Help - My Dog Has Cancer!
The one word in our vocabulary that instils fear is cancer. My friend emailed me with her news that her Rottweiler had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (a tumour on his leg bone). Both of us went straight into fear and feeling helpless. What could we do about it?
My friend decided to research the type of tumour. She remained with her veterinarian and was guided by him; she informed herself of all her possible options. In doing so she became my unofficial research assistant sending any information on natural therapies used in the support of cancer treatments for me to review and assist her with her decisions.
The decision was made to have the tumour and 10cms of the bone removed with a surgical procedure followed by six chemotherapy sessions. From our combined research, we decided that to get the best possible outcome from his veterinary care, we would support his body to stay as healthy as possible throughout this process.
We did not set out to "cure" the cancer; we aimed at minimising the effects of cancer within his body. As my friend searched the internet and bought books, I attended classes and seminars on how natural therapies could be used with cancer. Emails and phone calls flowed late each evening as we explored all the possible options and I will share some of those with you below. I will not put the dosage rate as dogs vary so much in size and our Rottweiler was 76 kilos of dog.
The first thing to be addressed was his diet. My friend's focus was to remove as much chemical influence as she could, and give him an organic diet where possible.
He was fed lightly steamed carrots, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, silver beet, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, parsley, tomato, apple, celery and garlic. Some of these vegetables are high in antioxidants so we had this added benefit as well as the natural fibre they provided, which would be important if he became constipated with chemotherapy.
His meat was either organic or free range chicken fillets slightly steamed, the bone and carcass ground into mince, and biodynamic meat in the form of marrowbones three times a week, bone/carcass ground into mince, with offal twice a week.
For treats his 'grandmother' gave him biscuits made from rolled oats, garlic, parsley, organic wholemeal flour, raisins, apricots, and egg whites.
Nothing with sugar, white flour, or preservatives was allowed. Most cancers feed on sugar so we did not want to 'feed' any nasties in his body. My friend was very strict on this aspect.
Water was another consideration. Town water is treated with chlorine and other chemicals so whenever this dog went to town to visit his veterinarian he went with bottled water.
Once she had modified his diet, my friend then researched what we could add to his diet to help his body manage the cancer. Some of the supplements are listed here:
Organic flaxseed oil whisked with low fat cottage cheese
This one still dumbfounds me but here is the reasoning. Dr Budwig surmised that the healthy person contained sufficient quality protein and essential fatty acids, and reasoned that diseases such as cancer could have health restored by a diet high in essential fatty acids and sulfur-based proteins. Eventually she came up with a combination of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese, and my friend found many success stories from people using this simple approach. Over time it was modified to Quark ( similar to cottage cheese but processed differently) and flaxseed oil and it is still one of her dog's favourite supplements.
Flora Essence Tea
This is a commercial preparation of the formulation Essiac tea. This was developed by Renee Caisse, a Canadian nurse during the 1920's. It is a blend of herbs containing sheep sorrel, burdock root, rhubarb root, and slippery elm bark powder, which in trials showed reduction in the size of tumours, brought about changes in cell formation, and brought a cessation of pain to patients. My friend's dog was also on this formula to help combat any constipation he could have experienced from the chemotherapy.
These are high in selenium and as a powerful antioxidant have been shown in scientific research to inhibit formation of tumours, probably by stimulating the production of antibodies.
Biobeet - Beetroot Crystal Organic
A vegetable rich in antioxidants and antioxidant nutrients. Beets are traditionally used to feed the blood; this is an important support during chemotherapy.
Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling has documented that cancer patients lived longer and felt better on high doses of Vitamin C.
Wheat Grass Organic Powder
Wheat grass is high in chlorophyll and oxygen, and oxygen is necessary to help the body rid itself of cancer. It has also been a supplement in European and Indian naturopathic clinics supporting cancer patients. In itself it is a nutritional supplement containing more than 100 vitamins and minerals, all eight amino acids, and other essential nutrients and is higher in vitamin C than oranges, and has more iron than spinach.
This is an essential nutrient and strong antioxidant. Vitamin E is also known to support the immune system and is a good addition in any anti-cancer diet.
Since 80% of the immune system lines the gastrointestinal tract, yoghurt can fortify the body against infections.
This is a proteolytic enzyme that seems to dissolve the "stealth" coating that keeps tumours invisible to the body's defence systems and is associated with encouraging cancer cells to commit 'suicide'.
The active component in turmeric, curcumin, helps to enhance the immune system by protecting immune cells from their own poisons and in animal experiments shown to be directly toxic to tumour cells.
Green Tea tablets
Contains catechins and other microscopic phytochemicals, full of cancer fighting agents. Researches at the National Cancer Institute in Japan and China have found numerous mechanisms that prevent and even reverse some forms of cancer.
This is shown to reduce the damage to the heart from some chemotherapeutic drugs.
We researched herbs reputed to have anticancer agents and decided to add a brew of herbs to his meals consisting of ginseng, St. Mary's thistle, nettle, pau d'arco, hawthorn berry, yellow dock, and goldenseal.
