It’s never easy, and this one was no exception. On 8/16/14, we said goodbye to Sasha. I’d like to be able to tell you, she was symptom free, but she was not. At one point earlier in the summer, she had gotten bit by a flea and that is an allergy that she struggled greatly with and we continued to battle it and make her more comfortable through the healing process.
Unfortunately, Sasha had another physical health concern that we all have to some degree or another. From the moment we’re born, our bodies begin to degenerate. In Sasha’s case, it was her spine – Degenerative Disk Disease, if you need a specific name for it. It had started to become more evident at the beginning of the year. We worked to slow the progression, but by August, it was clear that she had become uncomfortable and it was time to let her go. She had trouble getting up and laid most of the time, but then she began to have difficulties walking even once she was up.
To say she is – and will forever be – missed is a vast understatement. She was an amazing dog, and so impactful in the lives of so many. Below is a brief tribute that we posted to our customers at Fido’s Market. We hope that you too have been able to learn from her journey. Wishing you and your furry family all the best.
~Michelle & Jeff
Our hearts are shattered in a million pieces. Today we said goodbye to Sasha, our eldest German Shepherd Dog. She came into our lives 11 1/2 years ago as a little 10 week old ball of fur. While Jeff was focused on choosing a different puppy, she was intent on making sure she came home with us. I’ve always said a dog chooses you, and she certainly was no exception. She has been the best GSD ever, and the reason we have such a deep love for the breed.
Whether you had the opportunity to meet her or not, if you are one of our customers, she has probably impacted your life without you realizing it. We embarked on this journey we call Fido’s Market, inspired by our first Samoyed, Zoe, but it has been Sasha that has been our “teacher dog.” If we’ve recommended you try homeopathic remedies, it was because of Sasha. If we recommended any herbs, it was because of Sasha. If we recommended a raw diet, an elimination diet or an alternative diet, it was because of Sasha. If we recommended acupuncture, chiropractic, or massage, it was because of Sasha. If we’ve recommended goats milk, yep, Sasha. She’s the reason we researched and learned about all of these things. Though the past few years have brought struggles with her health, I truly believe she chose Jeff as her daddy because she knew with us she’d have the opportunity to teach and educate others.
We found improvement with Sasha’s skin this past winter. It’s hard to say what actually worked, as it was probably a combination of things. We did an allergy test through Glacier Peak Holistic. While it wasn’t completely perfect, it was an educational process for us. Sasha tested positive for sensitivity to several environmental factors, many of which we couldn’t control, but we did all we could to mitigate her exposure to them. For example, she showed as sensitive to pine cones, pine straw and pine bark. We couldn’t cut down the trees in our yard, but we did choose to re-do the landscaped areas that were previously pine straw to be a different kind of mulch. It was helpful that we had a 70 ft tall poplar tree fall on the house so we mulched that up and used it. (No worries, the house and everyone in it were okay.) She also tested positive for every type of grain (no worries, she’s a carnivore and didn’t get grains in our house anyway). This is no surprise as much of her problems were yeast-related, and grains turn to sugar which feeds the yeast. Makes perfect sense that she’d test positive for them.
What was surprising – well, enlightening – for us was the positive results on proteins. You remember, we did three different elimination diets with Sasha. The first was mackerel, the next was turkey and the third was pork. Sasha tested positive for sensitivity to all three. Coincidence? Nope. Here’s what we learned through this experience.
We’ve always believed that elimination diets are helpful in determining the trigger for allergies. You put the dog on single protein and watch to see if the issues clear up. In some cases, it actually works this way. In many others, it does not. The reason it doesn’t work is called Leaky Gut Syndrome.
The lining of the digestive tract has a thin layer that protects the body. This layer allows nutrients to go through and enter the bloodstream to nourish the body, and it keeps everything else out. When that layer is broken down, nutrients have a harder time getting through and other things that shouldn’t get through, do. So proteins are allowed to enter the bloodstream where the body views it as the foreign invader that it is and launches an attack on the invader. These are the “allergic reactions” that we see.
