Dog Surgery: How to Help your Pet Recover Naturally

Today I’m going to share about how to help your pet recover from dog surgery.  But first, I’m going to tell you about my dog’s injury and surgery, in hopes our experience will help you and your dog.

I’m fanatical over my dog, WolfBear, he’s my world.  I spend countless hours enjoying his companionship.  When he got hurt racing down the stairs over a year ago, I was very worried.


When it became obvious his injury was serious, I was a mess.  I began to experience the helplessness and anxiety that all dog lovers do when their pet gets hurt.

I was scared and imagined all sorts of horrible outcomes.   Google was not my friend as I poured over all the diseases that could cause his symptoms.

I turned to our vet and friends for support.  I could only pray, put my trust in God and the vet, and do everything I knew to do to help his body heal naturally.

The Injury

The problem was that Bear’s back right leg would buckle causing him to smack his right hip on the ground.  He had pain in his right paw, sometimes causing him to hold his leg up and chew it at rest.

He had negative x-rays and physical exams so he started cold laser therapy and rest. During vet visits, his leg seemed fine, which made it all the more perplexing.

It was heart breaking to watch him struggle and nearly impossible to keep him down no matter how hard we tried.  He has incredible drive and determination and he never gave up trying to do the things he loved-even if it meant falling on his hip.

After cycles of recovery and relapse, his pain worsened and his quality of life was deteriorating.  Our vet had me video his leg buckling and referred us to a vet specialty hospital in Austin.

A neurologist and two orthopedic vets ruled out a leg and paw injury. They suspected a low back problem, which was confirmed by an MRI. Bear had a ruptured disc that was pressing on the nerve above his tail.  It was pretty bad and even I could see it clearly.  D dog surgery was the last thing we wanted.

Bear's MRI of his lumbar spine.
Bear’s MRI of his lumbar spine.

But, his prognosis was not good without surgery.   After much discussion, research, getting an opinion from a holistic vet, and sending his MRI to an animal chiropractor, surgery was scheduled.

Bear’s Dog Surgery

The day of his dog surgery was very emotional for us.  It was nearly impossible to leave him.  His decompression laminectomy was a success.  The hospital was far from home so we spent 3 days at a local hotel while he was in ICU.

Visiting hours after dog surgery
Visiting hours

The Road to Recovery 

The surgery was the first step toward his recovery. We had to make a huge commitment to his after care.  His prognosis depended on us exactly following the post op instructions.  If we didn’t, he would not heal and he’d require a second operation to insert plates and bolt his spine.  A dog surgery nightmare.

The thought still gives me shivers…

The rules:

No running, jumping, slipping, or playing for 10 weeks.

Leashed at all times when not kenneled or confined to one small room with no furniture.

No getting on furniture or a bed (even with stairs).

He was allowed very short walks in the fenced yard for fresh air and exercise.

Cone 24/7 for two weeks to prevent pulling a stitch (it would mean staples and increased risk of  infection.

Incision site after dog surgery.
Keeping the incision clean, dry and free from chewing

No car rides except to the vet.

Daily Life after Dog Surgery

Imagine having your dog tethered to you for 10 weeks-everywhere you go, they go.

He would awaken numerous times a night so we put a mattress on the living room floor so that we could lie down with him.   Our new routine included going out at 4 am followed by napping with him on the living room floor until 7 am.

He was restless, in pain, depressed, confused, and would pant a lot.   Normally confident and afraid of nothing, he seemed vulnerable, insecure, and jumpy.

I wrote down every dose of medication and fed several small meals so that he could have food with his meds.  I gave up on hiding meds in his food, cheese or peanut butter and opted to hide them in blueberry cream cheese (tip from the surgeon and he loved it).

I helped him with his hygiene so that he wouldn’t have to twist and bend.

After 10 weeks, he was allowed to slowly resume his normal routine.  He had physical therapy, cold laser, T Touch, and acupuncture to help him recover.  We continued his nutritional and supplement plan as well as implemented exercises to strengthen his back.

