Since starting feeding Ted raw meaty bones I have read many stories about seriously ill animals who have either made a full recovery or their lives have been significantly improved by switching to a raw diet. I want to share some of these stories as guest blog posts in the hope that it may help others in similar situations and also to show the impact on health of feeding a species appropriate diet.
Phoebe’s story first appeared on the Raw Meaty Bones List and is reprinted here with permission from the owner http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/RawMeatyBones/.
(Please be aware that this post includes a photo of Phoebe’s stools during a colitis flare up.)
“Colitis and Raw Meaty Bones – Phoebe’s story
My dog Phoebe has a condition called colitis and while looking for ways to improve her life I discovered the species appropriate way of feeding a carnivore called the Raw Meaty Bones diet or RMB. I’m hoping by sharing Phoebe’s story that anyone who is in a similar position may find our journey to relative health helpful and encouraging.
Firstly I’d like to briefly explain what colitis is, and isn’t. And also share a little of Phoebe’s back story.
When I was told Phoebe had colitis I didn’t really understand what that meant. I thought it was a specific illness and an appropriate treatment would be prescribed to cure it. Actually colitis is just another word for an inflamed colon, the symptoms of which can include soft stools, diarrhea, mucus, blood, unproductive straining and vomiting. The causes of colitis however can be many, such as a blockage, cancer, bacterial infection, food intolerance’s or allergies, basically anything that may irritate the digestive tract and cause the mentioned reaction and symptoms. It is often the body’s way of trying to expel the irritant.
Phoebe, aka Pheebs, is a small Jack Russell Terrier cross. She came to me at 8 months old having been rescued from abusive owners. I suspect they beat her because they thought she was obstinate, in fact Phoebe is almost completely deaf. Her leg had been broken and she circles in a way that suggests neurological problems. She has many issues but she is also a total sweetheart.
Our colitis and RMB journey
From the moment Phoebe arrived I realised she also had issues with food. She had no interest in food whatsoever. She ate only to stay alive. Also her stools were never consistent, often loose or mucusy, large and far too frequent. She was also underweight and very ribby. Although I noted this as unusual I thought with time she would settle and improve. However this wasn’t the case. She would have phases of refusing food, then after eating would get diarrhea. Her symptoms constantly changed and over time the bouts got worse. I started changing her diet in the hope this may help (I did give some raw food but was not aware of the RMB diet at this point). Eventually because I was paying so much attention to what was going in, and coming out of her, I realised that grains seemed to trigger loose stools and mucus. I avoided them in her diet and she improved. Her appetite was much better when they weren’t included too.
This went on for some time, she was slightly underweight, but active and happy and though she wasn’t perfect with her food she seemed fine in herself.
Then in June 2010 at 3 years old, the first severe bout of colitis struck. It started with bad diarrhea, then copious amounts of mucus, then the most shocking – she passed streams of fresh blood. She was given antibiotics and steroids, I was told she had colitis and I was also told that it was probably a bacterial infection caused by the raw meat I was giving her.
I stopped giving the raw meat, devastated that it could have been my fault.
However these severe bouts reoccurred even when she had no raw food at all in her diet. My vets, although they helped her whenever she needed it, didn’t help me with prevention. Out of desperation I researched as much as I could and eventually found the RMB way of feeding and instinctively knew this could be the answer for Pheebs.
However Phoebe was ill, my vets had warned me off raw food and I didn’t dare risk making things worse for her without veterinary support while I made the change. I eventually decided to make a nuisance of myself and get all the help I could.
I educated myself:
I read both of Tom Lonsdale’s books, available from ‘Raw Meaty bones’. I joined the Raw Meaty Bones Yahoo group, subscribed to their daily digest and read everything (I still do!). I followed all the recommended links such as the ‘myth list’ and the amusing but extremely helpful ‘recipe’ link. I did a lot of Googling, plus anything else I could to fully understand what I was about to do and why.
I emailed the vet Tom Lonsdale for advice:
He couldn’t have been more encouraging and helpful. He told me a species appropriate diet was the best thing I could possibly do for her. He offered to consult with my vet so that she would be supported through any problems while changing to RMB and he also offered his advice on what and how to feed to start with.