In Sasha’s case, putting her on elimination diets when she was already in a heightened state of reaction (i.e., excessively damaged protection layer), it allowed the protein to “leak” through that lining and actually created an allergy that didn’t previously exist.
After getting her allergy results back, we focused on continuing to rebuild her immune system so that it would be stronger to deal with foreign invaders better, and healing her leaky gut. We put her on Answers Straight Beef and a lot of goat’s milk. We cleaned out all of the other supplements that we were giving her (which included glucosamine because she tested positive for sensitivity to it as well). After a couple of months, all of her skin issues were cleared up and her hair had grown back in.
I’m not saying this will work for every dog and every situation. But I do believe that all health begins in the gut. Healthy gut, healthy pet. If you’re having issues with your dog’s skin, look deeper. Look at the gut. It’s where the immune system lives.
I kept thinking “I need to update the blog” and then life gets busy and I’d forget. We all know that story. But I didn’t realize it had been THIS long. Yikes.
So, where do I start.
Let’s start where I left off, but in an abbreviated fashion. The new holistic vet with emphasis on Traditional Chinese Medicine. We chose her because she is holistic and because she does acupuncture. Based on feedback from others and research I’d done, I was extremely interested acupuncture and what it could do. Jeff and I agreed that we would go in with open minds. New vet, new eyes, new protocols. Big mistake. But I won’t get ahead of myself.
We did a full panel of blood work. Everything came back normal. No thyroid issues (that was one that pops to the top of the list often). We did x-rays. This proved to be worth every penny. We found that she had a couple of vertebrae squishing together and pinching the nerves which decreased blood flow. It happened to be exactly where her body looked like it was falling apart. From that spot on her back going forward (towards her heart), she looked fantastic. From that spot back towards her rear end (away from her heart), she looked horrible. She had lost a dramatic amount of muscle mass. So we did some chiropractic adjustments and focused the acupuncture to help with that area. Because she was struggling with mobility, we gave her some glucosamine injections and some elk velvet/chinese herb supplements to help with mobility. We definitely saw improvement there as well.
In keeping with our open-mindedness, we agreed to do a 3 week course of cipro to knock out the bacteria on her vulva. I was not particularly happy with this, but trusted the holistic vet. After all, she’s the vet. And she knows we want to take a very holistic approach. So if she’s saying we need an antibiotic, then we must really need one. We also agreed to a topical steroid cream for 2 weeks.
More acupuncture. Great. More chiropractic adjustments. Great. And this is where the downhill begins. 😦 Sasha had started to develop a few pustules on her belly again. I knew it was the antibiotic. We’d been here before. The holistic vet (and the term begins to wane a bit now) suggested that we do another round of cipro to ensure that we get this “under control” and so it doesn’t become another “full blown pyroderma.” I debated that it was going to make it worse. But I’m not a vet, so what do I know. Ugh. We caved.
Full. Blown. Pyroderma. By this time, her stomach was red and oozing, and we were back to ground zero. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was and how much I cried over this. So….I take Sasha in for her acupuncture (I’d prepaid for 3 visits). The vet (notice I’ve left out the word holistic at this point) immediately said we would need to do a different antibiotic to fix this. I explained to her that I would not do any more antibiotics. Her response (and this is pretty accurate of a quote) – “I have to stand my ground on this one, you will not be able to treat this holistically and I have to be concerned with the well being of this animal.” Um, this animal’s name is Sasha and no one is more concerned with her well-being than I am. You can imagine the foul words running through my mind. GRRRRR. Needless to say, I left. And never went back.
For the record, her stomach tested positive for Staph and E Coli. We treated it COMPLETELY holistically. We returned to Dr. Parker for osteopath treatments and homeopathic remedies. And by spraying her belly with a diluted GSE in the morning and a dilution of Tea Tree Oil and Eucalyptus Oil (for it’s cooling properties) in the evening. It took a couple of months to clear out. First, the oozing stopped and then the skin began to turn black (the bacteria dying off) and then regular pigmentation returned. Yay!