How to Help your Pet Recover after Dog Surgery

There are dogs out there that have suffered much worse and my heart goes out to their owners.  I hear from people every day who are looking for someone to talk to. We all share the same fears and concerns-namely getting our pet healthy so they can resume the best life possible, as soon as possible.  We are all terrified to lose them.

My best advice for helping your dog through and injury and surgery is:

After dog surgery, resting in kennel when not leashed and tethered to me
Resting in kennel when not leashed and tethered to me.

Follow your gut.  If you don’t feel something is right, trust yourself.

Find a vet you can trust.  If you don’t feel confident in your vet’s diagnosis, get a second or third opinion.  It is helpful to have one that complements your choice to follow a natural lifestyle.

Go to a specialist.  There is no replacement for a specialist. Video your dog’s symptoms, if needed.

Expect diagnostic testing.  There is no way around it; your dog may need an MRI, or other expensive test, for a definitive diagnosis and treatment.

Do your research.  Educate yourself and ask questions about the diagnosis, prognosis, procedure and aftercare. Find out what will be normal behavior and what you can expect the first few days after surgery.

Turn your fear into action.  Turn to supportive friends and family. It’s ok to be scared but turn your fears into action.  Own the decisions you make for your pet and don’t become paralyzed with fear.

Write everything down.  I guarantee that you will only remember half of the instructions when you bring your dog home so take notes-even if given written instructions.

Be prepared.  Purchase what you’ll need and prepare your home before surgery so that when you get home, you can focus on your dog.

Take time off.  If possible, plan to take some time off or arrange for someone to watch your dog.  I work from home so that was not a problem but this could be a major undertaking for some.

Be kind to yourself.  Make things easy on yourself.  Be prepared by buying easy to cook meals, clean your house before the surgery, try to enjoy the downtime, simplify to reduce stress.

Bear recovered and waiting for his ball after dog surgery.
Bear recovered and waiting for his ball.

Natural Healing Support:

  • Follow the Laws of Health
  • Boost the immune system to encourage healing and reduce the possibility of infection
  • Follow a carnivore diet
  • Add appropriate supplements
  • Herbs
  • Enzymes/natural anti-inflammatories
  • Essential oils
  • Bone broth
  • Consult with your vet to ensure no drug interactions

Our dogs are family, best friends and companions. It’s normal to feel stressed and worried over them. By recognizing this and remaining calm, confident and positive-it will help ease their fears and stress level as well as your own.

Your commitment to aftercare and a natural, healthy canine lifestyle, will help your dog heal and live the best life possible, for as long as possible.

What is the Best Dry Dog Food?

If you’re familiar with this website, then you know that we are not fans of dry, processed dog food. But we understand not everyone dog owner is going to agree so we thought it worthwhile to bring you information on the best dry dog food you can buy (as well as those that have been recalled in recent years).

We love our dogs and want them to be as healthy but just as we can’t thrive on an all processed diet, eating the same foods seven days a week, neither can our dogs.  If you must feed your dog dry dog food, please read our article on supplementing your dog’s diet.

Dog Food Recalls

Before looking at the best dry dog food, take a look at some of the dog food manufacturers that have issued recalls on their dog food.  As you will see, these manufactures are very popular, which should tell you how important it is to watch for recalls on any food that you are feeding your pet.  After thousands of complaints of kidney failure, sickened dogs, and lawsuits abounding it is no wonder that the more informed dog owners become, the more cautious they are about what they feed their animals.

Some significant recalls in recent years include:

• 2007 Menu Foods recalled 150 brands of dog food for Melamine contamination, after 2,200 dogs and 1,950 cats died.
• 2010 Nature’s Variety recalled selected batches of frozen food due to the presence of salmonella.
• 2010 Natural Balance recalled batches of food due to salmonella.
• 2010 Proctor and Gamble recalled batches of food due to salmonella.
• 2010 Blue Buffalo recalled food due to high levels of vitamin D.
• 2012 Canidae recalled certain food due to salmonella.
• 2012 Natural Balance recalled certain food due to salmonella.
• 2013 Bravo recalled frozen food due to salmonella.
• 2013 Iams recalled food due to salmonella.
• 2014 Hill’s Science Diet recalled food due to salmonella.
• 2014 Pedigree recalled food due to foreign substances.
• 2015 Bravo recalled food due to listeria.