“I would suggest feeding whole raw rabbits, complete with guts full of good bacteria. (Initially you may want to skin the rabbits if your dogs are not familiar with eating their way through the fur coat.) Also you could try taking your dogs for a walk in the paddocks where sheep and cattle graze. It just may be that your dogs will eat some poo and thereby obtain some beneficial bacteria “
I couldn’t get fresh rabbit but sourced wild rabbit, less guts, via mail order from David Anderson 01950 460113 and stocked up my freezer.
I got my vet onside:
This was not as hard as I expected considering the hostility to raw feeding I had already experienced. I put together an email addressing it to one of the partners. I explained why I wanted to change to a RMB diet. I told him of Toms offer of support for both me and him. And I included all the factual sources of information so he could see I had fully informed myself of the benefits and risks of my decision. I offered to lend him my books if he wanted more detailed information. And asked if he would call me when he had read through my email.
He did, and although he had his reservations (understandably, due to seeing the results of dogs being inappropriately fed bare and cooked bones and raw minced meats and veg diets.) he said he was open minded and would be happy to help me and Pheebs. I can’t tell you how pleased I was. My lovely vet is now also on the ukrmb.co.uk vet list.
I got support from experienced RMB feeders:
Professional help is one thing, but help from people with years of experience should never be overlooked. Without the people on the Raw Meaty Bones Yahoo group, Pheebs and I could well have floundered when difficulties arose. I continue to learn from this invaluable resource. The friendly replys that “all would be well” as I made the change kept me firm in my resolve, and though difficult and nerve racking, we did it.
Phoebe refused the rabbit for 5 whole days before eventually realising that this was actually good to eat. I have to say that I was very cautious about introducing new foods and we stayed on just rabbit for several weeks. The change in her was amazing. In fact it was instant. For 6 months there wasn’t a spot of blood or mucus and her stools were firm, small, infrequent and regular. She even put on some weight. The only time anything was a little out of kilter was when she had managed to scavenge something of a vegetable origin.
Then for some reason disaster struck again. She went from one bout of severe colitis to the next, only getting a break while she was being medicated. This seemed to go on forever and I was at a loss as to what to do.
The source of the colitis had never been discovered, although I knew that certain foods were a trigger for her. So it was decided that we would send her to a specialist for tests. This was mainly to rule out things like cancer or a blockage or some other obvious cause. £2,000 later no cause was found. She was found to have a heart murmur and low foliate levels (I presume this was because I hadn’t at that point introduced liver or other organ meats to her, plus the heavy bleeding she had been through). There were more tests that could be done but as all the ‘nasties’ had been ruled out I didn’t want to put her through anymore unless they were absolutely essential.
The specialist vet recommended a diet made especially for Phoebe, I did hesitate before saying no. Phoebe was a poorly girl and I wanted her ‘fixed’ asap, but the thought of processed food of any kind did not seem like the answer to me. She had initially done so well on RMB and I knew that wasn’t the reason for her illness, but vets know better surely?! I went with my gut instinct and decided that route would have to be a last resort.
The alternative suggested was a probiotic and fibre supplement to add to the raw diet. I accepted that but could never bring myself to use it. Fibre is vegetable matter, and vegetable matter is a trigger for Pheebs. It made no sense to me. The specialist vet didn’t agree with my need to stay on a raw diet, but didn’t press the issue, just strongly suggested his alternatives. I could feel his disappointment, but I stayed strong, mainly due to support from the Yahoo group.
It is probably worth mentioning that Phoebe was tested 3 times during flare ups and whilst being on a RMB diet for salmonella and worms, always the first suspects for her condition because she eats raw meat. The results have always been negative.
During this time of major setback and the veterinary testing, I sought suggestions and alternatives mainly from the people on the Raw Meaty Bones Yahoo group. Over a period of time the following ideas to try, or consider trying, were put forward that could be beneficial:
Don’t feed kibble. Colitis is common in dogs fed commercial ‘dog food’. There are now even hypoallergenic alternatives to address the problem – which in itself shows how common it is – but as they are still inappropriate foods for a dog they are not a credible solution. Changing to a species appropriate diet, otherwise known as the Raw Meaty Bone diet, is far more suitable and may be enough to end colitis instantly without further intervention. Even for dogs like Phoebe who continue to have flare ups, feeding RMBs means the immune system isn’t being compromised by an inappropriate diet, therefore, overall health is improved. This can only be beneficial to any dog but particularly for one already ill.
