All things start with diet

Hi, newbie here. I am looking for advice on what to be feeding my dog. I have a 13 year old bitch and her history is as follows (I’ll keep it brief an to the facts):

Up until this time last year she was relatively healthy dog. She suddenly developed diarrhea containing mucus and/or bloody streaks. She lost 5kg in 2 weeks (23kg down to 18kg). Vet diagnosed pancreatitis. We had been feeding her on James Wellbeloved grain free (fairly high fat content, about 18% from memory) as she had an intolerence to wheat/gluten (mad her rather loose). Vet wanted to put her on prescribed food but it had wheat so I told her it was a no-no. Did some research and came down to Natural Instinct Special and Benyfit Natural Sensitive, both a complete raw food. Latter had a high bone content and she struggled to pass stools so we went with the former. She is now just over 15kg, having lost a further 3kg over the last 3 months. Vet ran some tests and thought maybe Cushing’s but she hasn’t lost much hair and isn’t drinking loads. Have looked at Millies Wolfheart this morning as an alternative as my feeling is ‘Rabbit starvation’ (comes from eating too much lean protein). She still seems to have difficulty in passing stools but she is not loose. Does anyone else have a dog that struggles to pass stools whilst on a raw or lean/low fat diet? Any advice would be greatfully recieved.

Hello and welcome to the forum. I mostly feed a raw complete and, yes, my dog does sometimes have more trouble passing a stool. I mostly avoid this happening by adding some pureed veg and rice to her dinner or I will feed a couple of meals of cold pressed kibble.
Given that your dog has had problems, I think I would try and avoid a diet change. Sometimes the higher protein kibbles can upset digestion.
The weight loss is a bit of a worry and something your vet will probably want to keep an eye on. It may be worth bulking out the raw with some brown rice or oats cooked in water and some veg. This may help with both weight loss and constipation without upsetting the digestion again.
Another thing to consider, is that the feeding recommendations are just guidelines. Your dog may need a bit more to maintain her weight.

Hello and welcome to the forum. James Wellbeloved Grain Free Adult food has 11.5% fat content so is not too high. I am not a nutritionist but changing food when a dog is already unwell can cause more problems than it solves. This is particularly so with raw food. It is sometimes high in fat and this is not recommended for a dog with a history of pancreatitis. In addition, I think it is inadvisable to give raw food to a dog with active inflammatory disease such as colitis. Your dog is elderly and it is asking a lot of a dog of that age to adapt to this change in diet. Given the history, I think you are right in your decision to change food.

I fed my dogs on raw food for a little while and the hard stools was just one of the reasons why I gave it up. Millie’s Wolfheart would be a reasonable choice but you should telephone the company for advice first. They sell some low fat products - IIRC there are two or three so these might be more suitable. However, instinctively I feel that you should consider one of the cold pressed foods because they are low in fat and very digestible. There are some UK companies who sell these products: Forthglade, Gentle, Guru and Tribal so you could contact either one of them for advice. You probably do not need to look for grain free. Many of them contain brown rice which is a good source of fibre. Cold pressed foods.

Thanks for your replies. I thought JWB had a higher fat percentage but then was only going from memory.

That aside, update on the situation is as follows. She saw the vet again Monday before last. He said he thinks she has bowel cancer (as blunt as that). Given all the tests she had along with the ultrasound I said something would have shown this on the results. Markers of one sort or another can usually be detected along with certain organ function tests but he said everything was relatively normal. He went on to say we would have to make a decision in the coming weeks which upset us, naturally. I still think her diet is the issue as what goes in doesn’t match what’s coming out. She is still passing stools but with a lot of straining and the y come out as pebbles at best, but soft and not loose or hard.

We started her on 3 portions of porridge a day (30g with water). Her stools did change a bit for the better as slightly more volume (thumb sized mostly). Did that for a week until we started her on the Millie’s Wolfheart last Saturday. We decided to feed her that in the morning and keep her on Natural Instinct Special in the evening but she has reverted to pebbles/nuggets at best and still soft.

We are going to get a second opinion from another vet but I wabt to find one that has a good understanding of diet and its make up. Will keep you post.

Thanks again.


Thank you for the update. I am sorry that your elderly dog is no better. I agree that you need to know for sure whether this is cancer. Recent experience of my friend’s dogs makes me wonder about the reliability of ultrasound scans. My elderly dog who died last year had an abdominal tumour and the vet found it on x-ray. Her blood results were abnormal, including liver function. She did well on cold pressed food right to the end of life. I moistened it and she had small, frequent meals.