This is not even an exhaustive list of all recalls. If there is any good news it is, these companies went public with the dangers in an attempt to correct the problem to protect our dogs.  The quicker the recall, the less potential illness and death.

The enormous class action lawsuit filed by Morgan and Morgan against Purina’s Beneful is just one example. And if their heartwarming and health conscious television commercials are any indication, Purina is trying their best to restore their customer’s trust.  Even so, there are serious issues to consider when feeding processed food-for example other dangerous additives, ingredients and the low moisture content that are hard on our dogs kidneys and keep them from less than optimal health.

What is Bad Dog Food?

What makes up bad dog food?  In addition to contaminants, the lesser quality ingredients in bad dog food are a concern. Dogs require high quality proteins and plenty of moisture in their diet to thrive and build a strong immune system. Just a few of the health concerns related to substandard ingredients include:

• Digestive problems
• Bloat
• Irritable Bowel Disease
• Obesity
• Kidney disease

What is the Best Dry Dog Food?

Good dog foods are made from high quality ingredients, quality protein, and the correct ratio of fat and the ingredient list should read something like this:

• Primarily made up of whole proteins such as meat, eggs, and organ meats.
• Whole grains such as oats and quinoa (no fillers such as corn, wheat or soy).
• Healthy fats such as omega 3 fatty acids.
• Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
• Natural preservatives such as vitamin C and E.
• Healthy fruits and vegetables, not fillers, no high carb loads.

Dog Food Reviews

In an effort to inform consumers and provide detailed guidance on dog food purchases, recently released information on what they consider the best dry dog food:

“After putting in 1,400 hours of research and analyzing over 2,219 formulas, we discovered even some of the most popular brands still make food with unhealthy or unsafe ingredients. Of the 2,219 formulas we looked at, only 121 met our standard of approval — about 5 percent overall. With so many choices on the market, it’s as important as ever to read labels and make informed decisions.” discovered that there are 121 good dog food formulas to choose from and used their standards, which are very high, in determining which brands made the list. The criteria for choosing the best dog food also included:

• We removed products where the first ingredient is not a meat of any kind.
• We removed products containing corn, soy, wheat, grain, or flour.
• We removed products containing beet pulp or sugar.
• We removed products that contained by-products or sauces.
• We reviewed brands for recalls, ingredient sources, history, and customer satisfaction.
• We reviewed the remaining formulas based on the best ratio of protein, fat, and carbs, as well as the source of protein.

After analyzing 2,219 formulas, they further reduced their list of foods by eliminating all brands that had major recalls, significant controversies, unusually high numbers of customer complaints and reports, brands that had been sold to large companies (that may be changing or have changed their formulas), foods that are manufactured in countries that don’t have strong food-quality regulations, that contained lesser-quality ingredients, or didn’t have enough information available to study.

As a result, they came up with this partial list of bad dog food:

• Eukanuba
• Hill’s Prescription Diet
• Hill’s Science Diet
• Iams Veterinary Formula
• Nutro
• Nutro Ultra
• Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets
• Royal Canin
• Nutro Natural

A sampling of their best dog food brand picks for a safe and healthy dog are (for a complete list, please refer to the source link):

• Orijen
• Stella and Chewy’s
• The Honest Kitchen
• Earthborn Holistic
• ZiwiPeak
• Back to Basics
• Pinnacle
• Hi-Tek Naturals
• Fromm
• Wysong
• Nature’s Logic
• Grandma Lucys

The Best Dog Food:

As we’ve said before, we’re not a fan of dry, processed dog food and the toll it can take on your dog’s health or the dangers that lurk behind the fancy packaging and labels.  From personal experience in feeding a high energy, allergy dog-custom food (which was not part of the study) is a great choice to protect your dog’s health and immune system.  Top Dog Dinners provides custom dog food options for dogs with allergies, various health issues-like diabetes, pancreatitis, and obesity, and for all ages. Is it made fresh from organic, whole foods like beef and chicken. It contains no fillers, no preservatives, nothing artificial or harmful so there is nothing that is going to make your dog sick.   It arrives frozen and is very easy to feed.  Short of feeding your dog a homemade or raw diet, there is no better option.

