This is a page to share with you all what we are going through right now; what we are learning, and what we are struggling through, in hopes that we can inspire some of you to research new ways to work through the issues in your own lives.
Riley has Cancer
We found out April 22, 2009 that Riley (my 3 1/2 yr old boxer) had cancer. We were told that since it was "stage 1", we had "the most favorable prognosis".... but what the heck does that really mean? If any of you have had this, or similar news from your vetrinarian, you know just how scary that unknown factor is. Once I spent an innoridinate amount of time on the internet researching what our type of cancer meant, what the statistics were for us, and found out that there ARE things we can do NATURALLY to fight off this cancer, I felt MUCH better. I ordered the book Curing Canine Cancer: Natural Cancer Treatments That Work, by Ted Schneck. It is downloadable, so I was able to get to reading that night, which was huge. It has an all raw diet, with lots of herbal supplements as its main way to fight the cancer; basically you are doing everything in your power to make your dog's immune system as strong as it possibly can be, so that he/she can fight off the cancer they way healthy bodies do.
All Raw Diet
So now that I know that I need to feed Riley an all raw diet, I am faced with the challenges of stepping into the unknown. It is so easy to have confidence that you are giving your dog everything he/she needs to be healthy when you are buying a heavily researched, scientifically balanced diet that is rated by the experts as being an excellent food (evo or wellness core). So you can imagine how scary it is to suddenly have the world as your limit as to what you can feed him. It does not help that everyone is so darn vague! haha, I cannot tell you how many time I read "oh, just feed him what is going bad in your fridge, feed him what is on sale, feed him what is in season, etc". I needed something that at least gave me a starting point. Well, thankfully I did find it, and once I did that exactly for a little while, I started to mix it up a bit, get a feel of the things I liked and of other things I wanted to add. : feed 1 cup ground chicken, 2 tbsp pureed mixed greens (zucchini, cellery, carrot, and beet), one tsp cod liver oil, one tsp flax seed oil
So, after almost 3 weeks on his new diet, this is what we are now feeding.
1/2 lb of ground chicken or turkey
1/4 cup pureed greens: (cellery, carrot, apple, parsley, and beet are the staples, and then I just throw a little bit of whatever else I happen to have on hand- zucchini, alfalfa sprouts, watermelon, bell peppers, etc. Note: it is important to know the list of veggies to NOT feed your dog. The list is located at the link above.
Oils: 1 tsp cod liver oil, 1 tsp flax seed oil, 1tps wheat germ oil,
Supplements: 1 tbsp olive leaf powder, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tsp kelp, 1tsp probiotic powder, 1 tbsp lecithin, 1 tsp bee pollin, 1tbsp bone meal powder.
Raw Meaty Bones: Right now, since the whole bone-chewing thing is still pretty new, we are sticking to turkey necks. Soon though we will be branching out to things such as chicken backs, then to weight bearing bones such as chicken quarters.
New ways of thinking, buying, living.
Since Riley is fighting cancer, one thing everyone seems to agree on is that you need to make it as easy on their immune system as possible. This means- not feeding them out of plastic, not using harsh chemicals around them...yes that means finding natural cleaners, flea repellent, weed killer (I have just given up on that one...hmm, my dog, or a few less weeds.... that's a no brainer! ), keeping them away from possibly sick dogs (not easy as a foster parent), and trying to keep the stress to a minimal level.
Natural, non-toxic cleaners.
Since we are now feeding this all raw diet, cleaning up after and during meals is huge concern. I felt SO dirty dealing with that meet/carcass in my house, keeping them in my refridgerator, Riley eating it (outside, and me having to stand out there watching him for the whole of it), and then coming in and wanting to give me a kiss on the chin, or touch my leg with his nose to say hello, or smelling the trash can and touching it, smelling the floor, licking the floor, licking my hand.....ahhh! the raw meat germs are everywhere!!! After a really good cleaning with (erg, the only non-toxic cleaner in my house) regular old antibacterial dish soap, I felt much better. I then moved forward to find out ways to make this situation bearable. To keep myself from getting grossed out every time I opened the refridgerator- I put all of the raw meat for the week in a plastic trash bag, wound it up, then put it in its own little part of my fridge, away from the other food. I did the same thing for the bag of veggies. This not only keeps the mess down in the fridge, it aslo cuts down on prep-time- all I do is pull out those two bags, and everything I need is right there in front of me!
