Thursday, May 27, 2010

What they don't tell you

Word to the wise - ask a lot about side effects. Seems that mainstream medical, whether for humans or for pets, really don't like to talk about the side effects of medical procedures. They want to tell you about the positives, not the negatives.

The negatives we're talking about in Vida's case aren't life threatening, but knowing what to really expect, for me, is reassuring.

I want to be told that her hair will slough off in cruddy patches, that the skin will heal, but the hair probably won't come back. Pretty obvious, you'd think, to tell someone that their dog will have a big bare patch where the radiation was done. This is just an aesthetic issue in the end, but during the process it's nice to know what to expect so you don't waste time peering at it every other day.

Today I took Vida to see her holistic vet. I'd scheduled this appointment a couple of weeks ago, and knew that it would be just after she'd finished her prednisone, so the timing seemed good to assess her condition and plan ahead for upkeep.

I didn't know that I would be needing help in figuring out what the HECK was going on with her since stopping the pred last week. Her digestion has been bad, her appetite waaay off, her energy low, her eyes watery... basically she looked sick and miserable. I was worried that her adrenals weren't working properly, but he didn't think so at all (she had perked up a bit with him of course).

He pointed out something that, once he said it, seemed obvious - the prednisone had suppressed her body's ability to detoxify, so now that the pred was out of her system, her body started dumping toxins. He said he saw this a lot, the side effects that come a month or so after radiation is finished, and this is where his question came...

"Didn't they warn you about that?"

No.

No they didn't. And it would've been so simple for them to tell me to expect her body to detoxify when the pred was done, so to plan accordingly.

Instead I've spent the last few days worrying, adding and subtracting supplements, messing with her food, and (a second time for emphasis) worrying.

So for the next month she'll be getting rid of crud. Hopefully I'll only have to play with her food for the next week, but we'll see. She's superstitious because whatever she ate last made her feel crummy, so it's cooking meat for tastiness, and shifting entrees around so she stays excited.

Supplements? A few new ones for this process, and most others put aside for the time being.
  • Liver support capsule called "Hepato Support" with milk thistle and some B-Vits.
  • Homeopathic detoxifier - don't ask me what's in it, I don't know (a pet peeve of mine - please give me an ingredient list).
  • Herbal tincture called "Astragalus Formula (again, no ingredient list, grrrr).
Plus: digestive enzymes (InClover OptaGest, a double dose), Organic Pet Superfood (mushrooms), and Perfect Form by The Honest Kitchen.

So she got a little bit of cooked venison tonight, with all of her new supplements except the homeopathic (I'll do that later by itself), and she ate it all. So far so good!

Hopefully my blog posts of the past several weeks will help other dog owners not be disturbed or surprised by the process, and have some ideas of what to do about it, and WHAT TO ASK.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Recipe: Supportive Cancer Care Tea

This post is a bit of repeat because I'm entering this recipe in the Mountain Rose Herbs Recipe Contest in the Medicinal category.

The need arose because my dog underwent radiation treatment for cancer - an all-too-common disease in dog's today. Sometimes we really need the mainstream treatment, but we can integrate supportive holistic care with that treatment to ensure the best outcome for our beloved animals.

My recipes are adaptable.You will notice there are no hard amounts given. In fact, this recipe was adjusted for different stages of care on my own dog (this blog post in particular discusses that). Please understand that it's important to pay attention to your dog when using this and adjust as needed. This is especially true if your dog has debilitated organ functions on top of the cancer. I will point out any ingredients that you should take extra care with.You'll notice that I use some fresh ingredients and some dry; this was just because I had some items fresh in my yard, but you can adjust the recipe to use dried.

This tea recipe is designed to support the animal through treatment as a Qi booster and digestive soother, counteracting the heat and stagnation that results from treatments like radiation, and the medications that go along with it. This particular tea also provides some support for the mucous membranes of the mouth (where my dog's radiation was directed).

You'll also notice that this recipe includes a bone! This is primarily for flavor, but if your dog's digestion (especially pancreas and liver) is in good condition you can give them an extra treat by scooping out the marrow for them (my dog loved that, and would drink a whole bowl of freshly made tea). Do not feed the marrow to dogs with any digestive weakness ("sensitive stomach", etc).

