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Cancer In Pets

I can tell from the looks on their faces when my clients come in with a diagnosis of cancer in their beloved pet. They are worried, concerned about cost, and looking for hope from a holistic viewpoint. The pet, on the other hand, is happily investigating the new surroundings and interesting scents in my office, oblivious to their diagnosis.
There are many reasons for hope. It is a rare day when I tell a patient there is nothing we can do to help. There are always things that can help! Each vital force and body constitution is different, so we deal with the options one at a time, on an individually tailored plan.
Conventional biopsy, surgery, and chemotherapy can be very useful but the thought of this is overwhelming to many clients at first. Like any disease, cancer is a dysfunction of the immune system, so that is an easy place to begin immediate treatment and especially prevention. Begin with good nutrition, fresh organic foods, and herbal supplements tailored to individual needs. It always helps to take one small step in the right direction and the animals love this part of the plan!
Next we discuss the type of cancer, how genetics and nutrigenomics play a role, and whether a visit to an oncologist is an option. I try to educate clients that the cancer did not begin on the day of diagnosis but much earlier in life. Their pet has been and will be living with this for some time. We choose herbal combinations and supplements to add to the conventional therapies. There is much research showing the beneficial effects of botanical compounds in cancer therapy to enhance quality of life and fight cancer at the cellular level. We discover whether their pet will accept tablets, powders, or liquids most readily. I strive for stress free treatment for owner and pet!
If a case is in terminal stages, animal hospice is an option. End of life care is so important in the bond with a loved pet and the memories made during those last days. Pain control with acupuncture or drugs is essential and veterinary home visits reduce stress on everyone.
I believe that each pet is a special angel that has lessons for us. If we pay attention, we can learn so much from them. We can cook healthy food for them and ourselves, we can learn about cancer prevention, we can learn how to be a health advocate for someone else. Most of all, we can learn to toss our worries to the wind and live joyfully in the moment.

July 23, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN

Interview your vet. Veterinarians are as varied as all humankind. Find out who you are dealing with today! This medically educated human being is evaluating your precious companion and you are entitled to the best advice they can give. Remember, the vet does not make your animal get better, the vital force and innate healing ability of the incredible body is responsible. You are paying for advice and medications that have the potential to nudge the body toward healing, or to cause a negative effect.

1) What kind of animals do you have? Everyone likes others who care about them! Try to find a common bond with your vet. Are they a cat person or a dog person? Where did they attend veterinary college? If they do not have any pets or express a dislike of animals, you might run the other way!

2) How is my pet’s weight? Sometimes vets neglect to cover nutrition fully and give the owner specific information. Unfortunately, nobody can tell you how many cups of food to give, because sizes and metabolic rated vary so much among animals. “Look down on your pet” that is, look from above and see if there is a waistline between the rib cage and the hips. Loss of waist line, usually means weight creeping up! Ask specifically what type of food is recommended, where to find it, recipes for home-made diets, whether cooked or raw. Ask if any supplements would help, such as coenzyme Q-10 for a dog with heart problems, or probiotics for cats with kidney failure.

3) What do you feed your animals? How much does your vet walk the talk? If a homemade diet for a large breed dog is recommended, ask your vet if they have cooked for their dog and ask where to find the ingredients for the diet. For example, exactly where can you buy bone meal in my town?

4) What vaccines do you consider to be “core vaccines” (strongly recommended) and which are optional? Consider your pet’s risk of contracting this disease and compare this with the possible risk or side effect of the vaccine being recommended.

5) What treatment plan would you pursue for your pet if he or she was given this particular diagnosis?

6) What is the minimal vaccination schedule recommended for an animal in my situation?

7) Do you know any specialists who could give me a second opinion on this? Such as veterinarians certified in acupuncture, homeopathy or chiropractic care?

8) How do I know if my animal is in pain?

9) Would you write down some of the information you just told me? Sometimes we go on about subjects too quickly, assuming a client will remember everything. Sometimes we use words that are not clear in meaning. Here are two examples, Cage Rest – One owner thought it meant rest in the cage, but she was doing walking exercises with her dog right after spinal surgery. The doctor meant enforced rest in a cage so as to minimize any movement at all after surgery. Leash Walks only means put the pet on a leash to go out to the bathroom, only. One could take this to mean walking is ok as long as the pet is kept on a leash!

