About two weeks ago, our dog Dim, unfortunately had to be rushed to the ER. He ended up having a foreign body obstructing his small intestines, a fluid filled stomach, severely bruised intestines and a mild case of pancreatitis because of his obstruction. He got abdominal surgery, and in the end, ended up being just fine, with a shorter recovery time than expected. However, he is an extremely healthy dog, who is fed a whole, fresh raw food diet. This made me beg the question: For dogs that were already fed a whole, fresh, raw food diet - do they have shorter recovery times from trauma such as surgery, bruising or mild forms pancreatitis? The hospital provided me with a "low fat gastrointestinal veterinary diet" to feed him throughout his recovery time. I, however, opted to feed him a customized version of his raw diet. This post is going to explain what I gave him and why, and how it helped him recover (Disclaimer: this is just in regards to what worked for my dog as he was recovering. What may work for my dog might not work for yours. Please consult your holistic veterinarian or veterinary hospital if you are inexperienced with raw-feeding and your dog has suspected ailments such as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be severe and always needs a diagnosis from a veterinarian).
What is Pancreatitis?
"The pancreas has two vital functions: it secretes insulin, which balances blood sugar, and it secretes digestive enzymes -- amylase, lipase and proteases" (source). These enzymes help in the breakdown of proteins and fats. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. Most commonly known, dog pancreatitis can be caused by a high fat diet. However, "anti-seizure drugs such as Potassium Bromide or Phentobarbital are well known to predispose pets to pancreatitis...Prednisone and other catabolic steroids are also well known to cause pancreatitis. Even the diuretic Lasix (Furosemide), has been implicated in pancreatitis attacks in dogs and cats" (source). Most likely in Dim's case, the mild pancreatitis was caused by stress in the body (i.e foreign body obstruction). Stress can cause high levels of cortisol in a dogs body, and high levels of cortisol are linked to causing pancreatitis in dogs (source).
Diet and Pancreatitis.
As said by Dr. Karen Becker: "We know that the high carbohydrate-based diets that most dogs and cats eat are extremely taxing to pets’ insulin levels, which are, in turn, taxing to the pancreas...the foods that we feed our dogs and cats are entirely processed and devoid of natural enzymes, which help supplement your pet’s diet and reduce pancreatic stress. So, the pancreas really may live in a state of chronic inflammation and stress because the average American pet diet is dead (processed at high temperatures to create an extensive shelf life) and is therefore devoid of any naturally occurring amylase, lipase and protease enzymes that would naturally be found in raw foods. The canned or kibble (dry food) diet that you feed your pet causes the pancreas to have to secrete an abundance of digestive enzymes. If the pancreas fails to perform adequately, pancreatitis results" (source).
A Raw Fed Dog's Fresh Food Diet, Immunity and Tissue Recovery.
A dog's intestinal health is extremely important. A dog's intestinal health is directly linked to how strong their immune system is. The stronger their immune system the healthier their life is. "The 'gut associated lymphoid tissue' (GALT) is the largest immune organ in the body, consisting of several aggregates of lymphoid tissues found throughout the lining of the gut wall...it produces a variety of lymph cells and thus offers a variety of immune disorders. The GALT combines with other immune components within the gut including: the mucosal lining of the gut; the microbiome (like a mini ecosystem in the gut) and probiotics (the beneficial microorganisms that live in the gut); and a wealth of antigens that have been produced by specialized cells lining the gut" (source).
Recovery time from any ailment depends on the strength of the affected immune system. If the immune system is weak, then recovery times will generally be longer. If the immune system is strong, recovery times will generally be shorter. The microbiome and gut health of a dog are huge factors when wanting a stronger immune system for your dog. A raw fresh food diet is shown to promote a more balanced and diverse microbiome in dogs.
There was a study done called "Raw meat based diet influences faecal microbiome and end products of fermentation in healthy dogs". This study does an excellent job showing how microbiomes and gut health can be affected by diet. In the end their results concluded that: "the administration of highly digestible feed, combining fresh meat with readily fermentable substrates, promoted a more balanced growth of bacterial communities and a positive change in some of the readouts of healthy gut functions" (source).
