02 November 2012

What a Novel Idea

I gotta say diet for Thane was getting ridiculous to ascertain the best option. Since his hypothyroidism was allowed to run-a-muck for three years, gluten intolerance destroyed his GI system for digestion of raw. I finally came to the conclusion that it's not about giving him more time to heal, but about finding a better approach for him.

For four months I had been feeding him the Nature's Variety Instinct line of foods- It's supposedly gluten free, but like the rest of the pet industry, they don't test for gluten and they use the same machinery and plants that manufacture gluten foods for the gluten free ones. Evidently no one at Nature's Variety has gluten intolerance! Cross contamination can be a huge deal in situations like they manufacture their gluten free foods in.

I was trying to come up with a better solution for Thane. He was showing increased allergies with this food and on a regular basis had to jerk me over to the road edge to essentially poop in harness before I was ready for him. This was not going to work long term- it was old after the second time it happened.

Then a friend of mine stumbled upon a video by Veterinarian Karen Becker. It was on canine allergies. She discussed how with her own dogs she fed a different food every day which prevents the allergy from taking hold since they are not eating the same thing morning and night 365 days a year sometimes for years.

I thought this was the most bizarre thing- I mean it goes contrary to everything veterinarians and pet food manufacturers tell you to do- but then we all know just where veterinarians are educated on diet and just how worthwhile that education really is.

The more I thought about the one food a day approach, the more I thought how similar of a concept it is to how I fed Thane when he ate raw- a different protein source/ cut of protein rotated so that he was not just eating beef every day of his life.

I've been shopping online with wag.com because they have a lot of good options and very quick delivery. They have great customer service and return policy (free shipping for returns too) Their website can drive me a bit wacky at times, but the real care for me as a client and my needs is great.

This month will be the real trial on the one food a day approach for Thane. By the time everything arrives, I will have eleven foods to rotate throughout the month. I'm sure we'll find a food or two that just isn't quite OK for him but with eight protein sources (I don't think I'm forgetting any)- some being single proteins and limited ingredient foods (even without calling them limited ingredient) I didn't look for foods labelled as gluten free after my Nature's Variety experience. I looked at the ingredients themselves. Being gluten intolerant myself (discovered through Thane's journey), I'm getting really good about asking google about the gluten status of various things LOL

I may have eleven foods for Thane this month, but what shocked me was the magnitude of foods I could choose from that really had pretty good ingredients and gluten free ingredients at that. During Met's life, I never would have had such pickings and even with Thane in 2009 when I gave up and went to raw, there never was such variety of food like I am finding today. I am not going to question it because it is a positive thing for Thane right now. Of course the industry still has not taken the ramifications of rosemary on the epileptic to heart so there still are few foods that one triggered by rosemary like Met was could have. Maybe the next positive move for some of these premium/ super premium companies to make will be to remove rosemary from their ingredient pool.

For now though, Thane and I are on a quest to get him healthier each and every day. I get a snicker from some people when I share what I am doing. I can just imagine what it will be like when we settle on a new veterinarian

Vet: What is his diet?
Me: Rattling off a list of manufacturers and protein sources as long as my arm
Vet: None of my clients have ever done that before
Me: Well, do you eat the same food for every meal 365 days a year for your entire life
Vet: No! I see your point

17 October 2012

Uncovering the Sneaky Reality

Lately one of my biggest passions is that of the pet industry and gluten free products. Those who have followed me for a time understand how close to home this comes. For newcomers, to make a long story short, my combo trained guide, hearing, service dog has severe gluten intolerance most likely caused by years of hypothyroidism neglect (treating lab reports instead of him)

When this all came to a head, I had to make a diet change and pull ALL the supplements in use. We had no idea what was causing his diarrhea or skin outbreak that left him looking like a dog with mange, but it was clearly not parasitic in nature, so I chose the best possible food on the market. His skin mostly cleared, hair began its re-growth, and his diarrhea stopped, but his bowel issues (having to go with no notice) continued as has the issues with his ears and mild skin flares with no other contributing factors, but the food (gluten free home).

It was around a month ago that I began really digging into the pet industry products and their claims of GF status. One by one I learned that not one I have contacted actually tests for gluten yet they seem to be allowed to state their products are GF. Something is wrong with this concept especially when the companies admit that the manufacturing plant also makes gluten foods AND that they use the same equipment to make gluten foods as the gluten free foods.