10) What vet would you choose to care for your animals if you were out of town and an emergency arose?

My clients seek honesty, empathy, knowledge, and action. These questions may help you to find out much more about the person who cares for your pet’s health!

July 10, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feline Bartonellosis

If you love cats, here’s a disease you should know about! Feline Bartonellosis is surprisingly common in cats, at the rate of about 35%.  This is the causative agent of Cat Scratch Fever which is transmitted to people and can be a very serious infection. Since I have been educating my clients about this disease, I have met more than a few clients who have described the devastating effects if this illness on their own health. These include seizure disorders, visual disturbances, chronic fatigue, and high fevers.

Since my area of expertise is animals, let me briefly explain. Outwardly healthy animals can carry the bacteria,  Bartonella henselae, and transmit it to other cats or the people they live with.  Some cats with long term illnesses have been cured with treatment for Bartonella. Yes, that is the good news! It is treatable!

Signs in cats range from none to severe weight loss, mouth problems, respiratory problems, skin problems, and chronic diarrhea.  The carrier cat can be a danger to its owner especially if the person in direct contact is immune compromised, having chemotherapy, or is a small child.

The diagnostic test is a simple blood test taking 3 drops of blood from the ear or the forearm. The results come back in a week. The treatment is an oral antibiotic given daily for 3 weeks. A follow up test is recommended in 6 months.

Protect yourself and your cats by testing for Bartonella! I recommend testing every new kitten entering a household for Bartonella, Feline leukemia, and FIV. This combination test will allow early detection and treatment and prevent spread of the disease. I would love for you to go to  www.natvetlabs.org for further information on this subject.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Renavast™ for Kidney Disease

There have been few additions to treatment of chronic renal failure in cats in the past 15 years. Until now! Renavast™ is a new product available for clinical trials that appears to be safe and effective.

A very simplified explanation helps my clients understand that our veterinary term “kidney failure” or “renal failure” has nothing to do with failure to produce urine. In fact, renal disease occurs when the kidney is no longer able to conserve the good stuff and eliminate the bad. There is a reversal where the good stuff is lost and the bad continues to circulate, making the patient nauseous and toxic.

I will summarize the current treatment options for cats in chronic renal failure:

  • Dietary adjustment: Mostly, renal patients are very picky  because their sense of taste and smell is altered and it is a challenge to get them to eat enough of anything. The diet argument has gone full circle and it now appears that a quality moderate protein wet food is ideal. The more fluid intake, the better!
  • Subcutaneous fluids:  There is no doubt that home fluid therapy is life-saving for cats with renal disease. Owners can learn to do this procedure at home. Every 2nd or 3rd day fluid therapy will improve appetite and well-being by diluting the toxins that build up in the body.
  •  Azodyl®:  Azodyl® is a probiotic which can truly help these cats to feel better and it works by reducing urea production in the intestines. Urea is an inevitable breakdown product of protein metabolism. Reducing urea load will reduce urea toxin buildup in the blood.
  • Renavast™:  Renavast™ is NEW and is a combination of amino acids and peptides which can reduce damage to the kidney. It comes as a capsule but can be opened and sprinkled on food. It is very palatable for cats. I am participating in clinical trials to monitor and collect case reports of cats and dogs taking Renavast™ and am hopeful that it can add years to their lives.
  • Herbal medicines: I use nutritive herbal prescriptions that can increase blood flow to the kidneys and act as a tonic to help heal damage to the kidney and increase the strength and vitality of the patient.
  • Nutraceuticals: There are many herbs and vitamins that may be prescribed for specific conditions. Each case is a little different, based on laboratory findings and previous history.

For now, I just want to get the word out that there is a new option available to help this terribly common problem in the senior cat population. I hope you will consider it if you are dealing with renal disease in your cat.