Click here to read the entire study.
Dim's Abdominal Surgery
Dim's abdominal surgery, in addition to the external incisions, also required his intestines to be opened up to remove the large piece of rubber/fabric that was obstructing his intestines. He stayed a total of three days in the hospital. They were keeping an eye on him in case his intestines started to "die", because of his bruising. After he came home, he started to bounce back and healed quite quickly (he was on pain medications and antibiotics for a period of time during his recovery). He had no complications (i.e infections, lethargy, other related sicknesses).
What Dim Ate Throughout His Recovery Time (~10 days)
1. 90% Lean ground Beef & Beef Chunks
Generally speaking, when your dog is almost done recovering from pancreatitis, a low fat, lean meal is ideal. Higher fat meals and proteins can irritate the pancreas even more. Even if the pancreatitis was not caused by excessive fat, the pancreas is already weakened from the inflammation and stress, so a low fat meal is highly digestible. We did make sure dim still got a good amount of healthy fats but also made sure his protein options were generally lean. Lean ground beef and beef chunks worked great for him.
2. Turkey Thigh
As with lean beef, turkey thigh was also a good option for Dim, because it was another lean protein option but also still had a good ratio of fat (for him).
3. Turkey Heart
Again, this was a great lean option for him. Feeding heart is important because it contains Coenzyme Q 10, which supports heart health.
4. Ground Chicken Backs
Although chicken backs are a fatty protein option, this was basically his only source of fat in his meals. I chose ground chicken backs, instead of whole bone during his recovery for convenience, because of his bruised bowel system.
5. Green Lipped Mussel
I have a whole blog post about protein rotation and balancing fats (Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids in your dogs diets). Check that post out if you want an in-depth reason for feeding things like fish and GLM. However, in short, GLM is a great source of omega-3s, it helps balance out the omega-6s in the muscle meats that I included in his meals. Omega-3s are essential for proper immune function.
6. Duck Liver & Beef Spleen
These were always great neutral and cooling organ options for him, so I just kept it the same for his recovery as well.
7. Vegetable Cube
Since he is getting mostly lean meats while he fully recovers, it was important that we include a leafy vegetable in his diet. However, since leafy vegetables are hard for dogs to digest, it is better if they are finely blended with something that aids in digestion and promotes gut health, such as a probiotic. In this case I used raw goat milk. The leafy vegetables I used were organic kale and green cabbage. Kale contains vitamin k, vitamin c, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and antioxidants. Cabbage is high in fiber, which means it aids in digestion. Cabbage also contains vitamins k, c, b6, and the minerals manganese, potassium and copper.
*I do not feed a vegetable cube everyday. I only feed it about 2-4 times a week, depending on the need.
Since Dim went through a considerable amount of trauma to his digestive system, I opted to also add extra enzymes to his food to aid in the digestion of his meals.
DISCLAIMER: It is always important to do your own research first in regards to raw feeding or feeding fresh foods for your pet (dog or cat). Every animal is different! What may work great for some may not work great for others. It is important to know that if you are a beginner at raw feeding, there are tons of ways to feed fresh raw foods to your pets (commercially prepared, freeze dried etc.). Starting out can be a little difficult, so if you do your research accordingly, then you'll have more knowledge about EVERY aspect of raw feeding. Remember, if you are not ready to feed a raw diet to your pets, wait to transition and utilize the help of experienced raw feeders, connect with integrative veterinarians, read books geared towards a holistic dog diet and gain knowledge from all of your research so you can effectively give your dog the nutrition it needs to thrive. There are also a few amazing raw-feeding consultation services, which help you in the areas of meal prepping that are specific to your dog's needs. Check out theprimalpet.com for custom raw meal plans! "The Raw Fed Pet" site is only for informational/educational purposes and is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical conditions.
Did you know?
GREEN LIPPED MUSSELS ARE GREAT FOR JOINT HEALTH?
"In addition to their inflammatory healing properties, these mussels are considered a superfood because they contain a huge variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, enzymes, and many more nutrients" (source).