And how is that writing-related, you may ask?
Well, if Ivan the Wicked is feeling poorly, I don’t get much work done. Humans get cranky when they have a belly-ache, or cramps in their gut, or whatever, and toddlers — toddlers have tantrums. So do Ivans. Dogs, toddlers, very similar personalities. I want out now, play with me now, do something, NOW, I feel lousy, fix it, stop staring at that computer …. So more writing gets done if the dog feels better.
Ivan the Wicked suffers (and thus forces his owners to suffer) from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. He’s had this condition since we got him from the SPCA at three months old. Months of … let’s call it whooshing … and a puppy that was skin and bones, before we found a food he could digest. Now he’s all lean, sleek muscle. It took a while, even with food that didn’t upset the delicate innards, for him to convince himself that eating was a safe and pleasurable activity, not just a horrible thing you had to force yourself to do. (Although, he’s always been very keen on vegetables; unfortunately for him, tomatoes and steamed broccoli aren’t a nutritionally-complete diet for a dog.) We found a food he could sort of tolerate, though the insides remained very touchy. After about eight months of that, and a still somewhat scrawny dog, we found a better food, which is when he started to develop all this athlete’s muscle, and also, to behave better. One may say this simply comes with age, but he regresses when he feels ill. And illness still recurs, because, well, he’s a dog. Snuffle snuffle snuffle in the leaves, whee, bit of garbage dropped by crow or student or other garbage-distribution entity, gulp, and it’s too late, the humans not having manga-ninja reflexes. Or there may have been a passing cat … oh those cats … doing things in the leaves … why can’t they wait until they’re inside …. Even something like stress, a change in routine, can do it, though those are usually much milder bouts, easily solved with a day or two of getting a slippery elm capsule a couple of times a day.
An aside: his regular food is made right here in the Maritimes, Corey’s Pro-Series Holistic hypo-allergenic (in the purple bag). It’s expensive, but no more so than other expensive foods made for dogs with digestive problems or allergies, and cheaper than many. I don’t know if it’s available outside Atlantic Canada, though. Its main ingredients are herring and brown rice, and what goes into it doesn’t come from weird factories overseas and risk being adulterated with poisons, so that’s good, too. He also gets a probiotic pill once a day, and when feeling delicate, twice a day. This also seems to make a difference.
Anyway, he doesn’t merely have a day of … whooshing … as a dog without his little problem might after indulging in whatever. It can go on for a week or in particularly bad instances, two, with him visibly losing weight, at least to my anxious eye, and refusing to eat, and groaning a lot, and being cranky and prone to tantrums.
That’s when I make Ivan’s Pumpkin Slurry. I thought this recipe might be useful to others who have dogs with delicate digestions, for whatever reason. I wouldn’t recommend it as a full-time homemade dogfood, because I have no idea if it’s nutritionally complete for a dog or not. But it’s very soothing to the gut, and tasty, and fairly nutritious for the short term. The measurements aren’t precise, but they don’t have to be. It’s real, old-fashioned cooking, not a television cooking show!
The recipe: Ivan’s Pumpkin Slurry for (In)Delicate Dogs
Cook about one cup of brown rice, with a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil, and make sure it’s quite well done, not the least chewy. This will give you about 2+ cups of cooked brown rice.
Cook some lean or extra-lean ground beef by simmering it gently in just enough water to almost cover, stirring occasionally so it cooks evenly. The quantity should be about equal to that of the cooked rice. A lump you need both hands to hold is about right. (If you have a dog who can’t eat beef, use whatever meat they find most digestible.) When the meat is well cooked, there should still be a fair bit of water left. Add several spoonfuls of oat bran, stirring them in one at a time and continuing to simmer, until the liquid is absorbed. You could add a little more water if it all boiled off while simmering the meat. The soluble fibre in the oat bran is very good for this complaint.
Mix these together along with a can of cooked pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, but pure pumpkin, no sugar or spices). You can, of course, cook a pumpkin or squash, in which case use about 2 cups of cooked, mashed pumpkin (or squash).
And that’s it. It’s actually a lot like the filling for a Middle Eastern stuffed pumpkin recipe I’ve made in the past, except without all the onions, raisins, and spices. It’s a fairly nutritious meal for humans too, actually, though bland — which is of course the idea.
I generally feed fairly generous servings of this for several days, with a small portion of his regular food in a separate bowl, so he can eat it afterwards if he feels like, and clean his teeth on crunchy nubbins. It seems to, er, firm things up nicely, which in itself makes him feel better and everyone else’s life easier. It soothes the insides, gets the dog eating again, and makes him feel better so he’s not so stressed and therefore speeds up recovery from the bout. This makes about enough to fill a two-litre ice-cream tub, but it freezes well, so you can put it up in single-serving bags and throw it in the freezer to have on hand for emergencies. I generally find he has to be weaned back onto his regular food by having a small spoonful of pumpkin slurry as a garnish for a few meals. Otherwise your dog will look at you: “Hey, where’s my pumpkin?”
(Just as an aside, if your dog is on potassium bromide for epilepsy, you need to be very careful to make sure there’s enough salt in a homemade dogfood, even something like this you’re only going to be feeding for a few days, or you can quickly end up with a dangerous imbalance between potassium and sodium, affecting the nervous system. No, this isn’t one of Ivan’s problems, but it’s something to be aware of.)
I hope this is helpful for other IBS dogs out there.