This post has been a LONG time coming (since August) but I’m beyond appreciative to be able to share the incredible story of a dog that changed my life + the lives of all my current & future pets.
I met Bijou & her owners Jon + Kat when I moved into my new apartment back in April of this year. It started when I’d noticed her casually hanging out in the lobby or out for walks in the neighborhood. I’ve never seen a dog of her breed, or any large dog breed for that matter, at what I assumed a very advanced age.
After several run-ins with her, I went up to her owner Jon & asked point blank, “How old is your beautiful dog?” When I learned she was 17.5 years old, my jaw dropped. I followed up with the question that has led to me sharing her story today with you all, “What are you feeding her?”
Today, I’m sharing Bijou’s story from the voice of her owners, Jon & Kat. What you’re about to read is a miraculous transformation that came from changing her diet, which extended Bijou’s life from 2 weeks to 5 years.
Please note: This information is not intended as general veterinary advice and may not be suitable for every dog or every situation. This is only an account of what Jon + Kat have been doing with their dog Bijou – now a 17+ year old Golden Retriever. They are not veterinarians and have had no animal-medical training. You should always consult your veterinarian whenever you encounter a health issue with your dog. Also, they have no association (financial or otherwise) with any of the supplement manufacturers mentioned. This is not a recommendation or endorsement of them. The views expressed are their own.
“In 2013, when Bijou was 12 years old, we had a scare where she stopped eating & pooping, got very lethargic and wouldn’t sleep through the night. She was moaning, fidgety and uninterested in all her usual toys and treats. We noticed her abdomen was very swollen, so we rushed her to the hospital thinking it was a gastrointestinal problem. The vets did an ultrasound and found an accumulation of fluid around her heart, creating pressure and making it difficult for it to beat properly. There was so much fluid around her heart, in fact, that it started to overflow into her abdomen and causing it to protrude.
They did an emergency pericardiocentesis, a risky procedure where they stuck a needle and syringe into her heart to pull out the accumulated fluid. At 12 years old, we weren’t sure if she would survive or recover. I still remember the vet calling my wife Kat and telling her that Bijou had about 2 weeks to live. That was the lowest moment I’ve ever seen her. She cried so hard that our neighbors at work actually came over to see if everything was all right.
Thinking what we only had a couple weeks left with Bijou, we decided to spoil her and started feeding her like a human for the remainder of the time she had left. We stopped giving her kibble and I grilled her a nice, juicy flank steak.
I then also discovered a small study (only 15 subjects) from the UPenn Vet School that was published just 6 months prior to Bijou’s incident. It found that a compound from a particular type of mushroom contributed to extending the lives of dogs with cancer. We didn’t have much to lose, so I rushed over an order of the supplement, called I’m Yunity, and started giving it to her – dipped in peanut butter, of course. Based on Bijou’s weight, the recommended dosage was 6 capsules/day. Given her extreme situation, we decided to give her 8/day – 4 in the morning and 4 at night.
We also started giving her a traditional Chinese medication called Yunnan Baiyao, a compound long known to help control bleeding. Since bleeding cancers are very common in Golden Retrievers, it made sense to supplement her with this medication just in case – also 4 capsules in the morning and 4 at night.
We completely changed her diet from all kibble to all human-grade beef and chicken. In NYC, we found whole chicken breasts at $3.99/lb or less. On sale, beef for London Broil or flank steak would be $5.99 or $6.99/lb. Often we would just purchase whatever was on sale because we figured that anything meant for human consumption would be healthier than any kibble. We would grill the meat in a George Foreman Grill and mix it with either sweet potato, canned pumpkin or white rice.
Cost-wise, it wasn’t much more expensive that the high-end dog kibble because A) that fancy dog food is pretty pricey to begin with and B) when you feed your dog whole ingredients that you buy and cook yourself, you don’t need to feed as much food, since the home cooked meal is so much more nutrient-dense and you forego all the filler ingredients found in kibble. In essence, higher quality food means you can feed less and still give better nutrition.
I don’t want this to sound like anti-dog food but most of them do say “Not for human consumption.” Why wouldn’t you want to feed your dog the same quality of food that you would eat yourself? Even the high-end, expensive kibble is typically made from ingredients that have already been rejected from the human food supply, are stored without refrigeration and have shelf lives of months or even years. It might have the same nutritional value as this.
What we observed after changing Bijou’s diet and adding those 2 supplements was nothing short of astounding. 2 weeks came and went and Bijou was thriving. She was back to her mischievous self, had tons of energy again, was sleeping through the night and her poops were nice and regular. We went back for a follow-up visit with the same vets 6-months later where they did another ultra-sound where they found no sign of any abnormality or fluid build-up. It was as if nothing had ever happened.
We decided to keep Bijou off kibble and have fed her a combination of grilled beef, chicken and sweet potato ever since. For treats, she gets freeze-dried liver treats or turkey/beef hearts because of the high nutritional value of organ meats. As for supplements, we still give her I’m Yunity and Yunnan Baiyao daily, but at a lower maintenance dose – 2 capsules, twice per day – half of what she was receiving when she was ill. If you are interested in purchasing these supplements for your dog, be mindful. With their increased popularity, the market has been flooded with counterfeits that don’t contain any of the active ingredients. For I’m Yunity, you can buy directly from the company. For Yunnan Baiyao, we’ve been had good experiences with this merchant.
Then 2 years after her initial incident, we were back at the vet because at 14 years old, her arthritis was getting worse and we noticed a significant decline in her gait. While doing his routine examination and palpation of her abdomen, the vet discovered that Bijou had an enlarged spleen. This condition, known as splenomegaly, usually goes undetected and the spleen will gradually grow and grow until eventually it ruptures, causing massive internal bleeding and requiring emergency surgery. Owners who were unaware of this condition have reported that their dog was happy and healthy one morning, only to have bled out internally and gone by the evening. Even at her advanced age, we decided to have Bijou’s spleen removed to avoid the dangerous future of it potentially rupturing at an inopportune time.
Lately, we’ve been treating Bijou’s arthritis with a combination of water therapy, active therapy, laser therapy, acupuncture, at-home physical therapy and CBD oil. There’s a wonderful facility in Lower Manhattan called Water4Dogs that offers all these treatments under the same roof. The staff has been exceptional and you can tell how much they care about the dogs they treat.
Now, at almost 17-1/2, Bijou’s deaf and partially blind but she still enjoys riding around the neighborhood in her little red wagon and getting rubs from new friends. We promised that if she were to ever show signs of distress, we would do the humane thing and not allow her to suffer. But so far, her tail is still wagging, she still has a strong appetite and she still insists on pulling towards all the neighborhood merchants that give out dog biscuits.
We don’t know how much time we have left with her, but we promised that we would do everything in our power to keep her happy and healthy for as long as we can. We treat everyday as if it were her birthday and end each night thankful that we had the gift of her smile for a little while longer.”