Since I was a child, I have always known that I would become a veterinarian. I had a fascination for fixing broken
beings. Birds, turtles, and lizards with injuries found their way to my door from the time I was in primary school. I
found gory stuff – like popping pustules, cleaning maggots out of wounds, and cane toad dissection in zoology class – of
great interest. When my brother chopped his leg open with the axe and screamed “My guts are falling out!”, somehow
this did not scare me. I knew, from biology studies at school, that this was not correct – his ‘guts’ were never in his leg. I calmly applied pressure and bandaged it, elevating it in the car while my mother drove him to the hospital and I acted like the good
eight year old nurse that I was. My affinity with animals was the wallpaper to my existence– quite literally as I raised finger-tamed budgerigars in my bedroom. Luckily my family was supportive!
I was exposed to holistic therapies from a young age. My father was a chiropractor and, although he eventually made
a living in other occupations, he was able to efficiently correct a sore back or neck with a well-placed and ‘magic’
adjustment. We kids used to ask him to “pick us up, and crack our backs” for that delightful popping sound that comes from a subluxation being repositioned.
As I grew up in Hawaii I was also aware that Chinese herbal medicine and nutrition – that is ‘food as medicine’ – were
useful and obvious methods to treat diseases. Chicken soup with plenty of garlic, and sucking on vitamin C and zinc
lozenges were appropriate forms of ‘medicine‘ given to us in response to the first sign of a sore throat or sneeze. We
never went to doctors or hospitals (except for the previously mentioned axe accident) as our mother was a great cook and
practised what now might be called preventative medicine.
We were breastfed babies, had minimal vaccinations, hardly ever ate lollies or artificial colourings, and rode our push
bikes everywhere for entertainment and to get to school.
We usually had a salad sprinkled with lemon for starters and at night we ate a home-cooked meal, which consisted
of fish on Fridays.
Live, raw food with a bitter or sour flavour is well known in naturopathy as a source of live enzymes and a means to
get the salivary glands and digestion started. Chicken soup has L-lysine, a natural antiviral amino acid, and garlic is
now documented scientifically as having antiviral properties. Our mothers and grandmothers were the best form of
medical practitioners with the ‘do no harm’ edict.
I have been a practising veterinarian for over 30 years now.
What has been astonishing (and outrageous) to me is the increasing rate of chronic diseases such as cancer, atopic
(allergic) skin disease, arthritis and autoimmune dysfunction in younger and younger pets. These things, which I now
see daily, were not a common occurrence when I was a new graduate in the 1980s. We rarely saw the malignant cancers
and skin diseases that are now out of control in so many pet families. We did not have specialists. Instead all general
veterinarians had to tackle orthopaedic surgery, general surgery and all forms of medicine. Vaccines for parvovirus
only came out in the later part of 1979 and the regime of vaccinating with five to seven different things annually
followed. What I now understand about the harmful side effects of vaccines and the benefits of nutritional medicine
has largely been the catalyst to open a holistic veterinary practice in Greenslopes, Brisbane.
Our clinic runs remedial massage classes for animals regularly, and our lovely greyhound adoption friends happily bring their pets for a free massage!
- Where have we gone wrong in our pet rearing? When I was a child we did not have bags of pet food; we shared ourdinners with our dog. We did not vaccinate every year. We washed the dog occasionally, maybe monthly, and we didn’thave a flea or tick problem. The dog was healthy.
- What doctor would say to a mother: “All you have to do now to raise your baby is to open a bag of these crispy dry food treats and feed this exclusively for the rest of your child’s life because it is complete and has all the vitamins and nutrients your child needs. And don’t forget to vaccinate your kid every three months for every disease that he or she may possibly get.” That is what we are doing to our pets! Has society gone nuts?
What do we do differently at my clinic? We have multiple handouts on nutritional, Western and Chinese herbal
supplements. We perform antibody titre testing instead of annual vaccinations. We use intravenous vitamin C and
herbs to support the immune function for our chronically ill and cancer patients.
