General Interest

Saving Nadia

posted February 5th, 2015 by
  • Share
20140715c

Nadia

Saving Nadia

 

By Nancy Gallimore

 

Note:

Winner2This article was the 2015 Friends of Rescue Award winner of the Dog Writers Association of America.

 

I woke up this morning with a little black nose pressed into my neck. Nadia, my new foster puppy, apparently decided it would be a great idea to sleep in the human bed last night. I hug the puppy to my chest, and she sighs in contentment. With her sigh, the sweet, distinctive aroma of puppy breath fills the air around us, and I breathe it in, cherishing the scent that will turn into dog breath all too quickly.

 

It was only about a month ago that this happy, cuddly pup was just a small, dark shadow, standing lost in the middle of the road. The moment my Jeep made the turn toward home, the shadow darted away to hide in the bordering brush and trees. I barely saw the movement, but I knew—it was a dog.

I’ve seen it too many times—a dog or cat blindly bolting for cover because this unfamiliar situation into which it has been plunged seems to be filled with nothing but danger and fear. This road, the peaceful country road that takes me home, is apparently a favorite spot for people who want to abandon unwanted animals. It’s a quiet, somewhat hidden side road, but it has just enough homes along the way to pacify a guilty mind—to allow the “I found him a home in the country” lie to have a hope of validity.

I kept my eyes focused on the point where I had seen the little ghost dog leave the road. I slowed as I reached the right spot, and I scanned the brush for any sign of my new friend. The late afternoon sun slanted bright beams into the camouflage of tall grass, weeds and trees, and as I searched, I finally caught a glint of wide, terrified eyes.

She was crouched tensely against a tree trunk beneath some fallen branches, her little face and body tight with stress and panic. Her eyes were round with fear, and every muscle in her body was ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Her soft brindle-hued coat allowed her to easily melt into the wooded background and growing shadows. If she decided to move farther into the brush, I would quickly lose sight of her. Though I wanted to rush in to whisk her away to safety, any sudden movement would have closed the door of opportunity.

There is an art to helping frightened stray animals. A panicked dog or puppy seems to revert to a primal state where raw survival instinct replaces any previously known domestic inclinations and responses. This is the moment when the human has to abandon the notion of how to respond to a pet animal. All of the baby talk and promises of cookies bounce off of terrified ears and a numb heart.

So I parked my Jeep and walked a bit down the road from the puppy, keeping myself at an angle to her but always    keeping her in my peripheral vision. She,  still crouched and tense, did not take her eyes off of me, the potential predator.

I reached a spot about 5 feet down-road from the pup. Her hiding place was about 8 feet off the road, so I was far enough away that I wasn’t putting pressure on her. I sat down in the weeds and gravel because dog rescue never manages to take place in a comfortable location.  Again I kept my body at an angle to the puppy instead of facing toward her.

Well-meaning humans really tend to get it wrong when trying to approach a scared dog. We usually go straight at them, looking directly into their eyes. We immediately thrust a hand toward its face. We lean in and push our faces toward them, all the while babbling in a high-pitched, loud voice. Imagine yourself in a position that is about a foot or so off the ground and how that feels—not pleasant.

Then, we tend to ignore all of their “please don’t pressure me” signals. They glance away. They lick their lips. Their ears will be tense and generally pressed back. The whites of their eyes show. These are all signals that say, please, please back away, but most humans don’t know how to read them. This is how rescue opportunities are lost—or worse, how humans end up with a nasty bite.

So there I sat, glancing sideways at the puppy, talking to her in a low, soft voice, tossing bits of beef jerky near her hiding spot (well, sure, I always keep something enticing in the car!). After about five minutes, the grass rustled, and the young dog cautiously reached out to hungrily snap up a bite of jerky.

Ah, progress. Very, very slowly, I scooted a little bit closer to where the pup sat, watching. Then I just held steady again. I kept my body loose and relaxed. I stayed at an angle to the puppy. I did everything I could to communicate a message that said, “I mean no harm.”

I tossed more jerky, this time not quite so close to where she hid. She crept out to gobble a few bites and then watched me warily, very ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Cars passed behind me. Most ignored me completely; some slowed to see what I was up to. I just sat and prayed they would not stop to help. Any added pressure from the human world would send this puppy racing into the brush. I needed a “please ignore the crazy lady playing in the weeds” sign.

After about 20 minutes of slow progress toward the puppy with a non-stop shower of yummy jerky (I can’t lie… I had a few bites myself), I decided to take the pressure completely off. I scooted slowly away from her and then got up, still in slow-motion and walked back toward my car.