His general care
He also received the homeopathic remedy Or. Aurum-V (a combination remedy) to help rid his body of toxins that had built up over the years and Natrum sulph to promote oxygen in the cells. Before and after each surgical procedure he also received a dose of Arnica to help his body with any shock it experienced and we found once we started with this, his recovery after surgery improved markedly.
After his initial operation he would sit in the sun for at least two hours a day, assisted with walks four times a day if his leg was strong enough. He had plenty of massages incorporated into his general grooming and we found weekly Bowen treatments worked best with his muscle health and general wellbeing.
If his fixator that held together bone during this phase rubbed on his coat and he developed a sore, we would dress with medi-honey to assist with the healing. Chemotherapy can slow the healing process so we needed this to encourage new cells with these little incidents.
After one chemotherapy session he did suffer from constipation, so we administered the Bach Flowers to help with the stress of this episode. My friend was also instructed to take the Bach Flower Rescue Remedy regularly for her own stress.
Our whole approach was to assist this dog with his immune function and address any inflammatory responses in his body. We wanted to support the tissue repair and negate any side effects from his chemotherapy.
My friend's wellbeing
The more I studied, the more apparent it became we also had to address my friend's wellbeing. I am a believer that our animals often reflect back to us what we need to address in our own lives.
We started discussing what in her life could have led to the imbalances in her dog that may have contributed to his getting this "dis-ease" in his body.
Because so much fear came up for both of us when he was diagnosed, I asked her if she feared losing control of things in her life. We had to first survive this prognosis and to do so we had to give her back her own 'power to make decisions'.
For many years my friend had been the pleaser, and had not been able to say no to any requests made upon her time. It was not unusual to receive emails in my inbox at 3 am because she was up late working to meet a client's deadline.
I started to trick her into making her the top of the priority list. Anything for her and her dog comes first; she is learning to say no to some of the overbearing requests others make on her. She is exploring what things bring her joy, maybe sitting in the sun with her dog taking in the view across her paddocks, reading inspiring stories, and just making time to relax with the phone turned off. It doesn't mean she cares less about her clients and friends, it simply means she now cares enough about herself.
Our Continuing Approach
We are still exploring other therapeutics to assist this dog. He is about to have his bone graft and one last session of chemotherapy. So we still need to support him, however his ability to heal and recuperate after each visit to the vet is astounding.
We are currently researching the herbal extract of maritime pine bark for its strong antioxidant agency as well as studies we have found to support its use in cancer therapy. The benefit to trying this herbal preparation is that it has a very low therapeutic dose and we may be able to cut down on some of our other antioxidants.
There are also rainforest herbs products that include graviola , guacatonga , mullaca vassourinha , espinheira santa , mutamba , bitter melon , cat's claw . These herbs have been researched extensively. Unfortunately we have to import these from the United States but we are looking at using them once a season to help maintain a healthy body.
The final formula we may use to assist his return to a healthier body is Astragalus 8 developed here by my herbal teacher Denis Stewart. We thought this one would be particularly useful with this dog as some of his blood tests have shown some minor platelet abnormalities and this formula of Chinese herbs is haematopoietic restorative. It is also specific to leukocytogenic in case there has been any leukopenia due to the chemotherapy as well as being immuno-restorative.
There are many 'natural' therapies used in supporting the cancer patient, we will continue to review our approach. It is important we stay aware of possible additions to this dog's diet and sometimes we find it quite odd with the synchronicity of ideas that flow between us. Often I will explore an idea and email my friend, only to find she has made a similar decision regarding his diet. It can be a bit 'freaky' sometimes, but this confirms to us that we are looking in the right direction for this dog's health.
What I think is important here was my friend worked in closely with her veterinarian and oncologist. She advised them of what her dog was being given and was guided by them if they thought any of the above would conflict with their procedures.
From the initial fear my friend's email generated to the now feeling that cancer does not necessarily have to mean 'death', I have felt empowered not only by my own quest to discover more but also inspired by my friend's determination to explore her options.
These options are exactly that. There were many more ideas we weighed with due consideration. We will remain dynamic with our approach and may change doses and therapeutics as each stage in this "dis-ease" evolves. We no longer feel powerless and know we have both grown personally through the privilege of this experience, as well as assisting this dog in maintaining a healthy and happy life.
Some books we found useful:
How to Fight Cancer and Win - William L. Fischer
Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer - Donald R. Yance
Herbs Against Cancer - Ralph W. Moss
Why is Cancer Killing our Pets? - Deborah Straw
Beating Cancer with Nutrition - Patrick Quillin and Noreen Quillin
The Nature of Animal Healing - Martin Goldstein, DVM
About the author:
Catherine Bird , Animal Natural Health Consultant, is an Aromatherapist, Medical Herbalist and Massage Therapist specializing in working with horses. She is based in Sydney , Australia and consults in person and via the Internet worldwide. She is the author of "A Healthy Horse the Natural Way " and "Horse Scents". Catherine also offers the Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course, and can be contacted through her website, www.catherinebird.com.au.