In the last 20 years of practice as a veterinarian, I have seen an increasing number of cases of cancer in our pets. It is
sad to see our loved ones succumb to the scourge of cancer. How can we prevent it and what treatment options are
How does holistic advice fit in with treatment? Thankfully research has come a long way in the last ten
years, and there are some excellent peer reviewed articles that look at the various modalities of complementary medicine,
and at the active ingredients in these recognised herbal alternative treatments. The focus of the holistic treatment
is nutritional, energetic and metabolic; aiming to boost the immune system of the patient to enable it to ‘fight
the cancer’, or to reduce its spread, or to palliate the body and calm the inflammation associated with the cancer. Western pharmacological chemotherapy techniques focus on killing the cancer cells.
However, often these drugs are not specific to the cancer cell. Complementary therapies may also assist to reduce
the side effects of chemotherapy.
Veterinary surgeons have extensive training in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, surgery and pharmacology. This
places them in a prime position to evaluate some of the herbal and energetic medical adjunctive therapies that
are becoming increasingly sought after by clients. Holistic veterinarians have spent time studying these extra modalities,
and can combine the best of both systems. If your pet has cancer and you are interested in pursuing all avenues, it is
recommended that you first seek professional veterinary help. Contact the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)
http://www.ava.com.au for a list of qualified veterinary holistic practitioners. They will also be able to refer you to a medi-
cally and surgically trained oncologist (a cancer specialist who works with western drugs) and you will then be able
to make decisions based on the best possible choices that are available.
Pet owners should look at the data linking free radical damage from environmental toxins to cancer, for their
own health and for their pet’s future health. Toxins that are causing cancer include solvents, dyes, pesticides and
herbicides. For further information read Dr Samuel Epstein’s work online at http://www.preventcancer.com. He is a leading
healthcare advisor specialising in educating the public about cancer causing agents. Dr Epstein leads a unique coalition
of independent experts in cancer prevention and public health. He was the key expert involved in the banning of
hazardous products such as the pesticides DDT, Aldrin and Chlordane. DDT was used to kill sand flies and mosquitoes
on the beaches in the 1950s. Children were allowed to play in the insecticide spray because it was thought to be safe.
What chemicals are we allowing our pets and children to play in today?
I am reminded of this when I see workers spraying weeds along the footpath as I drive past. Sometimes they are wearing flimsy facemasks, and often they are only wearing short sleeved shirts (even though skin is not an impervious
barrier). Then the dogs walk along the footpath and they go home and lick their paws and fur.
Watch the weeds whither and turn yellow in two days. Watch the dogs get some form of cancer from an ‘unknown cause’
later. The chemicals in our environment are powerful hormone disruptors. We are seeing evidence of this worldwide.
Don’t smoke, and don’t let your pet smoke (secondhand is just as bad). Avoid the nasties. Use companion planting and
more elbow grease (pull out weeds, mow the lawn more frequently, fertilise with manure). This will allow your pet
to have less contact with poisons on the front lawn. There are lawns in Canada that are full of weeds and bear
these signs: We value our kids more than our lawns, chemical free lawn. I recommend that everyone gets back to using safe,
non-toxic products. We don’t need to expose our delicate bodies to dioxins in shampoos, solvents in sheep dips, and the petrochemicals used to clean the house and yard.
Buy organic meat and vegetables, if possible, for your pet. Choose your treats carefully, looking for no additives, dyes,
and preservatives (except vitamin E), and ensure dry foods have no food colouring or chemical additives. Busy people
that haven’t got the time to shop and cook meals may consider using Hill’s N/D or Eukanuba Response Formula,is Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr Ian Billinghurst. “I began to realise,” writes Dr Billinghurst, “that most of the disease problems
we vets see are caused by only one thing – poor nutrition.”
Diet advice sheets are also available from your holistic vet. If lifestyle necessitates buying prepared foods, choose
those high in minerals, good quality meat protein (not textured vegetable protein, hydrolysed protein, or soya) and vegetables, without chemical additives and colourants. See http://www.animalwellness.com.au for some diet advice for treating various health concerns in your pet.