I consider this an issue for the Truth in Labelling folks, but am unsure just how to proceed to get action.  If this happened in the human food industry, the food would be pulled from the market or labelling would be changed until such time as it passed the 20ppm guideline of the FDA (which is still not gluten free by a longshot)

If you don't believe the problem is as big as I am making it sound, do a youtube gluten tests on dog food search from google (or whatever search engine you use), the results will astonish you. Look specifically for ones showing actual gluten testing. One that a friend stumbled upon only one food out of five that they tested was gluten free while every food claimed to be so. This problem ruins lives of animals, but also of their families. When they happen to also be guide or other types of service dogs, it limits their ability to perform their job. A guide dog can not guide when its skin is so broken down that it can't even wear its harness!

Its a tragedy that the changes that were supposed to be implemented after the 2007 death and destruction caused by the pet food industry have never really been implemented.  The result of this inaction was to let the pet food industry (and other pet product manufacturers) know that they are in control. It let them see that the FDA doesn't really delve into their unsafe practices without a ton of complaints (or should I say deaths)

I really don't know how to begin the process for action in pet products, but if the reaction Thane had recently to Program which followed milder reactions to Capstar over the summer (after claims from Novartis that both Capstar and Program are gluten free), is any indicator of how severe things can become, I don't think I want to line any more pet industry pockets.

I'm nervous about what lays ahead, but I have to see if its a possibility for Thane. I can't keep hoping that cross contamination did not occur and seeing little flares take place all the time. I'll be testing Thane on his raw diet again very soon. Yes, it costs about double what Nature's Variety costs for him in a month, but I'm just not OK with a company that thinks that their product is GF because the ingredients they use are. They have no concept of cross contamination made quite obvious by their statements to me regarding the use of the same equipment for gluten and GF foods.

To say I am so sick and tired of how little anyone in the pet industry gets gluten intolerance is the understatement of the year.

Somehow action needs to be taken- companies who claim their products are gluten free because they don't add gluten need to be required to perform gluten testing just as much as they are required to test for other impurities in their foods.

If you are reading this blog entry and you know how to get the ball rolling on the pet industry regarding gluten free mislabeling, please submit a comment. It'll help countless animals who suffer needlessly.

25 September 2012

Pet Supplements and Gluten

On a few lists I participate in recently some people have started this view that with various supplements, you can not use their human counterparts and have the same effect.
One of the most recent topics was on probiotics. The argument was that since pets (particularly dogs) have a different ph, that the supplements for humans won't survive to be broken down where they should be broken down.

I went to human products for Met and continued to do so for Thane for the primary reason that most pet supplements are very inferior and/ or filled with a lot more additives. Along the lines of probiotics, I watched problems that probiotics benefit for Met get much worse when I listened to the rubbish that only pet probiotics should be used.

Since the entrance of Thane, I have used very few pet based supplements. When queried recently about gluten status, not one of them even tests for gluten! I found this appalling with just how many animals are gluten sensitive. Perhaps if vets considered this first when they are presented with an itchy dog things might be different, but as it stands now animal supplement manufacturers are falling short of their responsibility in quality control for the well being of animals. I find this a travesty. Until manufacturers open their eyes and do the right thing, I will ALWAYS look to the human supplement industry when my animals need supplements.

Just because one doesn't believe their animal has an issue with gluten, does not mean it is not causing irreparable harm to their systems. There are people who believe that gluten free diets have their consequences- for sure they can when the manufacturers choose to use soy in the products instead. Soy is a hormone disruptor- most notably for thyroid and adrenal function.

Dogs and Cats though are carnivores! None of that junk should be going into their systems to begin with. They don't need grains They don't need plant matter, but many enjoy what is found in intestinal matter (tripe) It should be easy to provide gluten free products with these parameters. Of course the reality is, even gluten free products are not necessarily glutin free. Gluten free means zero gluten, not this gamet the FDA drums up to allow labeling as gluten free- but you already heard me vent about that one grin

19 September 2012

Gluten Free Foods- Are They Really That?

Though Thane is back in harness working wonderfully for the most part which is a miracle to me every day we head out after all the years of struggling for treatment that we have endured, sadly there are issues and always will be issues for him as a result of what I deem to be utter incompetence. I won't go into that here.

