Seeing Red

2016 has started off fast! I’ve not had time to blog, and just discovered a stack of posts half-drafted that are waiting for my attention.

They’ll have to wait. This is big news.

After several months of multiple failed attempts to consult with Dr. Natalie to help get Evelyn healthy enough to withstand her heartworm treatment, I finally gave up.

You can only beg someone to take your money so many times, right? 

My brother-in-law’s brother suggested I try Dr. Mary Battistella at Kowaliga Whole Health Pet Care in Eclectic, Alabama. (Thanks Andrew!) I called on Monday of last week, and immediately got in to see her the following afternoon. Granted, it was a 2-hour drive south, but in the end…Totally. Worth it.

Since Evelyn’s arrival on Labor Day 2015, she has had a significant skin problem. The skin along her back was rough and discolored, the hair was patchy, and she scratched at it constantly. The base of her tail is completely smooth with no hair at all.

This coat is a complete wreck. The base of her tail is totally hairless. This pic is from her first week with me, and things really haven’t improved.

I didn’t worry too much at first because she had so many other things going on — vastly malnourished and underweight, heartworm positive, mast cell tumors, and various other imbalances — I focused on stabilizing her nutrition, tumor removal, and heartworm eradication. All along the way, we tried anti-fungal spray and shampoo, antibiotics, steroids, Bendadryl, Apoquel. I’ve been massaging coconut oil into her skin at night for months, to no avail. Nothing worked.

Until now.

Dr. Battistella took one look and said, “allergies.” She took hair and saliva samples from Evelyn and shipped them to a lab called Glacier Peak Holistics. Ten days later, we got this:


Everything in red is a trigger for Evelyn.


The good news is that only the circled items are the things she’s had in her diet: Chicken, chicken eggs, carrots, sweet potato, peaches, dairy milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt. 

The bad news is that I fed her a ton of cottage cheese back in November and December when I was desperate to get weight on her so that she could have her second heartworm shot. I also fed carrots and sweet potatoes regularly. Raw chicken is in the rotation. She gets a raw egg in her breakfast smoothie. Every. Day.

Poor baby! No wonder she was scratching non-stop!

The better news is that there is SO much on that list she is NOT allergic to. And now I know what to avoid. We have a lot to work with here and I am so grateful to Dr. Battistella. 

So is Evelyn!

Dr. B also gave us a B-12 vitamin, wheat germ oil to apply topically, and a homeopathic tonic for skin that I give her daily. With the dietary No-No’s delineated, I am finally hopeful that we can solve this problem from the inside out, and get her health on the right track once and for all.

Thanks Dr. B!

pugs & kisses,


Evelyn and The Uncooked Grain

Y’all, Evelyn is up from her starting weight of 11.8 lbs to 13.3 lbs!!

Yay! Get excited!

This weight is coming on her very slowly, but I think that’s a good thing. It’s real weight. I can see muscle tone in her belly, whereas before, there was just loose skin over bone. I can no longer count all of her ribs by just looking at her.

She eats with passion. Her poops are healthy, solid, black. And she sleeps soundly.

Photo on left is her first day  with us (9/5). Photo on right is Saturday (10/10). One and a half pounds is nearly 10% of her original body weight in a month.
Photo on left is her first day with us (9/5). Photo on right is Saturday (10/10). One and a half pounds is nearly 10% of her original body weight in a month.

She’s coming along beautifully, IMHO.

We have one small issue — I think it’s one issue — it has 2 symptoms.

Her coat is not improving, and she has been scratching excessively. So, I’ve put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and went on a mission to sleuth it out.

The ridiculously insane scratching began in earnest early in the week. She got her second dose of Sentinel on Monday, and finished her 30-day round of Doxycycline (part of the slow-kill method for heartworms) on Tuesday. By Wednesday, she was out of her mind biting and scratching herself by any means available.

I’ve never before seen a dog throw herself on the ground to scratch from nose to tail. 

Tuffy, the Alpha.
Tuffy, the Alpha.

I rubbed her with coconut oil mixed with a few drops of chamomile essential oil; I bathed her in lavender shampoo & conditioner; I sprayed her with itch-relief spray– all of which gave only a short reprieve.

When topical treatment fails, it has to be coming from the inside.

By Saturday afternoon, and by process of elimination, I’d narrowed it down to three things: oats, Sentinel, or a skin infection that the Doxy was keeping in check.

I can’t do anything about the Sentinel at this point. It’s part of the very essential heartworm elimination process. And if there is a skin infection, continuing with the raw diet should go a long way toward solving that problem. 

But the past couple of weeks, because it’s fall when grains are harvested and because I like to feed according to the seasons, I’ve been soaking whole, uncooked oats overnight in goat’s milk to soften them, and then pureeing them with apples or berries for her breakfast.


Simplifying her meals will make it easier to identify any other culprits.

Because she may still be anemic due to the heartworms, she’ll be eating beef to build iron in her blood. Because pumpkin is plentiful right now and is a great source of fiber, I’ll add freshly cooked, local, pureed pumpkin to her beef. I’ll hit it with turmeric for inflammation, and milk thistle seed to support her liver after a month of antibiotics.

For breakfast, she will have green veggie smoothies made with goat’s milk. Find recipes here.

All her treats will be grain-free (thanks to Cahabones!) smeared with coconut oil.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted!

pugs & kisses,

Travel Accommodations for the Raw Fed Dog

Every now and again, I have to leave town. Sometimes, it’s vacation, but more often, it’s for work, as was the case this past week.

