Few Words on Senior Care (a profoundly rewarding roller-coaster ride) & my article Twilight Dining: Senior Dog Nutrition

GO JOVIE!! Jove is now 13! Fiercely devoted mom is our dear friend and mentor, Cabernet. Here’s Jovie on her 10th birthday! She’s had some senior dog moments recently but is enjoying stability for now — so grateful. We love you, Jovie (and you, Cab!)

Branko suggested that I share my personal FB post about recent struggles members have had with their older or seriously ill dogs, and the tremendous/wonderful gift of happy updates this week.  So, here it is — I hope, maybe, this may help and support other people on their own path with their animals.

End of our vacation and last few weeks — several of my older/chronically ill, **most favorite and beloved** members were experiencing big crisis type episodes/shifts with their dogs – some were end of life type challenges – all with scary nights & difficult days, scary or expensive vet visits & lots of tears. We were all so worried.

This week — I’ve been flooded with GOOD happy, positive turnaround updates for EVERY SINGLE ONE (oh my goodness!!) after making some recommended changes to their protocols. This week we have dogs walking again, dogs eating & eliminating normally again, dogs acting normal and stable again, dogs testing well with their critical lab values. Yay! Such a happy day today with two more just outstandingly GREAT updates.

Happy and grateful for this very moment of sunshine, this bright spot. Of course, it could all change any minute, but today has been a good day for these wonderful, caring people and their incredible, inspiring, strong and beautiful animals 

End of life care or caring for older/chronically ill animals is a roller coaster ride! This is a journey only for the brave of heart, sound of mind, and strong in body (sleep loss, lifting & bathing, etc), and it can shatter your heart, bring you to your knees (or ruin your back!) — but it’s one of the most incredibly rewarding experiences that we can ever have with another being (IMO). The “Twilight Years” as I like to call them, are one of the most profoundly moving and extremely meaningful periods in our animals’ lives; when we have an opportunity to truly support and honor our animals. Animals give and give and give to us their entire lives, and this is a period when we can really “give back” to them, reciprocating in some measure by stepping outside of our needs, our feelings/thoughts/worries/impressions about their circumstances, by openly supporting them, without judgement or assumptions, during their journey as mature and evolved beings. I think we need to allow them to make their own choices and decisions for care, and just be ok with their choices — for this period in life, mature animals usually do know best what their needs are, if we are willing to listen and witness without judgement or the influences of ego. This time with our animals provides a bonding experience like no other. Each journey is SO unique and such an incredible gift — being old can have very very scary and sad days, yes, but gosh – what an accomplishment and privilege to be old! I’m so moved and honored to be even a small part of these animal’s journeys — to help from the sidelines, as a loving guide, the best I can. I’m so inspired by their stories, by their strength and personalities, by their people’s dedication, fierce love, and good, kind care.

Talk about “wow”.

I’m so grateful for all of it.


“Kasie, This is my dog that couldn’t walk yesterday! Talk w/you on Tuesday!😘🙏⭕️❌🐾🐾 – Tandy”

Dear and much beloved Mouse is a senior living with two serious illnesses — but she has experienced incredible results with adjustments made to her diet while healthy, and also now, when facing health challenges. She was Dx with end-stage renal failure the start of this year, and then, more recently, an incredibly aggressive multiple myeloma. Note: she has been blind since a rescue puppy off the streets of Mexico.

Thankfully, both illnesses have been effectively managed with a custom SFRAW diet, awesome holistic vet care, and supplements. She experienced a very difficult crash over the past few weeks/month and her two vets were each preparing her person for the worse. We were thrilled to see her lab values looking rather unremarkable this week, and to see her “not dying” in this remarkable video, taken just a day after we made some drastic moves to adjust her protocol/a full re-set — GO Mouse!

Video on Zuree & Cynthia from May: Zuree’s story provides real inspiration!! She will be 15 years young next week; was Dx with renal failure over a year ago with a poor prognosis. After making some dietary changes, following my protocol, her values normalized and she improved dramatically! She has been stable & healthy & so energetic ever since!! Her vet is amazed. We’re all so thrilled to see her continuing to do so incredibly well! Go Zuree! Go Cynthia!

This week, after a week of some very dramatic scares and difficulty…

Subject: Miss Zuree

Hello Kasie,

I started Miss Zuree on the AnimalBiome on Sunday.  She seems to be doing very well on it.  Stools are solid.

I’m splitting the probiotic flora between her two meals and am giving her two scoops (@ 2 grams) of the D-Mannose.

Vet indicates there was still a trace of the UTI in the urine sample I took in last Friday.

Hopefully, this will clear up soon.

I can’t thank you enough for all your help and caring.

Thank you!!!!


And, just a few photos of my own past senior dogs:

Rescued Great Dane, Ben (1998-2010) experienced a long, super active, healthy, vital life with one of the most gentle and natural transitions I’ve ever witnessed and experienced that involved several months of difficult, yet incredibly rewarding,”end of life” home care — a very special time for his family that supported him throughout. The last few months, Ben got a bath every morning. Minna would always “help” by stand next to Ben to lend her support. After Minna died, Briar kitty took over and stayed next to Ben on the chair from start-to-finish, even getting wet!
Rescued Great Dane Minna (1998-2010) — always the first one out the door! Even when she left us forever — suddenly and quickly — my Princess with twinkle toes, that literally pranced and zoomed her way through life.  Never, ever to be forgotten <3

I also wanted to share, for those enjoying and sharing their life with older dogs, my article on senior dog nutrition, Twilight Dining: Senior Dog Nutrition, published in Bay Woof magazine August 2015.