Our dogs just don’t live long enough and one way to help them enjoy the longest, healthiest life possible is through canine nutrition. This is a gift we can give them in exchange for all the love they give us.


Best Dog Food

Odors that Repel Dogs from Garbage

Odors that repel dogs from digging garbage

You walk into your house and see the upturned trash can lid; a greasy wrapper on the floor; remnants of eggshells from breakfast; and a sea of paper towel shreds. What is missing is your dog, who is normally frantically greeting you. Right now, your lovable pooch is avoiding eye contact-tip of the tail thumbing out a guilty rhythm on the floor-thump, thump, thump.

Or even worse (oh, gag me now), your dog has trespassed into the sacred ground of the bathroom trash and has been enjoying your personal unmentionables or perhaps has been indulging in a cat poop feast.

Wouldn’t it be great to know what what you can stop your dog from digging in the trash and know the odors that repel dogs from garbage to help prevent them from digging through the trash can?

Odors that repel dogs from garbage-Golden retriever in grass
Protect me from myself so I don’t eat the trash!

Why Dogs Eat Garbage

When dogs dig in the garbage, we’re reminded that despite the fact that dogs are family, they remain dogs, canines, also known as canids, and are members of the wolf, coyote, jackal, and fox family. At times, we have to accept their ingrained dog behavior for what it is-totally natural.  It’s our job to train them or prevent them from digging in the trash for their own safety and our sanity.

Aside from being our warm and fuzzy friends, our dogs are opportunistic scavenger/carnivores who will dine on just about anything that is tempting and convenient, regardless of how healthy it is.

Dogs are Opportunistic Carnivore Scavengers

The definition of the word opportunistic alone can enlighten us about dog behavior and the natural instincts that drive our dogs. An opportunist will “exploit chances offered by immediate circumstances without reference to a general plan or moral principle.”

A scavenger “is an organism that mostly consumes decaying biomass, such as meat or rotting plant material. Many scavengers are a type of carnivore, which is an organism that eats meat. While most carnivores hunt and kill their prey, scavengers usually consume animals that have either died of natural causes or been killed by another carnivore.”¹

By their very nature, our dogs may exploit opportunities.  When you stop and consider their nature, it’s easy to understand why a dog will counter surf, train us to give them treats when they beg, steal food from our plate, or eat garbage.

Their scavenger nature is the reason why dogs will eat just about anything, no matter how harmful it may be.  Sometimes, it’s up to us to protect our dogs from themselves because no amount of training is going to prevent their genetics from contributing to their behavior .  In other words, our dogs may be trained to stay out of the trash but cannot be trusted alone with the trash 100% of the time.  If you toss a temptation into the trash can, there is a chance your dog will dig through the garbage to eat it simply because its what dogs do.

This garbage, dog and human relationship is nothing new.  It is believed that part of the reason dogs became domesticated is that they gathered near garbage dumps where they encountered people. In an excerpt of his article, Love your Dog, you should Thank Garbage, Jason G. Goldman, Ph.D, writes:

“Up to around 200 years ago, it was only the richest of the rich who had pet dogs. The rest were village dogs, living in and around human settlements, surviving on garbage and human leftovers, just as other carnivores occasionally do. Today, some 80 percent of the world’s domestic dogs survive by scavenging on garbage, and even a pet dog will go through your garbage can if you aren’t careful.”

Since the best trained dogs are capable of raiding the trash, those with little or no training hardly have a chance.  The trash can is simply too much temptation and once our dogs realize there are goodies hiding inside, they never forget the reward for their scavenging efforts.  Training, using odors that repel dogs from garbage, and removing the temptation are about the only ways to combat the problem.

