As we approach the end of January, I’d like to share some of my professional goals as a veterinarian and author.
Goal #1-Encourage More People To Use Natural Therapies
Based upon my own experiences, using natural therapies to prevent and treat health problems is the way to go, although admittedly this is a tough goal to achieve. There is a strong bias among conventional doctors and even many in the media against using natural therapies to heal patients and cure diseases. Even though the majority of the population is open to using natural therapies for their own healthcare as well as their pets’ health care, it’s tough getting accurate information to the masses. In the year 2010, I’ll continue to write my monthly columns for Animal Wellness, Dog Fancy, Dog World, Fido Friendly, and Natural Awakenings. Each week I’ll continue to answer questions on my radio show, as well as reach local pet owners on my monthly television appearance on Channel 8.
Goal #2-Promote My Book, Unexpected Miracles-Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets, on National TV
This is another tough goal to achieve as I mentioned in Goal #1. However, getting on at least one national television show will really help promote the message of natural healing.
The premise to my book is simple: What would you do if your pet was given 24 hours to live? Each year thousands of pets die prematurely when conventional medicine can no longer help them. Think how many pets would be alive today if they received the benefits of healing through an alternative medicine system.
Interestingly, I’ve been turned down by every major national network and TV show while trying to spread this important message over the last six months. Why doesn’t the national media think it’s important to give pet owners the message that their pets don’t have to die prematurely? My agent shared with me the following story. She had a relationship with a producer at a major network talk show (I won’t mention which show, but you would immediately recognize the show if I named it.) She pitched my topic to the producer who then promptly and politely declined having me on as a guest. The reason? The producer stated that he didn’t think his viewers (mainly women who are pet owners) would find the topic interesting!
Is he serious? Female pet owners wouldn’t want to know that their pets don’t have to die prematurely and that there is something simple they can do to help extend the lives of their pets, possibly even curing diseases which are considered incurable?
With this kind of bias against natural health, I’ve got my work cut out for me. I’m not giving up. Somewhere out there is a producer for a major national TV show who wants to save the lives of pets and will introduce this topic to his viewers whose pets will reap the benefit of this important message.
Goal #3-Reduce the Frequency of Vaccinations
Despite the change in vaccine protocols that occurred in the 1990s, as well as the revised protocols that occurred several years ago, way too many pets (and children) receive vaccines that in many cases are not necessary and could prove harmful. If all pet owners and veterinarians reduced the frequency of vaccinations, there were be fewer sick pets. My research confirms that a simple and inexpensive blood antibody titer test accurately predicts when dogs and cats require immunizations. Based upon my experience, most pets only require a limited number of vaccines a few times in their entire lives.
One of my natural medicine colleagues just returned from a major veterinary conference. He told me that he attended a number of interesting presentations that involved serious medical conditions we see in practice every day. Because so many doctors who oppose natural medicine argue that there is no proof (double-blind placebo-controlled studies) showing the effectiveness of our therapies, he decided to ask each of the conventional doctors who presented at the meeting if they had any proof that their conventional medical therapies worked for the conditions they were discussing. He reported to me that the presenters usually stated that they had no double-blind placebo-controlled studies to prove their conventional treatment recommendations either! As he put it, if we were to accept the idea that we shouldn’t offer pets a therapy that had not been proven by double-blind placebo-controlled study, we would not be able to help most of the pets we see every day as we would have no proven therapies to use.
As he put it to me, “Life knows and science seeks answers by studying phenomena and then seeks to explain and understand those. Technology makes phenomena predictable for the purpose of helping others. So looking and acting is part of science. That is a process that starts with an interested mind and ends with a study or tool of some kind.
If we do the following we will always succeed in the long haul: Help our patients.
Use all data available to find help and evaluate the help available.
Share your results with others. In this way we find what works and what doesn’t.
Discuss those results with your colleagues.
Help some more.
That is a plan for a nearly infinite expansion of any health care profession.”
That’s some pretty good advice. While skeptics can continue to look for proof (for their conventional therapies as well is my natural ones,) I’ll continue to help my patients get better and share my findings (both positive and negative) with other doctors so that they can also help improve the health of their patients.
If it didn’t work, we wouldn’t keep doing it. That’s the best proof I have of the effectiveness of all of the therapies, both conventional and natural, that I use every day to improve the lives of my special patients and their owners.
It’s interesting that many critics of natural medicine remain skeptical of evidence that has proven the effectiveness of a therapy by many years of clinical experience, yet easily accept “evidence” that is funded by and offered by pharmaceutical companies to promote the latest new drug.