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homeopathy and a Thirst for Knowledge

Monday night, I so enjoyed hearing Dr. Robin Murphy speak passionately about homeopathy. Here in the US, there is such an underutilization of this wonderful energetic healing practice. In other developed countries it is easily found and used alongside of more modern medicine for ailments of all types. Homeopathy is founded on the principles of mind-body connection and energetic of healing.
Let me briefly explain: The most common form you might see is the blue tubes with tiny white pellets inside. These are made from many different substances and are quite different from the herbal medicines made from the same substances. In homeopathy, the energetic signature of the material is transferred to water which is transferred to the patient to treat the condition and neutralize the disease. Thirsty for more? Check out this link:

For example, Arnica Montana is a plant which grows in the mountains. It is harvested and made into a tincture. This succussed (shaken) and diluted many times to produce a homeopathic medicine, so that the water molecules used in the dilution arrange themselves to reflect the energy of the plant. Finally, there is no measurable plant material left.
Ok, you don’t have to understand how an airplane flies, to use one, and you don’t have to understand how a medicine works to use it, right? The people who make airplanes and medicines can explain all the details to you if you need that information, but you don’t. Just get a tube of Arnica 30C potency at your health food store. Next time you are overactive and know your muscles will be sore the next day, try taking Arnica as soon as you have this thought. You will become a believer! Or if you fall and experience some bruising, take the Arnica and you will be amazed! My left brain gets amazed over this on a regular basis!
How does this relate to veterinary medicine? Homeopathy offers great potential from companion animals to organic livestock production! Here are the reasons I love homeopathics:
1) Very Safe
2) Very fast to cure in many cases
3) Easy to administer, especially to difficult patients
4) Can be used with other meds
5) Inexpensive
6) Safe and effective for pocket pets, birds, wildlife, horses, goats, cattle
7) Dose is same no matter what patient weighs
8) Used for emotional conditions before disease manifests physically
9) Easy to obtain and to transport in first aid kit or in your pocket
10) No drug residues in food animals
Like Dr. Murphy said, “A thirst for knowledge is what motivates a healer.” I concur with that and would add, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know in this world, and that is the reason for living and learning.”

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Prescriptions For Your Pets

Pet prescriptions are in the cross-hairs at Wal Mart and elsewhere. Ever see me cringe when a client asks to get their prescription at 1-800 Pet Meds? Why? Honestly, stocking every medication I need takes time and effort, and I make little to no money on these items. Why do I want you to buy from me?
Reason #1 Because I appreciate your loyalty and because I need that couple of bucks more than Pet Meds. Wouldn’t you prefer to support your veterinarian, who cares about your pet, than to support big box stores? I would bet you did not know Pet Meds has been taken to court numerous times for illegally filling prescriptions. They continue to operate because their advertising is so effective that they can pay the fines and go on. Here’s another reason to buy from me: Because I am on call 24-7 to answer questions about your pet and your prescription. If your pet has an adverse reaction to a medication, you know I will follow up with the manufacturer, and report the reaction, not to mention your pet will get concerned follow up care from me. Try calling Wal Mart in the middle of the night for a reaction to a medication you purchased from them! My clients expect educated up to date advice from me. If they insist on shopping around for the cheapest medications, then I will be forced to charge them for every phone consult. No offense, but how many of us like watching the clock when we get a phone consult with our lawyer? There is always a ripple effect when change occurs.
Reason #2 I do really care for each and every patient, and I am very concerned about quality control with medications. I know the reputable distributors and companies who manufacture medications. I have years of experience and client feedback as to which ones are most effective, not which ones cost the least. Did you know that the counterfeit legal drug trade is bigger than the illegal drug trade in this country? Many medications have been found to be ineffective counterfeits, from flea products to cancer therapy drugs. These are sold to distributors at a discount and then on to you, the consumer.
Reason#3 Honestly, this is the biggest reason I prefer that you buy medications from me: The largest obstacle to successful outcome in veterinary medicine is client compliance. That means actually getting the medication into the animal as directed. Admittedly, not always easy! I have tricks and tools to help you. I know, for a fact, that if you have to drive to a pharmacy to collect your medication, there will be a delay in getting started. I can be sure that a certain percentage of clients will never fill their prescriptions. I can also be sure I will start giving more injections to patients in the office to get started on treatment, consequently, costing you way more than you’d have saved on that prescription. Many times I have sent clients to the health food store to get a supplement and about half of the time they never get there. I have learned, through the years, that when client goes to the vet to get some help, they need to have the medication in their hand when they walk out the door. It is truly not in the best interest of the patient to lengthen their trip from home, to leave them in a vehicle while the owner drives somewhere else to collect their medication, or to delay starting treatment. Not to mention the confusion that can result from having the medication picked up at a human pharmacy.
So, the truth is that veterinarians are already required by law to write a prescription if a client requests it. If the medication is something that is not available to veterinarians and is needed by the pet for treatment then we can call in to a pharmacy or write out a prescription. Certain antibiotics and chemo drugs would fall into this category. One of my favorite sayings is “ be careful what you wish for”, and this applies to clients who wish transfer prescriptions from their vet to their Wal Mart or pet meds internet pharmacy.
Products are available all over the place. If it is service and professional advice you need, please consult your veterinarian, not those whose primary interest is to sell you a product! Every day I am seeing more animals harmed by their owners’ attempts to get free internet advice. Truly, my clients are more educated and informed than ever before, thanks to the internet. At some sweet spot, the information stops and the “art of medicine” begins. There is no substitute for years of hands on experience! You know that in your own life experience! You and your animals deserve good solid service and current professional advice. You want one-stop shopping? That’s what you get at your veterinarian! My desire is for veterinary medicine to continue to be the personal, caring, and honest profession I have known it to be for my 30 years in the business. I would like to hear your input on the controversial internet pharmacy issues!

