Excerpt from Herbs for Pets
When we hear the word cancer, many of us immediately think, Oh no—this is the end!
But cancer is not always a death sentence. There are many ways to deal with cancer, and many types of cancer can be treated holistically with the help and advice of a qualified holistic veterinarian.
In traditional Western medicine, we have been taught to believe that the best way to treat cancer is to poison it or cut it out. In holistic medicine, the treatment of cancer goes far beyond the physical nature of the disease to address the emotional and spiritual aspects of the sufferer as well. Many holistic practitioners believe that by cutting out or poisoning the cancer, we are only driving it elsewhere—perhaps deeper into the body where it can progress more insidiously.
For example, when the "check engine” light goes on in your car, you may stop, check under the hood, and add some oil if needed, or you may park the car and not drive it until the problem is identified. You’re not going to rip out the wire that controls the light so it won’t be a nuisance anymore. Unfortunately, in the case of your car, this quick-fix approach doesn’t address the worn-out crankshaft bearing that degenerates and grinds away the engine block as you continue driving down the road—and when the car breaks down next, the damage is far more likely to be irreparable. Ripping out the wire is exactly what traditional Western medicine does in many cases of cancer. Voilà, cut and yank, and the problem has been "remedied.”
In holistic medicine, the whole individual is treated, not just the cancer. Cancer is only a symptom of what is going on deeper within the being. In the treatment or prevention of cancer, all components of body, mind, and spirit need to be evaluated and supported. A critical assessment of diet is the first place to look—feeding poor-quality commercial food that is laden with artificial colors, preservatives, and by-products only makes the problem worse. The second step is to eliminate unnecessary vaccinations from the animal’s life. A body that is working extra hard to build a cancer-fighting immune system doesn’t need the stressful interference of vaccinations.
Nothing would please us more than to inform you of a new herbal "silver bullet” against cancer, but unfortunately such a thing does not exist. Although countless studies support the usefulness of herbs and various other holistic medicines in treating cancer, the disease is far too complex, variable, and adaptable for singular therapeutic approaches. In fact, cancer has so many faces that its early symptoms can include anything from a minor cough or excess shedding to occasional diarrhea. Just as varied is the list of possible causes—it seems that everything science looks at closely enough (foods, environmental toxins, natural and synthetic chemicals) carries the potential of causing cancer.
When cancer has progressed to a point where the diagnosis is certain, curative treatment is often less effective. But, if the disease is caught in its earliest stages, the prognosis can be quite positive. Effective prevention and treatment of cancer must begin with the guardian’s intimate familiarity with his or her animal. Nobody offers more diagnostic insight into cancer than the person who keeps a detailed observational diary of his or her companion animal.
The diary should include lifelong records of illnesses or odd behavior or appearances. More importantly, though, it should reflect what the animal is like during times of optimal health. The guardian’s capacity to notice minor deviations from perfect health is the most powerful tool in the early treatment of cancer and most other types of chronic disease.
Following are a few common warning signs the Veterinary Cancer Society recommends that pet owners look for in dogs. These symptoms apply to other animals as well. Remember, nothing here represents a conclusive diagnosis of cancer, but any symptoms listed should illuminate a red "check engine” light:
- abnormal swellings that continue to grow, especially in the lymph
- sores that do not heal
- bleeding or discharge from the mouth, nose, urinary tract, vagina, or rectum
- offensive odor
- difficulty eating or swallowing
- difficulty breathing
- difficulty urinating or defecating
- hesitation to exercise or loss of energy
- loss of appetite, weight loss
- persistent lameness or stiffness of movement
- lumps in the mammary glands
- abnormalities or difference in size of testicles
All of these symptoms may represent a cancer that has developed beyond its early stages, and therefore the animal should be taken to a holistic veterinarian immediately.
What might be indicative of the earliest onset of cancer? Well, just about anything out of the ordinary: a chronic cough or skin problem, decreased energy, aggression, pain, or stiffness—the list of early symptoms is endless. This doesn’t mean you should live in constant fear of your companion developing cancer, but you should remain aware that a change that appears to be minor can develop into a serious condition. Don’t ignore any changes in your animal. If a minor problem persists, consult a veterinarian.
All forms of cancer share a common characteristic: the disease starts when atypical cells begin reproducing and invading other cells. As healthy cells are destroyed and replaced by cancerous ones, lesions and tumors form and the body structures they occupy become dysfunctional.
Many holistic healers theorize that cancer is not really an acquired disease but rather the result of a metabolic imbalance that has progressed out of control. Cancerous tumors begin as small pinpoint lesions that occur off and on throughout an animal’s lifetime. In most cases, the immune system is able to stop the tumors before they develop their own blood supply and begin consuming cell structures elsewhere in the body. But if the body is not in homeostasis (a state of balanced, harmonious health), it may not be able to eliminate the tumor before it takes control of its surroundings and a malignancy results. From this holistic perspective, carcinogenic compounds, excess ultraviolet light and radiation, and other substances that are said to cause cancer are not seen as "carriers” of the disease but as triggering or encouraging mechanisms.
The potential for cancer exists within every animal (human and otherwise). The key to preventing it lies inside a healthy body, not only in the outside influences that we consider threats. Perhaps you have noticed (as we have) that a disproportionate number of seemingly healthy people develop cancer despite all external efforts to avoid it. Why is this? It is because despite all the measures they may have taken toward eliminating potential carcinogens from their lives, deeper issues of physical, emotional, and spiritual health have not been addressed, and the people have fallen from homeostasis.
None of this is to say that we should disregard the existence of carcinogenic substances in food, water, and the environment. To the contrary, every effort should be made to become aware of and eliminate cancer-causing factors in our lives and the lives of our animals. But we must also provide our bodies with the proper elements of nutrition and systemic support that are needed to maintain homeostasis and prevent cancer. Furthermore, the immune system must be properly equipped and always ready to respond to a nearly infinite number of cancer-causing influences. It must be allowed to do its job without interference from antibiotics, immune-suppressing corticosteroid drugs, and vaccine therapies. Every time we interfere with natural immune system functions we may be compromising the body’s ability to respond to and correct cellular or immune system imbalances that could develop into cancer.