  • 1.5 liters of water
  • One 4" bison or beef bone
  • 1/3+ cup dried Astragalus Root
  • 1/4 cup dried Slippery Elm Bark (or 2 T Slippery Elm + 2 T. Marshmallow Root if there is a lot of heat in the system)
  • Handful of dried Calendula Flowers
  • 3 small fresh Comfrey Leaves (may substitute 1/4 cup dried Nettles if concerned about liver function - or just for a change)
  • Handful of fresh Plantain Leaves

Chop any fresh ingredients. Simmer the bone in the water with a tight lid for awhile - 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. Add the astragalus root and slippery elm/marshmallow and simmer, tightly covered, for another 30-45 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and turn off the heat. Let sit, covered, at least 30 minutes, or until it's cooled down enough to handle. Store refrigerated for up to six days.

Be careful feeding your dog warm tea. Their sense of what's safe heat-wise is much more sensitive than ours. What feels pleasantly warm to us seems dangerously hot to to them, so be sure it's cooled to room temperature before serving.

Use this tea as the base for all their meals, whether you're cooking, feeding raw, or feeding kibble. For example, I lightly cooked my dog's food during treatment and used the tea as the liquid for poaching the meat. If using dehydrated food use the tea instead of water to rehydrate it.

My 40 pound dog went through 1.5 liters in 3-4 days. Most dogs won't drink it on it's own, so expect to be adding some amount of meat-based foods to it (sometimes just a spoonful of meat stirred in is all it takes). An average amount for my dog to take at one time would be about 1/2-3/4 of a cup, and she would get this at least 3 times a day.

If your dog is experiencing inappetence due to treatments or meds, be sure that this is included in whatever you do manage to get your dog to eat. Even a spoonful will help calm their digestive system and improve appetite.

The core of this remedy is the astragalus root. This is completely safe to use and provides the deepest support in the recipe. The slippery elm and plantain are extremely helpful for soothing their digestive tract, and are both very safe. Slippery Elm powder can be added directly to their meals in addition to this tea.

Depending on how long your dog's treatment lasts you may make adjustments to this recipe according to their current needs. Just be sure to always include the astragalus.

My dog also gets medicinal mushroom tea, and was on detoxifying herbs too, so please remember the stated goal of this tea: support. The most effective care and long term immune help does require more than this recipe can provide.

You can see the progress my dog (Vida, posed here in front of some of her medicine) made through her radiation treatments by reading the blog posts of April and May 2010. These posts contain more of my commentary on the herbal choices I made during the process, as well as information about all the other goodies I'm giving her for her healing. I enjoy feedback, so please don't hesitate to leave comments on any of my posts, and please "follow" La Vida Fresca.

Recipe: Topical Gel for Radiation Burns



This post is a bit of repeat because I'm entering this recipe in the Mountain Rose Herbs Recipe Contest in the Medicinal category.

This gel is designed for topical use but I didn't put it in the Body Care category because (a) it can be safely ingested and provide some relief in that way too and (b) I kind of interpret the "body care" term to be mainly about cosmetics.

The need arose because my dog underwent radiation treatment for cancer - an all-too-common disease in dog's today. Sometimes we really need the mainstream treatment, but we can integrate supportive holistic care with that treatment to ensure the best outcome for our beloved animals.


This gel is designed for dogs, but that doesn't mean you can't use it too.
I've designed to be safe if licked off because that is the normal response of a dog. My own dog's cancer was in her mouth, so there was no way to bandage the area after application, and in fact it was beneficial for her to have the gel inside her mouth as well as on the outside of her lower jaw, which ended up being the are that was most effected.

My recipes are adaptable. In fact, this recipe was adjusted for different stages of care on my own dog. Please understand that it's important to pay attention to
your own dog when using this and adjust as needed. You'll notice that I use some fresh ingredients and some dry; this was just because I had some items fresh in my yard, but you can adjust the recipe to use dried.