Stop routine worming. This is to avoid further burdening the system with toxins. Instead test at least annually (simple stool test) and only treat when parasites are actually present. Internal parasites can cause colitis so regular checks are essential. If oral wormers cause problems, there are injectable alternatives. This is true for many other oral medications as well.
Reduce stress. Stress can cause or exacerbate colitis so finding ways to reduce stress is a very good idea. There are many ways to approach this including behavioural training, body wraps, massage and a myriad of other things so it would be an area worth exploring further if your dog gets stressed at all. I personally always have a bottle of DAPS (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) spray handy, ‘just in case’.
Smaller sized meals. Large meals can stress the digestive system and trigger a bout. Therefore smaller sized meals fed more frequently may help. This is certainly true for Phoebe. Meals that are eaten too quickly can also stress the system, so the standard RMB rule of feeding a lump of food that the dog has to work at (rather than mince or little chunks that are hoovered up and hit the stomach too fast) is ideal. Leaner meat, less bone and removing skin may also help during flare ups.
Avoid wild fish. Wild fish can contain marine toxins, these may cause flare ups. If fish appears to be a trigger avoid it or source it very carefully. This would include fish products such as body oil.
Avoid heavily farmed meats. Sometimes these are not tolerated well. This may be due to the fact that they are mainly fed grain and given routine medications such as antibiotics. Instead try wild, organic, pasture raised or free range. Also be aware that some meats are ‘enhanced’ (pumped with water and additives) to ‘improve’ flavour and texture. Look on the packaging for an ingredients list, if there is one then avoid using it for your dog. Ingredients lists are a legal requirement in the UK and USA, if there is no ingredients list there will be no additives.
Give probiotics. Upset digestive systems can cause imbalances of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Giving probiotics (live micro-organisms) can boost the ‘friendly’ bacteria and drive down the number of any harmful bacteria, bringing back a healthy balance to the gut. Imbalances alone can cause colitis.
Give prebiotics. Prebiotics feed the ‘friendly’ bacteria therefore supporting their growth. For both the probiotics and the prebiotics choose brands with inert carriers and no added supplements. Many have carbohydrate carriers such as glucose which are not suitable for carnivores (including those marketed for dogs). There is more on my use of pro and prebiotics below.
Feed more red meat and organ meat. If bleeding is an issue as happens with Phoebe, boosting the blood with red meat and organs rich in B vitamins should be beneficial and help counter the loses from the bleeding. Don’t rush this if your dog is not used to organ meat though as it can cause very loose stools until digestive tolerance is established. If you know your dog is low on any particular nutrient use the Meats Comparative Analysis.xls file on this page: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/RawMeatyBones/files/ to see which body parts are abundant in that nutrient and include some in your dogs diet. Phoebe was very low in foliate, so I slowly introduced more liver to her. She now has a good balance of different animals and body parts, including some liver regularly.
Consult a holistic vet. There are alternatives to conventional veterinary treatments and some vets do embrace this approach. Roger Meakcock has been recommended to me by several people. He is an advocate of RMB feeding and a member of the Raw Meaty Bones Yahoo group. He can advise from a distance so you don’t need to live near him to access his help. http://www.naturalhealingsolutions.co.uk/ . In the UK you could also look for a holistic vet in your area by using the search facilities at http://www.any-uk-vet.co.uk
Treat with slippery elm. Slippery elm bark powder can be used to sooth and calm an upset stomach and gut. Mixed to form a gel it can be given during flare ups. There are more details on how I used it below.
Keep a diary. Keeping a diary gives you the opportunity to see any patterns forming which could lead you to discovering the causes or triggers for the colitis. It was invaluable for me. There are more details about this below.
I didn’t use all the ideas, but I can always draw on them in the future should I need to. What I did do was, firstly by insistence of the specialist vet, to give a vitamin supplement. I agreed to this because Pheebs couldn’t tolerate enough organ meat to bring her foliate and B vits up to normal levels straight away and her foliate levels were very low.
