Today’s post is not a “fun” post, like you are accustomed to on this blog. However, I felt this was a good time to explain some things. As you all know, cancer, in all it’s forms, is rampant in our country and across much of the world. I doubt that there is anyone reading this whose life has not been affected by it’s destructive ravages. Blogville has certainly lost it’s share of beloved animals, and many bloggers have also bravely battled this usurper. My first encounter with the dreaded “C” was when I lost my aunt – who I called Nan and was a second mother to me. She had intestinal cancer, treated with radiation that was not well understood or controlled back in the 60’s, and at the cost of a forever colostomy bag. As a teen I remember helping with that bag, swallowing back what kept trying to erupt from my stomach, and never letting on it bothered me. As too many of you know, that’s what you do for love. I remember Nan celebrating her 10 year cancer-free date, only to be once again struck down – this time permanently – by this killer.Nan was the fun adult in my life. She taught me how to waltz; she took me trick or treating; she sat at the dining room table and colored with me for hours on end; she taught me how to plant pansies (sorry, Nan, that one didn’t take so well) and pull weeds; she taught me card games; we laid in bed together while she made hand shadow puppets on the wall; she showed me how to walk with a book on my head to teach me posture; we sat in front of the fireplace and put together beautiful puzzles for hours on end; and she taught me the correct table setting for a formal dinner.
My next encounter with the dreaded C was with my sweet Sammy dog. The first sign something was very wrong was when he stopped eating. I worked at the vet hospital at the time and, after hours, assisted in the surgery that removed a huge malignant tumor from his abdomen. The vet, Dr. Sally, went through three saline solution bags, letting them run into his open abdomen and swishing around to try to remove any remaining cancer cells. I suctioned as she swished. Sammy had always been a shy, sweet dog, playing second fiddle to my first schnauzer, Freda, and afraid of his own shadow. Dr. Sally gave Sam – nine years old at the time – just three months to live after the surgery; she even showed me the article in her medical book that said so. Many prayers went up and Sam miraculously recovered. He seemed to realize that he had been given another chance at life, and he was determined to take it with all the zest and gusto he could manage. No longer afraid of anything, he flirted with all the ladies (yes, dogs can flirt) and was my main boat dog.Sam loved to jump off our little pontoon boat, swim to an island, explore for a while, then wait until he got eye contact with me before swimming back to the boat, which I later named “The Sammy Joe.” Sammy lived two more years before a different type of cancer hit again and took our boy from us.This was Sammy’s last Christmas. He got a new Teddy Bear sweater that he was so proud to wear. He was 11 years old.
I always did everything the vets told me I should do: give monthly HW prevention that also contained flea and tick prevention, get the dogs’ vaccinated annually, feed the best dog foods, brush their teeth with pet toothpaste, etc. After all, this is why they went to school and they knew best, right?
Then, as many of you know, my busy, vibrant 13-year-old schnauzer Lexi came down with a carcinoma that first showed it’s ugly self as a tumor hanging from her upper gums. The above picture is of me brushing her teeth.I went out of town for 3 days, then it took me 2 days to begin to brush Lexi’s teeth again. In just those 5 days this tumor appeared in her mouth and grew huge. (Look just to the left of her canine.) I immediately took her to the vet, who removed the tumor and a small part of her upper jaw, and sent it all for a biopsy. Upon arriving home from the vet, my stoic girl cried in pain until my husband, whose truck got a flat tire on the way, got back with the pain meds. Lexi never liked being held, but the only thing that comforted her was me holding her close and rocking her while I sang little songs to her.
We were then sent to UTK (University of Tennessee in Knoxvillle) Vet School, where they did more tests. There was a new , promising drug that had shown great results, but would take a month to begin working. They told me that Lexi did not have a month.
From the first day I arrived home with her as a puppy, my heart dog was always a precocious girl. So, as if to prove the vets wrong, she lived three more months before she succumbed to what was already – seen on x-rays – in her lungs and heading to her brain.