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Equine Vaccines

Last week I wrote about essential vaccines for small animals. What about horses?
There are loads of vaccines to choose from. Here are the ones I consider important for the “pasture ornament” and occasional trail horse: Rabies, Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis, Tetanus, and West Nile Virus.
Rabies is important. As you and I both know, a horse is eager to investigate wandering creatures. A horse recently died of rabies in VA. Mosquito borne diseases like encephalitis and West Nile virus are a danger where there are lots of mosquitos. Try sleeping outdoors one hot summer night and see what your population is like. This is what your horse is exposed to every night! These are fatal diseases so vaccination is recommended. Tetanus is a danger to horses and it can be fatal. The tetanus vaccine is a toxoid which contains no live agents and is therefore safer than live vaccines. It is best to booster in the spring for mosquito borne diseases. I would recommend splitting up the vaccines and doing EWT and WNV in the spring and Rabies in the fall.
For show horses and those that travel, vaccination depends on what the horse may be exposed to and weighing the risk of vaccination vs. the risk of infection from a disease. Vaccines available are Flu (Influenza), Potomac Horse Fever, Rhino pneumonitis (herpes virus), and Strep Equi (Strangles). Some of these diseases are highly contagious. Keep in mind that diseases can spread from the traveling horse to other horses in the barn which do not travel. All of these can spread from contaminated premises and do not require direct contact. Equine Herpes virus has been in the news lately, and unfortunately the dangerous neurologic form is not prevented with vaccines. The bottom line is, if you are overnighting where other horses have been; consider expanding your vaccination program.
Many horse owners and vets like to use multiple vaccines all rolled into one shot. This is for convenience and economics only. For the horse’s benefit, I prefer to give fewer vaccines at one visit rather asking the immune system to do so much at once. I really do not like to see anaphylactic reactions, sore necks, and fevers post vaccination. If you have ever seen a horse die from an anaphylactic reaction, you will believe me when I say vaccines should be taken seriously.
Again ask these 4 questions:
1) Is my animal healthy enough to receive and mount a good immune response to a vaccination?
2) Is the vaccine safe and efficacious?
3) Is this a common disease my animal may be exposed to?
4) Is the disease treatable should I choose not to vaccinate?
Talk with your vet about your individual circumstances and needs. And consider splitting the vaccines into two rounds if your horse requires multiple vaccines. Remember that an EWTFLU contains antigens for four diseases, not just one! And after vaccinating, observe your horse for any adverse reactions for at least 30 minutes. Contact your vet for emergency help if you notice heavy breathing, bumps appearing on the skin, or signs of distress. Keep epinephrine in your barn if you administer your own vaccines and know how to use it. Happy Trails!

