Disclaimer: Okay, I’ll never really know if buttermilk saved her life or if it’s just a coincidence, but if you ask me, it helped. And it makes a catchy title. I’ll give the real credit to our vet and only partial credit to buttermilk.
First a little background. Last week our dog, Zinneke, was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia. If the name isn’t enough to scare you, then the symptoms would be. Essentially, her body has started fighting her own red blood cells, so she was lethargic and wouldn’t eat. If you know Zinne, then you know there’s something seriously wrong if she won’t eat. So we took her right to the vet, but certainly weren’t expecting anything as serious as this. She’s 7.5 years old, and other than some bladder problems due to a birth defect when we first got her, she’s been as healthy as they come.
Fortunately, there is a treatment. Steroids can block the immune system’s response and manage the disease. It will likely shorten her life, but she could go on for quite awhile. Or she could die quickly, according to the vet. Our research online showed 40%-60% of dogs die from the disease, but it seems crucial to get past the early stages.
That’s where the buttermilk comes in. When we got her home, Zinneke would eat some chicken and some rice. As the days went on, though, she started eating less and less. We tried different dog foods; we tried human food — pancakes were still a hit on Saturday, but by Sunday, she was hardly eating at all.
Monday morning, out of desperation, I thought to give her some buttermilk. I’ve heard that it can help with ulcers and stomach upsets due to cancer, etc., so I figured it was worth a try. She lapped it right up, better than anything I had given her in days. After the buttermilk, she was more interested in wet food and would also eat rice soaked in buttermilk. Eventually she got back to eating chicken and even her own dog food. By tonight, she has been eating out of the bowl (and not my hand), and has regained much of her appetite.
Now did the buttermilk really save her life? If it turned her appetite around, then I believe it helped, at any rate. Of course, it could be that the steroids and antibiotics had finally kicked in and that’s why she was more interested in the buttermilk in the first place. You be the judge.
Of course, there are other tricks that have helped, like giving her her pills in peanut butter. That’s something I learned from our humane society vet, and it really works if you need a dog to take medicine. Once they start licking the peanut butter, they don’t taste the medicine, and they can’t stop licking, so they swallow whatever’s with it. I cut the pills up small enough so they aren’t much bigger than a peanut chunk. Other suggestions I’ve used are to wrap the pill in deli chicken (which worked at first), or cover it in cheese (but Zinneke turned her nose up at cheese, as hard as that is to believe). Peanut butter proved irresistible, especially once I got a little on her tongue and she started licking.
So if my dog stopped eating again, would I give her buttermilk? No. I would take her to the vet and find out what the problem was. But if she’d been to the vet and was being treated and stil wouldn’t eat? Then I’d be sure to try buttermilk again. With any luck, now that she has her appetite back, she will regain her strength and the vet can reduce the steroid dosage until it’s manageable. She’ll be back to her old self or close soon.