Remember: Food is Medicine!
Artificial colourings are NOT food. They are often poisons and many are carcinogens (known to cause cancer).
In particular, note that red dye is bad. It causes inflammation and allergic reactions in many patients. Avoid munchies that are full of red dye, which represents a possible intake
of nitrosamines. Nitrites are used as preservatives and for the red colour they produce in meat.
Why is this poison present in food? Its about marketing and the food business is only concerned about selling more product, not about your or your pet’s health. Owners choose this colouring because it is associated in their mind with freshness, but dogs don’t care about the colour of their food! It is also suspected that nitrites can combine with amines in the stomach to form N-nitroso compounds. These compounds are known carcinogens and have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, oesophagus, stomach and brain.
Don’t feed luncheon meats, ham and other cured or smokey flavoured foods to your pets. Feed the right type of treats
such as dried liver, homemade dried fruit/vege chips or meat strips, or just small bits of a good quality, additive-free, dry food.
Obtain foods that contain natural antioxidants, trace minerals and essential fatty acids. Some diets, which are known to
increase the risk of cancer, are high in animal fats, preservatives and chemicals, and low in antioxidants. Animals require the minimum calories needed for their lifestyle and 45 minerals, 12 essential amino acids, 16 vitamins
and three essential fatty acids (being omega 3, 6 and 9).The quality of the food is important to maintain optimum
Our foods are depleted in minerals due to the age of Australian soils and the present farming practice of only fertilising
the soils with Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium (NPK). As a result we all need to supplement our diets daily if we
are not eating produce that was grown on supplemented soil.Organic food is, however, slightly higher in trace minerals.
A natural, wholesome diet for our pets should include a diet rich in minerals, antioxidants and raw fresh enzyme materials.
It should be free from preservatives, additives, colourants, herbicides and pesticides. Dogs and cats fed a natural and
balanced diet are often healthier than those fed cooked and processed supermarket, preserved and coloured foods.
A good book to understand the concepts of feeding raw foods is Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr Ian Billinghurst. “I began to
realise,” writes Dr Billinghurst, “that most of the disease problems we vets see are caused by only one thing – poor nutrition.”
Diet advice sheets are also available from your holistic vet.
If lifestyle necessitates buying prepared foods, choose those high in minerals, good quality meat protein (not textured vegetable protein, hydrolysed protein, or soya) and vegetables, without chemical additives and colourants.
Acupuncture has been found to reduce the size of tumours through stimulating the ‘controlling’ organ. For example, if there is a stomach tumour the liver meridian end point can be stimulated to help control the stomach. The good
news is that many cases of cancer have regressed or gone into remission with holistic therapies. We can’t always get
complete remission, but it helps to get in early and to treat pets with multiple nutritional therapies. Those patients often have a better prognosis (probable outcome) and better palliation.
Many of my clients – in fact most of them – want to and/or do use herbal and nutritional support themselves, or refer family
members to see us, once they see the results achieved with their dogs.
I encourage them to find a nutritional integrative doctor. We have a list of these doctors at our clinic.
Educational tools to share with general practitioners include referring to the text book: Natural Compounds in Cancer Therapy, which is an excellent textbook for researching the nutritional and herbal medicine associated with cancer therapy. It cites over three dozen carefully selected natural compounds. It is available from http://www.ompress.com.
Note: If your pet has cancer:
always seek professional veterinary
advice first, then you may wish to consider the following:
• Avoid toxins & harmful chemicals: do not use lawn herbicides
• Feed some raw pulped veggies daily
• Supplement with an antioxidant in tablet form
• Give your pet colloidal minerals
• Supplement with Japanese and Chinese mushrooms
• Give your pet Omega 3 oil
• Include shark cartilage in your pet’s diet
• Give your pet Essiac and appropriate Chinese herbal formulae
• Offer food rich in Vitamin B17
• Ask your vet about high doses of vitamin C intravenously