Slippery elm was a godsend. It acts like an internal bandage, soothing and calming the digestive tract and worked a treat for Phoebe. I found the best way to give it was to dissolve a heaped teaspoon of the powder in a mug full of meat broth (literally the strained juices of meat boiled in water). I would heat this in the microwave until it made a thick gel. It was cooled and kept in the fridge and I would give 2 tablespoons of it to Phoebe 3 times a day. I didn’t give it with her meal or any medications as it can inhibit the uptake of nutrients and medications. Normally it would only be used over a day or two, but for Phoebe this routine stayed in place for several months. Her bloods were tested after months of this routine and her vitamin levels were found to be normal.
I continued religiously with the RMB diet and kept her away from any other foods. As she became more stable I introduced more variety. She now eats a full range of RMBs including organ meats with no problems. As yet we still need to introduce fish, but there is no rush.
When I eventually reduced and stopped giving the slippery elm routinely I noticed that she would occasionally bring up bile. That was not something I wanted to see, I was concerned it may trigger a flare up. So I introduced a evening snack and this stopped the problem.
I also gave a probiotic supplement later changing to a prebiotic supplement. They basically work by adding to, or feeding, the beneficial bacteria in the gut respectively, therefore aiding digestion. In the UK finding these with inert carriers and without other supplements is nigh on impossible. I resorted to importing them from America, firstly Mercola Prebiotics for Pets and later OptaGest a prebiotic for cats and dogs. There are business sellers on Ebay that will ship them to the UK and this is how I buy them.
Keeping a diary was a invaluable tool. Through this I could easily see patterns emerging and could make necessary adjustments. For example I discovered that whenever I fed her a raw egg 2 days later she would have a lot of mucus in her stool. I would never have connected the eggs as being the trigger without the diary. I cooked the egg and gave a tiny amount to build up tolerance as you might with liver. She now has 1/2 an egg warmed, not cooked, without issues. The aim eventually is a whole raw egg with shell.
I use a basic table in a word doc for the diary and keep it on my PC desktop for quick access. I record the date, what food she ate (including treats), the weight of food eaten, any supplements or medication given, the quality of her stools and any other observations. I highlight anything significant. It is easy to scan through the entries and see anything unusual or any patterns forming. I just add her weight or anything out of the ordinary now, she is doing so well detailed daily entries are no-longer necessary.
And now…..After the major relapse and after all the testing, the colitis cleared up without further medication. I am convinced it was due to sticking with the RMB diet and the additional things I did for her.
It has been over 7 months since her last vet visit apart from follow up blood tests, the results of which were normal. Phoebe is doing incredibly well. She almost always has perfect poos. The only time she doesn’t is when she has scavenged something the local crows have dropped in the garden, or pinched a parrot pellet or two that have been chucked at her by one of her house mates! Yet, she can now tolerate these ‘no no’ treats without problems. She has put on weight and for the first time in her life (she is now nearly 5 years old) is an ideal weight with no ribs showing.
The colitis may return with a vengeance, who knows what the future holds, but I will revert to what I know works, and if they don’t do the trick, to the other suggestions offered before risking regular harsh medications or prescription diets. I genuinely hope that by sharing Phoebe’s story if you are in a similar situation that you can learn from my experiences and help keep your dog healthy enough to avoid the need for prolonged strong medication. (Please remember colitis can be caused by life threatening conditions and a vet should always be consulted before using home treatments. I always keep my vet informed of the alternative approaches I take, and have taken, with Pheebs).
In summary the main things that work for Phoebe are:
- Strict RMB diet.
- Pro or prebiotics daily.
- Twice a day feeding – main meal and snack.
- Slippery elm for flare ups.
- My observations, to avoid small mishaps turning into major reactions.
If you don’t already feed a RMB diet I hope this gives you the courage to feed the best to your dog. Read, gain knowledge and ask questions, rally the support you need and take the plunge. It is easier than you think. If Phoebe and I can do it anyone can. And if you are here because your dog has colitis or something similar I hope by sharing what I’ve learned, that it might help with ideas for you and your four legged friend too.All the best. Linda & Phoebe Wrexham UK Copyright Linda Bestwick 2012″