This recipe is for the most active stage of skin burn when there is oozing, skin and hair loss, and inflammation:

  • 8 oz. water
  • 2 Tablespoons dried Calendula Flowers
  • 1 Tablespoons fresh, chopped Comfrey Leaf (or 1/2 T. dry)
  • 1 Tablespoons dried Yarrow flower and leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoons dried Goldenseal Root
  • 1/2 teaspoons fresh, chopped Sage Leaf (or 1/4 tsp dry)
  • 3 teaspoons dried Irish Moss
  • 6-7 oz aloe vera juice (I use Lily of the Valley organic, preservative-free filet juice)
Combine the calendula, comfrey, yarrow, goldenseal, and sage. Bring the water to a boil and pour over these herbs, cover and let steep for at least 30 minutes.


Strain this tea and pour it into a small saucepan. Put the irish moss into a small cotton bag and submerge it in the tea. Heat this pan gently. There's no need to boil this, just use medium/low heat, stirring gently for at about 15 minutes until you notice that the liquid has become a little more viscous and coats your spoon.

Pour this liquid out and squeeze the cotton bag. This can be a little messy! The best result I had was using bamboo toast tongs to squeeze the thicker gel that has collected in bag.

[wondering why so tricky with the irish moss? This is to minimize debris in the finished gel. If you are using this on an area of the body that can be bandaged you won't
have to worry so much about plant material in the gel because you'll be able to put a barrier on the wound itself.]

Let this cool. Mix the resulting liquid 50/50 with aloe vera juice. Best result are achieved if you use a small whisk to stir the aloe in. If your aloe has already been refrigerated this mixture will thicken immediately as you stir. It will continue to thicken as it cools, and should be refrigerated.

Using an oral syringe is an easy way to apply this gel, and also keeps the stored gel clean.

Apply this gel 4-6 times a day during this acute side effect period.

Variations

Early stages of radiations treatments: Use this version as a preventative. It's more of a rinse than a gel, and contains fewer ingredients. Apply twice a day.
  • Reduce the Irish Moss to 2 teaspoons.
  • Use only the Calendula and Comfrey
Late stage of burn recovery: Use this when the area has dried out and inflammation has reduced. Apply twice a day.
  • Maintain the primary recipe, only removing the Goldenseal Root.

You can see the progress my dog (Vida, posed here in front of some of her medicine) made through her radiation treatments by reading the blog posts of April and May 2010. These posts contain more of my commentary on the herbal choices I made during the process, as well as information about all the other goodies I'm giving her for her healing. I enjoy feedback, so please don't hesitate to leave comments on any of my posts, and please "follow" La Vida Fresca.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Photo Update - recheck #2



Today when we were at Dr. Proulx's office I suggested that maybe we'd lost our "least side effects ever" title, but he thought maybe not. She's right on track with her healing. We'll see him again in one month for our "baseline" assessment that we'll move forward with.

I'm kind of fascinated by the way her teeth have arranged. It looks like one is missing, but it's just that they kept the gap that developed with the tumor. The thing is, where did that space come from? Everything used to fit.

And she's been using her teeth the past week or so - chewing her nylabone every day, sometimes for 30-45 minutes, with vigor. I had to get her a new one yesterday because one of her old ones was so worn down.

She's tapering down more on the prednisone and will be off completely in about 10 days. She's off the tea, but on everything else. Gel on her chin is only once or twice a day now (and an adjusted recipe again).

I think the two beach swims last week helped clean things up a bit.

Yes, she lost more hair, but if you look close you can see some coming back, and all the skin is quiet (no more discharge). We'll have to wait and see what happens (guess she needs a good old fashioned hair tonic now!).

What's with the stick? A handy way to keep her on her back for a good chin view (you can't see my hand holding it off camera).

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Photo Update - 2 weeks post (haste!)


The tumor area has gone down just a nudge, I think.

Meanwhile the burn area got larger. It came down around her chin a-ways on the right side
(The other side of her mouth wasn't as hard hit, I think they always aimed it at the right side of her mouth).

My, but it looks clean doesn't it!
Yesterday I took her swimming at dog beach in Del Mar - her first swim since all the treatment started. Clean and exercise your dog without breaking a sweat! Well the swim softened up all the scabs and gunk that had been accumulating and it came right off.

It's hard to see but there are hairs coming back already, so I feel confident that the hair will all
grow back eventually. The area she'll have the hardest time not scarring will probably be the front because her licking impacts that small area the most.

I'll find out in a week how she compares to other dogs in terms of burn effect. We may have lost the "least amount of side effects" prize with the area expansion this week, but I'm still applying the gel to speed healing.