I hope that you get a correct diagnosis soon and that you can make your elderly dog comfortable… Please let us know how you get on.

I’m so sorry to read this about your dog and that the vet has handled it insensitively and given you no definitive answers.
You are right to seek a second opinion but in the meantime I note that pancreatitis was initially diagnosed. Was this shown by a blood test? If so there is a supplement called Lypex that can be added to food, our vet recommended it but you can purchase it (cheaper) online and it gets excellent reviews.
In terms of food I wonder if something like Butternut Box would be worth trying? Being lightly cooked it may be more forgiving on her tummy than raw?
I realise you may not want to keep chopping and changing foods at this stage but it may be worth a call or email to Butternut Box, they’re extremely helpful, have an in-house vet and, if the issue is pancreatitis, then their chicken and turkey recipes are suitable for dogs suffering this.
I really hope you get some answers soon and you find what works for your dog, you are clearly doing your very best for her.

I am sorry to hear this news. I hope you get some definite answers soon. As petmum says, you are clearly doing the best you can to make sure she gets what she needs. :cry:

Hi guys. I just wanted to stop by to say a big thank you for all your help and support but I also wanted give you an update. It’s with great sadness that I tell you we lost our beautiful little Maddie last Monday.

We took her for a second opinion to another practice and, after examining her, said it was most likely one of 3 three things. First was something called ‘mega-colon’, which is usually associated with cats but dogs can also come down with this. The muscles in the colon become weak and flacid and are unable to evacuate any stools effectively. Prognosis - no treatment.

Secondly she thought it may be colitis and could possibly be treated with steroids but even then there is a only a small chance that it may work effectively. The fact that she was on a course of Cartrophen meant the vet would need to check which steroids she could use alongside this, if any. Prognosis - slim to none.

Third was that it could also be tumours of some sort. Given how much weight she had lost, the vet said there was a realistic chance she may not even make it through the surgery. Prognosis - none, effectively.

I mulled this over and spoke to the other half saying I really couldn’t see her go another week as she was. She was finding it difficult to lay down, as though any pressure on her tummy was too much. She’d lower herself down and then drop over on to her side. Even that morning she seemed reluctant to get out of her bed and she just didn’t look happy. She’d always been a happy looking dog.

As heart breaking as it was, we decided to go down and see our vet Sunday morning to ask come out. Unfortunately no one was available and, as upsetting as this was, it gave us another 24 hours with her and in that time we made sure she knew she was loved very much, including that night having a small roast dinner.

Monday morning she had her regular breakfast and then we took her for a longer walk than she’d done of late. Once home she had a scrambled egg.

We spent time with her, laying next to her and stroking her. Everything was just so calm and there was no stress for her, but I’m sure she knew something was different about this day. She didn’t even get up when the vet and nurse arrived which was just not like her. Instead, she went over on to the dining room rug. The vet asked if we wanted her to be sedated which, after asking what the options and their potential effects would be, opted for it, even though it would make her wince a bit.

We gave her one last treat for being such a good and brave little girl and then, within a few minutes, she started to become unsteady on her feet so we laid her down on her favourite blanket.

Once the vet was happy she was properly sedated they shaved her front leg and inserted a cannula. All the time we were talking to her and retelling her of all the advetures she had been on.

The vet administered the required dose of solution/injection and then she was gone.

I have no doubt in my mind that it was the right decision as I really couldn’t see go another week as she was. As painful as it was, I was so glad to have been with her at the end. To ensure she went calmly and peacefully and with no stress. It was the very least I could. The last act of unconditional love I could show her.

There is a saying that goes 'Real loss is only experienced after we have lost something that we have dared to love more than we love ourselves ', and it is so true.

Our vets have a Goodbye room and we went down the next to say a final farewell to her, picking a small posey of violets, primroses and a small sprig of May blossom to lay with her. Seeing her at rest was a great help.

We arranged for her to be cremated the next day and met the young man who was going to do it. We asked him to be gentle with her and he assured us he would. We then brought her home Thursday evening and she is in a small bronze urn on the side table next to where I sit.

I still say good morning and good night to her and kiss her on the head ( albeit the lid of the urn). I even still do the last walk at night and like to imagine she is with me but in truth, I hope she has gone to the light and is properly at rest.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, assuming you stuck with it all the way through.