To help with the problem of Riley speading the "raw meat germs" all over my house, I did a little research on the subject. As you might have guessed, I am a bit of a germ-o-phobe. BUT, then it started raining, and I had to let him eat inside. I did quite a bit of research during these first few days and read how other people handle the germ issue.
I now use about 20 drops of grape seed extract to 32oz water for my sanitizing. I LOVE it. It is not only a good cleaner, it is actually good for you! I use it to clean all of my fruit, my cutting boards, the counters, the sink, and anything else that needs sanitizing! I love it because it does not have a strong odor like other cleaners...I do not smell anything when I use it.
I also use vinegar as a sanitizer. It works well and is VERY cheap! I use this anywhere it does not matter if it is a little stinky for a little while. The smell dissipates as soon as the vinegar dries. You can also add lemon juice to the vinegar. It helps with the smell quite a bit, and the lemon also has natural cleaning properties.
Once I read these stories of people who had the same issues that I was having, and they got over it, I had the courage to do the same.
Natural Flea Control
Since it is now flea season, and I think the puppies who came to stay with us recently have been acting like they might have fleas, I have been finding natural ways to fight this battle. What I found is very encouraging and interesting. I found that basically any of the really strong smelling herbs- lavender, rosemary, mint, basil etc. will fend off fleas. You can even soak a rope in these essential oils and use it as a flea collar! I love to garden, so I am always excited to learn about new plants I can grow to use at home...and to find out that my dog has to have lavender misted over him or rubbed into his coat, boy that just stinks.... =) Why in the world would you buy poison to put on your dog, when you could use something like this? I also learned that you can sprinkle borax (the kind you buy for the garden, NOT pool) mixed with some salt can be sprinkled around your house to kill the adult fleas. Just make sure to do it when you and your animals can be away for as long as possible (prefferably 24hrs-a couple days) and then vacuum it up. You will want this in your vacuum because it will kill any fleas you vacuum up that are still alive.
To foster, or not to foster.
Once I learned of Riley's struggle, I was faced with the question: Do I continue to foster dogs with no homes and risk Riley's recovery, or do I stop fostering, and just focus on the dogs that I have? I was stuggling with this decision a few weeks ago, when I ran into the Stockon Animal Shelter foster program coordinator at the dog park (my other dog was in serious need of play). He understood my predicament, but then told me about two australian cattledog pups about 5 months old, who were going to be put down last week, but he talked them into giving him a few days to find a foster home for them. They had been at the shelter for about a month, but were deemed "unadoptable" because of how rowdy and untrained they were. Well, any of you who have been faced with this decision can probably guess what I said..."What! You cant put those little babies to sleep! They have not even been given a chance to show what good dogs they could be! So here they are, at my place now. For the first three weeks I had them I kept them seperated from Riley. At first they were just in his yard at seperate times from him, then he was allowed to sniff them through the fence for a few seconds, then more and more time sniffing. Now that Riley has recovered from his surgery, they play in the same yard. While it was a lot of work, trying to keep them seperated, this will probably be my default way of taking in new fosters from now on. I just cannot take the risk of bombarding his system with all of those new germs 24/7 like i did before.
Learning the HARD way...
Unfortunately there is no way to know if your dog's immune system/spleen can handle the raw food diet, until you try it. Well, we tried it and now know that that is NOT the diet for Riley. He got so sick that he was vomiting all day and night and had to be hospitalized for 4 days on an IV. We took many X-rays and blood tests, trying to make sure there was not something major causing the problem, all to no avail. But, all that matters is that he did get better, and he is now quite alive and doing very well on his new COOKED diet. After all of this happened I found a holistic vet who was very knowledgeable about the raw food diet and the natural approach to combating cancer. She told me how to cook his food so that he still gets many of the benefits of a raw diet, but it is much easier on his system than actually getting it raw. We also got some Chinese herbs to help his spleen and to make his blood move faster. I saw such a difference once I put him back on all of his supplements and added these two new ones, as well as started his new regime of cooking his food, I was floored. He is so happy now, with so much energy is is awesome! While i HATE that Riley had to get so sick, one good thing that came out of it was that I finally decided to swallow the cost and find a holistic vet. I am SO GLAD I DID!!!