What I hoped would happen, did.

Trailing about 4 feet behind me, a young, thin, frightened puppy followed. She still wasn’t sure about me, but I was the best thing she had found in this big, scary world, and while she wasn’t ready to run into my arms, she sure wasn’t ready to let me go either.

As long as I stayed steady and didn’t move too quickly, I was about to see a puppy make a very difficult choice—the choice to trust this human.

I looked sideways at my little shadow and asked if she might like to come home with me. Her reply was to crawl underneath my Jeep and plop down. Oh, great. First, I got to scoot around in gravel and itchy weeds, now I would know the joy of lying on my belly on the asphalt and gravel under my car. No matter. She was well worth it.

So I stretched out on the road and scootched my way under the Jeep. I would like to say a public thank you to my very significant other, Jim, at this moment for putting a little lift kit on the Jeep. It sure made the scootching much easier. Scootch, by the way, is a technical term that anyone who rescues animals in the field knows all too well.

Now I’m lying on my belly, under my Jeep on a thankfully not busy stretch of road. I extended my fingertips to offer another little bit of jerky. She gently took it from me and swallowed it without even chewing. This was one hungry puppy.

Then I reached out to lightly tickle the side of her neck with my fingers. At this point, I would like to issue another public thank you for the combination of my mom and dad that gave me freakishly long arms. They come in darn handy.

While lightly petting her with my fingertips, I finally saw a change in the puppy’s posture. Her eyes softened. Her ears lowered and relaxed. She exhaled with a distinct, little sigh. This puppy was making a choice to trust me.

I will tell you that when I catch frightened little dogs like this, I do initially take hold of them by the scruff of their necks. That may sound rough to some, but I have one chance to get it right, and I can’t risk a struggle or a fear-inspired bite. It’s important to be very careful when approaching a stressed animal that may feel cornered or threatened. I have found that most small dogs, especially young puppies, will go very still when you take hold of the loose skin on the backs of their neck. Their own mothers know this. It is not painful, and I don’t use this little handle for long, but it can be effective for safely scooping up a scared puppy.

I rubbed the puppy’s neck, and then I gently took hold of her scruff. Together, we scootched out from under the Jeep, and I quickly hugged her close, promising her softly that everything was going to be OK now. The pup quickly decided that I was her port in the storm. She pressed into me without a struggle, completely surrendering her fate into my hands.

The once scared, starving, lost puppy quickly became happy, secure and very friendly. She now has dog friends that play with her. She has soft beds for snuggling. She has many arms that love to hug her. She has all of the food and treats she could ever hope for even though she still inhales every meal as if it might be her last. She has a name, Nadia, earned because she is very agile and loves to tumble.

Most importantly, she has a future.

Nadia is learning skills every day that will ensure she can be successfully placed with a loving family. She is a dear, gentle, smart little girl. Someone will be lucky to love her. I can’t wait to see that match happen.

In the meantime, I will continue to teach her where she should potty and where she shouldn’t. We’ll talk about Jim’s house shoes and why they really aren’t a chew toy. We’ll go for car rides and walks. We’ll approach new things and new situations together as she learns to be confident. We’ll have great fun together.

I will enjoy our snuggle time and her sweet puppy breath. And when she places in a new home? Well, I have whispered in her ear every single day since she arrived that even after she finds her perfect family, I will always, always be right here if she ever needs me.

And I will.

Author’s note: The methods I outline here work for me, but I have a great deal of experience handing animals and have been involved in animal rescue for decades. I encourage anyone approaching a frightened or injured animal to exercise great caution. If you are unsure, call the animal shelter or a rescue group for assistance.  No one needs a bite from a stray animal.

I am pleased to report that Nadia’s story does  have a “happily ever after.” She has been welcomed into a wonderful home where her life lessons continue. She is safe; she is loved, and she loves her new human. Here’s hoping the same for all of the Nadias out there.

Pet Protection

posted January 29th, 2015 by
  • Share
20140715c

Pet Protection

Pet Protection

 

G.I. Wishes, a local nonprofit, coordinates disaster response plan for area animals.

 

by Megan Miers

 

In the aftermath of natural disasters, such as the devastating tornadoes that hit Moore and El Reno in May 2013, human beings weren’t the only ones who found themselves without a home. Often in situations such as these, pets can become lost or separated from their families, or are left to fend for themselves during a storm because owners are unable to evacuate them safely or bring them to a community shelter.

 

One Tulsa organization is working to change that. G.I.Wishes, a nonprofit group that matches military veterans with adoptable pets, is in the process of building a disaster response plan and team that will assist in evacuating, seeking veterinary treatment and finding temporary housing for pets in the event of a storm or other disaster.