And then more downside.
During the healing of her belly (again), she developed some mobility issues (again). By this time, our regular holistic vet, Dr. Parker, had brought an acupuncture vet to her practice. YAY! So we began acupuncture with her. Mobility improved. Ear infections gone. But our ugly little friend Pseudomonas aeruginosa had returned to her vulva. And it started to rear its ugly head less than three weeks before we were leaving to go out of the country. We certainly couldn’t ask someone else to do the things that we would to treat her holistically, and we couldn’t let it continue to grow and take over while we were gone. So we did the unthinkable. Cipro. Dr. Parker agreed we needed to suppress the symptoms while we were gone. She calculated the absolute lowest dose we could possibly do and we did it for a very abbreviated time. When we returned, she had a few small pustules on her belly but it was just the beginning all over again.
That was a little over a month ago. We went through the whole oozing skin thing, it turned black and now the normal pigmentation has started to return. Of course, the PA has also returned and she continues to have some sort of “allergy” (rubbing her face on the floor occasionally). 😦
Focusing on the upside.
Her mobility has improved greatly. Though she struggles a bit on our slippery floors, she hasn’t worn her boots in months. Oh, I think we missed blogging that whole thing so maybe another time on that. Anyway, she gets some pep in her step and runs around the backyard again. She even tries to play with the younger dogs. She loves to eat. And the raw goat’s milk is still one of her most favorite things in the world. She’s the love of our lives (well, one of them) and we cherish every happy moment we have.
Just a quick post. No new news. We went to see Dr. Parker about a week ago because Sasha had gotten pretty bad. New pustules on her chest and under her arms and the smell had gotten really strong again. Her osteopath treatment was pretty rough on her and her kidneys were pretty bad again. She’s doing better now…we’re back to the normal bad instead of the extreme bad.
We have an appointment with another vet in a couple of weeks. She’s holistic, with an emphasis on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Paws crossed she can do something no one else has been able to do.
We have been trying to get Sasha back on the mackerel to recreate the previous circumstances where she showed the most healing. We haven’t been too successful.
Take 1: We tried to put Sasha back on the mackerel, and then the virus hit the house.
Take 2: After the virus, we tried to put Sasha back on the mackerel, and the 15 lbs of fish we bought was bad. We had to throw it all away. We don’t live particularly close to the place where we buy the fish so it was several days before we would be able to go buy some more. And just a few days after that, we were leaving on a small vacation. We took the dogs with us on the vacation, but we couldn’t take 15 lbs of fish, so we waited to make the switch until we got home.
Take 3: After the trip, we tried to put Sasha back on the mackerel yesterday. I went to the market and bought 10 lbs of it. She wouldn’t touch it. Just like when we thought it was bad last time. Surely, we couldn’t have gotten bad fish 2x in a row. So this time, I was daring. Rather than just throw $20 in the trash, I gave it to the other three dogs. My two big Foodhounds wouldn’t touch it. That can’t be good. Sigh. Another $20 down the drain. And still no mackerel for Sasha.
The last time I posted, we were all set to put Sasha back on the mackerel and a few supplements that showed the most improvement. Of course, that was right before Naiyah, one of our other GSDs, got sick – and that was the beginning of a two week virus run through our home. Four dogs ill at the same time. Talk about absolutely no fun and very little sleep. Needless to say, fish was not on the menu. We believe everyone’s tummies are good again, but we’re going to give them a couple more days of boiled turkey and rice and Answer’s goat’s milk before we make the switch back.
Oh, did I mention this virus hit right as we took down our old fence and started building a 6 ft fence (to keep Miss Naiyah from jumping it)? Every dog had to go out on a leash every time. At one point, we were making 30-40 trips per DAY with all of the dogs. But isn’t our new fence pretty? 🙂
And this was our reminder that we couldn’t just open the door and let them out. This proved to be very helpful at 3:00AM. 🙂
Mackerel, that is.