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I am so very sorry to hear this news but glad that she had a peaceful ending and is not suffering now. Your post brought tears to my eyes as I think of you and Maddie and of the memories of my own dogs that have died - you never get used to it. I was in a very similar situation with one of my elderly dogs last year and like you, could not bear to see her unhappy and suffering. We usually know when the time is right and yes, you did the right thing.
RIP beautiful Maddie. :cry:

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I am writing this with tears streaming down my cheeks, I am so, so sorry for your loss.
Your words are just beautiful and demonstrate just how much love you had and still have for Maddie. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal experience with us.
I am glad you are at peace with your decision, it really is the worst thing we ever go through as pet parents. 17 months ago we went through the same thing with our beautiful dog, he was only 4 and had a brain tumour. Time has healed though we still miss him dreadfully and talk about him every day. We have also since rescued another beautiful doggy and she has transformed our lives.
You were clearly the best pet parents you could have been to Maddie, you gave her a wonderful life and a peaceful and dignified end, that is ultimately all any of us can do.
My thoughts are with you xxx

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Thank you so much for your kind words. It really is the hardest decision any of us can make but knowing it is the right one does give some solace, no matter how small. I am going to make a collage of the photos and videos I have of her and post it on YouTube. I’ll add a link here so you can all see what a beautiful and happy little dog she was and how much joy she gave us.

Of all the paw prints they may leave, the ones that are the most indelible are the ones they leave across our heart.

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so sorry to hear about the loss of your dog Maddie, not an easy decision to make , but not easy to see them suffer either. take comfort that she is in a better place with out pain, and that she lived for 13 years in your loving care.
what a lovely thing to do make a collage of all the memories of her.

So sorry to hear this news. Such a hard decision but I think we all know when they have had enough. Saying goodbye is easier than watching them suffer. Hopefully it won’t be too long before you can think about Maddie and the memories make you smile. :cry:

Historically not a follower of some rainbow bridge posts, ( I confess to sometimes being more detached than some).

That said I was genuinely moved by your detailed but sensitive post…thank you & RIP Maddie.

After checking with one of the moderators to ensure I hadn’t breached the forum rules I have reposted a link to a small video I made of my beautiful dog, Maddie. For some strange/unknown reason the initial post disappeared.

Please click on the link below and, if you want to repost your comments (I know a number of you were very kind to comment) then I will be happy to acknowledge them, as I didn’t get the opportunity previously.

Please enjoy :slight_smile:


Thank you very much for reposting. I am sorry that the original post was lost. It was as a result of server problems described here. Unfortunately this occurred more than once.

What a lovely video - Maddie was clearly a much loved dog. It is so sad when they are no longer with us. I hope that you and your wife are beginning to heal after your sad loss.

Wow…emotional viewing. RIP Maddie.

Such a beautiful, emotional tribute, she clearly had a wonderful life with you.
I confess to shedding a few tears at this. x

Thank you all for your kind words and yes, she was a very special dog. Sunday morning’s, during the warmer months, she knew she went down the local lakes for a swim. We never had her on the lead and she knew exactly where we were going. I was off work for a couple of weeks after William & Kate got married due to having my vehicle off the road (had an accident on that Friday) and so took her round the lakes for a walk. She used to paddle a bit but never swam. I used to throw sticks in for her and encourage her to go in after them. She wanted to go in after them but was so unsure of her feet coming off the ground. It took over a week of taking her down and encouraging her to fetch them before she finally took the plunge. She was all front legs splashing about like you wouldn’t believe and I laughed so hard, but I was so pleased and proud of her. She came out (after fetching the stick) and shook all over me, the toad. It’s things like that I miss about her.

Perhaps a remembrance section may be idea?

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They make such an impact upon us, I still miss my first dog terribly; we lost him to a brain tumour aged just 4 and I was devastated.

He was a real handful as a pup yet grew into the sweetest boy and I felt robbed when we lost him so young.

To this day I miss how he used to come to the side of my bed each night to say goodnight to me. Sometimes I’d be dozing off but I’d hear his tail gently tapping against the mirror on the wall and as soon as I woke and stroked him he’d happily go off to his own bed.

It’s been nearly 2 years and it does eventually get easier but you always miss those special things about them.

I do hope you’re slowly coming to terms with your loss, I know it’s not easy but I’m glad those happy memories of Maddie are giving you some comfort. X

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