What I do want to delve into is a subject that hits home and nearly got Thane treated for mange and rodenticide poisoning instead of what he really had- severe gluten intolerance most likely caused by years of untreated hypothyroidism (which I fought for years to get) The basis of this is that after years of hypothyroidism untreated the immune system was attacking the thyroid. The gluten protein is very similar in structure and as a result due to such prolonged lack of treatment, it too became part of the immune system attack on his body. I try to look at it just as facts rather than on what it really was- a preventable situation. It's just easier to look at the science of it than at the reality of why it is present at all for Thane.

What I have learned as I began researching was that Gluten Free foods and supplements may not really be TRULY Gluten Free. Some may really be so, but many as we have learned the hard way, fall short of the bill.

The FDA's guideline for Gluten Free labeling is 20ppm. For those with mild gluten intolerance or who are just removing gluten from their diet for health benefits, this standard may be OK, but it definitely falls short of protecting many with severe gluten intolerance. Many companies go further than the standard requirement and test to 5ppm, but even that may not be enough for some individuals with severe gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

There is another aspect attached to Gluten Free labeling, especially notable in pet foods- that of actual honesty and integrity in labelling and production of gluten free foods. This may occur because of actual false labelling or due to cross contamination where gluten free foods are prepared in the same facilities and equipment as gluten foods or workers are accidentally cross contaminating gluten free foods due to not understanding how easily contamination can occur and/ or their own habits of cleanliness in food preparation.

Taking this one step further, many with gluten intolerance also must not use anything for topical/ cosmetic purposes that is not gluten free. For instance shampoo which can easily get in ones mouth should be gluten free, any lotions, powders, topical flea treatments, the list gets pretty long

For Thane, one of the biggest issues we encounter is supplements and medications. During and following Lyme, Thane required a boatload of supplements to go along with the medication protocol he was on. They are the reason that he beat Lyme, but many also unfortunately were not gluten free. Of course I realized this connection for him after I pulled all supplements and put him on processed food that just happened to be grain and gluten free (which he doesn't do really well on overall) and then later stumbled upon a subject on an MCS list of gluten in supplements- ding the bell went off. Off I went to evaluate everything he had been on. Anything that did NOT say gluten free was added to my list of *don't consider that again* Though most were no longer necessary supplements and/ or were listed as gluten free, some were not and those that were, it's anyone's guess if they are really as gluten free as an individual like Thane needs.

I had my vet make some calls regarding gluten in various things we use that I was unable to get the full disclosure on and though she told me they are gluten free, she neglected to check on what ppm they were tested to as I had requested. Some items I have had to eliminate after my own circumstantial proof (breakouts) that they were not truly gluten free.

Astonishingly, a probiotic that I learned about on a Celiac forum appears to be in the most recent taboo list for Thane. It does not cause issues with his gut- it improves those, but the true sign with Thane is always going to be his skin. Being that it is the only change, he has not gotten into anything, and I have been exceptionally careful since the day I cross contaminated my gluten food and his food causing his worst gluten reaction since I made the connection for him- it's pretty obvious that gluten free labeling is never going to be satisfactory when it comes to Thane.

That brings me to the other labelling issue- that of gluten free pet foods. A friend stumbled upon a you-tube video where an individual bought gluten home test strips to test her gluten intolerant dog's food options. Four out of five foods labelled gluten free that she tested did not pass the test. That does give one pause when it comes to labelling. If pet foods are that inconsistent, then the human food supply can't be much better- especially since the gluten free foods use human grade ingredients.

There is of course the option of raw/ home made diets, but even that isn't as simple as it all sounds. Though I hope to get Thane back on the raw diet, I need to take this slowly as cross contamination is just as big if not a bigger issue in raw meats especially if they are in a display case where workers wrap up what the customer wants. The problem isn't in the individual meats but in air circulation system that can contaminate natural raw meats with breaded or enhanced ones.

11 August 2012

The Verdict is In

Today I feel so much hope for the future, but also sadness about what could have easily been prevented. I've come to the same conclusion my Dad shared with me about a year ago- most vets are plain and simply crooks with dollar signs in their eyes. All that said- the verdict is in for Thane.

