Guest blogging for the National Canine Cancer Foundation is a real honor – and a great way for dog lovers to share stories and information. Thanks to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, work for a cure is supported. People who have lost beloved friends or whose dogs are living with cancer have a place to go to find hope and strength. But I want more.
I want all guest bloggers here to share their posts on the National Canine Cancer Foundation’s blog across the dog-blogosphere, so we can get the word about Canine Cancer where it badly needs to go – to people whose dogs are healthy. Let’s face it; people don’t want to hear about cancer if it’s not in their lives. It’s too frightening. But, if we are able to spread information that can help people take real action to promote wellness in their dogs, we can make the National Canine Cancer Foundation’s job a little bit easier.
I started thinking about canine cancer as my dogs got older, (they’ll be 7 and 9 this year) and as I heard about so many pets, both dogs and cats, who were dying from cancer. On one street not far from where I live, the cancer rate for both people and pets seems extraordinarily high. Is it because the planes landing at the airport empty their gas tanks over that area? (The tops of trees in the arboretum there are surely showing signs of damage.) Is the cancer rate due to poor diet? Heredity? Lawn chemicals? Coincidence? More frightening is the possibility that this street is not an anomaly.
When it comes to animal companions, pet owners turn to the experts for help. After all, everyone wants to be sure they’re doing the best they can to keep their pets healthy. What, then, has gone so terribly wrong? Well, sometimes, people choose the wrong experts to listen to, for instance, unscrupulous advertising agencies, who push foods that aren’t really very nutritious for animals, or more subversively, splash images of happy dogs in their ads and on the trucks of lawn care services, who use toxic chemicals.
People need to realize that they are capable of becoming the experts themselves, and more than that, they need to become the experts themselves to effectively advocate for the health and well being of their animal companions. To do this, they must read everything they can get their hands on and question, question, question – Is this food, vaccine, medication, procedure, training protocol, you fill in the blank, what’s right and healthy for my dog?- even if it means an uncomfortable conversation with the vet.
Many pet owners are not aware, for instance, of the danger vaccines pose to pets, including their contribution to incidences of immune disorders, elevated liver enzymes, kidney failure, seizures, hypothyroidism, and cancer, among others. Dr. Jean Dodds, an internationally recognized authority on thyroid issues in dogs and blood diseases in animals, has done extensive research on vaccines, and asserts “In veterinary medicine, evidence implicating vaccines in triggering immune-mediated and other chronic disorders (vaccinosis) is compelling.” She is currently working toward reducing the number of rabies vaccines dogs receive by extending the vaccination requirements to five, and then seven years.
In short, pet lovers need to read the about vaccination issues so that they can make an educated decision about which vaccines and how many their pet really needs, (within legal guidelines, of course) no matter what that postcard from the vet says.
People also need to be open to new ideas and to pay attention to evidence amassed from years of research when it comes to the health of their pets – especially when the results challenge their belief systems about medical care. People often fall into the mindset of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In the case of canine cancer, however, something in the healthcare system for animals is terribly broken, and both pet owners and the medical community need to look beyond what they’re doing now into new options with an emphasis on wellness, rather than fearing change, in order to remedy the situation.
Dr. Terry Shirvani, a Naturopathic physician and owner of cats, suggests that we can (and should!) take for the most part, concepts of holistic health for humans, which are based on wellness, and extend them to our animal friends. The holistic approach takes into account the health of the whole being, and as Terry emphasizes, animals are beings, just as much as humans are. Holism looks at each animal as an individual.
Just like people, all animals are unique in their health and emotional requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all food for dogs, and providing them with the best food we can may mean preparing their meals by hand, rather than picking up a bag of kibble at the supermarket. Sound ridiculous? Consider then, the health and lifespan of dogs before the introduction of kibble. Terry also points out how stress in owners’ lives can affect their pets who are extremely sensitive to what’s going on with their human guardians. By looking at ways to improve pets’ quality of life, their owners may be surprised to find ways in which it’s critical to improve their own.
The path to wellness is not difficult. The difficulty lies in people’s resistance to change. Looking up information on the Internet is not hard. Changing dog food is not hard. Vaccinating less is not hard (and saves money!) Trying a more natural approach to wellness instead of patching symptoms may require finding a different vet, but that’s not really so hard, either. Small changes can make a world of difference. Let’s make that world one that’s canine cancer free.
Contributed by Beth Lowell, Animal Reiki Practitioner, www.bethlowell.com