It’s been a while since I updated things over here, but for good reason – Jet has been sick. Not the kind of sick that a round of antibiotics will fix, but the kind of sick where I was 99% certain that my boy was taking his last breath. Let me start at the beginning…
For those of you who are new here…which is most of you…Jet is my black Lab. Jet has been with me since he was 8 weeks old. He is now 14 years old. Jet has food allergies, special nutritional requirements and he won’t eat chicken only foods. I covered quite a bit of this in my post about low phosphorus dog foods. These needs mean that I have spent my life researching and ranking dry dog foods to ensure that he gets the most out of his food while also getting the best quality food available. This was difficult, to say the least.
Then the mass dog food recalls began in 2007. These recalls were numerous and due to the contamination of both wheat gluten and rice protein contaminated with melamine. These ingredients were sourced from China. Recall after recall hit the pet food market and while our brand of kibble at the time was not impacted, I didn’t trust that it wouldn’t be. So I began home cooking Jet’s food. This process involved trips to warehouse clubs to source my proteins (I didn’t know about raw food co-ops at the time) and a lot of time in the kitchen on my part. I didn’t mind the work and I definitely wasn’t going to trust any company at that point in time. The problem I ran into was my ability to ensure that home cooked meals provided Jet with the appropriate levels of nutrition. I could make balanced “people” meals, but Jet’s needs weren’t the same, this made things complicated. Somehow I muddled through until the pet food recalls came to and end, and stayed at an end!
So, I gave up home cooking for Jet and started him on Taste of the Wild kibble. After a year or so on Taste of the Wild he developed bladder crystals requiring lower levels of phosphorus in his kibble, so once again I began the search. We settled on California Natural Kangaroo and red lentil food and when that became too expensive, we opted to go to Wellness Large Breed which was high in omegas and glucosamine chondroitin. By some miracle after not having chicken based food for a while, Jet ate it. His coat looked FANTASTIC. Early this year, however, Jet decided once again that he didn’t like chicken anymore, so we turned to Blue Buffalo. Do you know how hard it is to find a low phosphorus, non-chicken flavored kibble with optimal nutrients for a senior dog?
Now, I had heard some whisperings about Blue Buffalo at the time, but against my better judgment I gave their Wilderness Senior red meat formula a chance because it was red meat and lower phosphorus. We went through a 30lb bag and he enjoyed it and better than that, he tolerated it well. I put the whisperings that I had heard out of mind, assuming they were due to brand loyalty. After all, if a dog food meets my dog’s nutritional needs and he enjoys it then what more can I ask for?
Then we opened the second bag of food. After a bowl of this bag of food, Jet started with diarrhea, bloating and gas. Now, I hate to be graphic, but a dog owner KNOWS what their dog’s gas smells like. It’s not pleasant by any means, but you know what it smells like. This gas…this smelled like PURE sulfur. Something was wrong. I put it down to tummy upset. The symptoms continued. As they continued over the next couple of days, however, things got worse. Jet became lethargic and started panting. We stopped the food, putting him on a gastric diet of chicken and rice and I contacted Blue Buffalo. I was told that there was no change in formulation of the food, nor were there any active recalls. I was worried but was hopeful that a stint on chicken and rice would help and I wanted to believe the Blue Buffalo rep. God, how I WANTED to believe them. By this time, however, the decline of Jet’s health had already been set in motion and I couldn’t begin to anticipate what was coming next.
Over the weekend, Jet ate his chicken and rice diet, but his symptoms didn’t resolve. By Sunday night, he was even more lethargic, losing his balance, showing signs of disorientation, dehydrated, had no interest in food, was unable to sleep, was panting constantly, and was listless. This was an EMERGENCY. By now it was 6am on Monday morning, so we put a call in to the vet and let them know that we were coming in.
Now let me break here to tell you about Jet’s anxiety. Jet HATES going to the vet. He loves our vet, but he hates the physical act of walking into the vet’s office and being confined within a room with closed doors. He despises confinement of any kind and will pace and panic. When we got to the vet on Monday morning, we made it to the exam room and he collapsed. Head down on the floor, legs splayed, absolutely no sign of anxiety, interest or…well, anything. I sat down on the floor beside him, stroking him gently, sure that this was IT. I let him know that if it was time to go that my little brother (who passed 5/23/14 at the age of 25) would be waiting to greet him. That I didn’t want him to let go, but if it was too much, he could go and it would be okay.
Our vet came in. The concern on his face was evident. He knows Jet, he knows the level of anxiety he usually displays. He knew that something was wrong just as much as I did. An in-house blood test quickly showed anemia and elevated liver enzymes indicative of liver damage.
Here are our blood test results from this visit:
Blood glucose is the amount of glucose present in the blood. It should ideally be between 70 mg/dL and 150 mg/dL normally. Jet’s was 124 mg/dL – normal
ALT (alanine transaminase) is an enzyme found in the liver. When present in the blood it is indicative of damage to the liver. ALT levels should ideally be between 5 u/L and 107 u/L. Jet’s was 152 u/L.
AP also known as ALP (Alkaline Phosphatase) is a protein that is present in all bodily tissues. ALP is found in higher concentration in the liver. ALP levels should ideally be between 10 u/L and 150 u/L. Jet’s was 506 u/L.
BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) is a test to measure the amount of nitrogen in the blood as a result of the waste product urea. BUN levels should ideally be between 6 mg/dL and 25 mg/dL. Jet’s was 17, normal.
PCV (Packed Cell Volume also known as Hematocrit) refers to the height of the packed red blood cells in relation to the total height of the blood column in the glass tube. PCV levels should ideally be between 37% and 55%. Jet’s was 35% indicative of anemia which can result from toxin exposure.
TS (Total Solids or Total Protein or TP) is a measurement of the plasma proteins in the blood. TS levels should ideally be between 5.5 g/dL and 7.5g/dL . Jet’s was 5.8 g/dL – just normal.
He had no fever.
A urinalysis wasn’t possible at the time since Jet was unable to walk.
Treatment was palliative and included 400cc’s IV fluids with glucose. 1M iron injected. B12 injected.
Jet came home for monitoring. All going well we would return in 2 weeks for a follow-up blood test which would reveal if the liver was able to heal itself now that the tainted food had been removed. This would also reveal whether Jet’s illness was a fluke (if levels continued to change for the worse) and the food was not to blame.
All did go well, thankfully. Two weeks later we returned for a complete blood test. The returned results were as follows:
Blood glucose: 85 mg/dL (70 mg/dL to 150 mg/dL is normal.) His blood glucose came down 39 mg/dL.
ALT (alanine transaminase) : 52 u/L (5 u/L to 107 u/L is normal) His ALT came down 100 u/L.
AP (ALP or Alkaline Phosphatase) : 193 u/L (10 u/L to 150 u/L is normal.) His AP came down 313 u/L.
BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) : 17 mg/dL (6 mg/dL to25 mg/dL is normal.) His BUN remained the same.
PCV (Packed Cell Volume also known as Hematocrit) 42% (37% to 55% is normal.) His PCV came up 7%.
TS (Total Solids or Total Protein or TP) : 6.6 g/dL (5.5 g/dL to 7.5g/dL is normal.) His TS came up .8 g/dL.
He still had no fever.
So, how do these values compare to Jet’s normal blood test results? Over the past few blood tests during senior wellness visits, our blood test results have been as follows:
Blood glucose: Not noted
ALT (alanine transaminase) : 46 u/L (5 u/L to 107 u/L is normal) His recent result was 52 u/L..
AP (ALP or Alkaline Phosphatase) : 193 u/L (10 u/L to 150 u/L is normal.) His recent result was 193 u/L.
BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) : 19 mg/dL (6 mg/dL to25 mg/dL is normal.) His recent result was 17 mg/dL.
PCV (Packed Cell Volume also known as Hematocrit) 40% (37% to 55% is normal.) His recent result was 42%.
TS (Total Solids or Total Protein or TP) : 6.5 g/dL (5.5 g/dL to 7.5g/dL is normal.) His recent result was 6.6 g/dL.
As you can see from all of these mindboggling test results, the removal of the tainted Blue Buffalo Wilderness Senior food / kibble resulted in a vast improvement of Jet’s overall health after the initial decline.
So what have we done?
First off, after our first emergency vet visit, I contacted a Blue Buffalo rep who had asked that I keep them informed of Jet’s health. I’m not sure that this was a request so much as a pleasantry, but I did it anyway. I e-mailed them with the details of our visit and the test result information. The rep. then e-mailed back a medical claims form for me to fill in to request that Blue Buffalo cover our medical expenses.
After our second recheck visit, I filled in this form and submitted it to Blue Buffalo along with copies of our test results, a proof of purchase and receipt for purchasing the food, and our vet bills. I was informed that it may take a minimum of 8-12 weeks for them to have their vets and lawyers look over and process this claim and it may be denied. We submitted our claim on March 17th. I am anxiously waiting.
In the meantime, I made the decision to switch Jet to raw food. He is now eating Bravo! Balance. I only wish that I had made the switch to raw food sooner. It costs me only a little more than his premium kibble and the effects it has had on his health have been astounding. His joints have improved around 75% – this is a 14-year old, 70lb dog with arthritis and unilateral hip dysplasia. His coat is healthier, he has more energy, he has fewer bowel movements, he truly enjoys his food, and to look at him you would think that he was at most 10 years old. WE. LOVE. BRAVO.
Could we have gone “full” raw? The kind of raw that feeds using the prey method with whole animal parts and organs? Yes and no. I don’t feel confident enough yet in my ability to supplement this type of food and I don’t have room for a chest freezer. So for the moment, we are sticking with Bravo! Balance. For those who don’t know, this is a ground food that contains bones, meat, organs, supplements, and veggies. Jet also gets a raw meaty bone to help keep his teeth clean since he has ground food. Another concern that I had with feeding Jet whole prey pieces with bone, is that he is a typical lab. He will gulp his food. With kibble, it is possible to prevent this with slow feeders or by placing a Kong inside the bowl to slow eating. With prey feeding, these methods could get messy. I know my boy and I know that he would choke or vomit whole pieces of prey up. So, we went with ground food and the supplementation of raw meaty bones.
What do we plan to do if Blue Buffalo denies our claim for medical bills? We will cross that bridge when we come to it, however, I do have a sample of the tainted food for testing and I have a lawyer in the wings willing to take on a legal case if necessary. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
For now, we wait…