Anyone who knew me & Pete way back when, knew Pete's story. It's almost ten years ago that Pete (the dog in my avatar) entered an 8 month period that was a roller coaster ride, a period where at the start I was losing my dog and at the end I came away with a different way of looking at what we feed our dogs, what we feed ourselves.
It involved me taking him off a prescription diet on my own, without any input from my vet.
In March of that particular year, I was gone for two weeks on business. Pete and I had never been apart for that long. He was 11 yrs. old. I left what appeared to be a healthy, never-a-sick-day-in-my-life Pete and came back to a dog who just didn't feel good and went downhill from there.
So this is part of what I wrote for the Morigins website. If I could afford to, I'd still feed that food. Pete's story was nothing short of miraculous --- because I knew my dog and made the decision to pull him off vet prescribed diet.
It was the end of March when I came home and found that Pete, while ecstatic to see me, was not feeling well. Watching him I noticed he was urinating blood, and much to his embarrassment, had accidents in the house. I immediately called my vet and took him in. His prostate was enlarged, but because the swelling was even bilaterally, my vet told me that chances were it was not cancerous. His urine was so bacteria laden and cloudy, the staff at the vet's office thought I had used a contaminated container. The examination revealed he had pneumonia and a blood panel revealed kidney function was slightly off. The urinalysis showed the urine glucose to be 1000+. Since he didn't show symptoms of diabetes, we just put him on 2 weeks of antibiotics which cleared up the bacterial infection and he soon felt better. Four weeks later, he crashed again. Once again his urine was bloody and cloudy with bacteria. Urine glucose was still over 1000 and kidney function was still off slightly. The beginning of May he was neutered and his prostate problems and blood in his urine were no longer an issue. But Pete still had recurrent UTI's. The end of May, lab results showed that the origin of the bacteria in his urine was e-coli somewhere in his urinary system, more than likely in the bladder. Antibiotics were unable to eradicate the e-coli and only took care of the problem symptomatically. He would bounce back after a round of antibiotics only to have symptoms reoccur a short time afterwards. The urine glucose remained high. Normally that would have indicated diabetes, but since he displayed no other symptoms of diabetes, we did not treat him for it.
At another vet visit the end of May, we also discussed his kidney function. My vet said the numbers were still low enough that there was no need to be overly concerned. However, kidney failure has to start somewhere. We discussed putting him on an "early kidney diet" by Hills. I readily agreed and began feeding him this vet-recommended diet. Throughout June, I noticed that in spite of rounds of antibiotics whenever the UTI's reoccurred, Pete just did not bounce back like he once did. He was losing weight and overall appeared to be a dog that did just not feel well. He would give an obligatory thump of his tail when fussed over, but was mostly content just to lie in his spot, and come down to eat and go outside----not the Pete that everyone knew. The weight continued to melt off him. He would stumble going upstairs to his favorite spot to sleep the day away. I'd have to prop up his rear and occasionally had to help him upstairs. In mid-July, he fell going upstairs. My regular vet was out of town and I called another of my vets to get him in. Getting out of the car, Pete stumbled and fell. I picked him up to carry him in. He appeared to be too weak to walk on his own. When we weighed him, Pete was down to 39 pounds. No wonder he felt so light. He should have weighed 48 lbs. I explained to the examining vet what we had been through the last few months. A blood panel, urinalysis and x-rays were taken. X-rays showed some arthritis of the spine. The muscles in the rear legs were atrophying. Blood work-up showed, once again, kidney function was slightly off, blood glucose was normal. Urinalysis once again showed a high bacteria count and high glucose count. The vet was stumped. Referring to the urine and blood glucose, what Pete was showing was symptomatic of Fanconi's syndrome, a disorder unheard of in border collies, and was actually more common in a couple of other breeds, such as the Basenji and Norwegian Elkhound. High urine glucose and normal blood glucose are the classic symptoms of this disease. The constant irritation of the sugar in the urinary tract opens the way for bacterial infestation, which is what we'd been seeing and treating. According to the vet, there is no cure for Fanconi's, that it could be hereditary, congenital or acquired.
I got on the internet to find as much information as I could on this disease. I found a site, sponsored by the national Norwegian Elkhound club of America for Fanconi's syndrome. It referred to studies being done by a vet at the University of Pennsylvania, a Dr. Urs Giger. When my regular vet got back into town, I showed her what I had found out. She got in touch with Dr. Giger and we collected a urine sample from Pete and overnighted it to Dr. Giger. The results came back that Pete was only 30 % symptomatic of Fanconi's, that while he would certainly die with the disease, he wouldn't die from it. According to my vet, Pete would have to be treated with antibiotics every time the UTI's occurred, for the rest of his life. To me, as long as I had my dog, I would do whatever it took.
One day, the beginning of August, Pete for the first time refused his food. In my house, that's when you hit the panic button. He now had a sunken-in look and his eyes looked tired. I made up my mind that for whatever time Pete had left on this earth, I would at least, allow him to enjoy his food. I was preparing myself to lose him. It's at that time, I quite accidentally came upon Morigins. I read the literature and thought, what have we got to lose, and I began Pete on this diet.
In the meantime, I had e-mailed Dr. Giger back asking about treating Fanconi's, if it could possibly be treated with diet. He said no, but did refer to a study done that indicated that some border collies tend to have B-12 deficiencies and that B-12 injections might help. This was mid-September and Pete hadn't been on antibiotics since August. He was now eating nothing but Morigins. He was also beginning to look and feel better and I had thrown out the rest of the "early kidney" diet. Once again, he was looking forward to meal time.
And then, the beginning of October, I knew I was doing something right. One morning, coming down for breakfast, Pete let out a big whoop and chased the cat down the stairs. In mid-October, I had him working sheep again. His outruns were just a little slower (but then he was going on 12 yrs. old and had arthritis of the spine), but he had the heart, the stamina to get the job done and it was one tired but happy and well-satisfied dog that walked off the field with me that day, almost as happy as his owner. Before the end of the year, I had another urinalysis done on him. Urine glucose was within normal limits. According to everything we had been told, this would be a problem that would plague him to the end of his days. According to the lab work, it wasn't there anymore.
In May of the following year, after nine months of feeding only Morigins, we had another blood panel and urinalysis done. Kidney function was now within normal limits and urinalysis still showed normal glucose level. Fanconi's Syndrome, the disease he was supposed to die with, symptomatically no longer existed.
On November 1, 2003, Pete will be 14 years old. His hearing is going, his muzzle is almost all white, his voice is changing, he sleeps the long deep sleep of old dogs but he still bounces down the stairs for breakfast, herds sheep and puts pesky pups in their place.
Just as Pete and I had a lifetime of discoveries, apparently it continues. Because of Pete, I found Morigins. Because of Pete and Morigins, I now think in terms of "good" instead of "good enough", when it comes to feeding my dogs. Because of "Morigins", Pete, my timeless dog is a healthy, happy senior citizen, still my best buddy, my once-in-a-lifetime dog.
ETA - I also believe prescription diets have their place.....