Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gardening for George

Just before Christmas, George will turn ten years old. He's definitely not a puppy anymore. In the last three years he's developed some health challenges, including hypothyroidism, unhealthy weight gain, and chronic staph skin infections. His hip dysplasia and arthritis have worsened. He walks with a pronounced limp, gets up and down from a reclining position, and on stairs with difficulty. He's shortened his stride with his back left leg, and had developed considerable swelling and atrophy in his left hip.

I've done a lot of research on geriatric pet health in recent months, and was pretty mortified about what I learned about most commercial pet foods. In an effort to improve his quality of life for however much time he has left with us, George recently visited a holistic veterinarian. We're in the process of transitioning his diet from commercial dry kibble to a homemade grain-free and raw diet. He's now enjoying a smorgasbord of homemade lightly-steamed turkey, dark green vegetables, sweet potatoes, raw eggs, water-packed sardines, wild salmon, fish oil, (raw, organic, unrefined) extra-virgin coconut oil, glucosamine and chondroitin, a high-quality prepared commercial raw dog food, and a blend of Chinese herbs targeted to improve the condition of his liver, joints, and skin.

This year we grew dinosaur kale in the garden. Early in the season I realized it didn't agree with me, so I've just been letting it grow, enjoying it's wonderfully crinkly blue-green leaves.

Since starting to grow veggies here two years ago, George has enjoyed keeping me company while I work in the beds, especially when I'm picking peas and green beans - two of the veggies, along with kale, that his new vet has recommended. He's been enjoying peas and green beans in season, picked fresh and served immediately. Little did I know when I planted all this kale that I wouldn't be able to eat it, but that it would help George get healthier.

In three short weeks since beginning to modify his diet, George's skin infection is gone, his fur is growing back, his coat is shinier, he has more energy, he's taking longer strides, his hip swelling has gone down considerably, he's even enjoying exercise again, and he's losing his excess weight. He's a lab mix, and being a retriever, he's always loved chasing sticks, balls, frisbees, and his stuffed toys. We haven't been able to play with him like that in the last couple of years - he would get too sore and stiff.

In just the last week or so, he's back to running around, chasing his toys, and enjoying a whole new, more active, less painful, and more fun life. He gets up and down more easily, and seems to be on his way to much healthier days ahead. We're looking forward to a better quality of life for however long he has left, maybe even a longer life than he might have had if we'd continued his old diet, and hopefully much lower vet bills than he's had the last couple of years.

It never occurred to me when starting the veggie beds that George would also benefit from our fresh, organic produce, or that the kale I planted this spring that seemed as if it might go to waste, would become part of what was needed for improving our sweet doggie's health and quality of life.


  1. That's extraordinary. Rather a big lesson for us all in this post. I would never have thought of kale as a dog food! Lovely rainbow.


  2. There are several out there that can actually cause harm. We do home cooking and a non-plant based dogfood for our Reggie. He was not very healthy when we got him, but he is a strong little boy now!


  3. Thank you for your informative post. Missy is now nine years old and although we still think of her as a puppy, the vet told us at her last check-up that she's started to develop arthritis. She has always eaten chicken or mince with rice and veges which we cook and freeze into meal-sized portions. I've always used frozen mixed veges for her meals while we eat veges from the garden. After reading your post, I'm going to start using fresh veges. Don't know why I never thought to do it. It makes such sense. Thanks again.

  4. Anonymous5:24 PM

    He looks like such a sweet dog. Thanks for making this post because I was just thinking about an older "pet" today after I got a visit from him in the garden.

    Nice to hear that you can improve their quality of life with veggies from the garden.

    The pet in question is currently laying down near the impatiens same as the ones pictured near George, I got the seeds for them from you last winter.


  5. I wouldn't have either Esther! I'm glad to know some of our garden veggies are good for dogs. Glad you enjoyed the rainbow. It's been dry here since July - we are having to water to keep things alive.

    I am convinced a homemade, or high-quality commercial raw diet is the best we can do our beloved pets Eileen. I wish I'd known sooner, but am glad I know now.

    Fish oil and glucosamine/condroitin might help Missy too. We are using pharmaceutical grade GC - the brand is GLC and it's powdered so it's easy to add to pet's food. It sounds like Missy is getting a healthy diet - much better than George had for far too long. Our new vet said that the vitamins and enzymes in raw veges is really good for dogs - especially green beans, kale, spinach, lettuce, parsley, and peas. George is eating about 25 or 30% vegetables and the rest protein and fats.

    Oh, he IS, MBT! I've always known George liked some veggies, and even a few fruits too, but didn't realize how important they were for his diet. They don't need much, but a little bit of the right veggies is good for our pets.

    Glad you're enjoying the impatiens, and that the pet in question is too!

  6. This is wonderful news about George, Linda! Sophie isn't even two years old yet, but I would do well to take a lesson from George's experience and start changing her diet now. And I do have some kale in the garden...

    Reading about the miraculous changes in George makes me think it would be a good idea for me to change my diet, too!

