociousness and tummy upset. If we had known before we might have ended up going down the same route as you with all that that entails, i.e. a struggle with expensive food being rejected and anxiety for us.
    Lulu was eating normal food until the last week when our UK vet sold us renal stuff that cost a small fortune. We stocked up for our return to France but Lulu only lived for a few days afterwards. Our French vet said that that was a waste of time at her stage and she was put to sleep as she was so poorly.
    I now think quality of life is the issue. When Missy is really ill she will not be enjoying life and you will see that.
    I'm sure that a dog would rather have a few good tasy meals than live longer on unpalatable food. As a human I'm sure I would anyway!

    1. Hello, Jean, thanks so much for your message. I was thinking of Lulu when we got Missy's diagnosis, Lulu was so young when you lost her, gorgeous girl. The renal food is very expensive, we're on our second lot now, I wonder how pensioners or people on a fixed income manage it, the manufacturers really should sell it in smaller packs so you can try it without the massive outlay. Spending the money alleviates my guilt though, even if she does only eat a few meals of it. We're hoping for many more good days like yesterday but she will let us know when sh's had enough and we will do the right thing when the time comes. Every dog owner we've talked to about this agrees with you and Caroline, give her the food she likes, the final outcome is inevitable.


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