The story of “us” starts with our dog Nük and the miraculous improvements we saw in him after switching to a raw whole foods diet at the age of 13!
I’ll start at the beginning, Nük was born Dec 1/1999, we acquired him five weeks later. He was badly burned over his head and neck from trying to get his head inside a heating register. The burns were infected and he was almost in shock, that state of mind when they crawl off to be alone to die. We cared and doted on him for weeks in the hopes he would recover and we could attempt to find him a forever home but as with many rescues, we fell in love and couldn’t part with him. He was always petite for his breed, an American Staffordshire Terrier that only weighed 50 lbs until the age of 10. He started to fill out in his senior years and slowly crept up to 65lbs by age 12, not yet overweight but he had started to show signs of arthritis and we started Deramax for pain control.
In February of 2011 he developed a hematoma on his earflap, the options are surgery or drain the fluid and give him a round of steroids in hopes it heals faster than it refills with fluid, we chose the steroids. By May, only 3 months later, he had ballooned up to 87lbs! The extra weight was greatly affecting his mobility and pain, he had to be carried up and down stairs and wear a support harness all the time. We starved him, we forced him out on walks, I bought a teadmill, we tortured him for months with no change and started to consider euthanasia because his quality of life was getting so low. I still tear up thinking of this time in our lives and the sound of him snoring beside me while I write this is the sweetest sound in the world.
As many of you dog owners know euthanasia is a heart wrenching decision and many sometimes extreme last efforts are tried to avoid it. Since Nük’s favorite activity was swimming, a non weight bearing exercise, I started the search for an indoor pool that would allow him in but to no avail.
During a check up our amazing vet Dr. Barry suggested we try hydrotherapy and put in a request for him to start seeing Kim Cavanaugh (rehaber extrodinaire) at a facility near Portland Estates in Dartmouth (we are from the Tantallon area to give a bit of perspective). We started hydro 2x per week but saw little change, a few months later we added laser therapy 2x per week and added a new pain med Gabapentin to the regime but there was still little to no change. The laser seemed to help the arthritis but the new medicine made him stumble and fall and we worried he would break a bone and discontinued the Gabapentin.
I spent 2-3 days a week driving Nük to 8-10 appointments per month (at an average cost of $50 per appointment) and researching anything I thought might help. Extreme last efforts maybe, but in this case it finally worked! The Internet can be a wonderful thing, it led me to articles about the benefits of a raw diet and why dogs are not meant to eat processed synthetic kibbles and the deceitful marketing practices within the pet food industry. I’ll admit that I was very hesitant to switch such an old dog with his problems and I researched for months before I was brave enough to try. It was late spring, May of 2012 when I slowly started introducing raw to his diet and it took me until July to wean out the kibble.
Nük consistently lost 1 lb per week, every week!
By October he weighed 70lbs and was off all medicines! We also stopped his hydrotherapy because his weight was managed and he could walk again on his own. The weight loss started to slow and in January 2014, he was down to 62 lbs where he seemed to plateau and we were very happy with that weight.
His weight loss was our biggest concern but certainly not the only changes we noticed. The first thing that stands out was the gas; on kibble Nük could clear a room fast! On a raw diet he hardly ever had gas and when he did it wasn’t even noticeable. His ears didn’t smell sour and there was very little debris to clean out of them. His fur became softer, he felt like he had just been bathed and there was no more of that greasy residue left on my hands after petting him. His attitude was the best change! He went from being miserable and sleeping all the time to his perky, playful, goofy self. Sometimes too playful and goofy, he is 15, soon to be 16 and doesn’t seem to know his limits; we are often trying to keep him from running too fast or jumping in and out of our SUV.
He loves food; he always has but even more so now! I have slowly converted most of my friends and family and they all have the same comments. He smells better, he feels better, he has more energy, the ear infections have stopped and he begs for food. A raw fed dog requires a certain amount of variety to be balanced, not something they get with kibble and it does give them a new zest for food, they will beg because eating has become much more enjoyable for them. In the grand scheme of things they don’t live that long and I firmly believe what you spend in good nutrition now will save thousands in vet bills in the future.
The best advice I have ever received was from my mother, she told me to “live without regret” and I am passing it on to you free of charge. Make the change for your pet and when they are finally gone you will have one less regret in life. My regret is knowing better so late in my dogs life. I now beleive food really is medicine, one that can be practiced proactively instead of reactively when it's often too late.
What led this to being a business for us is the state of the pet food industry. You need a master’s degree to decipher an ingredient list, and in deceitful ways things can be labeled to make them sound great. Unfortunately even in the commercial raw food industry there is deceitful marketing practices. If a company won’t be specific about where their meats are coming from there is probably a good reason why they don’t want you to know. It was out of pure frustration that I decided it was time someone did it differently.
We have a passion for dogs, my husband and I are already certified groomers and hydrotherapists in efforts to work with dogs but our own experience with raw lead us here. Most of my raw knowledge is from the experts in the field, self taught through researching many books and attending webinars but to give my self some added credibility I also received my certification in Canine Nutrition.
Health Mutts aim is to be completely transparent. All of my meats come from the Oulton’s family of Martock Glen Farm in Windsor, N.S unless otherwise specified on the label. We have an open kitchen door policy which means you are welcome to poke your head in and see for yourself the equipment and processing the product goes through. I will attempt to carry product for all levels of raw feeders and encourage a community of learning and sharing. I am certainly at your disposal and what I can’t answer I am happy to research to help as much as I possibly can.