As most of you know, I’m not at all against using conventional medications as part of an integrative healthcare plan for you or your pet. I simply want to make sure that if a drug is necessary, it is used properly and an alternative therapy that might be safer or less expensive is not available.
I’m going to share with you a true story; the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
A very common natural therapy for pets with arthritis is acupuncture. It’s been safely used for thousands of years to treat millions if not billions of patients and works quite well most of the time to relieve the pain associated with arthritis.
Now let’s look at a new drug to treat arthritis in pets, a drug we’ll call Drug X. The salesman for the pharmaceutical company which makes Drug X excitedly comes into my hospital to convince me to purchase this new miracle drug.
He tells me that Drug X just received FDA approval and was introduced to veterinarians one month ago. Studies funded by his company show that the drug is safe and is 80% effective in relieving pain in arthritic animals.
If I prescribe Drug X to only 5 pets a day, at a cost of $4 per pet, I’ll make $20 each day. That’s $600 a month or $7200 a year. Because this drug is a potent NSAID which may have side effects similar to other NSAIDS, I’ll need to check each pet’s blood and urine at least twice per year. At $100 per visit, that’s an extra $300,000 I’ll make each year.
For the next 2 months, to introduce this great new miracle drug, the pharmaceutical company is having a special offer: For each bottle of Drug X that I purchase, they will give me a bottle for free! This will increase my profit even more.
Additionally, the pharmaceutical company is spending $20 million over the next 12 months in consumer advertising and marketing to drive people into my office begging for this drug.
And finally, if he meets his quota in sales of this new miracle drug, the pharmaceutical company rep will get a free trip to Hawaii (wait!! What about my trip to Hawaii? Oh that’s right. I’ll make so much money from selling this new drug I can afford my own trip.)
Because I like to research new therapies, I ask him for any evidence that Drug X is safe and effective. He provides me with research funded by his company that tells me the following:
The company was required by the FDA to show that Drug X was safe and effective in 250, 5-year-old laboratory beagles that were fed a strict diet and not exposed to any other animals or people. (Do any of you own 5-year-old laboratory beagles? I doubt it since none of my clients do.) Additionally, the pharmaceutical company did additional clinical trials involving 20 different veterinary hospitals across the US, enrolling 1700 dogs in the study. In these additional 1700 dogs, the drug was also safe and effective.
So let’s see. I can use acupuncture in my arthritic patients, knowing that this therapy has been proven safe and effective for thousands of years in millions if not billions of patients. It’s cheaper for my clients than the new miracle drug as regular blood and urine testing for side effects never needs to be done.
Or I can use the new miracle Drug X, which has been on the market for one month and has only been used in a few thousand patients. I think for now I’ll continue to use the time proven therapy of acupuncture (after all, if acupuncture really didn’t work, doctors wouldn’t be using it anymore, right? Additionally, if I continued to use acupuncture knowing it was ineffective my actions would be immoral, unethical, and illegal, and I would lose my license to practice medicine.)
Fast forward 2 years. Drug X was recently taken off the market due to a number of pets becoming ill or experiencing “fatal unexpected adverse gastrointestinal consequences” that were never discovered during premarket testing to prove the drug was safe and effective. I’m sure glad I went with acupuncture as my therapy for arthritis!
My point is simply this-while many conventional medications are safe and effective, serious side effects are often not known until after several years of clinical use. If I have a choice of using a safe and effective natural therapy, or a new miracle drug that has not stood the test of time, I will always choose the safer, more effective natural therapy while waiting for additional clinical data that will inevitably result after years of using the new medication. Since my clients also agree with my choice, I will continue to meet their needs and offer the safest, most effective therapies for their pets, my patients, who put their trust in everything I do. I will continue to see the remarkable healing power of the natural therapies we choose to assist them in their journey to achieving true health.
Every day I see pets whose owners share with me the same tragic story. Their veterinarians have told them there is nothing they can do to help their pets. Many of these pets were seen by their veterinarians for routine checkups or what appeared to be minor problems. During the visit, a serious condition, often cancer, was diagnosed. As a result of the seriousness of the disease, the veterinarian offered no hope. Instead, the veterinarian told the owners that their pets had only a few weeks to live and recommended euthanasia when the pets’ condition declined.
Unfortunately, many pet owners around the country are also given a similar tragic diagnosis and hopeless prognosis and follow their veterinarians’ advice, ending their pets’ lives a few weeks after what appears to be a hopeless situation is diagnosed.
