Holistic Perspective on Pet Cancer Awareness Month
With the coming of pet cancer awareness month, there is not a more important time than now to discuss the holistic perspective on it. This often frightening and sometimes terminal pathology and disease is increasing in numbers of canine and feline animal companions. Over my 30-year career dating back to my graduation from Penn in 1991, I have seen the number of cancer cases rise significantly in our animals, and especially in younger and younger animals. While a conventional medical perspective focuses on early detection and/or diagnosis with increasingly sensitive diagnostic tools, those of us in the holistic arena would prefer to focus on prevention of cancer development all together.
Do not get me wrong. Conventional veterinary medicine has come a long way from the early 1990s, with the development of advanced imaging techniques including ultrasound, MRI, CT scans and laparoscopic techniques. Most progressive veterinarians now have access to completely computerized digital radiography, which is much more sensitive and accurate than the handheld and developed radiographs of the past. With earlier diagnosis comes the opportunity for earlier treatments with timely surgery (often using laser), safer medications and chemotherapeutics, as well as developments and advancements in current radiation treatment options. Not to mention advancements in stem cell therapies being continuously researched and developed.
However the above measures are still focused more on early detection and diagnosis rather than prevention, which is always the focus of the holistic veterinary practitioner. Each week in my holistic veterinary practice I am counseling new puppy or kitten guardians on aspects of holistic preventative care, which includes and stresses a minimalist approach to only essential core vaccinations.
Very often multiple combination vaccinations, especially when given at the same time as wormings and flea/tick pesticide applications at that same visit can have untoward effects on health in the weeks, months and years ahead. While protection against one or a few core viruses may be important, if and when deciding to vaccinate for them should be done separately and not combined with other non-core viruses, as well as not given when a developing puppy or kitten is sick with any symptoms.
Too many conventional veterinarians will routinely poly-vaccinate young puppies or kittens when they present with gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea, or if they have upper respiratory infections. It is important to treat these conditions first before considering puppyhood or kittenhood vaccinations. During these early visits I extensively review the concepts of species-appropriate meat-based diets for our animal companions, which should provide the cornerstone of good health for years to come.
As Hippocrates, the Father of modern medicine was quoted, “Let Food by Thy Medicine.” Unfortunately, most conventional veterinarians are not trained well in clinical nutrition, and in most cases regurgitate to clients what pet food company sales representatives tell them regarding proper nutrition. While holistic-oriented veterinarians are concerned about external flea/tick and heartworm parasitic control, as well as internal parasitic control, we will often use more gentle measures of prevention and control, including herbs, homeopathics and essential oils when indicated.
Starting from a young age and through the middle and senior years we focus also on nutritional supplements that help keep the body healthy functioning optimally. The gut is the gateway to immune health to the rest of the body. I often stress to holistic oriented clients the inclusion of varied and rotating probiotic formulations in order to keep the gut flora optimally functioning, as well as the inclusion of plant based enzyme formulations, which also help with digestion and a healthy microflora environment in the intestinal tract.
It is believed by many in the holistic field that an unhealthy, “leaky gut” is the basis of most immune-mediated diseases elsewhere in the body, as well as increase the risk for systemic cancers, and thus the importance of keeping the gut and digestive system healthy with a variety of fresh foods, probiotics and enzymes.
Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation as well as antioxidant additions to middle age and senior pets’ dietary regimens can have a tremendously beneficial effect on reducing inflammation and the production of cancer-causing free radical chemicals in the body. If cancer does develop, holistic practitioners have a full arsenal of powerful homeopathic remedies, and anti-cancer herbals, medicinal mushrooms, ozone therapy and high dose IV Vitamin C therapy at their disposal as effective and less toxic alternatives to many of the chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation techniques currently used by oncologists.
Because of increasing demand, more and more oncologists are now adding integrative oncologists on to their oncology team, who are knowledgeable in both conventional oncology and holistic treatment options. That sort of service truly offers the best of both worlds, and I truly hope that more and more oncologists will be offering these type of services in the future; especially as the number of cancer cases continues to rise in younger and younger animals.
Dr. Michael Dym, VMD