As our own dogs grow older, we've seen various issues prop up and so we decided to start a blog series with tips from people providing healthy care for their own dogs in their senior years. Depending upon the breed, in most cases, a dog is considered to have entered senior years between the age of 5-10 years.
To kick-start this series, we had a chat with Serene Wong about her Singapore Special Sophie's kidney and incontinence issues. Through self-motivated research and working with her Vet, Serene has devised a diet and lifestyle for Sophie that's helped reduce the pressure of Sophie's kidneys and provide some ease for the incontinence. While Sophie's incontinence issues started out early it is a common occurrence in senior dogs, and Serene highlights in our chat it is about balancing your own dog's needs.
LD: How old is your dog and how old was she when you adopted her?
SW: She was probably 4 - 5 months old at adoption. She will be nine years old in 2 weeks.
Sophie, when first adopted, was almost black but over the months she shed and changed her coat colour.
LD: At what age did you realise that your dog may be having some health issues and what was the Vet's diagnosis ?
SW: Upon adoption she displayed mild signs of incontinence (which went away with medication) and it was confirmed by a vet that she had been spayed too early and as a female dog her organs (reproductive and urinary organs) were not developed fully yet (were removed too soon), hence its likely that she would have a lifetime issue. However, she really only started to display consistent signs of incontinence a year ago, when she was around 8 years old.
In hindsight, we should have only allowed her to be spayed only after her first menstrual cycle. If I could have a voice, I would say this should be a standard … it's like removing the entire womb of a young girl before her menses… its really cruel and awful!
LD: Did you try any alternative treatments?
SW: Technically there is no cure… she was prescribed with some medication (I don’t recall the name now) but she was aggressive after taking it so we stopped it. She was fine since that first occurrence till of late - around mid 2019. We have adjusted the lifestyle to help us - for example, we walk her more regularly (4 times daily) and she is now on “HomeoPet, Leaks No More” - a natural medicine we ordered from iHerb and it comes in a liquid form to be ingested with water or with food. We have good and bad days with this new medicine, so not stable yet.
LD: We heard that you did a lot of reading on how to help Sophie's condition. What were your key learnings from that research?
SW: I borrowed some books from a Taiwanese friend - the book is in Mandarin (loosely translated : Doggies Nature Nutrition Book)
It gave me tips on the basics of home cooking and what to watch out for when making a meal for your fur kids. Various forms of minerals, vitamins, protein and carbs are essential for a complete diet. Sophie needs to be in a super low phosphorus diet and she gets more carbs than protein in her diet due to her renal issue. Normally it is the other way around for dogs, where protein is the main food group.
We avoid treats as they are usually high in protein. So her diet is such to lower the burden on her kidneys.
LD: Can you share some diet tips that you have adapted for Sophie's specific health issue? And any recipes to share.
SW: She was on KD prescribed kibbles from the vet and we decided to give her that for her morning meal. The evening meal is where I add fresh food.
Dinner usually consists of -
Protein: Two medium size hard boiled eggs/onsen eggs ( soft yolk sometimes) and on alternate days she gets 80gm raw minced beef with 3-5% fats on as a variety.
Carbs: Steam sweet potatoes or pumpkin - 120-150gm with skin on for dietary fibre.
Veggies: Carrots, cucumber (high in mineral and alkaline which is good for her renal issue), lady’s finger (okra), winter melon (around 50gm raw, with skin on)
No treats, no bones whatsoever but we do give her a wedge of apple, oranges, water melon, honeydew, berries as treats infrequently.
My learning from reading various blogs and books relating to renal issues is this: high and good quality protein is good for her as there are less waste and the good protein will be broken down and absorbed. She needs good protein hence premium cut minced beef are best. Eggs are high protein and clean.
We then adjusted and improved her diet as she is now clear of renal issues. Sophie is no longer on a KD diet but she still gets kibbles for senior dogs just for the morning meal.
She also recently developed a slight limp and for that we are giving her Glucosamine - human formula, which has solved the problem.
LD: Those are good tips - I suppose adapted specifically for Sophie's condition and weight. Anything else to add?
SW: Now that her kidney readings are in the good range, we are more relaxed and she
gets chicken, salmon fish, chicken feet (infrequently) as they are her favourite.
She also gets to enjoy some treats when she is being offered. But at home, she gets home made treats… again very measured and mindful to keep phosphorus in the low range.
My osteopath came to see her and he recommended some Vitamin B5, B12 and salt. Logic of giving her some salt is that our kidneys work on an osmosis environment. Which means salt is required especially in this humid weather, where we perspire/sweat and so does she…. she loose minerals and salt as she walks so many times each day + her plays and runs around with her friends. A pinch of salt in her dinner help regulate her waste in the urine. Meaning the kidneys are able to function better in removing waste and thus cleaner blood.
Vitamin B is to boost her energy since we can’t give her too much protein but dogs being dogs are carnivores, so a few drops of Vitamin B-12 (we put the liquid form from iHerb) help supplement the lack of protein/energy source.
We give her water liberally all day and often encourage her to drink water at regular intervals.
LD: Any things you have to avoid in order to keep your dog in good health?
SW: Specific to Sophie - no bones because they are very high in phosphorus, no treats because we need to reduce protein. Also in treats protein are very processed and her kidneys will overwork.
LD: Any other points to focus on keeping your dog healthy?
SW: Keep your dog happy, encourage play and socialising. However some material that I have read would suggest that if the dog with renal issue seems lethargic then let them decide to rest or to play… watch for their preference.
LD: How do you use the Pee Pads to help avoid any accidents around home?
SW: Sophie she does not mind sleeping directly on the pee pads (they are warm as its not quite breathable) so we use that as a top sheet over her beddings. She does not scratch the pee pad hence it works well for our situation. Change regularly when its wet…. she comes to me to let me know that its wet…she is in my face hence I will go check it out and change accordingly.
If your pets are particular about laying down on pee pads then you may have to try diapers or putting the pee pad under a towel but then you will have to discard or wash that those soiled towels … could be many towels each day depending how bad their leaks are.
LD: What’s your dog’s favourite indulgence/treat?
SW: Sophie loves Japanese dried fish (crunchy kind), home made peanut butter cookies and apple cinnamon biscuits, just to name a few. She is a huge fan of fruits and vegetables and she gets them as treats - healthy snacks!
Thank you Serene and Sophie!
We hope you found this Dog Blog useful and please feel free to share it further. However, note, please do not initiate any changes in diet or medication decisions without consulting with your vet or a professionally trained individual first.