Sophie Jane’s Story

posted November 4th, 2014 by
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Adherence To proper diet and nutrition could mean the difference between life and death.

 

Sophie

By Megan Miers

 

Just a few short months after her Shih Tzu mix, Sofie Jane, was euthanized due to severe illness, Debbie Davis still finds it hard to talk about her beloved pooch without tearing up.

 

Adopted two years ago, the then 6-year-old Sofie Jane was overweight at 22 pounds—normal weight for a Shih Tzu is roughly 12 pounds—and suffering from several health issues brought on by a poor diet and lack of good nutrition.

“She was very sweet and she would tilt her little  head to the side when she looked at you,” Davis says of her furry friend, whom she says loved food and going  for rides in the car.

Davis, the office manager at Muddy Paws grooming salon and doggie daycare center in Tulsa, was often joined at work by Sofie Jane, who made herself at home by the salon’s front desk, greeting customers and being loved on by Muddy Paws staff members.

With the knowledge that Sofie Jane had previously been on a poor diet, Davis immediately switched her to a nutritionally-sound, high-quality dog food to get her back on the road to good health. After a year, when Sofie Jane was due for her annual vaccinations and checkup, Davis brought her to Dr. Lauren Davied at Riverbrook Animal Hospital in Tulsa where she learned Sofie Jane was suffering from kidney disease.

Despite switching Sofie Jane to a kidney-friendly diet, helping her lose the excess weight and putting her on medication for her health issues, long-term damage had already been done. After nearly a year of dietary changes and veterinary treatment, in December 2013, Davis and Dr. Davied made the difficult decision to put Sofie Jane to sleep.

“She was so sick, she couldn’t even hold her head up or hold down water or food,” Davis says of Sofie Jane’s last days.

The loss of Sofie Jane, and the realization that a poor diet ultimately contributed to her death, now has Davis speaking out in hopes of alerting other pet owners to the importance of feeding their furry family members properly and foregoing the rich treats that can make them sick.

“I want the public to realize there are consequences to a poor diet and that you’ll see deterioration of your dog’s health if you feed them the wrong things,” Davis says, noting that pet owners all too often feed their dogs regular people food and table scraps without considering the effects it might have. “Dogs are defenseless. I believe that God gave us our pets to take care of and that we should take that responsibility seriously.”

In Sofie Jane’s case, her previous owners had fed her a steady diet of greasy, fatty fast-food chicken nuggets and hot dogs and not much else. The long-term effects of such a nutritionally-unsound diet contributed to dental issues, allergies and kidney disease, a problem that became apparent after Davis brought Sofie Jane to Dr. Davied for her checkup.

“Sofie Jane had started having GI and upset stomach issues,” Dr. Davied explains. “We did blood work and found that her kidney values were very elevated.”

Initially treated for a kidney infection, Sofie Jane was then put on a prescription dog food, Science Diet k/d formula, which is formulated for dogs with kidney disease, as well as medication for kidney failure.

“Some people just don’t care, and they feed their dog whatever they want,” Davis says, adding that pet owners should be careful about checking food labels and being aware of issues such as allergies—Sofie Jane was later found to be allergic to chicken—when feeding their pets.

Prescription dog food, such as the formula Sofie Jane was on, is often part of a maintenance program for dogs with chronic kidney disease, Dr. Davied says.

Other steps may be taken, such as periodic blood tests to check kidney function, ensuring adequate water intake, including phosphorus-binding additives to a dog’s food—excess phosphorus levels can indicate kidney disease—and carefully watching the protein and sodium content in a dog’s diet.

Benazepril, a blood pressure medication belonging to a class of drugs known as ACE inhibitors, may also be given to dogs with kidney disease, as it helps with kidney failure and conditions where excess protein is being excreted through the dog’s kidneys into the urine.

“When we do an exam, we look at a dog’s teeth, their weight, their coat and how shiny it is, and their overall health status,” Dr. Davied says. “That tells us a lot about their diet.”

Poor diet can lead to a host of health problems for dogs, some of which can be very serious or even fatal as in Sofie Jane’s case.

“The biggest thing we worry about long-term with a poor diet is nutritional deficiencies,” Dr. Davied says. “Then you also have problems with obesity, bad bones, joint pain and toxins in certain foods that can make dogs sick.”

Feeding a dog table scraps or rich, fatty foods can also lead to pancreatitis, according to Dr. Davied. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, which can result in abdominal pain, gastrointestinal upset, kidney failure and even death.

Most pet owners are conscientious of what they are feeding their dogs, Dr. Davied says, but that’s not always the case. What seems like an OK treat for the humans may not be so good for the four-legged members of the family, who can be very convincing with their happily-wagging tails and pleading puppy dog eyes.

“There are so many good foods and low-fat treats on the market now,” Dr. Davied says, adding that so-called “people” food isn’t even necessary for a happy and healthy dog. Some typical human foods that also are acceptable as occasional dog treats include plain, boiled or baked chicken breast without the skin or added seasonings, raw carrots and canned green beans without added salt.

When choosing food for your dogs, whether it is treats or their regular food, it’s always a good idea to check with your vet first for recommendations, Dr. Davied says, adding that owners should shop mindfully and be careful to pick the right dog food or treat formula based on their dog’s age, size and other factors, such as allergies or stomach sensitivity.

Davis, who recently adopted two rescued pups named Charlie Joe and Katherine Jane, agrees.

“Check labels, know the nutrition your dogs need and be aware of any allergies,” she cautions. “If your dogs get sick because of a poor diet, don’t expect the vet to be able to save them.”

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