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Essential Vaccines

I have coined the term “essential vaccines” to make reference to the fact that not all vaccines are essential. More is not better in all cases! For a while it seemed there was a new vaccine for something every month! Many of these products were later found to be inefficacious, and some were harmful. When I started practice, the wiser practice owner never wanted to jump right on a new product, but to take a wait and see approach. I, the new associate, wanted to use every new thing I could get my hands on. Soon, I came to appreciate the wisdom of waiting.
Vaccinosis is a term referring to adverse events following vaccination which are apart from anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic reactions appear within minutes to hours post vaccination. These can be acute emergencies and are the “reactions” recognized by the general medical community. Vaccinosis reactions can encompass a wide range of immune mediated disorders days to months to years post vaccination. One of these reactions recognized by the American Association of Feline Practitioners is vaccine associated sarcomas. Many holistic veterinarians recognize other problems associated with over vaccination such as autoimmune disease, allergies, and behavior problems. The holistic community tries to vaccinate on a case by case basis, rather than a blanket recommendation. Admittedly, there is well documented protection against serious animal diseases by vaccination but some are safer that others.
Now, what about your pets? My professional judgment is that rabies is the only essential vaccine for many animals. Initial puppy and kitten vaccines are good insurance against some very bad “childhood” diseases. Vaccinated parents pass on protective immunity to the offspring. Feral and stray animals are at greater risk for viral diseases as are some breeds. After your 1 year boosters, it has been shown that most animals maintain a good protective titer to viruses for many years. To be safe, I recommend titer testing or boosters every 3 years. Holistic vets have been preaching this for at least a decade. Now conventional vets are agreeing, thanks to all our titer testing and well documented research by Dr. Ron Schultz, Dr. Jean Dodds, and others.

 Here are the questions you should ask before vaccinating:

1. Is my animal healthy enough to receive and mount a good immune response to a vaccination?
2. Is the vaccine safe and efficacious?
3. Is this a common disease my animal may be exposed to?
4. Is the disease treatable should I choose not to vaccinate?

By far, question one is the most important. If your animal has an immune system disorder you should not vaccinate it. Some of these include degenerative myelopathy, allergies, thyroid disease, and cancer. If your animal is a female in heat the vaccines should wait until she is out of heat. If your animal is sick, it is not wise to ask the immune system to do more by responding to a vaccine, often containing multiple antigens. And let me just ask, if you were going into the hospital for surgery, would you like to get a flu shot and a hepatitis shot while you’re there?
If your boarding facility requires vaccines, find out if they will accept titers or a letter from your veterinarian explaining why you need an exemption. If your pet is not vaccinated, you are accepting the risk of exposure to disease and you are stating that you are confident that your animal is protected or that the risk of an adverse reaction to vaccines is greater than the risk of catching Parvovirus or Distemper at a boarding facility. Your less vaccinated healthy pet is not a risk to others in the facility!
In my town, anyone can buy dog and horse vaccines at the feed store. What about these? Honestly, if it is a good brand name and the vaccine has been handled properly, many are the same as the ones I use. The problem with do-it-yourself vaccination is that you can not receive advice from the store owner about the procedure. Which brand is safe? Which one to pick? Do you have epinephrine on hand should your animal experience anaphylaxis? Have the vaccines been kept at the right temperature during shipping? An example I recall is at an animal shelter where I worked, the volunteers unpacked the rabies vaccines which had gotten warm during shipment and put them in the fridge for use. Luckily one employee noticed and we sent the vaccines back! Most vets are extremely concerned with adverse events associated with vaccination and will recheck your animal at no charge. However, If you have administered them yourself, you will most certainly receive an emergency fee and a lecture!
Vaccines are nothing to take lightly. They can save a life or take a life. I hope that medical decisions are made carefully for your pets, yourself, and your children. Stay tuned next week for Equine Vaccination Decisions!

