Since Milo’s diagnosis of PLE, I spend almost half of my waking hours each day on his care: cooking, feeding, giving medications and taking him outside every few hours (steriods increase his input and output!). Milo’s pre-existing food allergies and intolerances combined with PLE-imposed restrictions and requirements on protein, fat and fiber have made filling his food bowl a task worthy of Watson the super-computer. If only I knew the Jeopardy! question in response to this clue: palatable; easily digestible; high-calorie for rapid weight gain; protein-rich but not beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, or lactose; low fat, preferably MCT fat, enough fat for absorption of fat-soluble nutrients; anti-inflammatory; not gas-producing; low fiber to be gentle but sufficient fiber to prevent diarrhea; not wheat, corn or soy.
I have entered Milo’s information into a national registry for dogs with inherited auto-immune diseases and his blood sample will go the UPenn Vet School for inclusion in research studies on PLE. I’ve always had some guilt about owning a purebred dog. I believed Milo’s breeder to be responsible; I still believe she did her best not to spread this disease, which has no known (i.e., test-able) genetic marker. That PLE surfaced in Milo at age 11.5, way past his stud years if he had been one, indicates how difficult it is to completely avoid breeding PLE carriers. The shame is that the many wonderful characteristics (affection, intelligence, playfulness, non-shedding coat) of the soft-coated wheaten terrier come at a terrible cost to the individual dogs who suffer with dysfunctional immune systems. Human meddling in gene pools is a dangerous game.
I have to believe that industrialized food production and environmental toxins have a hand in this disease. That’s why I dislike the idea of feeding Milo a prescribed “veterinary diet” which in its various forms (dry, canned) includes the chemical preservative and suspected carcinogen BHA, genetically modified corn and soy, animal by-products and, last and certainly least appealing, animal digest — chemically “purified” offal and manure. If the ingredients aren’t disgusting enough, think of the myriad ills — for humans, animals and earth — arising from factory farming and industrialized agriculture. Yikes. What have we done?