I received an email about one week ago. It was a birthday announcement for a dog who belongs to a client. Chevi has just turned twelve, and seeing the latest picture of him made me smile. It also made me want to tell his story because his owner and I have kept in touch to tweak his diet as necessary over the years. Rita gave me permission, so I’m going to quote her because she says it better than I can.
“A year and a half ago, the cardiologist thought he probably would not see age 11. He’s been fighting heart disease now for 3 years.
The good days still outnumber the bad… Still barking at the mailman, patrolling the backyard fence line, playing a little ball. Life is good.
I guess you’ve given me food for thought — What to say to someone who’s just heard a bad diagnosis and/or dire prediction? I’ll skip over all the bad parts of this illness and go straight to the bottom line: Is it worth it? There’s only one possible answer to that question…
You betcha!!! “
Heart disease, and certainly heart failure translates to many changes in the dog’s life, and the owners’ life too. Quality of life is key, and if you have a dog that’s driven, and he’s suddenly not allowed to do all the things he loved doing…well, it’s hard for everyone. But give that same dog nose work in lieu of herding, and he might just love learning and being challenged in a different way. Other than changes in activities, diet has a huge role to play. Typically, clients worry about sodium content of a diet and that’s a valid concern. It goes beyond that though. Heart failure leads to kidney trouble, and medications for heart failure push the kidneys hard. A diet that provides high quality protein, supplemental taurine, CoQ10 and wild salmon oil are a good start, but as the kidneys show they’re being challenged, the diet really needs to address it. Tweak it, so you lower phosphorus as necessary, and increase the calcium to phosphorus ratio. Tweak it again and again over time because it can indeed impact longevity and quality of life. Generic diets simply don’t cut it as compared to a diet that is specific to your dog and his/her unique needs. Chevi is living proof of it.