I have not told you all of this to make you sad. Rather, I think it explains what I did next. During the year following Lexi’s death, I grieved hard. But that’s not all I did. I started asking hard questions. What caused this cancer? How could I have prevented it? What more could I have done? So I began searching the web for answers. First, I focused on food. I began to read informative articles on why prepared pet food is so harmful. First I found out that the high heat that kibble is subjected to creates cancer-causing agents. And kibble is subjected to it first in cooking the meat, then again after it is formed into kibble. I then read over and over again how dog food companies source their ingredients, and I began to understand that most of them, even the supposed “good ones” will do or falsely claim anything about their products to get consumers to buy their brands. Then I read about the Raw Diet and realized that, done right, this was the safest way to feed. I submerged myself in information so that I would have the best chance of doing it right. Within a few months after she arrived at our house I started Lucy on the B.A.R.F. Raw Diet. chicken drumstick, gizzards, egg, spinach and coconut oil
I’m sure many of you were shocked and/or put off when you read about this on my blog. But I have always tried to be honest and transparent, and this was now a part of our lives. Feeding raw takes a lot of work and time.
Next, I started learning more about vaccinations and discovered that, just like people, most vaccinations are unnecessary after the initial puppy vacs. Not only are they unnecessary, but they play havoc with a dog’s gut, from where their immune systems become strong or weak. My holistic vet has worked out a plan for Lucy and Xena to have titers taken every three years. The titers will let her know if they are still protected from the diseases that vaccinations cover. We have agreed they will each get a 3-year rabies vaccination at that time because it’s the law.
Have you ever asked yourself why you are poisoning your dog? I used to do it every time I gave them their monthly heart worm prevention, and the answer was always because I don’t know how else to prevent heart worms. Then, through more research and study, I found out how.
There is a DNA heart worm test available from Canada. The normal occult hw tests only show the presence of adult heart worms. If the result is positive, the dog has to go through a long, dangerous, expensive and sometimes painful treatment. The DNA test, however, detects even the smallest beginnings of heart worms. It takes almost six months for the heart worms to mature, so Lucy and Xena get the DNA test every five and a half months. So far, so good. If, however, anything was detected, one single injection of ivermectin would kill the larvae. So no, I am not ignoring it or downplaying the terrible affects of heart worms. I am simply approaching it from a different angle, one where I am not asking myself why am I poisoning my dogs.
All of these seemingly radical changes I made have been done for one purpose. And that is to never again have to say goodbye to my beloved dogs because of cancer. Everything I have changed is because so many of the old, accepted ways have been proven to cause cancer. It has taken time and much study and reading; it didn’t happen overnight. I have to keep reminding myself that I couldn’t help what happened to Lexi because I didn’t know any better. And now, I’ll never know if it would have made any difference. I do things differently now, praying it is the right way, and go forward from here.
So, my dogs eat raw food, don’t get vaccinations, and don’t take heart worm prevention. I use essential oils, probiotics, herbs, and other natural aids to keep them healthy and help when they have a problem. I also have the guidance and good advice of a holistic veterinarian who is open to new ways of doing things. May these “extreme” efforts keep my girls healthy and free of cancer all their lives.
I’m not adding a lot of links. You know how to Google anything you are interested in learning more about. I will tell you that I rely a lot on dogsnaturally.com and mercola.com, from whom I get daily emails. And if there is any question in my head about what I’ve read, my vet is wonderful about taking my calls and discussing it over the phone. (Xena’s not the only one who loves her.)
May your lives and the lives of your loved ones be cancer-free. Let’s work to beat this ubiquitous disease in our lifetimes.
Amy, aka Mom, aka Mommy
Note: When you realize how vet schools are funded, some things the students are taught make much more sense. It is the giant drug and pet food companies – who make huge donations to the schools – who influence their choices.