Recently two friends told me that they had to put their beloved dog to sleep because their pet had cancer. Our animal friends can’t live as long as we do, but they can live longer and healthier lives than many of them do, and can avoid the pain and misery of cancer and its treatments.
Many veterinarians are taking additional training in holistic, preventive, complementary and alternative methods of natural healing such as nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, flower essences, etc. These treatment methods are helping pets live longer, healthier, happier lives, utilizing gentle, nontoxic therapies. There is now the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) and several holistic veterinarians are writing books and are dedicated to educating the public about these therapies.
When I heard about so many pets having cancer, I became really interested in what was causing it and what measures could be taken to prevent it. I had already read a lot about natural pet care and had a couple of good resources, especially Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats [R.H. Pitcairn, 3rd Edition, 2005, Rodale]; The Royal Treatment, A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets by Dr. Barbara Royal, DVM [2012, Atria Books, N.Y.]; a lecture given by Dr. Christina Chambreau, DVM, who founded the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, entitled “7 Keys to Healthy Animals”; and a consultation with my own cat’s holistic veterinarian. Preventing cancer in pets can be divided into three important areas: feeding the proper diet, vaccinating the least, and avoiding and eliminating exposure to toxic environmental chemicals. So, this issue, let’s talk about diet.
Dr. Barbara Royal says, “Diet turns out to be vastly more predictive of health or disease than any other factor in an animal’s life.” She found that animals in the wild, when not exposed to environmental chemicals or toxins, did not get sick because they were eating their proper diet and living the proper lifestyle for their species. Dogs and cats in the wild do not cook their meat or veggies, or use a knife to debone their prey. They also eat all of the organs and glands, getting the hormones and nutrients that they may miss in the diet we feed them. Therefore, the best diet for dogs and cats is antibiotic-, chemical-, and hormone-free raw meat, including raw bones, and pureed raw and some cooked veggies such as organic carrots, dark leafy greens, zucchini, and/or broccoli, a small amount of low-sugar fruits, such as organic apples and blueberries, and a few nutritional supplements (calcium, if no bones are eaten, is critical, and some antioxidants and vitamins and minerals).
However, if your pet already has cancer or is immuno-compromised, cook the raw food (of the same high quality) in the oven at 225 degrees just until the meat has changed color throughout to rid it of any pathogens that may affect a sick animal. Although most do, there are a few cats and dogs that do not tolerate raw food for several reasons. In that case, Dr. Royal recommends cooking the food.
Grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, corn, etc.) are not good for most animals. Dogs and cats do not have the enzymes to digest them and may have a food allergy reaction to them that you may not be able to outwardly detect which depresses their immune system and may cause other health problems, so “grain-free” food is best. If your pet already has cancer, definitely eliminate grains from their diet because my holistic vet and others say that the cancer will feed on the carbohydrates in grains.
Many pets also need probiotics (the good bacteria found in the intestines that are responsible for many necessary chemical reactions in the gut) and digestive enzymes if they are eating all cooked foods. Dr. Christina Chambreau says, “Dogs and cats should not be fed dry foods, especially cats.” All the holistic vets’ information I have read or listened to, agrees with that. Dr. Chambreau says on her website, www.myhealthyanimals.com, “Never feed dry food to cats, even as treats.” It causes most cats to drink more water, resulting in stress to the kidneys and can also trigger bladder problems, which are common in cats.
My cat’s holistic vet told me that, even if the cats do drink more water, water must be pulled into the digestive tract from the body to moisten and digest the dry food. This leaves the cat in a state of dehydration, which harms the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure, which is the cause of death in many cats. In the wild, cats get most of their water requirements from their food, not from drinking water.
Dr. Barbara Royal gives other reasons why dry food is not good for dogs and cats in her book.
Some of these reasons are: most contain grains; dry food is processed at a high temperature (extrusion), which produces two carcinogenic chemicals — heterocyclic aminos and acrylamides — that encourage cancer development; dry food may contain “animal by-products” which are the parts of our meat which, after being inspected, are discarded and sold to pet food companies. These parts can be diseased or contain tumors, etc.
Also, my holistic vet explained that pet food should always be purchased at a health food store, not at the grocery store or even a pet store because health food store brands are superior, even human grade, made without artificial preservatives or chemicals.
Taking it even further, if it is possible, feed organic or antibiotic-, hormone-, and pesticide-free food to your pet because these toxic ingredients encourage cancer development. Always read labels to be sure the food does not contain artificial preservatives, chemicals, or colors.
I realize that the raw food diet may be hard for some people to feel good about, especially vegetarians like me, but because the quality is so superior, you can purchase it and cook it in the oven using the above instructions. That is what I am doing, and I mix it with some high quality canned food. I may eventually start using the raw diet exclusively for my cat in the future.
When changing your pet’s diet to raw food, be sure to follow some recommendations on how to make the transition. The books and websites of the veterinarians I have mentioned should have the guidelines.
Three good stores that carry superior quality raw and canned pet food in our area are Mighty Healthy Pet in College Park, which is owned by My Organic Market and is in the same row of stores on Rhode Island Ave.; Bark! in the same shopping center as Trader Joe’s on Colesville Rd.; and The Big Bad Woof in Hyattsville and Takoma Park, Md. Some good brand names of raw food for dogs and cats are Aunt Jenny’s, and Primal. There are other ones also, but these are two that my cat’s holistic vet has recommended.
If you make homemade food, be sure to use a good recipe that contains the proper proportion of ingredients, calcium to phosphorus ratio, some organic vegetables and fruits, and some vitamins and minerals.
Also, give your pets pure spring or filtered water. Tap water has a number of chemicals — including fluoride — that are harmful to pets.
[Anna R. Pritchard — a Registered Nurse, Doctor of Naturopathy, Montessori Teacher, Nutritional Counselor, Homeopathic Prescriber, and soon-to-be Licensed Massage Therapist, who trained in reiki for animals this summer, and is working towards becoming a Certified Nutritional Consultant — lives on Ladson Road and can be reached at annarpritchard at aol dot com.] ■Part 2: Vaccinations Part 3: Avoiding Toxic Chemicals
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