This post is in loving memory of Cody, who passed away exactly one year ago today.
It was almost midnight. I sat eye to eye with my sweet Cody who was on a gurney, his left paw hanging over the edge as I held it tightly in my hand. I stroked his head with my other hand and told him how much I loved him, how much he meant to me and how sorry I was that he was in so much pain and I couldn’t help him. The tears were flowing down my face as I sobbed and looked into his big, beautiful, kind brown eyes for the last time. The emergency vet administered the lethal injection to end his suffering and just like that the boy who had been my sidekick for 14 years slipped away…
Losing him would have been hard under any circumstances, but the amount of suffering that this loving, innocent creature had to endure was utterly unbearable to watch. Cody had gone into acute kidney failure just a few days before he ultimately died. Kidney failure is a terrible way to go and the suffering that accompanies it is horrific. But in hindsight there were so many things that may have prevented such a horrible death. Things that may have been able to prevent his kidney disease all together.
Up until the end, Cody lived a wonderful life. He was loved immensely by his family and we could feel his love in return. He got to travel the US and even visit the ocean just a few months before he died. He was a beautiful soul and he is missed terribly. Cody is largely the reason for me becoming interested in nutrition and starting this blog.
I hope by sharing what I’ve learned we can prevent other dogs from sharing similar fates.
6 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got A Dog
- Read Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Cats & Dogs. Nutrition is the foundation of health and wellness. And that goes for humans and animals alike. Human and animal bodies are natural machines and what we put in them undoubtedly affects how they work. This book is an extensive guide for helping our dogs and cats live long, healthy lives. Its pages are filled with in-depth information on health, wellness, nutrition and recipes for making your dog’s food yourself. This book was my guide for switching Cody to a real food diet. It truly helped me add years to Cody’s life and I only wish I had found it sooner. You can order a copy here.
- Don’t trust advertising when it comes to pet food. In regards to human food I’ve heard it said that the key to eating healthy is avoiding any food that has a TV commercial. The same goes for pet food. When I started doing research into Cody’s diet I was horrified by what I learned. Pet food is a billion dollar business. And the concern isn’t our pets’ health…it’s all about making money. It’s big business. Kibble, which we have been duped to believe is the best source of food for our dogs, is literally devoid of nutritional value. Think of all the different ingredients we are told are in our pet food…the fact that all those ingredients always end up as little brown pellets means that the food has been so altered from its original state that the nutritional content is close to zilch. It’s as if we ate crackers day in and day out for our whole lives. We wouldn’t be very healthy now would we? And since the pet food industry is not held to the same standards as our food industry, the stuff they get away with putting in dog food is appalling. Did you know when your commercial pet food says it’s a great source of protein, implying that it’s made of beef, chicken or any other meat, that “protein” can actually be made up 100% of cow hair, animal hooves, claws, feathers, etc. Isn’t that disturbing? This is because it’s more economical to the pet food companies to make pet food out of the parts of animals deemed unfit for human consumption, i.e. the parts that are already sitting on the slaughterhouse floor after all the meat has been taken to sell to humans. As I learned in my nutrition studies, you should never trust what it says on the front packaging of food. Only pay attention to the ingredient list and nutritional content on the back of food packaging. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to what’s in our pet’s food. But go take a look at your pet’s food. What are the first 3 ingredients? Do you see the word by-product anywhere? If it’s not something you would put in your body…why put it in theirs?
- Listen to your dog. Dogs are master communicators. It’s us humans that don’t do a good job understanding them. Cody had absolutely been trying to tell us he didn’t feel well before he died. We just misunderstood what he was saying. His changes in behavior that we were told to write off as silly quirks were actually his way of telling us how terrible he felt. Untreated kidney disease causes pervasive, intense nausea. He woke us up at night in the months before he died, which he had never done before. He would also sit at his food bowl and cry while looking at it, without eating. Another new behavior he developed in the months before he died. In retrospect he was so clearly telling us he couldn’t sleep because he didn’t feel well and he didn’t want to eat because he was nauseous. There is a great book on this topic called Inside of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know which offers scientific research as to how dogs view the world and how they try to communicate. I wish I had read it when Cody was a puppy!
- You are your pet’s best advocate. Do your research. Working as a child life specialist in a hospital I was always reminding parents that they are their child’s best advocate. You know your child best. If something doesn’t seem right, speak up. The same goes for our pets. Cody had developed arthritis when he was a young adult dog. (In retrospect…not normal!! A young dog should not be plagued with arthritis.) This arthritis was most likely caused by poor nutrition. We were doing what we thought was right and feeding him what our vets told us to feed him. But as I mentioned before kibble is kibble and its nutritional content is very low. His vets recommended we put him on a medication called Rimadyl to treat the symptoms of arthritis. Rimadyl is a NSAID or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. We trusted our vets and it seemed to help so Cody remained on Rimadyl for years. But it was never explained to us how truly detrimental Rimadyl could be for his long-term health. It wasn’t until years later that I picked up a magazine on animal wellness and learned about the scary side effects of Rimadyl. The article explained that Rimadyl is only intended for short-term use and that prolonged use can lead to…you guessed it…kidney failure. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I felt like I had unknowingly been poisoning my sweet boy for years. After discussing it with my family we all decided to wean him off of the Rimadyl and see what state his arthritis was in…because come to think of it…we didn’t even know what his arthritis was like now because he had been medicated for so long. It was amazing to see that once we took him off the store-bought kibble and started feeding him real food, his arthritis disappeared before our eyes. (Which by the way is the same thing that happens to humans when they switch to a plant-based diet.) Cody was more fit and limber when he died at 14 than he had been when he was 6 years old. But if we hadn’t brought this up to our vet ourselves, no one else would have. It seems no coincidence that he ate a poor commercial diet and took Rimadyl for so many years of his life, and ultimately died of kidney failure. You are their best advocate. Do your research and voice your concerns!
- Skin issues are the first indication of internal issues. Once you do some research into canine health you will see this theme over and over again. Our bodies’ first line of defense when something doesn’t feel right is to try to flush it out of our system. And this often happens through our skin. If your pet has a skin issue that you can’t figure out..keep this in mind. Instead of covering up the symptoms with medications try to find the root cause of the problem.
- Explore alternative treatments. As I mentioned, we were able to almost completely rid Cody of his arthritis. This was done through the combination of a healthy diet, glucosamine & chondroitin supplements and laser therapy. Just weeks before he died Cody was rolling on his back kicking his feet up in the air like a happy puppy. Something he wasn’t able to do when he was only on the Rimadyl. Look into holistic treatments that take into consideration root causes of health issues in our pets, not just the symptoms. To learn more about Companion Laser Therapy click here. To learn more about holistic treatments for pets and the American Council for Animal Naturopathy, click here.
In loving memory. Missing you everyday Codes…