Since the beginning of December, things have been up and down with Bryce. He has his good days and he has his bad days. The good news is we have the arthritis under control. The bad news is the coughing and breathing issue is still a work in progress. The frustrating news is the colitis could be under control with food, but Bryce really hates the food. Trying to cope with all these issues is causing me to lose sleep … literally!
Bryce’s current status
In an effort to give Bryce the best quality of life I can, I’ve been experimenting with various foods and methods of giving him medications.
The raw diet
Soon after writing my last blog post about Bryce, I went to a pet store near my house called Pet People. These guys rock! The staff members I have encountered are incredibly helpful. I told one of the employees, Martin, about Bryce’s colitis, and he told me about raw green tripe. Tripe is the stomach of a ruminant (cud chewing) animal, usually a cow, sheep, or goat. Green refers to it being uncleaned and uncooked. It is the foulest smelling dog food but honestly, I was desperate so I gave it a try. The good news … IT WORKED! The bad news … he gobbled it down for about a week and then decided he really hated it. He won’t go near it and given how foul it smells, there’s no disguising it. We’re currently trying a different raw food called Stella and Chewy’s. So far, he doesn’t hate it nor does he love it. I’m finally being more stubborn than he is and taking the food away if he doesn’t eat it and giving it back later when he is hungrier.
Giving Bryce medication
Bryce has a blend of medications from the vet and herbal medications I got from either the acupuncturist or a holistic pet health care website. The meds take on various forms: pills, powders and drops; and, of course, they each have different dosage schedules. I now have 2 pill containers to track all his pills because it’s too confusing not to organize them.
I used to give him meds just 4 times daily, but once things started to get worse it went up to 6 times daily. A rough schedule of his medication is: 6am, 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 10pm. It wouldn’t be so bad if he took his medications willingly, but in the last 2–3 weeks, he’s been fighting back; and, of course, you can’t reason with him and tell him he’ll breathe much better if he just took the darn pill.
Bryce’s sleep habits
I can count on one hand the number of times I have had a good night’s sleep during the last 2 1/2 months. Part of Bryce’s breathing issue has to do with the fact that his body does not regulate his body temperature well. So he gravitates to the cold air which actually helps his breathing and cough. Because of this, we have been letting him sleep outside. He has the choice to come in but most of the time he chooses to be outside. With his massive fur coat, he’s not cold at all.
Bryce would average around 4 hours of sleep give or take 1 or 2 hours. When he wakes up, he’s coughing and sometimes he has difficulty breathing. This means I have to get up and give him more medications. This either works and he can go back to sleep, or it works but he starts pacing in and out of the house, or it just doesn’t work. When it doesn’t work, I’ve gotten up (sometimes at 2am or 3am) and taken him for a walk to try to loosen up whatever is in his lungs. Again, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
My physical and emotional well-being
To be perfectly honest, my overall mental health has taken a nose-dive. I do not function well without a good night’s sleep; I never have. Since Bryce’s health issues have escalated, I have been tired and grumpy … a lot! I’m pretty sure if you ask my husband, he’d say “She’s not at all fun to be around.” But, to his credit, he has continued to be patient with me and our dog.
I’ve essentially become a “helicopter parent.” Someone who is overly focused on her child. It doesn’t matter to me that this child is 4-legged, I still have wrapped my life around my baby. This unfortunately, has been to the detriment of my own health and well-being. My weekly workouts are sporadic at best. My diet has gone to hell in a hand basket, and my writing life has become virtually non-existent. My life is no longer balanced; and 90% of the time, I feel like I’m in survival mode.
Trying to get him to eat foods that are good for his stomach, trying to get him to take his meds, and trying to figure out ways to get him to sleep through the night is exhausting. That said, I know that everything I am doing right now is keeping all of Bryce’s issues at bay for the most part; and if I weren’t doing it, his quality of life would be really bad.
One of my life issues is putting everyone and everything before my own needs. It’s something I’ve done my entire life. My BFF has been trying to get me to work on that forever! I don’t even want to think about that right now because my biggest fear isn’t not knowing when it’s time to let go of Bryce but rather having to make the choice between my quality of life and his life. It’s not somewhere I can go right now nor do I ever want to.
As of today, we’re in a good phase. Bryce actually slept inside in our 2nd bedroom with the window wide open and a fan blowing directly on him. He slept for 7 hours the day before and 6 hours last night. This gives me hope that soon I can find some balance and get back to what feels like a more normal life. Wish me luck! 🙂