What would you do if you were in a similar situation? Would you follow your veterinarian’s advice and give up all hope of your pet recovering from its serious illness? Or would you do what my clients do and seek out another opinion and another system of healthcare?
Integrative/holistic/natural/green therapies can offer “hope for the hopeless.” While I can’t always cure all of my patients, I can offer all of them hope and make them healthier. It is not uncommon for me to treat a pet who is given weeks to live by the previous veterinarian and have that pet live many months or even several years!
The reason for my success? Unlike conventional doctors, I focus on HEALING the pet rather than TREATING the disease.
This is a foreign concept to many doctors. When I was in veterinary school, I was taught to diagnose and treat disease. Our goal was never to improve the health of the pet but simply to win the battle against the disease. When that is not possible, the only other alternative is euthanasia.
However, using integrative therapies, I can now focus on improving my patients’ health rather than simply trying to win the war against a particular disease. Even when the disease ultimately proves fatal, I’m often able to improve the pet’s health and help it live much longer than the previous veterinarian thought possible.
I see these “miracles of healing” every day! If you would like to read more about pet owners who refused to give up on their pets and instead discovered the miracle of natural health, you can read their stories in Unexpected Miracles-Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets.
I recently blogged about how skeptical veterinarians do not approve of using natural therapies that they consider “unproven.” According to the skeptics, unless the therapy has been proven to work through numerous rigidly controlled scientific studies, they would be considered “alternative and unproven therapies” that should not be used in the practice of medicine. (Of course if we held all veterinarians and doctors to this standard, we would have to stop using many of our conventional drugs as well, but that’s a topic for another blog!)
To sum up the feelings put forward by skeptical doctors, “only proven therapies should ever be used in the practice of medicine.”
What are we to do then, with patients who are not improving despite using these proven, conventional therapies? Imagine the following scenario.
Pet Owner-“Dr. Shawn, you’re our last hope. Our conventional veterinarian has given up on our pet, saying there is nothing more he can do for our beloved pet. Because all of his conventional therapies have failed, he is recommending euthanasia. Is there anything you can do to help us!?”
In a situation like this I have one of two possible responses.
Response 1-“I’m sorry Mrs. Smith, there’s nothing I can do for your pet. I have a lot of therapies that I can use to help your pet get better, but because they haven’t been proven through numerous rigidly controlled scientific studies, I don’t feel comfortable using them on your pet. Therefore I recommend you keep your appointment for euthanasia tomorrow and prepare to end your pet’s life.”
Response 2-“I’m sorry that you’re in this situation. While your conventional doctor did a good job, and he’s correct that there are no conventional therapies that can help your pet, I believe I can help your pet. I have a number of therapies that I’ve used on thousands of pets just like yours, and I’m confident we can improve your pet’s health and possibly even save her life. If you’re willing to try, let’s move forward and do everything we can for your pet.”
I don’t know about you, but my clients choose Response 2, and when they see the positive results in their pets, they’re very happy they came to my office and were open to using a different approach to healing.
Every day in my office I see pet owners who tell me the following story.
“Dr. Shawn, please don’t tell our regular veterinarian we’re here. He is very close- minded to using natural therapies and has told us that were never allowed back in his practice if we come to you for help. We’re desperate since he can’t help our pet and will do anything you think can offer us some hope, but please keep this visit secret.”
How tragic! It’s sad to think that a doctor is so closed-minded that he will let a pet die rather than refer that patient to someone who might be able to help.
While skeptical veterinarians and doctors seem overly concerned about controlled studies and scientific proof, discounting the value of years of clinical experience, pet owners are not so worried about these sorts of things. I’ve never had an owner yet ask me how many controlled studies were done for a therapy I prescribed for her pet. The only thing I’m frequently asked is whether or not, based upon my clinical experience with this particular disease, I think that my prescribed therapies would help the pet. When I’m able to offer some positive reassurance to the pet owner that my prescribed therapies have helped thousands of pets with a similar condition, nothing else matters to myself, the owner, or the pet.
I’m still bewildered by the fact that many conventional veterinarians choose euthanasia as a solution for failure of their conventional treatments, rather than simply opening their minds to the healing power that exists when using clinically proven, time-honored natural therapies. My hope is that more owners will continue to seek doctors, for themselves and their pets, who are open-minded to doing what is in the best interest of the patient regardless of which therapy ultimately proves successful, or which one has been “proven” to work by artificially designed controlled studies.