In all areas, but one, Thane's labs were superb! In fact, even the first labs which I ran solely for a baseline panel, were not even as good as most of these ones. Amazing what can happen when you get gluten out of the diet! Thane remains Lyme negative six months after the conclusion of treatment. That is very good news. Relapsing for chronic Lymies is a very common thing due to cyst forms releasing after the coast is clear of antibiotic/ herbal therapy.

Thane's liver enzymes are better than they have ever been. For those not in the loop, the first treatment protocol he was given for Lyme caused significant liver inflammation so getting confirmation that he is doing this well now off of the daily milk thistle regimen is again very good news.

As good as all of this is, there is one area that makes me furious. It took two years of deterioration and classic Lyme symptomology to get a diagnosis for Thane. I have had to deal within myself with a lot of unhealthy feelings surrounding this, but in the end have had to reconcile that Lyme isn't yet prevalent enough for the hick Drs and Vets to fully appreciate the trend upon us all- the explosion of this disease from a disease once only found in certain areas to one that is now everywhere.

Thane survived this at great expense to my pocketbook and our partnership. What is taking place now though has no excuse. For three years I have been telling the vet that Thane was hypothyroid. I know the symptoms after how bad things got for Met before he was finally diagnosed. Thane was a classic hypo and yet because his labs were reading low normal, it wasn't addressed. Every year I have told them he is hypo and every year they treated his lab reports instead of him. Everyone makes Dr Dodds out to be like this *God Figure* when it comes to canine hypothyroidism, but she is just as much a part of the horrible roller-coater ride of Met and now the deterioration of Thane as is my regular (soon to be ex) vet.

Laboratory testing was designed to be a tool to further a Dr or Vets ability to connect the dots with the symptom picture presented before them. Instead they are being used as the ONLY tool for diagnosis- an individuals symptoms don't mean squat in this light. Thane has suffered needlessly for too long because of this approach. I have come to feel that labs are just a waste of money in most situations- I mean, c'mon if you are not going to use them in conjunction with symptoms, why do them at all?

Yes I am furious. Yes Thane finally has his diagnosis, but here is no excuse for what he has gone through (and as a result the suffering of our partnership). Had his thyroid been stable, Lyme and its treatment would not have been near as rocky and difficult a ride as they were- not to mention this tumultuous year would have had an entirely different outlook. I would not have had to sideline Thane from public access or make choices about which access outings were low key enough for him to work. He would have been at my side, the way it always should be.

When a vet sees you coming and gets dollar signs in their eyes, refuses to treat the patient when it's easily treatable before almost destroying the individual, not to mention the partnership, refuses to use options that can save a service dog handler financially- it's pretty obvious that it is time to no longer support that vet at the very least. I admit, I'm raw right now, but sometimes I think we would be better off without vets altogether. I think about how much suffering both my boys endured because of things the vets did or did not do for them. It's heartbreaking and it's wrong. Sometimes I don't know how they could have a conscience with some of the things they do/ have done. I know I'm not the only one who has had to endure such unnecessary tragedy and near destruction of an awesome partnership.

With that all said- it's vet shopping time
Thane deserves so much better than he has received over the past three to four years. I'm going to see that he gets it!

12 March 2012

Beating Myself Up

We've had a setback here. My finances were beyond strained between Thane's diet, supplements, and veterinary costs. I was also having quite a difficult time fulfilling the diet needs to keep it nutritious. So I made the decision to try a limited ingredient diet that's been on the market about a year. The decision was a bad one that even my mom who is anti-raw felt he needed his diet changed back.

It broke my heart to see what I had done to him. He was losing weight but at first I just thought it was based on the lack of fatty meat and that the calories just needed adjusted. Then he got pretty dry which he had not been that dry since early Lyme treatment. His ears were getting yucky- you know the food allergy ear. I was already making the plans to switch back, but really needed to get my ducks in a row for how to provide him enough nutritional variety with some of the hideous changes going on at the primary store we shop at. No wonder so many people are so sick, with only highly seasoned enhanced food available for consuming.

The last blow came to his clear skin that had appeared to be well on its way to becoming a strong, protective organ once again. It began peeling away with the hair falling out with it.  As soon as I found this, the food went in the spare room and we headed to the stores we shop at in hopes of getting him some quality meats. We were able to get some usable options for now and I will place an order soon to Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow for more variety. With addition of an oil he tolerates, increased collagen supportive supplement doses and drying clothes without the de-humidifier to give him more moisture for healing, he should heal up alright.