By remembering that dogs are opportunistic scavengers, who for many years before domestication lived near out laying villages just waiting to scavenge human trash for their next meal, will help you understand and tackle with this problem patience and understanding.  Since there are simple ways around your dog’s garbage addiction, it may be easier to meet your dog in the middle and simply use training and avoidance techniques to prevent the mess from happening in the first place.

Tips to Stop your Dog from Eating Garbage

There are things you can do to help keep your dog out of the trash and some are as simple as knowing what odors repel dogs from garbage.  But, as we all know, there will always be a temptation that is just too good to pass up.  Don’t expect your dog to have super hero strength if you throw a chicken carcass, hamburger package, or a slice of stale fudge cake in the trash before you leave the house.

Along that thought line, to stop your dog from digging the trash consider:

• Removing the temptation by keeping your garbage where your dog can’t get it, such as in the laundry room where you can keep the door closed.
• Toss the tempting, dangerous trash outside rather than the kitchen trash.
• Make a habit of taking the trash out each day as you leave the house.
• Try remote deterrents that you can use that emit a loud noise when your dog’s nose lifts the lid or use odors that repel dogs from garbage (see below).
• Training your dog to not dig in the garbage by reinforcing the leave it command and praising when he does can be helpful, while not 100% foolproof when you’re away from home.
• For owners of counters surfers, do what I do to avoid accidents and put chicken bones and such in a grocery bag inside the microwave until you have a chance to take the trash out.
• Install a cat door to the cat’s litter box to keep the dog out.
• Have an extra supply of small bags to put personal hygiene items in and toss rather than leaving in the trash can, if this is a problem.

Odors that Repel Dogs from Garbage

Dogs have a very strong sense of smell so certain scents placed in or near the garbage can may be enough to deter certain dogs from investigating and repel your dog from digging in the garbage. If each time a dog sniffs the trash can, they are rewarded with an odor that repels dogs from garbage, eventually your dog may stop looking.  If you’re looking for what odors repel dogs from garbage that are non toxic and safe, you may want to try the following essential oils mixed in water in a spray bottle and misted in, on and around your trash can:

• Citrus (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit) essential oil
• Cinnamon essential oil
• Sour apple essential oil
• Eucalyptus essential oil
• Vinegar and water*

For owners of dogs that constantly dig in the trash, this may seem like a lot of work and a bit of a nuisance but truly is really doesn’t take much time, can prevent a lot of headaches, remove unnecessary stress, and all the while protect your dog from getting sick or worse. Not all odors that repel dogs from garbage will work on every dog and some dogs are not deterred at all-yet it is worth a shot!

Simply add water and essential oil to a spray bottle and mist your trash can.  Use enough oil to water ratio the the aroma is pungent but not overwhelming.  You can also apply this mixture to other areas of your home and even use as a simple, refreshing cleaning solution for counter tops and more.  If you have cats, they are very sensitive to essential oils and should have a means to leave the area.

Another benefit of using 100% natural, therapeutic grade essential oils is that citrus fragrances are known to leave you feeling energized, invigorated, and they help reduce mental and physical fatigue.  They are great for cleaning and detoxifying.  So next time you do come home to a mess, perhaps you’ll be feeling ready to face it.  For more information about essential oils, feel free to contact me or visit this website.


*not an essential oil but is also effective garbage can odor absorbent and can be used on cotton balls or in spray bottle.


8 Reasons Why People Love Dogs

The keys to happiness are many.  If you take the time to talk to people about what would make them happy, it seems that every person has at least one strong held belief or opinion about what would bring them true happiness. For some it’s a luxury home, a bank account overflowing with money, unlimited power, a new job, or even a different spouse.  For others, they long for simple pleasures such as the love of a dog and the reasons why people love dogs are many.