I recently wrote an article for USA Today online. In the article I discussed the new vaccine protocols established by all of the major veterinary organizations and veterinary schools. Basically these new recommendations confirm that pets do not need and should not receive annual vaccinations.
One of the comments I received was from someone who calls himself skeptvet. This anonymous person disagreed with the facts in my article and believes that holistic doctors like myself are misleading the public, as, in his opinion, there is no ”proof” that any of our therapies work. I’m not sure what his argument has to do with the fact that pets no longer need vaccines, but it’s obvious this anonymous person has some sort of grudge against alternative medicine and alternative doctors.
I decided to check out skeptvet’s website. It was no surprise to find this person still does not identify himself on his website, which automatically raises a red flag for me. If you have a difference of opinion I respect that, but least don’t hide behind some anonymous moniker. In order to judge anyone’s credibility, it’s important we know who is making the statements. So from the outset skeptvet has one strike against him.
I also noticed that skeptvet does not agree with ANY alternative therapy. For example, he does not believe that joint supplements help people or pets with arthritis, despite years of research and clinical experience proving otherwise.
Skeptvet also has no faith in clinical experience, the cornerstone of medicine. Instead he places all of his faith in double-blind placebo-controlled research studies. While those are important, we can’t discount clinical experience and what it teaches us.
For example, many serious side effects of approved drugs do not become apparent until they are on the market for several years and the side effects are discovered during clinical experience on real-life patients. Additionally, many recommendations by both conventional and holistic doctors are based upon clinical experience and non research studies.
For example, it was discovered several years ago that a very rare number of dogs who ate grapes or raisins became poisoned, with some ultimately dying of kidney failure. There is no research that proves this new poisoning (research actually disproves it.) Does this mean that veterinarians shouldn’t advise their clients against feeding grapes and raisins to their dogs? Of course not. If we see signs of toxicity in even a few pets based upon our clinical experiences, it would be malpractice not to make recommendations based upon this clinical experience, regardless of what the research may or may not show.
Ultimately like many other skeptics, skeptvet will never be convinced that various therapies with which he does not agree may be helpful for people and pets. For those with an open mind, and the willingness to accept the time-honored tradition of clinical experience, a new world of healing awaits where true health can be obtained. An open mind is needed for change, and with change comes endless possibilities!
Cancer is one of the most feared conditions in dogs and cats. While we’ve made many great strides in treating cancer over the last decades, preventing (or at least reducing) cancer in pets should be every owner’s goal. Here are five simple things you can do to greatly reduce your pet’s chance of developing this dreaded and often fatal condition.
1. Reduce unnecessary vaccinations
Missy was an eight-year-old Persian cat who received vaccinations every year of her short life. One month following her recent (and unnecessary) vaccinations, she developed a lump at the site of one of her shots. A biopsy showed this lump was an aggressive cancer called a vaccine-associated sarcoma (VAS.) Despite her owner’s best efforts, Missy died less than a year following this diagnosis.
Missy’s death was both unnecessary and avoidable. The current recommendation is that pets should receive vaccinations no more than every three years or even less than that based upon blood antibody titer testing. Vaccine-associated sarcomas can be greatly reduced in pets by simply not having your dog or cat immunized every year.
2. Feed your pet a healthy diet
Many well-known brands of pet foods contain animal and plant byproducts and chemical preservatives and additives. These ingredients are unnecessary and may prove harmful to pets by increasing inflammation and oxidation in the body, the two leading causes of cancers in most pets. By feeding your pet a natural food devoid of these potentially harmful ingredients, you can greatly reduce your pet’s risk of cancer.
3. Give your pet nutritional supplements
Many nutritional supplements such as fish oil, antioxidants, quercetin, curcumin, and probiotics can boost your pet’s immune system and minimize many diseases including cancer. Supplements made specifically for pets are usually available in palatable forms, making it easy to administer these life-saving products to your dog or cat.
4. Schedule regular checkups for your pet
Pets under 5 years of age should be examined at least once per year by your veterinarian, and pets 5 years of age and older should be examined at least twice yearly. These visits should include a full physical examination, as well as laboratory testing (blood testing, urine testing, and a microscopic fecal analysis.) Early diagnosis is your pet’s best chance for surviving cancer. Many cancers that are diagnosed before they become clinically apparent can actually be cured with proper therapy.