Twilight Dining: Senior Dog Nutrition

The enjoyment of a long, healthy, and happy life – free of stress, suffering and illness – is an aspiration for every living being, and a state in which we strive to provide for our beloved dogs.  One of the most dramatic ways in which we can achieve gains towards this goal is through daily nutrition. Ideal nutrition for all living beings is based upon the consumption of fresh, wholesome, unprocessed, real food – either raw or home-cooked – a clean, balanced, whole food diet will provide the optimum foundation for a long and healthy life.

High quality nutrition provides the biggest rewards during the start of life and throughout puppyhood, then again in your dogs’ active senior years and into a period referred to as the “twilight era” – when our dogs become truly elderly or enter into an extended period of hospice care. The twilight era is a special and prized period for every being. Agedness is a tremendous honor and gift – too many animals perish in their youth from illness or accidents, not every animal is able to achieve or enjoy old age. Caring for a senior animal can be a deeply rewarding period of joy, profound understanding and love, and a unique comfort; it is an exquisite honor to accompany and support a beloved animal throughout their twilight period.

If your dog is a senior it’s beneficial to know the most significant changes you can make nutritionally for your dog to ensure their senior and twilight period is as healthy, comfortable and happy as possible.

Expected Metabolic Changes

Metabolic changes your older dog may experience include an inhibited capacity to easily digest or efficiently absorb nutrients, ability to break down foods, difficulty with elimination, or changes in tolerance for macro-nutrients (such as fat).

It is important to understand that neither AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) nor the National Research Council (NRC) provides specific guidelines for senior dog food formulas. From these authorities, and despite what you may hear from the pet food industry’s marketing campaigns, there is no authoritative distinction made between the nutritional requirements for adult dogs and those for senior dogs at this time. Research, however, has provided us with insight and a new understanding about what senior dogs respond best to nutritionally, and you might be surprised to learn about recent findings.

Seniors Need More (High Quality) Protein, Not Less

Research conducted over the past 15-20 years has shown that dogs have an increased requirement for high quality and easily to assimilate protein as they age and that dogs fed reduced protein diets experience declines in health, as well as receiving absolutely no benefits or protection of their renal, hepatic or overall health. This is especially true for dogs fed a dry fodder (kibble, dehydrated or freeze-fried) as the natural moisture content and heat processing of food can have a dramatic influence on their ability to metabolize the diet, putting unnecessary strain on their kidneys and liver.

The latest research has revealed the unexpected result that healthy senior dogs do significantly better with a diet 50% higher in protein than younger dogs. Senior dogs fed high protein diets actually experience lower mortality rates, and a reduction in age related illnesses and infections.

Protein is essential because it supports the immune system and the central nervous system, contributes to wound healing, helps build lean muscle, and is required for skin and coat health. When dogs are not fed enough protein, their bodies will break down their own muscle tissue, leading to muscle wasting, reduced immunity and other serious problems. Even mild protein deficiency can significantly impair immune function and may contribute to a decline in healthy renal and hepatic function.

Ideally, senior dogs should enjoy a fresh food diet based on whole, unprocessed foods.

A simple guideline to follow is a diet composed of:

  • 80% lean, high quality muscle meat
  • 5% liver
  • 5% other organs such as: kidney, heart, spleen, gizzards, brains/eyeballs (high in EFAs), sweetbread, pancreas and other glands
  • 10% fully consumable raw bones or another source of adequate calcium (this element of the diet is most crucial and cannot be ignored)

While most senior dogs will thrive on a diet within this framework, some may experience problems with chewing or digesting whole bones, or even begin to express a slightly reduced requirement for calcium in the diet. In this case, you can rely on calcium supplementation instead of (but not in addition to) feeding bones. One of the best sources for calcium supplementation in senior dogs eating home-prepared meals is ground eggshell powder fed at a rate of ½ tsp per lb. of boneless meat.

Offal is very nutrient rich, providing a unique spectrum of essential vitamins and minerals and can really help improve the health of your dog. If your dog is struggling with an organ related condition or disease, you may find tremendous benefit to providing them with additional servings of that organ in the diet. For example, feeding extra servings of heart for cardiac conditions; kidney for renal or urinary imbalances; liver for hepatic disease. Some dogs experience remarkable improvements in these conditions after incorporating these organ specific foods in their diet. Just remember to feed offal in moderation, as too much of these nutrient rich foods can cause lose stools or even bouts of dark, tarry diarrhea. If this happens, try reducing how much you are feeding, cooking the organs instead of feeding them raw, and doing so after taking a break from this food for a period of time.

When considering which meats to feed, assimilation and individual tolerance are the key factors. Your dog will guide you to selecting which meats and proteins work best for their unique systems.

The very best sources of easy to assimilate, high quality protein for your dog includes the following:

  • Raw egg yolks and cooked egg whites
  • Lean muscle meat, raw or cooked at low temperatures (beef, pork, duck, rabbit, turkey, chicken, lamb, bison, venison)
  • Green tripe (fed raw)
  • Fish (previously frozen or cooked)

While feeding lean and lower fat foods is generally better tolerated by senior dogs, there are always exceptions. Some dogs may require higher fat cuts of meat (25-30% fat) to maintain ideal coat condition and weight as they age. Symptoms of having trouble digesting fats include burping, gas, vomiting or diarrhea.

It is always a good idea to move slowly with any changes to your senior dog’s diet – take baby steps and go slowly to reduce any undue stress and enjoy a more successful transition.

Kasie Maxwell has been feeding home-prepared raw diets to her animals since 1989 and founded the San Francisco Raw Feeders (SFRAW) in 2003. The SFRAW warehouse is located at 250 Napoleon Street, Unit G, in San Francisco and is open to the public 7-days/week. Visit sfraw.com for more information.