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cancer, Part 2 – Treatment

Let’s get practical, now. How can some dogs be fed old cheap kibble and live a long and happy life? I see this over and over! All I can say is, some have great genetic protective DNA, otherwise known as hybrid vigor. In contrast, a purebred dog who definitely has a predisposition for cancers and other degenerative diseases cannot be starved for nutrients by poor feeding practices. We want to do all we can to help this dog’s system to work well on the cellular level. Even so, there is no guarantee that the defective DNA is not going to be expressed as cancer. Until some better genetic testing becomes available, we and all our dogs must live to optimize good health. We don’t know which gene pool we are in! Regardless of our genetic map, starvation of our cells for nutrients they need to do their regulatory jobs will catch up sooner (if “Bad” genetics) or later( if “good” genetics).

But if the cancer stage is set early on, how can we treat the disease once it becomes clinical? In my opinion, surgery and radiation fall into the same category. These methods destroy tumors and cells. The positives are, they may buy some time, they may provide the patient a better comfort level (such as an amputation for painful osteosacrcoma). The negatives are that surgery can seed tumor cells for metastasis(once thought an “old wives tale”), and radiation destroys healthy tissues. Apart from biopsy to predict the behavior of a tumor, surgery should be subject to careful consideration. Radiation can be useful for areas that are difficult to reach. But, remember, these are first lines of defense and they do not cure the underlying disease process. Do we just go back to our old lifestyle after these efforts to buy time? Certainly not!

Chemotherapy covers a huge array of therapies from intravenous toxic drugs to very safe oral medications. Different combinations and drugs are constantly being developed. Newer safer choices work at the cellular level to disrupt enzyme systems or blood supply to rapidly dividing cells. Herbal combinations can easily be included in “Chemo” protocols because they do work similarly. There is less research on herbal combinations because they are regulated as nutritional supplements and not drugs. There is less money to be made by “Big Pharma” who gives financial support research and development. This said, there are a multitude of medical agents with plant origins. Remember the yew tree, the source of Taxol? Herbal plant combinations have been used clinically to slow tumor growth and importantly to support the immune system rather than destroying it. Plant medicines are gentler and will act slower that the “big guns”. Sometimes you have no time to work with and sometimes you do. Your biopsy results will indicate the likely behavior of your tumor. I have found the term “chemo” will trigger a gut reaction from pet owners that basically says,” I don’t want to subject my pet to that.” I hope that after reading this you will look into these options.

I believe that homeopathic medicines have the greatest potential to actually cure cancer because they work on an energetic level and the effects are so profound. Their effects seem to supersede and biological explanation I can come up with. There is much research to be done in these medications which use the energetic properties of natural substances imprinted on the amazing memory of water molecules to alter the body’s bioenergetics in a very specific way. This is my own definition and explanation of homeopathic medicines as contrasted with herbal medications discussed above. There are very few practitioners who are experienced in homeopathy but a naturopathic background is essential for their effective use.

One very basic principle of cancer therapy is to rebalance the immune system. One sure way to stress the immune system is to inject viruses and foreign adjuvants into the body for it to do something with. If you only take away one thing from this that should be to never vaccinate a cancer patient. I am speaking of veterinary patients. Most have plenty of immunity to infections diseases from previous vaccines or exposures. This can be documented with a titer test you can request if you must. I will ask you, “Would you love to get a flu shot, a rabies shot, and a tetanus vaccine while you’re here for your chemo treatment today?”

Nutrition is still the foundation of therapy and gives the body what it needs to fight. This includes the knowledge that cancer cells love carbs, so a low carbohydrate diet is essential. Nutrients like selenium, coenzyme Q-10, fish oil, and DHA have been proven to slow cancer growth in the veterinary arena. Nutrition is the easiest thing we can alter, and though it seems to be closing the door after the horse got out, it is still the best thing we can do for our pets now. I have had owners say their pets think they are already in heaven from the change to home cooked foods! Healing foods create a bond that is really special during the last years of a pets life. It’s a giving back to them for all their unconditional love. Healing foods give us the ability to do something to help rather than experiencing the helplessness of a cancer diagnosis. And, the lessons we learn in doing so may save our own lives someday.