5. Don’t ignore lumps and bumps
All lumps and bumps should be checked by your veterinarian when they first appear. The good news is that most lumps and bumps are not cancerous tumors. The bad news is that cancerous tumors look just like these benign lumps and bumps. No one can tell if a lump or bump is cancerous without some sort of testing. Most skin masses can be easily diagnosed in the doctor’s office with a simple and inexpensive procedure called an aspiration biopsy. Other masses might require surgical removal for a full biopsy. Regardless, don’t wait and watch cancer grow. All lumps are considered cancerous until proven otherwise, and simply having the doctor look and feel your pet’s lump is not adequate.
By following these simple 5 tips, you can do a lot to help prevent cancer in your pet and give your pet the best chance for cure if and when cancer is diagnosed
As rescue teams and humanitarian aid rush to the island of Haiti to try to offer assistance following a devastating tragedy, among the rescuers will be members of elite search and rescue teams. These teams will be composed of specially trained canines and their handlers. These dogs, similar to those used in other tragedies such as the bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, have gone through rigorous training to teach them to find victims of such tragedies. The dogs have been trained to sniff out victims that may be trapped below several layers of rubble. The keen sense of smell possessed by these rescue dogs makes them perfect candidates to find victims that might not be easily found by human members of the rescue teams. Time is of the essence and search and rescue missions such as this, and the specially trained dogs may save countless lives that would otherwise be lost if not for their presence.
Just a few minutes ago I saw a sweet little Scottish terrier (Jenny) that has a large cancerous growth called a mast cell tumor on her right shoulder. Unfortunately, the tumor is so large that without amputating the dog’s leg, surgery would probably not be helpful.
In talking with Jenny’s owners, I discovered this tumor has been present for approximately 4 months. Two other veterinarians saw the dog when the tumor was very small. Feeling the tumor, each doctor told the owner that it was “nothing to worry about, just a fatty tumor,” and that the owner should monitor it and let them know if it started to grow. When it did start to grow, the dog was seen by a third veterinarian who wisely aspirated the tumor with a tiny needle and diagnosed it as being a mast cell cancer.
While I know I can help this pet by using integrative therapies, I wish the first two veterinarians who saw this mass when it was small had aspirated it and then surgically removed it. Surgery at this stage would have likely cured the dog without the need for chemotherapy and radiation which is now what the dog needs.
Having been taught cancer medicine by some of the leading doctors in the world, I learned several cardinal rules of cancer medicine.
*Don’t wait and watch cancer grow.
*EVERY lump should be aspirated and diagnosed during the office visit.
*You can’t tell if a lump is a benign fatty tumor is just way more malignant cancerous growth (such as occurred in this case) simply by looking at a lot and feeling it. ALL LUMPS LOOK AND FEEL THE SAME!
The sad news is that this sweet little dog will die a premature death because two other doctors, guilty of malpractice in my opinion, incorrectly diagnosed an aggressive cancer is nothing more than a fatty tumor. Don’t let this happen to your pet. If your doctor won’t do a needle biopsy/aspirate during your office visit, find someone who will. It may just save your pet’s life!
Not a day goes by that I don’t hear about pet or a person being diagnosed with cancer. Of course in my practice, I see multiple cancer patients each week. These lucky pets all have owners wise enough to know that an integrative approach to treating a patient with cancer is essential if the patient is to have the best chance of surviving its battle with this deadly disease.
In my book, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, I quote a cancer expert who made the following statement. “It doesn’t matter how much chemotherapy we use to poison a tumor, or how much radiation we use to burn a tumor, or how much surgery we use to cut the tumor out, if a patient’s immune system is not functioning properly, that patient will die from the cancer. “
Since there are no conventional cancer therapies that will strengthen a patient’s immune system (in fact, chemotherapy and radiation can actually depress a cancer patient’s immune system,) we MUST use natural therapies in order to give the patient the best chance possible against his cancer.
In my practice, natural therapies are often the only therapy available for my patient. For example, there are usually no conventional therapies available for the pet diagnosed with liver cancer. If these pets are not treated with natural therapies they will usually die within a few weeks of their diagnosis. In some cases, due to the age of the pet or the cost of conventional cancer therapies (which can easily cost between $5000 and $10,000 for the first year of therapy,) the only choice available for the patient is a natural therapy.
In my experience, pets treated with natural therapies usually have a much longer life expectancy than those who are treated only with conventional medicines, and have fewer side effects from the conventional therapies. In general, pets treated with a combination of conventional medications plus natural therapies will usually live 2 to 3 times as long as those whose treatment does not include natural therapies.
If you know a person or pet who has been diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to share this information with them. Cancer puts up a good fight. To win the war against cancer, the patient’s immune system must be functioning at its maximum potential. This can only be achieved when the patient is treated using natural therapies.