In my previous life, as a kibble-feeding dog mama, whenever I traveled, I kenneled my dogs either at the vet (if there were medical issues) (and there often were), or at a dog daycare. I fed them expensive prescription kibble, and just handed over a bag of food whenever I left town.

In other words — gave 0 thought to it.

At. All.

Lazy American, right here.

But fast-forward to present day. Because (in my enlightened state) I put so much more thought and effort into Pearl & Truman’s nutrition, it’s more of a challenge when I have to travel. They don’t have medical issues, so they don’t need to kennel at the vet. Plus, I would rather they have the chance to play outside, or inside, or just not be in a cage all weekend. So most of the time, they stay at Just Happy Hounds (check ’em out. They rock!), unless I am able to arrange an in-home Pug-sitting exchange with my friends.

Even so, pressing my approach to canine nutrition onto others who are less accustomed to it raises the bar a smidge when seeking someone who may otherwise be willing to keep my dogs.

So. What to do?

Answers Pet Food provides the answer!

You knew I was going there.

Y’all may get tired of me advocating for this food. But it is truly a game changer. Nutritionally and financially.

A 4-pound carton (64oz) of Detailed Answers Beef is $18. Once thawed, I divide into 7 smaller containers that hold about 9oz each. Each dog then gets 3oz per meal. (Evelyn gets the same as Pearl & Truman because we’re trying to put weight on her. She’s currently up to 13.2lbs! Yay!) (Follow us on Instagram @SamInBham for almost daily pics of her and the other two knot-heads).

Those smaller containers can be re-frozen, and then thawed as needed. Just move from freezer to fridge the day before, and all the babysitter has to do is spoon it into bowls.

Easy peas-y, lemon squeeze-y.

Each 4-pound carton contains 21 meals for us. The math on that is $18 divided by 21 meals = $0.85 per meal.

Totes. Do-able. Particularly since I had calculated the per meal cost to be about $3 each when I was first starting down the raw path last year. Experience pays.

You can find an Answers retailer near you hereThe website provides ingredient and calorie information, and serving suggestions. Everything you need to feed a balanced, raw diet conveniently and economically.

Problem. Solved.

Get some!

pugs & kisses!


Evelyn’s First Week

Because Evelyn is so very small and so very malnourished, I have been concerned with how much to feed.

I know to feed for the desired weight, not the actual weight. But I also don’t want to make her sick in the process by overfeeding. Pugs are pretty notorious for over-indulging, if permitted.

Slow & steady wins the race, right?

The first day, all she had was Answers‘ raw fermented goats milk. 2-3 oz every 2-3 hours until she had consumed about 10 oz. I preach and preach on this stuff. It is awesome. Such a gentle protein, it’s easy on the digestive tract because it’s fermented, which means it’s LOADED with probiotics.

She slept like a baby all night.

See how tiny she is by comparison? (She's the apricot in the middle)
See how tiny she is by comparison? (She’s the apricot in the middle)

The next day, I added a farm fresh, free-range raw chicken egg to her milk. I thought the extra protein would hold her while I was at work and unable to come feed her every 3 hours.

But, when I weighed her on day 3, she had dropped to below 11 lbs.

I freaked out.

Pearl & Truman both weigh about 25 lbs. Recently, I learned that to determine the amount of raw meat & bone to feed your dog, multiply the dog’s body weight by 10, which will give the number of grams to feed.

25 lbs x 10 = 250 grams. Converts to about 8 oz per day.

And that is what they get. (plus treats)

I don’t want to tax Evelyn’s system, so I only increased her intake by 2 oz. Also, she is crated during the day, so the decrease in activity should help as well.

Because she’s anemic, I wanted to add a blood-builder. So I fed fresh, raw organic chicken livers pureed with her goats milk for 2 meals. Unfortunately, it was too rich, and gave her the runs.


So, back to the egg & milk routine, with a little baked sweet potato added to the mix. After one meal, no more runny poop, and by Friday, she added a few more ounces.

We are now holding steady at 12 lbs. Woop woop!!

She had her first bath on Thursday night to finally wash off the significant stink from the streets of Birmingham, the kennel, the vet. Plus, her coat is a total nightmare right now. It’s rough as a boar bristle, and the conditioner I used really didn’t help.

This coat is a complete wreck. The base of her tail is totally hairless. The dark bald spots have to be from previous flea infestation.
This coat is a complete wreck. The base of her tail is totally hairless. The dark bald spots are from previous flea infestation.

So I’ve added coconut oil to her diet. 1 full teaspoon everyday, whether by itself or on a treat. She devours it!

She is great in the tub. She holds very still and seemed to enjoy the warm water and the gentle massage across her frail frame, and loved being wrapped in a warm towel at the end. She is finding her place in the family, and the other 2 are adjusting to her encroachment.

Room enough for 3 in mama's lap.
Room enough for 3 in mama’s lap.

She has a LOT of energy for such a tiny, skinny pug. She LOVES to play. She’s a good little retriever, and enjoys a good game of tug. Despite her previous pregnancy/ies and the gray in her face, I am more convinced each day that she is much younger than anyone thought.

She’s a big help with the blog to boot.

Evie takes over The HOL Dog.
Evie takes over The HOL Dog.

She got a new JazzyJ collar this week, and is making herself at home.

We’re on an upward trajectory, folks!

pugs & kisses,