“In Tulsa, we don’t have any provisions for animal rescue in the event of a disaster,” says J.R. Becker, operations director for GI Wishes. Because of public health concerns, other disaster-relief organizations have shied away from animal rescue services, but the G.I. Wishes plan aims to fill that void.

G.I. Wishes’ in-development disaster response plan, which has the backing of federal, state and local agencies, as well as the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and several Tulsa-area rescue groups and veterinary clinics, is expected to be fully operational by January 2015.

They will operate in conjunction with the Tulsa Health Department and under the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps, a group of specially trained volunteers and health professionals. First responders with the G.I. Wishes disaster team do not self-deploy, Becker says. Instead, they wait to be notified after a disaster declaration is made by the mayor or governor’s office to ensure a coordinated and efficient response.

The disaster response team will serve animals primarily in Tulsa County but may extend into other nearby areas such as Rogers County should the need arise, Becker says. Dogs and cats will be the main focus of G.I. Wishes’ disaster response plan—the organization does not currently have the capacity to aid larger animals such as horses. The network of first responders should be able to handle between 300 and 500 animals in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

The disaster response plan is just part of G.I. Wishes’ larger mission, which is to find loving homes for adoptable pets by matching them with military veterans. Since its inception in 2011, G.I. Wishes has adopted out about 30 pets, Becker says.

Public events, social media, information provided by area Veterans’ Affairs centers and veterans’ counselors have all helped spread the word about G.I. Wishes and its mission, according to Becker. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, he says.

Veterans seeking a companion animal through G.I. Wishes start by calling the organization and discussing what type of dog or cat they are looking for. Becker and other volunteers will then search area rescue groups for available pets that fit those descriptions.

Prospective owners then fill out an application and are asked to provide two personal references, as well as information for their family veterinarian. Factors such as the age and energy level of both the pet and the prospective owner are taken into consideration in order to ensure a good match.

If the veteran already has another pet at home, then G.I. Wishes will have him or her bring the pet to meet the new one at a neutral location to determine how well the animals get along with each other.

G.I. Wishes also has a separate application for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. In those instances, G.I. Wishes will contact the veteran’s therapist and physician to help determine whether or not he or she is ready to take on the responsibility of a pet.

Becker, a Vietnam veteran, longtime animal rescue volunteer and proud owner of three Shelties and two cats, says pets adopted out through G.I. Wishes have brought about many positive changes in their new owners, especially those who are dealing with depression or conditions such as PTSD.

“The change in these veterans is a complete 180—they’ve gotten out of their depression, and it’s like a self-reward,” he says. “Veterans from my generation were told to suck it up and deal with it, but we’ll never allow that to happen to the younger guys.”

He says pets often are the first to notice when their owners are upset or worried and can help calm them just by being there.

“Animals are soothing, and they can pick up on stress—they will nudge you or put a paw on you to let you know everything’s OK,” he says.

Once a pet has been adopted through G.I. Wishes, the organization will help with coverage of that pet’s basic veterinary care for the first year. G.I. Wishes also helps find foster homes for pets of veterans who are deployed or hospitalized and regularly updates owners until they are able to return home to their four-legged friends.

In cases in which a veteran passes away or is no longer able to care for the pet due to other circumstances, G.I. Wishes will take the pet back and foster it until a new family is found.

“We will keep that pet with us until it’s adopted out,” Becker says. “We are a no-kill organization.”

Disaster Safety Tips for Pets

Planning ahead will help you keep your pet safe in the event of a disaster. To ensure your pet’s safety, follow these tips from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the Humane Society of the United States:

Make sure your pet is equipped with proper identification tags. Ask your pet’s vet about implanting a microchip for identification purposes.

Have a leash, collar and pet carrier ready for each pet. Familiarize your pet with evacuation procedures and pet carriers. Carriers should have room enough for two small bowls, a litter pan (cats) and for the pet to stand and turn around.

Label each carrier with your identification and contact information.

Assemble an animal evacuation kit containing essentials such as several days’ worth of dry and canned food; bottled water; medications; first aid supplies; proof of ownership; emergency contact numbers; and copies of your pet’s veterinary records.

In case you are away when a disaster occurs, place stickers on entrances to your home or property to notify neighbors and rescue personnel that animals are on your property and where to find evacuation supplies.

To facilitate evacuation of your pets, provide a list near your evacuation supplies of the number, type and location of your animals, including their favorite hiding spots.