  7. That rainbow is beautiful! It's a promising sign for George to stay in the pink of health. Thanks for sharing how you took care of George. Although I do not have a pet but it's beneficial to know that dogs do take vege/beans. I can share your story to my friends who are dog lovers ;-)

  8. It's... George! :) Glad the new diet (which is better than what I eat, lol) is working for him and that you found a use for that dinosaur kale! :)

  9. That worked out good for you! And George. Our bunny, who has now passed on, used to love the mustard greens I grew. I couldn't even touch those.... they made me sick!
    It is interesting how different plants appeal or don't appeal to each person or animal.
    Give George a hug for me.

  10. George looks so cute! Give him a big cuddle and I hope he has a lot of good years in front of him. It's so sad to see the beloved pet, when it is in pain. But you did great with the research! I had also to do a lot of research when my old cat Jazz got sick. My vet couldn't help her and it was even getting worse until I found out that it was from the medicine she became from the vet. Grrrr.... but after I found on different felines forum a tip to use a human medicine, she became better and got one more year. Sadly I had to let her go in her next live last May but it was a consolation that she could enjoy at least one more year in her beloved garden. I still miss her, she had so much character like most of the elderly pets
    I wish George "Bon appetit" with your vegetables :o).
    Take care

  11. I hope this diet change continues to help George. Please keep us posted about his progress. So good to hear of people taking such good care of their pets.They bring us such joy...surely we can help them in their old age. Balisha

  12. This is really interesting! I guess it makes sense that a healthy diet would help a pet, if you think of how healthy food makes our bodies function and feel better. I'm so glad George is doing well!

  13. I'm thrilled seeing him doing better Rose. If anything I've learned can help another pet parent, it will worth what we've gone through with George.

    Thank you Stephanie!

    I'm glad too Monica.

    I'm sorry you lost your bunny Rosey. Glad he helped you find a use for your mustard greens!

    George sends a hug back to you!

    George loves cuddling Alex!

    I'm glad you were able to help your kitty and have one more precious year with her.

    I hope so too Balisha, and will keep you posted.

    George has been such a good and loyal friend, it's a pleasure to do what we can to help him live as healthy a life as we can give him.

    Educating myself on pet nutrition has been quite eye-opening Rose. I'm realizing in retrospect how much sense it makes, and seeing the results before my eyes.

  14. Such a nice sweet story about George. I am so very happy he is doing well and to think it's due to your gardening! Now you simply must keep doing what you are doing to keep around another 10 years!

    What is up with that eggplant below?? That is a really strange one.

  15. Anonymous11:13 PM

    George is a very lucky dog, indeed! His new eating plan sounds healthier than most adults'!

    You have to tell me what those white flowers at the top of your blog are... I just wrote a post about a flower in my garden that I don't remember planting, and it looks a lot like what you have there, except for the color!


  16. I'd never have thought I'd be gardening for George, Tina! One of the things I learned while researching healthy diet for dogs is that they have the potential to live much longer, healthier lives than they typically do if they are fed a natural diet instead of commercial dog food.

    The eggplant grew in my mom's garden. Last year I found a potato the shape of Wisconsin, and this year it was the eggplant mitten. It's pretty funny-looking, but it sure made a delicious Moussaka! :)

    He's loving his new eating plan Avis. After a lifetime of boring kibble with occasional people food as treats, not only is his new diet a lot healthier, he thinks it's delicious too. I don't think I've ever seen him eat with such passion as he does now. Mealtimes are the happiest parts of his day now - he thinks he's in doggie heaven already.

    The white flowers are Angel's trumpets (brugmansia.) Your beautiful double blooms are daturas. I had that same variety a few years ago, sold at a farmers market as Angel's trumpet. The blooms are really similar, and often mistaken for each other. I overwintered my datura, and even though it's technically an annual, it lived and bloomed for two years.

  17. I am so glad that George is his younger self again! I am so not surprised about the diet changes~It's good for everyone and the planet. My dear Coal has had a lump removed that's been diagnosed as cancer and I want to see if changing his diet will help his health improve. It can't hurt to try! gail ps Love the kale, it's really beautiful

  18. I'm glad too Gail. He seems to be doing better all the time. You're so right about it being good for everyone, and the planet. I was horrified when I learned what goes into commercial pet foods, and surprised with myself that I didn't check into this subject earlier, especially considering my normally holistic, earth-friendly lifestyle.

    I'm sorry to hear about Coal's cancer. I'm sure improving his diet will help his health. Even though both George and Coal have some serious health issues, and even though nothing we do for them comes with a guarantee, I'm confident the best possible diet will help give them the best possible quality of life for however much longer they have here with us. Some of George's health problems, and definitely cancer can be fought more effectively with a strengthened immune system that a healthy diet supports. I highly recommend seeking out a good holistic vet, not as replacement for the allopathic vet and conventional treatment, but to augment it. Holistic vets have knowledge and therapies very helpful to our pets that traditional vets simply don't have knowledge of.

  19. Great to know! My poodle loves to follow me around the garden and I often give her tidbits too. So glad to know George is improving and I hope you have his companionship for many years to come!


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