Its such a hard lesson to learn- one that I can't believe I had to be reminded of in the first place. Thane will heal up, but I will probably feel a bit guilty for a while about setting his progress back like I did.

24 February 2012

What the Heck!

I have been a victim of the *dribble information at the last possible moment* since day one with Thane's treatment for Lyme. It has made it really difficult to budget for care that is already at the very least stretching my meager budget and often times resulting in my own health needs being put on the back burner.

This continues even now to plague the treatment Thane receives. The client should not have to be the one initiating the follow up on labs and what route is to be taken, continue, or ended. However, that is exactly what it is in my situation. It makes it much more difficult when one also has disabilities that impact communication and staff that would rather hang up on you or tell you they are too busy to deal with you.

I have hit an even bigger snag though. It has to do with the way I am able to afford Thane's treatment. I live in a state that does not require the veterinarian to write a prescription if they are able to dispense the drug themselves from their office. Though the AVMA says that veterinarians should honor a clients request, its not a law that they do in my state.

When Thane's prescription was handled by the specialist, there was no problem. He just contacted the pharmacy for me where I could then go pick it up. With my regular veterinarian taking over his care however that has not been so simple. When the specialist requested three additional months on the meds, I figured it'd work the same way as before. That was not my experience however. When I finally did get them to agree to call the prescription in to the pharmacy, it required me to first go into the vet office and sign a waiver for internet prescription (which this was not since it was just up the road at the local pharmacy) and pay them a ten dollar fee before they would even take the few minutes it required to call the prescription in. I had to do all of this in one of the worst storms of the season without the assistance of my guide dog, who at the time still had vision deficit which prevented him from guiding in rain or after dark.

The three months meds behind us, I budgeted for the two hundred dollar vet bill for re-testing and the possibility that his meds would need continued if he was not negative. What I was faced with however was a whole new policy at the vet clinic. Not only did they never get back to me about where we were to go from here other than the short term response to finish the current meds I had on hand, when I finally got a response because I contacted them for the third time for it, I learned that now their policy was to not honor a clients request for a prescription to be filled elsewhere if they could fill it at the vet clinic. They made it sound like this had always been the policy when in fact, just in November I was told the waiver form and fee was the policy.

You may wonder what the big deal is. If my vet could dispense it why not just get it from her clinic.  There were two obstacles with this however. One being that Thane reacted to the brand my vet dispenses when we received a week of the medication from her previously. This points to a filler sensitivity. The second is a whopper though- the price tag. I can get his meds for about eighteen bucks at the local pharmacy This is actually the high price for the area pharmacies. Some places only charge eight bucks for it. While my vet clinic wants nearly seventy dollars for the same prescription for a one month supply!

I was faced with a heartbreaking and scary situation. I had to inform them that without a prescription for the local pharmacy I would have to cease treatment. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I knew that with how short a duration that he had been symptom free that the reality was that he would become infected again and the whole cycle of fighting for his meds would begin anew.

I gave the vet clinic a couple of hours to respond. When I heard nothing, I sent a fax to the specialist. I explained what was taking place and why I would not be able to fulfill his orders. I also stated that if he had any ideas to help me, I would really like to hear his options.

In less than an hour, I heard back from the vet clinic- they had agreed to call his prescription into the pharmacy, but I was told this was to be a just this time situation. Though I am grateful for the fact, that I have the meds Thane needs for the month, this isn't over for me or for Thane.

As hard as this is going to be to venture out and create a new Veterinarian/ Client with guide dog working partnership, it is the only course of action that will resolve this situation. Thane needs from one to three months more of meds (with three being the most realistic for how ill he was). Even if I could afford to pay the price my vet wants for the meds, I would not do it. This is more than me wanting to do things my way. It is a principle to me that you don't pay such an extremely elevated price for something when it can be obtained for less (not to mention Thane's reaction to her brand), while living on such a fixed income and having to do without so much that is medically necessary.

I'm not talking about refusal to accept a dispensed drug for something that can be handled with a week of meds. This is a chronic med (10th month beginning now) for a disease that went about as far as it could and the client still survived because the vet did not believe that our ticks carry disease and therefore never considered the possibility that he could have Lyme.

For lack of a better way to describe this situation, it is ludicrous!