Have leashes and muzzles where rescue personnel can easily access them. Keep in mind pets can become unpredictable when frightened.

Designate a willing neighbor or nearby friend to tend to your animals in the event a disaster occurs when you are not home. This person should have a key to your home and be familiar with your pets, as well as know where evacuation supplies are kept.

How You Can Help

For more information on G.I. Wishes’ disaster response plan, how to adopt an animal through G.I. Wishes or how to donate or volunteer, visit www.GIWishes.org, call (918) 477-7606 or send an e-mail to [email protected] More information also can be found on G.I. Wishes’ Facebook page.

A Mavis Pearl Update

posted January 12th, 2015 by
  • Share
20140715c

Mavis

A Mavis Pearl Update

By Anna Holton-Dean

 

Thanks to continued support and generosity, Mavis Pearl has her very own replica stuffed Bulldogs that are ‘distinctly Mavis.’

 

We recently brought you the story of Lisa Bain, founder of the nonprofit Joy In The Cause, and her 3-year-old Bulldog Mavis Pearl, whose schedule is probably as packed as yours.

As a registered therapy dog, Mavis Pearl frequents schools, hospitals, nursing homes and hospice centers throughout the Tulsa area. She is a part of Therapy Dogs, Inc., and Caring Canines, participates in the READ program and attends Champs classes for special needs teens and adults at K9 Manners & More. If that’s not enough, she also makes house calls on request.

And she does it all in her beloved pink tutu—really, she loves it. Lisa says, “If she doesn’t have something to do, she meets me at the door with her tutu in her mouth. To get her out of that tutu is like an act of God.”

She always wears it while visiting patients, serving in her role as ambassador of Joy In The Cause.

Quite the visible trademark, patients get their own Mavis Pearl stuffed dog—complete with pink tutu—thanks to generous sponsors and volunteers.

It all began when Lisa was asked to visit a little girl who was sick. “I wanted to take something,” she says. “Someone had given me some little stuffed bulldogs, and I just put a tutu on it and a bandana that made it look like Mavis. I wanted to make this little girl’s last days happy. You would have thought I had given her solid gold or a Disney Cruise or something.

“She was elated; that little dog meant the world to her. I realized how much these little dogs meant, and it just grew from there.”

A true labor of love, volunteers come together for Make-a-Mavis parties. The stuffed dogs are dressed in handmade clothes, prayed over and blessed before being handed out to patients.

Until recently, the stuffed dogs did not all originate from the same place. One Bulldog may not look exactly like the next.

But thanks to continued support and generosity, a company is now making stuffed Mavis Pearls that look exactly like her, with her markings and everything that makes them “distinctly Mavis.”

“They will be tagged with her tag and Joy In The Cause,” Lisa says. “They are being made as I speak. These dogs will go with us on our visits to chemo units, hospitals, etc. Each patient gets one made just for him or her.

However, the details like handmade clothing are still unique. If a patient has a request, “we make it,” Lisa says. “Today, we had a lung cancer patient who wanted a clown Mavis, and one for a bride and groom who are battling cancer.”

Since becoming a nonprofit last fall, Joy In The Cause has given out 3,800 stuffed Mavis dogs.

And Lisa gives the credit to the individuals, groups and businesses that make it possible for every single patient to have a free Mavis dog, from financial gifts to time making the clothing to the prayers and blessings.

“For instance, Ark Wrecking sponsored a month’s worth of dogs for Tulsa Cancer Institute. Rich and Cartmill sponsored dogs for every child at Little Lighthouse. A doctor at TCI is sponsoring a month and wants the colors in teal for ovarian cancer,” Lisa says. “The possibilities are endless, and we love getting the sponsors involved in the process. We send them pictures of where the dogs go; they even come out sometimes to help deliver the dogs.”

While on the surface, they may seem like a simple stuffed animal, Lisa has witnessed them turn into miracle stories that get people through the toughest of times, affecting everyone involved.

“It truly takes a village,” she says, “and we have a precious village of angels who lovingly make these dogs and send them out with a prayer and a blessing. They are like little prayer dogs that just encourage each recipient, as well as the person who made them. It goes full circle!

“We have even sent stuffed Mavis dogs to troops overseas in Poland, France, etc., and we’ve received pictures of them hanging out of soldiers’ backpacks. They have even traveled the globe to those going through illness… They love them.

“When I walk in and see them tied to an IV pole, snuggled under a child’s arm during a blood draw or as they sleep, or see an elderly patient taking the dog everywhere through treatment, even one on the mammogram machine to get a gal through her first mammogram… there are just no words.

