Lifestyle Lessons I Learned from my Pup

Some days I wonder if my beloved doodle, Bowser, is my soulmate. Cuddler extraordinaire, never tired of my company, and soulful eyes with which he can make piercing and incredibly communicative eye contact. Alas, the lack of non-barking verbal communication is a big limitation to overlook, but truthfully, in 3.5 years, I’ve really only missed it when he’s sick.

woman and pup cuddle on couchWhen Bowser turns his nose up at breakfast and seems lethargic, when his tummy starts churning out some questionable sounds, and especially at the tail end of 2020 when he started having seizures, I wanted nothing more than to have him answer me in the hours we lay cuddling and I asked him again and again, “Baby, what’s wrong”. For the first half of 2021, my husband and I puzzled over what could have gone awry, seeking traditional and holistic veterinary care without any clear answers. Finally, he – a disciplined practitioner of healthy living with nutrition credentials – and I – board-certified in lifestyle medicine, aside from my primary work as a fertility specialist – decided to go back to basics. When we got serious about cultivating a healthy lifestyle for Bowser, the frequency of his seizures, increasing through early 2021, spaced way back out. Superstitiously, I hesitate to bring the universe’s attention to our success, but as I have pondered my health aspirations for 2022, it was really this health trajectory that inspired me most. So, without further ado, here are my takeaways from what helped my pup be his best self, and what would really be best for us all…

Food as medicine

Doodle laying on mat

  • The burgeoning confluence of culinary medicine and the wellness industry is slowly but surely helping us see that without intentionality, what we use to fuel our body can also truly harm us. Each and every one of us has our own sensitivities and physiology with which we must become familiar. There is no one magic diet that is best for everyone, though certain concepts {less ultraprocessed junk, more plant-based whole foods} definitely benefit all humans. With Bowser, I was primarily feeding him premium food recommended by his breeder, with a subscription of rotating human-grade treats and generous helpings of human food he {used to} love:: cheese, the occasional croissant or baguette.
  • With all of this, though, he had frequent but unpredictable diarrhea. He never seemed to mind much, and with so many variables at play, we could never say which food might be the definitive cause. He would quickly improve with time and probiotics, and so we carried on. Last year, we got him tested for food sensitivities and went on a strict elimination diet. Once he started a prescription minimal-ingredient kibble and homemade treats only, his gastrointestinal health improved. He rarely has diarrhea now, and is much more likely to finish his bowl with every meal. I do think he misses the variety he had, and he still runs to the fridge if he hears me messing with the cheese, but we are moving at a snail’s pace in terms of reintroducing new food, and using his sensitivity testing as a guide. When I think about how many of my patients live with chronic gas, GI upset, bloating, and other symptoms, the same logic applies. Some folks may be better off dairy-free, others gluten-free, others plant-based, etc., but it takes discipline, effort, and time to get to the bottom of what works for each of us.

Toxic exposures

Muddy Doodle stands by lake and shakes headSome of the most effective anti-flea and anti-tick medications have been demonstrated to increase seizure risk. Desperately not wanting to get fleas, with which we had a minor run-in the first time we tried alternative methods, we were nervous to change the regimen, but we did. No fleas, thankfully!

I think the analogy here is self-evident. We sometimes hesitate to break off toxic relationships or leave toxic workplaces, but we should identify what is injecting negativity into our lives. We often try to compensate by overmedicating, whether with alcohol, caffeine, or prescription medications. In general, we should be actively trying to up the positive: negative ratio in life, and if we need to support ourselves with substances or medications, the most gentle but effective methods are probably best.

Anxiety management and social connectedness

woman with sunglasses poses outside with dog

  • COVID-19 put a damper on our social life, but entirely eliminated our pup’s. His discomfort around other dogs grew substantially over the strictest months of lockdown, and when I reenrolled him in the daycare I thought was just amazing, he must have hated it, or at least had mixed feelings. I’m a brand loyalist, and it took me a long time to see that just because this facility seemed objectively great did not mean it was the right fit for Bowser. As moms, we go through this exercise with our kids all the time: did we pick the right school, the right extracurricular? If they’re miserable, do we need to change the setting, or help them adapt? Ultimately, we tried a few options before finding a new daycare for him, a smaller home-based setting that he genuinely loves.
  • But when it comes to options I recommend for anxiety management and stress reduction, physical activity is number one. To that end, I also put him into an amazing dog hiking group. We were nervous that in roaming free, he would run off or get anxious, but the dog we see in his hiking pictures is raw energy, almost wild… a far cry from the adorable domesticated guy that begs for belly rubs in our living room! I love knowing he is letting loose every week, exploring and getting out into nature – we should all be doing the same.

Doodle stands on upside down kayakSo, eating healthier and in the right pattern for me, identifying and reducing toxicity in my life, and protecting my mental health through the means that work best for my personality – those are the goals that Bowser’s health journey has suggested to me. He is thriving, happier with a softer, more glowing coat, and for now, seizure-free. It took time and money, but has been the best investment given the payoff. Hopefully, the next year will bring me, and all of us really, closer to these habits too!


Pin this post and be sure to follow
Houston Moms
on Pinterest!

Previous articleA Hand to Hold: Love Languages From a Hospice Social Worker
Next articleWe are Not Helpless: Ideas for Action in Response to the Ukraine Crisis
Rashmi Kudesia, MD MSc is a board-certified OB/GYN and Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility specialist who is passionate about improving women's access to evidence-based, honest reproductive health information and care. Aside from her clinical practice seeing patients in Houston and Sugar Land, Rashmi frequently speaks at conferences and community events, and advocates for women's health via media interviews and social media. Originally a Midwesterner, she moved around the East Coast for school and training, including nearly a decade in NYC, where she met her husband, Ashish, a Houston native. After moving to Houston in 2018, she's continued searching for that perfect work-life balance as the family grew quickly, adding their first pup, Bowser {2018}, their first home, and now their first kiddo, Amara {2019}! Right now, she's learning the ropes of being a working mama, but still loves exploring Houston's amazing food scene, checking out the newest museum exhibits, or planning the family's next trip. She's always on the hunt for the city's best iced latte or glass of wine to be savored with a good book. Find her on Facebook and Instagram {@rkudesia}.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here