This special breed of people will tell you that happiness is found in loving a dog and that living life through the eyes of a dog can bring deeper understanding to the meaning of life.  The reasons why people love dogs are too numerous to count but there is a common thread that most dog lovers share and that some of the reasons why people love dogs so much is because they bring out the best in us and our lives are happier because they share it with us.

Why people love dogs
Poodle pretty in pink

No matter who you are, true happiness can seem elusive at times; always out of reach-something meant for someone else. However, when asked, many people will say that true happiness is found in contentment, lending a hand, giving of one’s self, and the love of family and friends-both human and canine.

Dogs Enrich our Existence

Dog ownership is a big responsibility but it’s also a great gift. Dogs are known to bring their owners indescribable joy, peace, healing, contentment, companionship, and for some, a reason to go on. They love us without reservation and have no preconceived expectations of who we ought to be.
As soon as our eyes open each morning, our dog is there to greet us and just seeing that we’re awake fills them with pleasure.

Dogs greet each day anew and want to spend every moment with their humans. As they observe us, you can see the hope in their eyes. Will this be the day we don’t leave for work? Will we toss the ball one more time? Is there one more treat? Will I get to go too?

Dogs Don’t Hold Grudges

When we dash their hopes, they may suffer a moment of disappointment but they assimilate and move on. They don’t hold grudges, they accept our choices, they still hold fast to their faith in us. They continue to love us unconditionally.

On our worst days, we would be hard pressed to change their opinion of us. On our best days, they are happy to be by our side. Dogs are born with an incredible capacity for acceptance and forgiveness. Even in cases where terrible abuse or neglect has occurred, though they bare scars, generally dogs will give a new person a chance at love.  For this reason alone, it is so easy to understand why people love dogs.

A Dog’s Keys to Happiness-Reasons Why People Love Dogs

If you take to the time to observe, dogs can teach humans about the keys to happiness, such as:

1. Giving: Dogs give 100% of who they are to their people, their job, and their goals. They don’t hold back or worry that their kindness or favors won’t be returned in the same measure. They freely give in the measure they choose to give.

2. Acceptance: Dogs are accepting creatures that are not easily disappointed. They accept their life for what it is but they do try to create happiness. They pursue things that will make them happy yet have the ability to remain content.

3. Purpose: Dogs live with purpose. Everything they do is infused with it. They approach life filled with enthusiasm, excitement, and a zest for living in the moment. They don’t put off living until tomorrow.

4. Resilience: The resilience of dogs is extraordinary. They don’t languish in past mistakes or wallow in regret. They don’t allow the past to ruin their day or their life. They may not forget, and they are wise, yet have the capacity to leave the past in the past.

5. Approval: Dogs love approval and their bodies wiggle in delight when they make us happy. This is why we can train them. However, they don’t require our approval for all of their choices and they don’t live in fear of our disapproval. When a dog picks out a toy or runs in circles rather than laps, they are not worrying over our opinion. They live to make themselves and those around them happy.

6. Trust: Dog’s place their trust in our hands every day. Dogs will run through fire, endure scary sounds, or charge into dangerous places because we train them to. Family pets trust that we’ll feed them, provide water, shade, and a nice cozy place to sleep. They trust that we’ll love them, cherish them, nurture, and not cause them harm. They don’t worry about how we will take care of them, they simply know we will.

7. Expectations: When their expectations aren’t met, even in their obvious disappointment, they move on to their next big adventure and make the most of the hand they’re dealt. Does this mean they are always satisfied? Most dog owners will answer, no. However, dogs do take life in stride and choose to live happy rather than in bitterness.

8. Love: Dogs love unconditionally. They love simply. They love purely. They are loyal, faithful, and worthy companions to the end.
It is said, when your vision of your life story is inadequate, depression can result. According to the psychologist Michele Crossley, depression frequently stems from an “incoherent story, an inadequate narrative account of oneself, or a life story gone awry.”

When we look at the world through the eyes of our dog, we can accomplish great things and our story can be beautifully and simply written.
Dogs give us that gift.  For those of us who have received that gift, it is easy to understand why people love dogs.

Originally published for Pen and Ink Magic in July, 2015.