“The E.R. unit even has a bucket of Mavis dogs and call ‘code Mavis’ when a child in trauma needs one. Oh, the stories there, they blow my mind. I’m just amazed by it all, and we are so grateful.”

For more information or to get involved with sponsorship, visit joyinthecause.org and click the sponsorship page.

A Cat Tale – ‘Purr’sonalities

posted December 28th, 2014 by
  • Share
20140715c

Cat Tale

A Cat Tale

Purr’sonalities

 

by Camille Hulen

 

“Are all redheads short-tempered? Are all blondes dumb?” (Please don’t answer with a blond joke!)

I ask this question because people searching for a new cat to replace a recently departed one frequently see a picture and say, “That looks just like Fluffy; I want her!” Sorry, folks, you will probably be disappointed. Although two cats may look alike, they can be very different. Every cat is unique.

True purebred cats do have some distinguishing characteristics.  Siamese are usually more vocal; Ragdolls are probably more laid back; Sphinx are more active, and Tortoise… well, maybe bipolar. However, these are stereotypes and are not always accurate. Besides, I prefer to think that most of us deal with the rescue of mixed breeds.

Let us consider some examples. Don’t the cats in this picture look alike? They are my own cats: Duncan and Mister. I say that Duncan chose Mister from a litter of kittens because he looked like him!  Although they are both gray and white, they are very different. Duncan is a real lover and lap cat. He is ever-present, both with us and visitors. Mister is a loner who would prefer to be outside. Duncan favors my husband and cuddles with him every night, while Mister comes to me for love. Duncan is compliant; Mister is defiant.

Consider my black cats. KatMandu is an “in your face” kind of guy with a mind of his own.  He confronts most every cat who crosses his path. Needless to say, it was KatMandu who trained my puppies to respect all cats. On the other hand, Darth is a loner, much like Mister, but as he ages, demands more and more attention. Pooh is a sweet, gentle girl who asks for little and gets along with everyone. All are black and have been raised in the same home environment, yet they are very different.

Even kittens from the same litter are unique and exhibit special traits at an early age. Although I could scarcely tell two identical kittens apart while I bottle-fed them, Sherpa was so-named because he was an adventurer who climbed every mountain, beginning with the stairs. His sister Pearl was quiet and timid. They still look so much alike that their adoptive parents refer to them as “the twins,” and they are still most distinguishable by their behavior.

Another example is from a different litter. One orange Tabby was so gentle he is called “Mel,” short for “Mellow Yellow,” while his white brother immediately showed no fear of my 90-pound dog and loved to be nuzzled by him. Yes, you might say that most orange Tabbies are mellow, but don’t tell Sugar Ray (a survivor who fought for his life) that!

Not only do cats have distinct “purrsonalities,” but they react to different people differently. I have seen the shyest of cats that usually run and hide from strangers nuzzle up to others and beg for attention. And, just as humans do, cats react to situations differently. I’m sure that you have seen your own loving, little pussycat turn into a real tiger when she visits the vet.

The purpose of this article is to ask you to be open-minded in seeking your new fuzzy companion. Don’t “judge a book by its cover;” that is, don’t look at just the cat’s picture. Perhaps the best advice is to let the cat choose you. Then love and cherish its idiosyncrasies.

Ferguson Subaru & GDB Partnering for Share the Love

posted December 6th, 2014 by
  • Share
Share the Love 2

Share the LoveFerguson Subaru

Subaru of America has helped support nearly 300 animal shelters, grant more than 600 wishes, fund over one million meal deliveries to seniors, and support over 70 national parks through the “Share the Love” event. The Subaru “Share the Love” Event is held every year between November and January. For each new Subaru purchased during the “Share the Love” event, Subaru donates $250 to a charity of the new Subaru owner’s choice. New Subaru owners can choose between 4 national charities or 1 local charity . Subaru encourages each Subaru dealership across the country to partner with one local charity. This year Ferguson Subaru is partnering with Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB).

Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.

Guide Dogs for the Blind empowers lives through exceptional partnerships between people, dogs and communities. Guide Dogs for the Blind envisions a world with greater inclusion, opportunity and independence, by optimizing the unique capabilities of people and dogs. Guide Dogs and K9 Buddy Dogs for visually impaired youngsters are provided at no cost to those requesting them, through support from people like you. Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers is a group of volunteers who raise puppies in their homes to become future service dogs. Right now there are 33 graduates who have a guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind who live in Oklahoma!

Share the Love 3

Sophie Jane’s Story

posted November 4th, 2014 by
  • Share
20140515c

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.”