I realized it’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s been bumpy. Sasha’s itchiness has gotten very intense again, so much so that about a week ago, she chewed a giant hole in the side of her hip within just a few minutes. We got it all cleaned up, and two days later we turned our heads for two minutes and she ripped it all open again. We had to cut the hair out of the area so the air could get to it and heal. We bathed her and sprayed it a couple of times a day with GSE (grapefruit seed extract). Within a few days, it looks much better. The itchiness continues. 😦
The pustules on her belly have pretty much healed. There is still some blackness there. We’re still trying to spray it a couple of times a day with GSE, but to be honest, we seem to miss spraying more than we remember to do it.
The smell from the bacteria on her vulva comes and goes. Some days are worse than others. We try to spray that with the GSE too, but…
We spent some time talking with each other and with Dr. Parker about where she’s at and where she’s been, and analyzing what we’ve done along the way. We all agreed to try repeating what we had done during the time that she showed the most improvement – prior to giving her the cipro. So… she’s going back to eating whole raw mackerel, and adding probiotics, enzymes, immune boosters and rentone mixed in Answers raw goat’s milk. We’re continuing the clay detox for another couple of weeks, we’re also continuing to add some coconut oil and GSE to her diet. Dr. Parker is working on what remedy to use next…most likely Pulsatilla.
An interesting thing to note about her previously doing well on the mackerel… We’ve always been looking at foods based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and warming/cooling properties. We know that she runs very hot, so we feed her only cooling (or neutral) foods. TCM also looks at the concept of dampness vs dryness. Without even meeting Sasha, a friend of mine who is a holistic health practitioner said that it sounded like her problem was a “damp heat” problem. Mackerel is considered drying so it offsets dampness. Perhaps this is why she did well on it. We’ll see how it goes….
The pustules and redness that we are seeing on Sasha is not yeast. There’s definitely a yeast component to what’s been going on with her, but it’s not what we’re actually seeing. However…this is what we were seeing last fall that was followed by yeast. So if we’re not careful to stay on top of it and knock it out, it’s likely that the ever-opportunistic yeast will come.
We met with Dr. Parker Wednesday afternoon. She said Sasha’s kidney is improving, so that’s good news. We decided to put Sasha on a clay detox and we took her off a couple of her supplements while she’s on the detox. We also came home with homeopathic remedies. The first we are trying now is Argenticum. Dr. Parker explained to us what we should see happening and that we would notice a difference within a few days. If we don’t see the improvements within a week, we’ll be switching to Mercury.
Sasha has definitely proven to be a difficult case and even Dr. Parker said she loves Sasha, but she’s tired of seeing her. 🙂
Disappointed to say that it appears the “belly stuff” is returning. I’ve been very nervous about this possibility since the itching & chewing started again. On Saturday, I gave her a bath and green tea rinse to try to soothe her skin. Shortly after, I had her on the floor petting her and noticed a few pustules on her belly. 😦 We’ve started spraying her belly with a diluted ACV again (2x/day). In just a couple of days, it already looks better, but clearly there’s still a bunch of bad stuff going on inside of her.
We have an appointment with Dr. Parker on Wednesday to review where we are, take a skin scraping to determine what specifically is on her belly (yeast?), and determine our next course of action.
There’s no other way to say this – it sucks. I feel like we’ve tried a million things and we’re right back where we were 9 months ago. *sigh.
So the Sepia didn’t help. She didn’t get worse, but she didn’t get better either. We’ve now switched her to Pulsatilla for 10 days (we’re on day 6 and I’m not seeing an improvement). Yes, I’m frustrated.
With all that we’ve been through with her for the past several months, it’s frustrating that we can’t make it over this last little hurdle. She still has the infection on her vulva and she’s still nibbles & chews herself. We believe the chewing and nibbling is an allergic response to a flea bite. No fleas anywhere to be found, but one bite from several weeks ago still has her skin crawling.