MLewter, DVM

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cancer, Part 1 – Causes of Cancer

Sometimes it seems the universe sends cases, people, or animals into my life for a lesson I need. I always say “our animals are special angels with their lessons for us”. Of late, cancer cases seem to be finding me. Not just in client cases, but in my own animals. Just like I always expect the dentist to have perfect teeth, you might assume that vets are immune to the devastating effects of cancer in their pets. Well, not so. As hard as I try to do the right things, I have had two dogs and a horse die of cancer in the past 5 years. I am listening here! I am listening to the lessons taught by those patients who have passed on, and those I am currently treating….What works, what does not, what seems to make them happier and what treatments they will accept, and those that are a struggle.

I am studying about cancer all the time and the more I know, the more I realize we don’t know. Facts I have personally observed in 30 years of practice follow. Meddling with a tumor can make it grow faster. ( known as “old wives tale”.)Removal of a tumor does not remove the disease. Surgical removal of a tumor can make the metastatic small tumors take off and grow faster. Some tumors in animals are caused by viruses. Cancer is a disease to live with and there are a multitude of ways to improve the outcome. The day of diagnosis is not by any means,  the day of onset, and, in fact , the patient has been living with cancer for months to years prior to histologic diagnosis.

My own opinions follow, and they are based on scientific study. Cancer is truly an aberration in immune function and genetics play a huge role. Just look at the various breeds of dogs and their predisposition to certain cancers! Purebred dogs have a limited gene pool and many generations in a short number of human years. Just think,  you can have 100 generations of dogs in the span of one human lifetime! Why do you think we study mice and rats? Their numbers of generations are way up there! So, defective or damaged DNA is perpetuated down the line. It is well accepted that carcinogens act by damage to DNA, thereby being the environmental factor.

There is much study on nutrigenomics, where nutrients can turn on or off genetic expression. Look it up! Very interesting emerging field in veterinary medicine.  I think that we will find that cancer’s origin goes back years during development of the animal and that the stage is already set once the tumors show up. Just my opinion here, but this is nothing new. We know that years of exposure to carcinogens will catch up sooner or later. Years of poor nutrition will catch up in many degenerative diseases in dogs and humans. (My theories on osteoporosis in cows and nutrition in dogs are food for another day’s story.)

Didn’t you always wonder how one person can live dangerously, nutritionally speaking, and another can be so careful and the one you think will get cancer does not, and the healthy one does? That’s genetics. Some people are just lucky in that department, or not.

In a family where there is breast cancer, why do some members get the disease and some do not when they may all have the genetic markers? That’s nutrigenomics. Something is turning on those cancer genes for expression. Just my opinion here, but if there are genes for cancer, then there must necessarily be genes which protect against cancer, those that direct our immune systems.  Damaging these genes too will cause our defenses to fail.

I don’t mean to be depressing, but I think we all deal with cancer in our lives more than we want to. Just let me say that the cancer cases in animals are alarming. Horses get cancer…well it’s not from smoking. Most horses in these parts live a pretty healthy lifestyle. Solar radiation is a factor in horses’ and cows’ cancers, viruses have been proven to cause cancer in cattle and be transmitted through body fluids and milk incidentally. Viruses do alter DNA or RNA by definition. Our immune systems are equipped to handle viruses on a daily basis but some part of the system fails with certain viruses, and maybe more than we currently know. Dogs in a city I used to live in were always walking thru our doors with lymphoma. Here a rural town was notably one of the most polluted in the state due to a chemical industry. Gotta think there’s some environmental factor here. Osteosarcoma is rampant in the unfortunate Rottweiler. I used to joke about “designer dogs” but now I think a genetic mixing is a grand idea! Still, don’t tell me yours is a purebred Cockerpoo! Go to the pound and get yourself a loving Heinz 57 with a good mix of genetics, please!

I’d love to hear your feedback on this subject. Next time, Part Two will discuss treatment of cancer.

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment