Imagine you’re a dachshund, maybe five years old, coming in for a checkup. You know what to expect: the cold linoleum floor of the waiting room, that jumble of scents from other animals who’ve left trails of fear in the air, and then the uniformed technician who pulls you by the leash into a tiny room and shuts the door behind you. Suddenly up, there you go, onto a steel examining table. And out come those hypodermic needles again…. But imagine this time your owner has taken you to a different clinic. Hmm. Nice old carpeting, sort of like home. The other patients seem oddly cheerful—none of that gallows humor you usually hear. Uh-oh: that technician again. Taking you … where? Into a nice room with pictures on the walls. And what’s that music on the stereo? Mozart! You like Mozart. Okay, up. Now why is this doctor smiling? And why’s he wearing those funny dog and cat pins on his lapel? Ah, he’s feeling your spine. You know how it is with dachshunds: show me a middle-aged dachshund who doesn’t have a bad back and I’ll show you a stuffed—but wait. Whatever he’s doing feels good.
With a holistic veterinarian, treatment really does begin in the waiting room. Putting pets at ease with comfortable decor, soothing them with gentle music and a friendly touch—these aren’t mere niceties. They’re efforts made in recognition of the fact that in animals as much as in people, physical illness has a psychological dimension. In short, animals do sense what’s going on in the waiting room, and in the examining rooms beyond, with a sensitivity, I’m convinced, that’s more complex and acute than ours.
To skeptics, “holistic” connotes New Age, flaky, unscientific, and unproven. But holism has a clear and simple dictionary definition: “the view,” to quote Webster’s, “that an organic or integrated whole has a reality independent of and greater than the sum of its parts.” Holistic veterinary care begins with the premise that a pet’s whole being must be healthy in order for him to be well, because the physical and psychological parts, which are equally important, affect each other. And that when a pet is ill, his whole being needs treatment.
When a new patient comes in, I try to learn as much as I can about him, to understand him wholly. To me, it’s just common sense. The more you know about a pet, the more clues you have to guide you to proper treatment. If physical illness prompted the visit, I’ll pay as much attention to the way the owner describes the symptoms as to the symptoms themselves. What attitude does the owner seem to have about the illness? How do owner and pet interact? Might a dog’s dermatitis be a manifestation of anxiety he’s absorbed from his owner or his home environment? Along with the symptoms that brought him in, are there other less obvious ones that the pet exhibits—chronic ones, perhaps, that may put his condition into context? Certainly I’ll look at his medical history to see how he was treated before: the chronology of vaccines, the ailments reported and drugs given in response, the pattern, perhaps, of worsening health. I’ll ask about his diet. I’ll learn what I can about his genealogy, looking, if he’s full-bred, for indications of genetic disease. Then I’ll take a blood sample to have its values measured in what I call a Bio Nutritional Analysis™ (BNA).
That’s when my own holistic approach begins to get a little different.
The Bio Nutritional Analysis
All veterinarians study blood values: the enzymes, proteins, electrolytes, and metabolites that indicate the function of various internal organs. How they read those values, and how they react to them, is where the fork in the road lies. Most veterinarians focus on significant deviations from what is considered normal, then address whatever organ is implicated, so often with cortisone and antibiotics. What I do, in essence, is to look at all imbalances, even moderate ones, and try to see them in context—in the whole. Why is that one organ so out of balance? Are other organs implicated? If so, how? And what can be done to restore all of them, not just to passable medical health but to a fine-tuned metabolic balance so that the body is wholly healthy and can take care of itself? This approach, and the Bio Nutritional Analysis that makes it possible, are the framework for much of what we do at Smith Ridge.
The metabolic organs, should you have forgotten from Biology 101, are the ones that metabolize food the body can use into energy and process the rest out as waste. Metabolism involves some obvious suspects: the stomach, which helps break down food; the pancreas, which produces enzymes to aid in digestion; the liver, which converts food into “fuel;” and the kidney and colon, which pass waste. But it also involves the adrenal, next to the kidney; the thyroid, in the throat; and in the brain, for example, the pituitary, which regulates these others.
The metabolic organs that the BNA tracks all have established “normal” ranges. The mystery that led my brother Robert and me to design the BNA for veterinary medicine, however, was that many pets in advanced stages of illness appeared to have normal blood values. So often, a very sick pet would be brought to us for a second opinion and the owner would tell us that his regular veterinarian had conducted a blood test that showed “nothing abnormal.” Perhaps, we thought, the problem lay in how “normal” was defined.
A “normal” range for a certain value—an enzyme in the liver, say—may be 20 to 150, meaning that a lab technician can expect to find that concentration of enzymes in a certain small amount of blood. But by that standard, a reading of 149 is considered just as normal as one of 80. Only if the reading comes back under 20 or, more significantly, over 150 will a diagnosis be made, such as hepatitis. Out of curiosity, we began using nutritional supplements to try to bring the high-normal and low-normal readings closer to an ideal median. Our thought was that an animal’s health might improve enough to allow him to marshal his own immune system to check the advance of—or even ameliorate—his disease.
We’ve since come to realize that virtually every condition of ill health, from skin inflammations to chronic diarrhea to diabetes, can be addressed by enhancing metabolic organ function. Fine-tuning each value is the objective. So is achieving an overall balance. What we do, in effect, is to restore pets to the level of health their ancestors enjoyed. Wild animals simply don’t get degenerative diseases to the degree we see them in our domestic pets. They don’t take nutritional supplements either, but they don’t have to because they’re eating the metabolic organs of their prey—the pancreas, the thyroid, and so forth—from which they absorb the needed support that supplements could provide. When animals are domesticated and put on a low-grade commercial pet food diet, their health declines and their metabolism becomes unbalanced. By giving them supplements that realign them with nature, we can often get them well. With pets not yet diseased, the BNA works even better, offering strong indications—not diagnoses, not certainties, but indications—of disease that may occur later on if not addressed now. With its metabolism fine-tuned, a pet has an excellent chance of living a long and relatively disease-free life.
To appreciate the BNA in action, let’s start with its most basic premise: that a single organ can function optimally when its blood values remain within a strict median, not within the wider “normal” range. To offer a good example, there are three values that medically indicate how well the kidneys are functioning. These are blood urea nitrogen (known as BUN), creatinine, and inorganic phosphorus. All are waste products from different parts of the body which the kidney is responsible for eliminating.*1 Different labs have different measuring systems; at the one I use, normal BUN for a dog is 8.0 to 25.0, normal creatinine is 0.5 to 2.0, and normal phosphorus is between 2.0 and 6.0. Conventional medicine teaches us to ignore imbalances that fall within those ranges. Unfortunately, by the time the values become “abnormal,” a dog will sometimes have begun manifesting symptoms of kidney disease (sometimes considered irreversible). A conventional veterinarian will treat this condition first by administering intravenous fluids to the pet to diurese the kidney, then by putting him on a special diet that contains high-quality proteins in low concentrations.
When any of these three values is even slightly elevated or depressed, I start right in with a program of nutritional supplements geared to correct the imbalances. I don’t know for sure that a kidney problem exists yet. The values in this case, because they originate from sources outside the kidneys, may actually indicate other problems, especially if only one of the three is elevated. And even if all three are rising unduly, the kidney may not be diseased yet, but rather a likely target of disease in the near future if the imbalances are left uncorrected. The need for treatment will be no less real for that, merely preventative rather than curative. My choice of supplements will depend in part on how well other organs are functioning in relation to the kidney, but as a rule they’ll include what are called “glandulars,” as well as vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, and herbal and homeopathic remedies.
I’ll discuss all of those in detail later, but perhaps I should say here that glandulars, probably the most important of the bunch, are just what you might suspect: concentrates of raw animal organs.*2 I believe, as do many holistic veterinarians, that glandulars supply pets with nutrients that wild animals get from eating the glands and organs of their kills, and so strengthen them against disease. (As discussed later, in the section on glandulars, I also believe that an autoimmune reaction is involved.) I had some trepidation about trying out glandulars nearly two decades ago, and was aware that they had provoked fierce controversy in the medical literature. (Indeed, they still do.) So at first I used them only as a backup treatment. But over time I’ve seen them work so effectively—not merely remedying minor organ imbalances but actually reversing organ damage—that I now rely on them as my first line of defense with nearly all metabolic imbalances. Fortunately, there’s a commercially available glandular for every metabolic organ we treat.
Correcting minor imbalances in a single organ is certainly helpful, but in applying the BNA, it’s just the beginning. Imagine the metabolic organs as a solar system of balls linked to one another by sticks. What happens when you push one ball up or down? The rest are pulled from their original positions, probably with those nearest to the ball you’re touching moved the most, and those farthest from it the least. Though conventional medicine remains set on addressing the symptoms of the most affected organ and ignoring the rest, the fact is that all of these organs are linked to one another—and so, inevitably, are their problems.
Consider the organ that lies just above the kidney: the adrenal, or, to give it its new medical name, the suprarenal. (Ad renal means “toward the kidney;” supra renal means “above the kidney.”) Is it so radical to suggest that even modest imbalances in the adrenal may in time get worse and affect the kidney, too?
Simply put, two of the adrenal’s basic functions are to handle stress and inflammation. For the first, it releases adrenaline to speed up the heart rate, stabilize blood pressure, and get you ready for “fight or flight,” which is what stress tended to involve if you were a caveman, and which in different ways does today, too. For disease purposes, we’re more interested in the other of those two adrenal missions. To deal with inflammation, the adrenal dispatches natural cortisone (the name comes from the gland’s outside layer, the adrenal cortex). Over time, natural cortisone—the more exact term is “cortisol”—has the side effect of drawing sodium out of the cells. Sodium is half of what constitutes salt. As it’s flushed through the body toward the kidneys to be excreted, it in turn draws water from the cells it passes by, just as table salt draws water from hot humid air on a midsummer day. The pet or person to whom this is occurring feels thirsty as his bodily water is diminished, and urinates more often to pass that water. The outgoing water and sodium, as a result, also overwork the kidneys. So in short: the harder the adrenal cortex is pressed to make cortisol, the harder the kidneys are forced to work, too.
To me, the main indicator of metabolic function for the adrenal is an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. If its value is even slightly elevated or depressed, we go in with glandulars and the rest of our arsenal of natural remedies. In most cases, as the alkaline phosphatase eases back to the median, so too will the pet’s increased water consumption and urination. This in turn will lower the stress on the kidneys, preventing future kidney problems.
Unfortunately, by the time we do a BNA that discloses adrenal imbalance, the situation has likely been complicated by outside forces—namely, conventional medicine. When an inflammation appears, help (of a sort) tends to come first from the administration of synthetic cortisone to address the problem, be it allergies, “hot spots,” or, as often, arthritis. Chemically close to natural cortisone but not derived from it, the man-made version suppresses inflammation. When applied topically, it filters through the skin’s cellular structure; when administered orally or by injection, as cortisone is much more often given, it enters the body directly. As the cortisone imparts its effect on the body, you see the two common side effects described above: increased thirst and more frequent urination, just as is the case when the body creates too much natural cortisone, though to an exaggerated degree. The adrenal, as a result, is thrown out of metabolic balance.
Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, synthetic cortisone is one of the drugs most commonly prescribed in veterinary medicine. Frequently, dogs on synthetic cortisone have elevated levels of alkaline phosphatase, as compared to the “normal” amount. A conventional veterinarian will see that value from a blood test but feel that it’s justified, because the dog is on all that cortisone. I’ll see it and feel that no matter what, it’s not normal. What are the effects of such a high level of alkaline phosphatase on the body? They’ll be a mirror of all the side effects of cortisone stated in the medical books. I say, let’s get the body’s own adrenal gland functioning efficiently so that it can make its own natural cortisone and heal itself. So we put the pet on natural supplements, ease him off the synthetic cortisone if he’s still on it, then watch his alkaline phosphatase come down to normal—our version of normal. Soon enough, his inflammation either lessens or disappears, addressed by his own natural healing process.
In our practice, almost all animals do get put on an adrenal supplement, because most BNA returns disclose an adrenal imbalance suggesting stress, inflammation, or both. That’s not to say that all get put on the same one. In fact, we use half a dozen different adrenal supplements; the choice depends on what other organs are implicated in the BNA. Mil Adrene (Miller Pharmacal) is raw adrenal, a direct and potent choice. If the calcium value in the blood appears low, we’ll use a supplement called Drenatrophin (Standard Process Labs), which combines both adrenal support and the needed calcium. If sodium is low, we’ll use Adrenochelate (Nu Biologics). And if the adrenal’s alkaline phosphatase is especially high, I also try to balance the body’s alkalinity with acidity, which means using ascorbic acid, which is vitamin C. The adrenal supplements, by the way, are all as readily available over the counter in health food stores as vitamin C is. So are most of the supplements we use.
Using remedies that neatly address a metabolic imbalance of two or more organs makes holistic sense. It’s also a practical matter: supplements are expensive. If we ask an owner to buy too many different kinds, he may refuse, or buy only some of them. Even if he takes them all, the expense will surely increase his anxiety about his pet’s condition, and an owner’s stress, as we’ll see in Chapter Nine, is sensed by his pet in very real ways. Then, too, getting an animal to take a whole list of different supplements becomes an exercise in futility. Typically, a BNA will reveal several metabolic imbalances. Unless they’re severe, I may use just a few metabolic supplements that address them. Strengthened by those, and backed up by enzymes and a good multiple vitamin, the body can usually take care of the other imbalances itself.
Over the years, as we’ve refined the BNA, the problems of one organ have come to be seen as affected not only by those closely associated with it but by more distant organs in the metabolic system. Of those few veterinarians who consider the adrenal’s influence on the kidney, for example, I’d doubt that any consider the pituitary in reaching a diagnosis. Most veterinarians rarely deal with the pituitary at all. Yet this tiny, crucial gland in the brain is the one that, among other jobs, governs the release of cortisol by the adrenal. If it’s malfunctioning, the adrenal may appear to be the organ with a problem, although it’s not.
Think of the pituitary as the top of a genealogical tree, with the adrenal down one branch. Another branch is the thyroid, the gland adjacent to the windpipe which regulates metabolism. The pituitary’s in charge of it, too. It tells the thyroid to secrete its hormone L-thyroxine, as needed by the body. One result of a low value for L-thyroxine, usually in dogs, is sluggishness; other effects are excess weight and symmetrical hair loss. If the value gets abnormally low, a conventional veterinarian will put this pet on a synthetic thyroid drug, the most typical of which would be either Synthroid or Soloxine. But again, what if the problem is in the pituitary? If it is, you have a situation that’s analogous to a toaster with a severed cord. When it fails to heat bread, do you conclude that the toaster is broken? Or simply that it needs a new plug? The toaster in the analogy is the thyroid; the severed plug is the pituitary. Unless the pituitary function is corrected, a pet will be subjected to increasing doses of Synthroid or Soloxine, with less and less effect, to fix a thyroid that doesn’t need fixing. The end result may be an atrophy of the thyroid gland tissue as the pituitary, through what is called the “negative feedback mechanism,” detects all the synthetic thyroxine being administered, and therefore shuts down the natural thyroid function. With the BNA, on the other hand, the pituitary’s own imbalance will be taken into account. And if that imbalance is what’s affecting the thyroid, then as it’s corrected you’ll see a dog restored to his energetic self naturally, and his values normalized.
A very similar situation occurs with the adrenal when synthetic cortisone is used. The cortisone, through this feedback mechanism, leads to an atrophying of the adrenal cortex. If chronic cortisone administration is cut off abruptly, the result can be life-threatening. Therefore, when I see a patient in this situation, I start him immediately on natural supplements which have a cortisone-like effect that enables me to wean the pet off the synthetic cortisone. This process usually takes one to two weeks, and should be monitored well.
Remember the three key values for the kidney? Not long ago, I got a frantic call from an out-of-state owner whose dog I’d been treating in consultation with her local veterinarian. The dog, who had a tumor, appeared suddenly to be suffering kidney failure. At least that’s what the owner’s local veterinarian said. Why? Because the dog’s blood urea nitrogen (BUN), one of those three key values, had spiked up to four times its normal level. That’s kidney failure, all right—if you only look as far as the kidney. But curiously, the other two key elements, creatinine and phosphorus, were still at “normal” levels.
To me, that suggested the kidney was still working. If so, it wasn’t the cause of the BUN buildup. Perhaps something else in the body was generating an awful lot of BUN, more than the kidney could handle. Where does BUN come from? It’s a by-product of protein metabolism. What is a tumor made of? Protein.
When I stood back and looked at the larger picture—made clearer by a BNA—I realized that this was, in fact, a case of an animal trying to heal himself. The tumor was dissolving, and the body, as a result, was expelling the toxicity associated with its breakdown. The dog did feel bad, and his BUN reading looked dire, but he was on the verge of restoring himself to health. By waiting until that process had concluded—and not trying to tamp down the kidney BUN with medical therapy—we allowed him to regain his health, which in turn restored his BUN to normal levels. Soon enough, the owner reported that the tumor had shrunk in size.
Granted, the big picture provided by the BNA can be confusing, too. Certain values may appear ideal at first. Months later, after putting a pet on supplements to balance the others, the “normal” ones may start to rise! Presumably, the cat or dog has been getting healthier in the meantime. Why should his liver enzyme, for example, be rising now? I was mystified by that until I saw such belatedly high values begin to go down again, and figured it out. The liver had been so unhealthy when we began the program that it hadn’t worked well enough to generate its enzymes, which would have produced the higher values expected. As it became healthier, it woke up, in effect, and began working harder until it could reestablish normal function. Suppose you had cirrhosis of the liver and then did something to damage it further. Your liver readings would appear as normal or depressed because of the cirrhosis, which is also to say that your liver wouldn’t be working well enough to put up a fight and generate higher values. Its normal liver cells, containing the liver enzymes needed to wage that fight, would have been replaced by scar tissue. Eventually, my brother and I realized that that was also part of the reason why cancer patients tended to show such “normal” readings. Hard-hit by cancer but also by the chemotherapy and conventional drugs used to combat it, their metabolic organs had simply given up.
Though the BNA has evolved considerably over the last two decades, it remains in essence what it was when we conceived it for veterinary medicine: a different way of looking at standard blood values. What makes it so useful is the significance it attaches to even modest imbalances, and, as important, the emphasis it places on relationships among those values. Yet along the way, we’ve come to appreciate certain values, enzymes in particular, that if not undiscovered might as well be.
One, already stated, is alkaline phosphatase, which tells us how the adrenal gland is doing. Alkaline phosphatase is traditionally associated with the intestine, bone, and liver, which when diseased spill high levels of this enzyme into the blood. Conventional medicine looks to alkaline phosphatase simply as an indication that the intestine, bone, or liver is unwell. We saw that it also suggested a metabolic imbalance in the adrenal, whose job it is to control certain aspects of those bodily parts in the first place. Another is an enzyme called SGOT—serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase. In people, SGOT is found both in muscle and liver cells. In animals, oddly enough, it’s found mostly in muscle. So its usefulness is specific. Yet it’s rarely noted unless a pet has, for example, acute heart disease; by then, all it does is indicate the obvious. Then there’s LDH—lactic dehydrogenase—which unfortunately is no longer included in most standard blood tests. LDH is closely involved with lactic acid, which builds up when carbohydrates from food are not being metabolized properly. Carbohydrate metabolism is handled primarily by the pancreas. So the LDH is an especially good indicator of pancreatic function. And because of its link with lactic acid, it also tells us whether the blood is too acidic or too alkaline—a crucial yardstick for metabolic balance.
The BNA also includes scrutiny of a gland that almost never gets considered: the thymus. In very young pets, the thymus plays a central role in managing the immune system, delegating tasks to various lymphoid organs. Soon, however, the thymus begins to wither, and management of the immune system shifts to the lymph glands, the spleen, and especially the bone marrow. This evolution is accepted as natural, but somehow it doesn’t seem nature’s style to let such an important gland atrophy as we grow. I’ve long suspected that the thymus of a young pet nurtured on nutritional supplements may continue to function, helping the immune system into old age, and that this is what nature intended.
In living creatures, it’s difficult to tell just how long the thymus does remain intact (though I use one blood value, globulin, as a barometer of thymus function; when it’s unusually high or low, I’ll use a thymus glandular). Not long ago, however, the owner of a dog I’d treated called with an intriguing report. Her dog had had cancer and had not been expected to live more than a few weeks when I first saw him. I’d managed to extend his life two and a half years beyond that expectation, partly by putting him on a thymus glandular. Over the course of therapy, I related to her what I believed to be the role of the thymus and how it atrophied with maturity. As it happened, she lived near Cornell University, and when her dog died of more old-age-related causes, she had the dog autopsied at Cornell’s veterinary school. “I can’t believe it,” she called to tell me. “And neither can they. They found active thymus tissue.” The pathologists were flabbergasted: How could a grown dog still have active thymus tissue? My theory, though I have no scientific proof to support it, is that we did more than reverse the cancer. By restoring the dog to health, the thymus that had atrophied in his youth began growing back.
We developed the BNA, my brother and I, because it seemed bizarre that so many degenerative diseases should have no effect on the internal metabolic organs as represented in blood tests. Now we know they do. In fact, the success we’ve had in treating all degenerative diseases metabolically has convinced me that visible, outward symptoms almost always have some relation to the internal organs. It’s a relationship that works in both directions.
By fine-tuning the organs, we’ve found that improvements in visible symptoms soon follow. Which is also to say that when we balance the body’s internal mechanisms, the body heals itself. This is the inverse of what we’ve seen over and over in conventional medicine: that when outward symptoms are suppressed, there are internal consequences. A dog treated with large doses of cortisone for a skin inflammation may develop kidney failure later on. A cat treated similarly may develop diabetes. In conventional medicine, no connection will typically be made between the external and internal conditions, so they’ll be treated separately—both with suppressive drugs. Over the long haul, both will worsen.
It would be convenient if all visible signs of ill health had clear and consistent links to certain internal organs, like buoys in the water, attached to anchors below. Toxicity, alas, isn’t that predictable; it seeks the path of least resistance from wherever it is in the body. And visible symptoms, as a result, may be traced to any number of internal problems. Chronic colitis, or diarrhea, for example, may as likely be traced to an enzymatic imbalance in the pancreas or liver as it may to a spastic colon. That’s one of the reasons we developed the BNA; to get a better sense of which of many internal organs may be implicated by the visible symptoms common to so many pets.
Still, certain resonances between external symptoms and internal conditions remain as intriguing as when Chinese doctors noted them thousands of years ago. Kidney problems often seem to provoke disturbances of the ear, for example. The eyes and the liver, according to Chinese tradition, are linked as well. Not long ago, a dog was brought to me with liver cancer. The first thing I noticed was that she was missing an eye. The owner explained that two years before, the eye had been surgically removed because the dog had glaucoma. Ever since, the dog had been on drugs to keep the glaucoma from blinding her other eye. In retrospect, the cause of the tragedy was clear: the dog’s glaucoma had been treated as a root cause, when to me it was merely a symptom of the internal problem, namely liver disease. And in reviewing the dog’s medical history, I noticed that she had elevated levels of liver enzymes going years back when she was initially diagnosed with glaucoma. The eye was, in effect, the messenger. What used to happen to messengers in ancient Rome who brought bad news? They got killed! Worse, the anesthesia used in the operation, and the drugs prescribed afterward to arrest the glaucoma in the remaining eye, were specifically toxic to the liver! So two years later, the dog had full-blown liver cancer. We’ve been treating the dog for several months now; so far, so good.
If I’d seen that dog when her glaucoma first appeared, I would have suspected that the liver was implicated upon examining her, but not known for sure. I certainly would have felt for the acupuncture point on her back associated with the liver, and likely detected a weakness (as shown by the dog’s obvious reaction of discomfort). A metabolic analysis of her blood would then have established the link. Medically, the dog’s liver function may have registered only slightly outside the “normal” range. But the levels of a number of her enzymes would have seemed abnormal to me—enough so that the dog’s metabolism needed restoring. I can’t tell you that that particular dog’s glaucoma would have cleared up as a result, or that she would have remained free of liver cancer. In medical science, conclusions as clear-cut as that require years of double-blind studies: three groups of animals afflicted with the same condition, one-third of whom would be treated with a promising alternative, one-third treated in a conventional way, and the last third given placebos, with the whole process monitored, written up, and published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, followed by years of acrimonious debate. I can only say that of the pets treated at our clinic within the framework of the BNA, nearly all respond better than with just conventional medicine—from which most have been brought like refugees by their stressed-out, baffled owners.
Encouraged by all these good results, my brother Bob and I have computerized the BNA to make it available to other veterinarians. The plan is to create a computer database that instantly interprets pets’ blood samples and prints out a list of supplements tailored with specific measurements for each patient. The combination of those supplements, when added to a regular healthy diet, will give all but the sickest pets the fuel and energy needed to correct gland imbalances and nutrient deficiencies, to reestablish and to maintain wellness. We have established a toll-free number so that we can issue updates and answer inquiries. The number: 1-800-670-0830, or access bnaweb.com.
The results of a BNA provide a sort of connect-the-dots outline of a pet’s overall state of health. His holistic state. Now I will turn to the natural supplements that help me correct the flaws in the picture—or, to put it more accurately, to help the pet correct them. A cautionary word, though, before you read on.
Every book I’ve seen on holistic veterinary care for the layman carries a stern advisory on its opening page to the effect that nothing the reader is about to learn is meant to substitute for real veterinary care, and that if his pet is sick, he should take him to a veterinarian and not try to cure the pet himself. That said, the authors go on to offer detailed lists for treatment of every conceivable condition: how many milligrams daily of vitamin A or C or E; which potencies of arnica, nux vomica, and other homeopathic remedies to administer; and so forth. I don’t mind that the messages are mixed. I know the prefatory warnings are there for legal reasons to protect the authors; this book is no exception. My gripe is that the “cookbook” approach, with all its recipes for treatment, contradicts an essential premise of holistic medicine: that each patient is an individual. Indeed, the whole point of taking the holistic view is to size up an individual’s particular health profile, his whole health, so as to treat him that much more effectively than conventional medicine, with its tunnel-vision focus on fixing the obvious symptoms in the same unvarying way, patient to patient.
The recipes in holistic veterinary books look impressive, of course, and no doubt help many animals. The problem is that readers sometimes take them too literally, prefatory warnings notwithstanding. The other day a woman marched her dog into my examining room, shut the door, and spent the next forty minutes detailing all the treatments she was using for her dog’s squamous cell cancer. She knew she should be giving him 25,000 units of vitamin A daily, she said, so she’d added together the number of units of A contained in one over-the-counter supplement she’d bought and those contained in another, and turned to a third supplement because it had the right dosage of vitamin A to supply the rest of the units. She had lists of numbers, all balanced to make the number of milligrams come out to the exact total recommended by one of her holistic “cookbooks.” And perhaps the dog was getting the right amount. But even if so, his metabolic organs clearly weren’t processing it well.
“Let’s do an analysis, individually test this animal, and come up with a regimen that is more accurate,” I said. I made some quick decisions based on what I knew of the dog’s case, then added that in a week we would adjust them, depending on the blood results. The woman looked at me aghast. “But the book says …” Right—the book said; she’d done what it said; and yet her dog’s blood results would indicate significant imbalances not being addressed by the supplements she had chosen.
I used to deal more in “recipes” myself, until I came to rely on experience, aided by the BNA and, for cancer patients, Immuno-Augmentative Therapy (IAT), which I discuss in Chapter Eight. Now I adjust my treatments case by case, individual by individual. I take into account a pet’s size, weight, metabolism by blood result, and age, not to mention his immediate health needs and tolerance, then readjust treatment as I assess the pet’s reactions to it. Practicing medicine that way helps—a lot.
Moreover, while not every holistic veterinarian would admit this, the fact is that natural supplements don’t need to be meted out in such exact doses as, say, the dose of a highly toxic chemotherapeutic in conventional medicine. They’re mostly benign, after all; usually the worst result of giving too many of them at any given time is that the body eliminates them (i.e., diarrhea). At the same time, they do work. Which is what this is about.
I am thrilled that so many owners in the last few years have come to use holistic “recipes” rather than timidly accept the dictates of conventional medicine. This is a giant step in the right direction, especially when an owner has been told that his pet’s condition is hopeless. But if I can reach those owners with just one message, it’s that there’s another step to be taken, from “recipes” to an understanding, with one’s holistic veterinarian, of the need to treat each pet individually. It is, quite simply, the difference between a neophyte in the kitchen who slavishly follows a recipe and a confident cook who understands all the ingredients well enough to decide, if it’s summer, that he’ll substitute fresh basil for the dried variety, and maybe throw in some fresh vine-ripened tomatoes while he’s at it.
So you won’t see recipes in the descriptions that follow. You will see basic indications of dosage, which readers can definitely use for treatment, adjusting those dosages as common sense suggests for the needs of their particular pets. Nearly all the supplements described are readily available over the counter in health food stores or through veterinary suppliers (and those few that are harder to get aren’t that much of a challenge); I’ve listed manufacturers and other pertinent information in the source guide at the end of this book. My hope, though, is that owners will be motivated less to treat their own pets than to ask their veterinarians to apply these approaches—and, if they encounter closed minds, to search until they encounter open ones. My hope for my colleagues, if they’ve read this far, is that they give these ideas a try.
These concentrates of raw animal glands are the most effective supplements I’ve found to address imbalances of all the metabolic organs. Though they sound arcane, in fact the concept of glandulars was promising enough at the turn of the century for numerous medical studies to be done about them. The idea behind them was almost embarrassingly simple: that “like cells help like.” The diseased cells of a human liver, that is, might be boosted by administration of liver cells from another host. Moreover, the cells need not be species-specific, only organ-specific, which was to say they could come from the liver of a cow or pig.
The first great success for “organotherapy,” as it came to be called, was with the thyroid. In 1912, animal thyroid cells were injected into children suffering from cretinism and myxedema (bloating of the body), conditions caused by an underfunctioning thyroid; the glandulars brought dramatic improvements. Over the next several years, other successes were reported. Undersized children benefited from concentrates of animal pituitary glands; and a test group of children who had reached sexual maturity too quickly were helped by extracts from animal pineal glands, which apparently supplied the melatonin that healthy pineal glands secrete in children to inhibit sexual maturity until puberty.
How animal glandulars worked in the human body remained a mystery, however. Frustrated, researchers began searching for the distinct element that might be the key. In 1922, Frederick G. Banting and his graduate student Charles Best began focusing on the pancreas. They knew the pancreas was somehow involved in dispatching blood sugar as energy for the body. They knew that when too much sugar built up in the blood, it meant that the pancreas wasn’t doing its job, and that for the patient, diabetes would follow. They also knew that extracts of animal pancreas taken orally seemed to help. But how? Eventually, they succeeded in isolating insulin from the pancreas of a sheep. They won a Nobel Prize for their work, and when therapeutic insulin followed, a lot of diabetics were able to live longer and more comfortably as a result. Still, the breakthrough steered science decisively away from the use of glandulars as they appear in nature—a decided loss, because a whole pancreas contains various other substances called intrinsic factors which are discarded in the process of extracting insulin, and these factors are integral to the proper overall functioning of the pancreas. In retrospect, that may have constituted as much of a wrong turn as the one that led to vaccines.
One of the few contrarians who resisted the trend was Dr. Royal Lee, the father of glandulars as we use them today, and the founder of Standard Process Labs, a large nutraceutical supplier in Palmyra, Wisconsin. In the 1940s, Lee theorized that most organ failures are so-called autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks its own host’s organ. Why would the immune system do that? Perhaps, Lee theorized, the organ begins to deteriorate naturally, perhaps from malnutrition. When it does, it sloughs off nucleoproteins—Lee’s term was “protomorphogen,” derived from the Greek and meaning “primary cell organizer”—that the immune system targets for destruction as useless waste material. But the nucleoproteins are “marked” genetically as being part of the organ from which they’ve broken off. Sometimes, as a result, Lee theorized, the immune system turns to attacking the organ itself.
Borrowing from organotherapy, Lee developed a concentrated extract of bovine nucleoproteins that could be taken up by the body as a sort of “decoy” target—or, in effect, an antigen of very similar proteins, one which could distract the immune system from the diseased organ, absorb its firepower, and give the organ time to heal. The more the organ healed, the fewer nucleoproteins it cast off, suggested Lee, and therefore the less the immune system targeted it. With enough glandular decoy action, the organ would regain its metabolic balance, the immune system would leave it entirely alone, and—voilà, full health restored. When his findings were published in a medical journal in 1946, Lee was condemned as a crackpot, and his theories were left to languish, though in the 1950s, Watson and Crick relied on this work to help them define the structure of DNA. These nucleoproteins contained the genetic markers that were the cornerstone of their research.
Though he continued to practice into the 1960s, Lee today is one of those forgotten seers, like Arnold Ehret, whose work will need more than a book like this one to be revived. In the intervening decades, however, a few curious researchers have experimented with glandulars and made intriguing, if little-recognized advances. Dr. David Trentham of Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School has found that the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis in human patients is eased by doctoring their morning orange juice with a collagen solution made from chicken cartilage. Since rheumatoid arthritis is now thought to be an autoimmune disease, the solution fits Lee’s theory perfectly, with the cartilage “distracting” the immune system from attacking its host’s own cartilage. Trentham’s work has led the way for Eli Lilly, the huge drug company, to invest tens of millions of dollars in research on animal glandulars to treat multiple sclerosis (with cow brain protein) and the eye disease uveitis (with cow eye protein), as well as rheumatoid arthritis (with the chicken cartilage Trentham used). In health food stores, meanwhile, a number of over-the-counter glandulars have appeared that simply use the whole desiccated gland, reduced to a powdered or liquid concentrate, in the hope that the concentrate will retain the organ’s nucleoproteins in potent form. These are the glandulars that I’ve used to such good effect.*3
My brother and I began more than twenty years ago with glandulars from a company called Nutridyne, now defunct, which produced an extensive line of them. We found them useful, often dramatically so, and gradually made them a more and more important part of our therapy. Now we get our glandulars from a wide array of companies—including Standard Process. The one I use most often is the adrenal, because so many health problems in both dogs and cats involve the adrenal’s two realms of stress and inflammation, and because the adrenal glandular also appears to boost the immune system and counter allergies and allergic reactions. Indeed, the supplement regimen for almost every sick animal includes one of many available adrenal supplements.
Ironically, the disease we’ve had many of our greatest successes with is associated with the insulin producer: the pancreas. In diabetic emergencies, of course, we use injectable insulin, and are grateful to have it. We continue to use insulin as each patient’s condition dictates, but when a diabetic pet’s blood starts to regulate itself more normally on metabolic supplements, we start to wean him from it. In doing so, we’re not just trying to prove a point. Giving insulin gets the blood sugar moving, to be sure, but only rarely appears to cure diabetes. In most cases, the patient—person or pet—is left utterly dependent on insulin injections for the rest of his life. By using glandulars and other supplements, we’ve been able to ease the pancreas back into producing its own insulin again. By fine-tuning the diabetic patient’s other metabolic organs at the same time, we’ve been able to get his metabolic system working as a whole.
What I’m saying is that we haven’t merely treated diabetes, we’ve stabilized or lowered the dose of insulin needed—and in some cases even eliminated the need for insulin altogether. In so doing, we’ve restored a pet to health.
Wendell O. Belfield, one of the best-known and most respected holistic veterinarians of recent times, treated virtually every form of serious illness in dogs and cats by administering massive doses of vitamin C. Because vitamin C helps support the immune system, Belfield’s approach had an elegant simplicity to it: pump up the immune system dramatically enough, he reasoned, and it can do the rest. Most veterinarians, especially myself, assign C a less central role in their therapies today. But combined with glandulars and other natural supplements, the collective power of vitamins is crucial.
As soon as they’re weaned, I like to put young dogs and cats on chewable multivitamins—a regimen that, if combined with a healthy diet, ought to keep them disease-free within the first year of life. Any number of over-the-counter brands will do; I happen to use the one my brother created, Dr. Bob’s Daily Health Nuggets (see Earth Animal in source guide). The nuggets contain optimum levels of B vitamins (B12, PABA, riboflavin, pyridoxine), minerals (chelated, trace, and essential), friendly bacteria, digestive enzymes, and fourteen ground-up enzyme-and chlorophyll-rich vegetables. They’re great for the skin because they’re rich in lecithin, which is composed of inositol and choline, both of which aid in liver function. (A healthy liver leads to a healthy body, so that the skin—the third kidney—has fewer metabolic waste products to eliminate.) The nuggets are nothing more or less than good food distilled.
The nuggets certainly provide more than enough normal vitamin content for a healthy pet. Only in cases of ill health do I resort to higher doses of one vitamin or another, and even then, with vitamins as with all things, moderation is best. (With serious illness, of course, other measures are also needed, as indicated by the blood values of the Bio Nutritional Analysis.) Generally, when vitamins are needed in extra strengths, I’ll use the following dosages for a thirty-pound dog: vitamin A, 5,000 IU daily; vitamin C, 500 to 1,000 milligrams daily in split doses; vitamin E, 200 IU daily.*4 For a cat, I’ll cut these dosages in half. But remember: Doses vary from individual to individual, condition to condition. A cancer patient is going to get supplements two to three times a day. Depending on his needs, the next cancer patient might get different supplements twice a day.
I do give the same kinds and brands of vitamins to dogs and cats both. And with both, I cut back on these higher doses soon after I begin to see improvement. The essential list:
Vitamin A The builder of body tissue, both externally and internally. Dry, itchy skin and a dull coat are typical signs of an A deficiency, and the most easily addressed by supplemental doses. Often, gum and teeth problems are also Arelated. Internally, vitamin A is like motor oil for the lining cells of the liver, kidney, and lungs. It keeps those organs working smoothly, and helps ward off the diseases common to them (like hepatitis and pneumonia). Since the liver is the main metabolic and detoxifying organ in the body, as many as half of my patients will show an elevated value of serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase, or SGPT, the enzyme that shows the liver is overtaxed.†5 (The high SGPT means that more of this enzyme is leaking from the liver cells, where it is primarily found, into the bloodstream than should be the case, which means there’s some liver cellular inflammation or damage.) For liver problems, vitamin A is one of the treatments of choice, along with liver glandulars. Because of its role in tissue integrity and liver function (vital to the immune system), A can also be helpful in supporting many cancer patients.
The most popular source of vitamin A is probably beta-carotene, which is derived from vegetable sources. Because cats and dogs are basically carnivores, however, I prefer to give them the vitamin A that appears naturally in fish liver oils.*6 The most common way to administer it is in gelatin capsules; the oils from cod liver and halibut liver are the two I use most often. If a pet refuses to eat a capsule with his meal, simply poke a hole in the capsule and squeeze the oil onto his food, then mix it in. Most cats will lap it up happily, fish lovers that they are.
Vitamin B The “Bees” help boost the immune system, rendering cell membranes more permeable to various immune components of the blood. More immediately, they impart a jolt of energy. Every day, I use injectable B complex vitamins, plus injectable B12, because they make sick animals feel better, which helps them get better. The “Bees” also stimulate the appetite, a boost to most sick and debilitated pets. And since within the B family there are acid B’s and alkaline B’s, I’ve used either kind to counteract elevated acidity or alkalinity in a patient. When a BNA discloses a high-alkaline phosphatase value associated with the adrenal, for example, I’ll include acid B’s in treatment. A particularly helpful member of the family is B6, which has antiallergy effects. B6 also enhances use of magnesium in the body, which is good for pituitary function in the brain (and as we’ve seen, the pituitary is the control center for other metabolic organs, among them the thyroid and adrenal). And when used in conjunction with L-carnitine, †7 another natural supplement, B6 has proved very useful in enhancing proper fat metabolism in pets suffering from fatty tumors (lipomas) and obesity.
Vitamin C I rely, as all doctors do, on C, but with a few qualifications I wouldn’t have made years ago. There’s no doubt that C’s ascorbic acid is a wonderful tool against any viral or bacterial condition because it boosts the body, which can then mobilize its forces as needed. As a preventative, C can help deter hip dysplasia and other joint inflammations by enabling the body to properly mobilize calcium, which helps keep bones and joints from deteriorating. And as Belfield showed, cats injected with 12 or more grams of vitamin C daily for three or four days can boost their immune systems enough to start reversing leukemia and other cancers, as well as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) and other degenerative diseases. Administering C intravenously gets it into the bloodstream immediately and enables us to give high doses that would normally cause diarrhea when given orally. But such dramatic improvement, in these cases, has a cost.
Belfield’s work was based on the recognition that animals in the wild produce their own vitamin C, and that domesticated pets often show C deficiencies that suggest they’ve lost the ability to make their own. Give them the C they’re missing, Belfield reasoned, and all will be well. When Belfield came out with his findings, I tried injecting mega-doses of vitamin C, too, and saw some of the impressive turnarounds he’d seen. The problem was that when many of the leukemia-stricken cats were taken off their mega-doses of C, their leukemia would return. Like insulin, in other words, C was a treatment but not a cure.
As my brother and I honed the BNA, we began using other supplements, along with more modest amounts of C, on pets with cancer and other degenerative diseases, focusing more on correcting their metabolic and immunological imbalances than on just reversing their actual symptoms. That enabled them to produce their own vitamin C, strengthen their immune systems themselves, and ultimately put their cancers in remission.
For other, less dire conditions in cats or dogs, I’ll leave C out of the mix altogether, unless specific values in the patient’s blood chemistry indicate an alkaline condition (because C in its ascorbic acid form will buffer alkalinity). And since young, healthy dogs and cats do still manufacture their own C, especially if on a diet of any commercial food fortified with the vitamin, we now give young animals as little as one-tenth the vitamin C we once did, and only if the blood work indicates a need for it—to cats, perhaps 125 milligrams once or twice a day, to large dogs perhaps 500 milligrams once a day in tablet form—and let them provide the rest themselves.
Vitamin D The “sunshine vitamin” is so called because the sun’s ultraviolet rays on the skin activates D, which increases calcium uptake for bones and joints. In older pets, as discussed in Chapter Two, it helps stave off arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other inflammations; a deficiency of D in a young animal can inhibit the growth of bones, muscles, or teeth. The amount of D contained in multivitamins or Dr. Bob’s Nuggets, however, is more than sufficient to allay these problems. (Most vitamin A supplements are complexes that also contain D.) I’ve not found a use for D in megaquantities—bone and joint inflammations are both addressed more quickly by injectable C or a glandular—and so as a vitamin on its own, it’s not part of my standard lineup.
Vitamin E This is the oxygen facilitator, as well as a hormone enhancer. For either of those needs—or both—I use it in supplemental doses on about 80 percent of the dogs and cats I treat.
As an oxygen facilitator, E promotes circulation of the heart and arteries, so I use it whenever a BNA discloses elevated values such as potassium and the muscle enzyme creatinine phosphokinase, or CPK. (The more oxygen, the less oxidation—literally, the process by which oxygen is diminished, causing cellular decay, a sort of biological version of the process that rusts iron.) Vitamin E also helps keep connective tissue—skin and muscle primarily—from losing its elasticity. Thus I’ll use E when I see an elevated value for SGOT, an enzyme associated with muscle function. Fortunately, dogs and cats are rarely afflicted with arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the artery walls, or muscular dystrophy, with its progressive wasting of the muscles, but generalized heart disease involving the cardiac muscle has become all too common in dogs and cats. Vitamin E has been used successfully with cattle for a condition called white muscle disease, which is almost identical to muscular dystrophy except that it affects the heart directly. As a result, I’ll use E as one of several supplements to treat any muscle deterioration or disease, especially of the heart.
The energy and vigor that E helps generate are hormonal as well. We know hormones vaguely as those things that make people grow, give them sex drives, and cause mood swings in women at times of estrus, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Actually, a hormone is a messenger, dispatched by one organ or tissue into the bloodstream to carry orders to another to effect some physiological activity, such as growth or metabolism. Mostly, they’re fatty in nature. If they become unstable—in part because they’re not getting enough vitamin E from ingested food—they turn rancid, just like butter or vegetable oil (which is also to say that they begin to undergo a process of oxidation). When that happens, they grow toxic to the body, imparting messages not of growth and vigor but of aging and deterioration. Middle-aged and older people can benefit enormously from taking regular doses of E, which works as an antioxidant, keeping the hormones from becoming rancid. So can aging, weak, and diseased pets, all of whom can be improved by rejuvenated hormones. Of course, a pet who’s being neutered or spayed loses a lot of important hormones when its sexual organs are removed (testes for males, ovaries for females), so I sometimes recommend high doses of E before and after the procedures to help offset some of the negative effects of hormone loss. I’ve also used it with valuable breeding dogs to reverse incipient sterility. And because hormones are also produced by other metabolic organs—among them the adrenal, kidney, pancreas, and liver—E can help rejuvenate them as well.
Like vitamin A, E comes most commonly in the form of oils—wheat germ oil, in the case of E, rather than fish oils—and so is usually contained in gelatin capsules. With larger animals, particularly horses, E is often given in liquid form, mixed in with feed; it can be ordered as wheat germ oil by the gallon. And for large animals, E does come in injectable form.
When I first studied vitamin E, by the way, I learned that in substantial doses, E and A compete for absorption in the intestines. The point was that the two should not be given at the same time. Yet other studies declared the opposite, that the absorption of vitamin E was enhanced by the presence of vitamin A! Until medical researchers sort this one out definitively, however, I’ll stick with the conservative view, just to be safe, and so avoid giving E and A together whenever possible. (The amount of both vitamins in most multivitamin preparations is too modest to raise any concern.)
Vitamin F You haven’t heard of it? Actually, vitamin F is just a nickname for essential fatty acids, which energize the cells of dry skin and, with pets, add luster to the coat. You can find F in various commercially available oils. I tend to use safflower oil, which has a particularly high concentration of it, but sesame oil is another good choice. So, for that matter, is flaxseed oil, which contains the recently popularized omega fatty acids. Flaxseed oil has stirred a lot of attention of late as an immunosupportive agent in people, and as a possible counter-measure for chronic skin conditions like psoriasis. In people or pets, the F oils are ingested orally, either in liquid form or in gelatin capsules (they are not applied topically on the skin, as one might think). I include one or another of them among the supplements for most of the animals I treat, since skin symptoms tend to be associated with degenerative disease. But I’ll also usually recommend it as maintenance for healthy animals: a little F oil poured into food twice a week is the easiest way to keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy and vibrant, as they say in the shampoo commercials. Also, make sure the labels state that these oils are mechanically pressed, not processed, and always keep them refrigerated after opening.
In layman’s terms, the body has three major kinds of natural enzymes, three kinds of soldiers that effect changes to keep the body functioning and healthy. First come those that help in the breakdown and digestion of foods (in the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and intestines). Then come those cellular enzymes that help the blood and organs metabolize food and process waste. Third are the antioxidants, also cellular, that help keep cells from the oxidation process that we recognize as aging and degenerative disease.
A deficiency of the first kind is the easiest to address: for that, we just give oral supplements. The pancreas is the chief enzyme producer of this group (a task it manages to accomplish even as it produces insulin). The usual suspect is a nutrient-poor diet of commercial pet food which can wear the pancreas down and so rob the body of enzymes. Along with lethargy and poor growth, that can degrade the immune system, the skin, and the coat. Problems of the second kind—enzymes produced within the internal organs—are addressed by the organ-supportive supplements indicated by a BNA. As for antioxidant enzymes, they can be supplemented orally, too, though in cases of serious depletion, they can be administered by injection as well.
The first measure most holistic veterinarians will take with an enzyme-deficient pet is to put him on a natural diet rich in raw foods. Uncooked food, especially meat and vegetables, is brimming with enzymes, so much so that as it breaks down in the digestive tract, the enzymes actually help digest the food they’re in. That’s efficient. I appreciate the enzymatic power of raw food, and I recognize, too, that many enzymes are lost in cooking, since heat easily destabilizes them. I feed my own pets raw and cooked food; either way though, I mix in a bit of enzyme powder. This way, I know for sure that the enzymes are getting into my pets’ systems. (If a pet’s pancreas isn’t doing a sufficiently good job of producing enzymes, for example, uncooked food will not solve the problem completely.) As it happens, raw food is often of little help to the kinds of patients I see more often than any other: those with cancer. Their systems are simply too weak to process the foods properly. For them, I’ve found after years of experience that cooked food and enzyme supplements are the only way to go.
Young pets, puppies or kittens, go right on enzymes along with their multis or nuggets. Nearly all older pets do, too, even if their pancreas function is strong; more enzymes mean greater digestibility, and therefore more energy pumped through the body. In most cases, pets will accept enzymes better in powdered form than in capsules, and the enzymes will be absorbed readily enough. With a severely debilitated or emaciated animal, I’ll recommend sprinkling the enzyme powder onto a pet’s food ten or fifteen minutes before he eats it. Upon contact, the enzymes start to break down and digest complex foods into simpler ones just as they do in the body, so that when the animal eats the food, he’s actually eating partly predigested fare that his body can take up as energy that much more readily.
My favorite brands are Prozyme, which has enzyme extracts from the plant kingdom, and a product line of enzymes with more specific formulas from a company called NESS. V1 is NESS’s general food enzyme for dogs, V2 is for cats, V3 is for hair and skin problems, V4 is for immune system support, and V5 is for cats with urinary problems (particularly urinary blockages that appear to occur in part due to a lack of enzymes, which allows improperly digested protein waste to build up in the urinary tract). The V4 formula is especially interesting. It contains “proteolytic” enzymes, which digest protein. Since cancerous tumors are composed of protein, I’ve sent these enzymes in like so many Pac-Men to help break the tumors down, and also given them between meals to enable them to be taken up most directly. Other therapy for cancer is certainly needed, as I’ll explain in Chapter Eight, but enzymes do their part.
I should note, here, that as useful as enzymes are, I don’t rely on them as heavily as I once did, simply because I have a wider array of therapies for cancer, and my success rate has improved by incorporating enzymes into an integrated program, rather than using them on their own.
As the third kind of enzyme, antioxidants are so important that they merit separate consideration. As a pet grows older, cells become diseased or die, resulting in the various conditions associated with aging, from graying or thinning hair to arthritis, skin disease, and, most notably, cancer. These diseased cells acquire an electric charge and break free, bouncing off other cells and imparting charges to them, too. Hence their name: free radicals. In fact, this is the process called oxidation. To counteract it, the body has stores of antioxidants—special clusters of enzymes, principally SOD (superoxide dismutase), and vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A/beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and the mineral selenium. All too often, though, these are diminished by antibiotics and other drugs (most dramatically by chemotherapy for cancer), as well as by radiation from various sources, all of which hasten the aging process. To shore up the body’s natural supply, we give reinforcements in the form of supplements.
Generally, I don’t give antioxidants to young pets, though I do recommend them to ease the side effects brought on by X rays, anesthesia, and surgery. For older pets, however, especially those beginning to suffer from degenerative illnesses, antioxidants are one of the treatments of choice; they’re also anti-inflammatory. In fact, I’ll put most sick pets on them, whatever their condition. They’re nonprescription, readily available at health food stores, and terrific as all-around health promoters. (I take them myself.) I’ll vary the amount I give according to weight and condition; basically, most antioxidants are one-a-day tablets. One that I’ve used for years with great success is a wheat sprout concoction from Hawaii called Dismutase, which is SOD, one of the body’s primary natural antioxidants.*8 It’s distributed by a company called Biovet, which has a whole line of antioxidants. Another favorite is AOX/PLX—a bit more effective than Dismutase, as it contains the three other antioxidants. It was originally marketed for people (and still is) as “Ageless Beauty,” because of its capacity to retard the aging process. It’s a wonderful supplement for both people and pets with arthritis, because arthritis, after all, is really just an inflammatory or oxidative reaction in the joints. I’ve learned that four AOX/PLX tablets have a physical effect equivalent to 2.5 milligrams of prednisone, the most commonly prescribed synthetic cortisone. Biovet also has products called Canine Support and Feline Support which bundle most of these four antioxidants into one pill for general support. Another natural antioxidant is Pycnogenol, made by any number of companies and widely available. Pycnogenol is derived from the bark of a European coastal pine tree and a grape seed extract, among other natural sources. Benign as these ingredients seem, Pycnogenol is considered one of the most powerful of the antioxidants.
I’ve been using antioxidants for two decades or more. Finally, they’re being written about in the mainstream press, and a number of other veterinarians are trying them. Great! Now, though the mention of antioxidants still raises its share of eyebrows, I can launch into my explanation of “free radicals” without having owners and veterinarians alike think I’m an unhinged radical myself.
An imbalance of calcium in the bones and especially the joints precipitates inflammations, including arthritis and hip dysplasia, in a heartbreaking number of dogs, especially large-breed dogs.*9 (In my experience, far fewer cats suffer calcium problems and their consequences.) In the BNA, calcium shows up as one of the significant values that, if unaddressed, can lead to problems. Often a calcium problem is the result of poor diet, exacerbated by aging and poor intestinal absorption of nutrients as food is processed into waste. For holistic veterinarians, calcium supplements are a logical choice, and widely used. But here’s one alternative therapy that I’m not so crazy about.
Calcium is trickier to deal with than most people realize. There are, in fact, five major forms of it in the body: calcium magnesium, calcium oratate, calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, and calcium phosphate. What I’ve learned over the years is that if you have an imbalance of one kind and happen to administer the supplement for another, you can further off-balance the one that’s out of whack to begin with. So subtly different are the various calciums that choosing the wrong one could be a real concern. I’d rather not take the risk.
When I see low calcium, I consider the cause. More often than not, it’s a deficiency of those pancreatic enzymes that “combust” food into energy. That, in turn, inhibits the absorption of calcium across the intestinal wall. So instead of giving extra calcium, I give enzymes to boost natural pancreas function, which enhances intestinal absorption; put the animal on a good diet; balance his metabolic problems with specific glandulars; and get him on a daily regimen of alternating multis and Dr. Bob’s Nuggets. It’s a matter of going for metabolic balance, as in most cases, and enabling the body to use calcium from its natural diet. If calcium levels are high, I give supplements to enhance fat metabolism, as calcium plays a role in the absorption of fats and proteins.
All too often, I hear the words “holistic” and “homeopathic” being used interchangeably. The truth is that they are quite different from each other.
A holistic veterinarian, which is what I am, employs an array of therapies to keep an animal wholly healthy in body and spirit. Homeopathy is one of those therapies. There are homeopathic veterinarians who feel that health is best maintained with homeopathic remedies, usually unaccompanied by other approaches except in dire circumstances. In my experience, other therapies can and do help, often in conjunction with homeopathy, and ought to be used as long as they do. Homeopathy is also based on the premise that a single remedy, the one that best appears to fit a patient’s needs on every level, should be administered once, then not again until the homeopath can see if it has worked—an interlude of one week, maybe two. My problem is that many of my patients don’t have two weeks to wait! They have diseases that allopathic medicine has failed to alleviate; they need all the supplements, and all the therapies, that may be useful to them as soon as possible. But homeopathy is one of those therapies, and the fact that it seems to defy common sense, that no one in the two hundred years of its practice has ever been able to prove it works by the standards of modern medical science, and that as a result conventional doctors see it as little more than quackery, bothers me not at all. I don’t know exactly how it works, either, although I have a pretty good inkling. But I’ve seen it work, again and again.
In other branches of medicine, conventional or otherwise, knowledge has accumulated from a long line of experimenters. Homeopathy is different. Its founding father, a German doctor of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries named Samuel Hahnemann, single-handedly arrived at its radical premises, carried out the years of testing of natural elements which proved essential to it, and eventually wrote its encyclopedia of homeopathic remedies and their applications. If no one since then has been able to prove Hahnemann’s findings, no one applying them has had any cause to revise them, either. Two hundred years later, his extraordinary achievement stands.
In 1796, Hahnemann was a forty-year-old physician and chemist, and the author of medical papers renowned throughout Europe. Yet he was in despair. For all the brilliance and sophistication of the arts of his time, medical science relied on medieval practices—bloodletting for one, leeches for another—that killed many of its patients, and Hahnemann had come up with little to improve its record. One day, while translating a distinguished Scottish doctor’s Materia Medica, or summary of medical knowledge, Hahnemann found the Scotsman’s explanation of how quinine abetted malaria so wrongheaded that he ingested the stuff himself just to see what it would do. To his surprise, the quinine appeared to bring on all the symptoms of malaria, though not the disease itself. That was when Hahnemann had his eureka moment. If quinine in large quanities triggered a semblance of malaria in a healthy person, maybe a smaller dose would repel malaria from a person who actually had it. Like will be cured by like, as Hahnemann theorized, and so it was.
Over the next fourteen years, Hahnemann engaged in feverish research, testing one natural substance after another on groups of healthy volunteers he called “provers.” Every time the provers reported symptoms similar to one disease or another, Hahnemann would try the substance in question on people who actually had the disease. Time and again, the “homeopathic” remedy, as he came to call it, repelled the disease. In the Materia Medica he published in 1810, he detailed sixty-seven such remedies (a sum greatly amplified by subsequent work). Two years later, as the starving survivors of Napoleon’s army straggled back from Waterloo, a typhoid epidemic broke out among them and Hahnemann was able to test his theories on 180 desperate cases. All but one patient recovered.
To doctors and pharmacists who saw Hahnemann’s success as a threat to their own practices, the remedies presented easy targets. Extract of mountain daisy? Fool’s parsley? Aloe and garlic, gum tree and rose apple? Poppycock, surely! Had the remedies been applied directly—seeing was believing, after all—Hahnemann in time might have turned back the skeptics. But “like cures like” was accompanied by a far stranger premise: that the more diluted his medicines were, the more potent they became. Why? Because at each stage of dilution, Hahnemann would shake the remedy vial vigorously; the shaking, or “succussion,” would disseminate the “energy” from the original drop of remedy to the diluent; and the more dilutions and succussions that occurred, the higher the “potency” of the vial’s contents. Hahnemann called it the “law of infinitesimals.” Specifically, he started with one drop of remedy to nine drops of alcohol, and shook the vial containing this mixture, holding it against the palm of his hand, 108 times. That “succussion,” he said, imbued it with a 1X potency. When he put one drop of this 1X mixture in with nine more drops of diluent, the original drop was now of the solution, but after succussion, it became twice as potent—or 2X. More potent remedies could be 6X, or 10X, or even 30X. Never mind that the original drop of remedy was now undetectable; its energy in the diluent, Hahnemann believed, had only grown.
Only slightly less radical were Hahnemann’s theories about how to prescribe his concoctions. Simply matching a remedy to a patient’s physical symptoms wouldn’t do. Hahnemann felt that the whole patient had to be sized up, as much for his psychological as his physical condition. A woman with flu symptoms who appeared shy and self-critical would get one remedy; a second woman with the same flu symptoms who showed anger or bitterness would get another. When Hahnemann thought he had the remedy that matched a patient’s whole being, he administered a single dose. Then he waited a week, perhaps two, to see how the patient reacted. If the patient’s symptoms had vanished but returned, he might give another dose of the same potency; if the symptoms were worse, he might increase the potency or change the remedy; if the symptoms had not reappeared, he would give nothing.
Incredibly, Hahnemann’s remedies seemed to work. But as homeopathy’s popularity spread through Europe and over to America in the nineteenth century, its critics grew ever more determined to discredit it—so irrational did it seem, so scientifically unprovable. The American Medical Association was formed in 1846, three years after Hahnemann’s death at eighty-eight, and one of its aims was to stamp out homeopathy. The number of homeopathic colleges grew anyway: at the turn of the century, there were twenty-four hundred of them in the U.S. alone! But by 1923, as conventional medicine progressed and became more established, and the AMA declared that doctors found to be practicing homeopathy would be drummed out of the organization and have their reputations ruined, the number of homeopathic colleges dwindled to two.
In Europe, despite parallel advances in modern medicine and the proliferation of quick-fix drugs, homeopathy never really fell out of favor. In England, Queen Elizabeth for years had a homeopathic physician. Prince Charles has championed the cause, and indeed nearly half of British doctors refer some patients to homeopaths. Nearly as many doctors do in France as well, and almost every French pharmacy has a wall of homeopathic preparations, while lesser but significant numbers of doctors and patients have embraced homeopathy in Germany and the Netherlands. Recently, the pendulum has begun to swing back to homeopathy in the U.S. Not only at health food stores but at mainstream drugstore chains, homeopathic remedies for flu and sinus relief, allergies and arthritis, stress and depression now generate sales of more than $200 million a year—and rising, at a rate of 20 percent a year. One big reason for homeopathy’s newfound legitimacy here is that holistic veterinarians discovered it, used it successfully on their patients (an open-minded group), and got the word out to other pet owners. Our pets can help us lead healthier, happier lives, if only we’re willing to listen!
Homeopathy is a strange science, I can’t deny that. In a sense, it’s almost more of a religion: it requires a leap of faith. And yet the notion of a medicine that has only the “imprint” of a substance in some intangible way, whose potency comes from its “vibrating energy,” isn’t quite as outlandish as it seems. For me, it began to seem entirely logical after a three-week bout of acute respiratory congestion. I’d experienced a lot of stiffness in my neck muscles and upper back. Despite taking a whole battery of supplements, standing on my head for long periods of time (seriously!), and exercising to try to sweat it all out, the condition stayed with me. I figured I’d just have to give it more time to subside. One day, as I was driving to work, singing scales to try to clear my throat, I pulled into an intersection as the light turned green. From another side, a car ignored the light that was now red, barreled across the intersection toward me, then screeched to a halt, avoiding a head-on collision by just inches. I felt an instant of severe tension, followed by giddy exhilaration. All my stiffness and congestion of the past three weeks were instantly gone! Some form of energy shift occurred here. We are at the frontier of a new “energy age” of medicine; this is what happened to me and is, I feel, the level on which homeopathy works.
A proper homeopathic veterinarian works from exhaustive lists of remedies, from Abies canadensis (Canadian pitch fir) to Zizia (meadow parsnip, wild rice). Like Hahnemann, he sizes up a patient’s whole being—admittedly more difficult with a pet than with a person, though various indications of character and mood can certainly be inferred—prescribes one ingredient, and waits to judge its effect. My own approach, given how sick many of my patients are and how little time I have to save them, is necessarily more abbreviated. I go for the combinations.
Though classic homeopaths use only “single” remedies, a growing number of others have come to espouse combination remedies that mix a number of ingredients to be given together, usually at low potencies. Since the ingredients are benign, I side with the homeopaths who argue that there’s nothing wrong with administering more than one at a time, and that this “shotgun” approach may lead to faster responses. The product line I use most often is called Biological Homeopathic Industries (BHI), a subsidiary of the Germany-based company Heel. A typical BHI homeopathic is called simply “Calming.” Its contents, just to give you an idea of what these combinations are: chamomilla 2X, humulus 2X, paciflora 2X, valeriana 2X, veratrum 4X, ignatia 8X, coffea 10X, moschus 10X, sulfur 12X, and nux vomica 30X. Some of those are flowers (chamomilla), some are trace elements (sulfur), others are plants (veratrum is white hellebore). One is actually a poison: nux vomica, from strychnine, or poison nut. But part of homeopathy’s strange, inverse reality is that certain poisons, if diluted enough, repel “like” toxins, or states of “disease,” in the body. In sizable doses, strychnine would cause vomiting as its poison entered the body. Nux vomica, an infinitesimal amount of strychnine, prevents vomiting and eases the stomach. Hence its place in “Calming.”
BHI produces a whole line of combination remedies I use, from “Cough” to “Hair and Skin.” So does Boiron, a company based in Lyons, France, that does a large and growing business in homeopathic remedies for people, which we use for pets. A company by the name of ProV Line, based in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and distributed by Nutritional Specialties, makes several combination remedies we use, including “Motion Sickness,” “Ligament Repair,” and “Post Surgical.” (Their own “Cough,” for example, contains alum 6X, laurocerasus 12X, adrenaline 4X, belladonna 3X, ipecac 3X, drosera 3X 10X 30X 200X.) Dr. Goodpet Pet Pharmacy Remedies has a “Flea Relief” remedy, another called “Scratch Free,” as well as Dr. Goodpet’s “Good Breath” and “Diar-Relief,” all of which I’ve used to good effect—and sometimes in combination with one another. (See the source guide for a more complete listing of companies that distribute homeopathic remedies.)
All these preparations are taken orally, though not all come in the same form. Some are pills. Most are bottled liquids with instructions that call for putting ten drops on the tongue two or three times a day; in those cases, the medicine is absorbed through the outermost cells of the tongue and the lining of the mouth. Often I’ll provide a sort of jump start by giving a pet his first doses by injection; putting a substance almost directly into the bloodstream usually has more immediate effects than oral administration. But the daily regimen of drops makes the more enduring difference. Usually, combination homeopathics are taken twice a day, but the administration is so variable, depending on the condition and its severity, that it’s best to follow the instructions—and then use common sense.
Combinations, in my experience, are best used for treating symptoms of disease. If a dog has diarrhea, I give him BHI’s “Diarrhea;” soon enough, the diarrhea abates. (To quote from a BHI handbook: “Intestinal excretion should never be suppressed by antibiotics or chemotherapeutics, as the intestines are the one great tube through which toxins and metabolic wastes may be eliminated. This toxic aggression should be treated by homeopathic stimulation of enzymes, and not by chemical destruction of bacteria.”) A classic homeopath will persist with the remedy and hope to reverse the cause of diarrhea as well. I’ve seen that happen often enough to have enormous faith in homeopathy’s power to “cure,” not merely to treat. However, I’ve also found I can get faster results by combining homeopathy with my other efforts to restore a pet’s metabolic balance: a good diet, vitamins, enzymes, and the appropriate glandulars. These measures generally work faster internally. Homeopathic remedies tend to work faster symptomatically, and so the two approaches complement each other beautifully.
At the same time, for painful conditions that may not be curable, but only treatable, homeopathic remedies can be the more important of the two approaches. With arthritis, for example, I’ll have an owner give his pet a homeopathic called “Zeel” from BHI three times a day until the pain seems to diminish, then have him cut back the frequency. If the symptoms recur, simply give the homeopathic more often again. I know this seems no different from the approach of conventional drugs—treating the symptom rather than the cause—but it is different. In most cases, the ingredients in a homeopathic remedy go deeper than the symptom, gently working on the cause if not actually reversing the disease. How they do this remains unquantified by conventional medicine, so I have no proof, no laboratory studies or medical journal papers, to brandish. I only know that I’ve seen these remedies produce an easing of illness, time after time, that is far more profound than the mere relief of symptoms.
Sometimes, too, homeopathy can actually address internal imbalances more effectively than glandulars and the rest. If an animal with arthritis, say, has a malfunctioning pancreas or liver so that the food given him isn’t being properly metabolized, the homeopathic prescription for arthritis may contain an ingredient that helps restore metabolic balance. If that sounds capricious, I don’t mean it to: how the body reacts to disease and treatment really is, to a greater extent than conventional doctors like to acknowledge, unpredictable. One body will respond better to a remedy than another, though both have the same disease condition. A preparation for arthritis may contain an ingredient that unexpectedly also handles a bladder problem. I can’t promise you the reaction will occur in the next animal. I’ve just seen it happen before.
Though the list of homeopathic ingredients is exhaustively long, a dozen or so of the most common are in most combinations, so fundamental and far-ranging is their use. Most arthritis remedies, for example, will have Arnica montana, from the plant leopard’s-bane, which soothes inflammations, cuts, or almost any other symptom associated with trauma or physical injury. Arnica’s multiplicity of uses, unfortunately, cannot be represented on packages that contain it: the FDA requires that the labels of homeopathic remedies list one use each, and impose such stringent standards for proving that use, that none but the most informed consumers are aware of the various other ways a remedy might help them. The homeopathic thuja, for example, has long been known to counteract the undesirable effects of vaccines. Yet the label on any vial of thuja can make only one FDA-approved claim of use: for warts.
While I rely on combinations for arnica and most other homeopathic ingredients, there are a few “single” remedies I use on their own. To a classic homeopathic veterinarian, these are merely a start; there are literally hundreds more, and the reader interested in learning more about them is encouraged to seek out one of the many comprehensive books on the subject, a few of whose titles are listed in the source guide. But frankly, I’ve found that along with the combinations, these are the principal ones I need:*10
Calceria fluorica (flourspar or flouride of lime) This mineral has been known to be successful in treating tumors of the mouth.
Calendula (extract of marigold) Used topically, calendula is incredibly soothing for all sorts of skin irritations, burns, or suppurating sores. I’ve also used it topically to good effect for diseased gums.
Chelidonium From the plant greater celandine, chelidonium is an excellent remedy for sluggish liver action and jaundice. It appears as an ingredient in certain products like Hepaticol (Professional Veterinary Products), but sometimes I’ll use it in its pure state; if it happens to be the remedy that works with a patient, it really works.
Conium Older animals, especially males with weakness in the rear legs (i.e., German shepherds), sometimes develop a condition called degenerative spinal myelopathy. It’s an almost unstoppable and irreversible spinal cord degeneration. Conium can help; in fact, I’ve had a couple of startling successes. Like most homeopathics, it comes in pellet form, and is held in the pet’s mouth until dissolved, or made up into a liquid preparation.
Estrogen (estradiol) Effective for female urinary incontinence, which is usually caused by an estrogen deficiency brought on by spaying. The estrogen helps regulate the muscles in the bladder which control urination. Conventional medicine would put a female dog on the hormone estrogen, which like the birth control pill in humans has been shown to have carcinogenic implications, or phenylpropanolamine, also used in such diet pills for people as Dexatrim and Ornade. (Common side effects include irritability, tremors, rapid heart rate, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, and urine retention.) I get the same results from the homeopathic form of estrogen, which has no side effects.
Nux vomica The essential homeopathic for vomiting. Recently, I’ve begun to use a rectal suppository combination instead, called “Vomitus Heel” (from BHI). Pets for whom single remedies of nux vomica have had no effect on their nausea are showing dramatic improvement in minutes. Amazing stuff.
Phosphorus Excellent for bleeding. At the end of the first parvovirus epidemic, I began to use it in conjunction with high levels of intravenous vitamin C and fluids to maintain hydration. It was effective in treating the severe bloody diarrhea that accompanies parvo. More to the point, it kept sick dogs from dying and produced dramatic improvements in so many more of them, so much more quickly, than did the conventional medicine I’d been taught to use. Parvo has mostly receded as a threat—for now at least—but I still use phosphorus with bladder and nasal cancers, two diseases which have considerable bleeding, and also on tumors of the spleen in cases where pet owners have chosen not to have the spleen removed surgically because the animal is too weak or old, and the tumor begins to bleed into the abdomen. BHI also puts phosphorus in one of their formulas called—what else?—“Bleeding.”
Silicea (silicon oxide) Classically, silicea is used at high potencies to clear up abscesses, accumulations of pus, or other disruptions of the skin. Strangely enough—and homeopathy is strange—I’ve found it useful in addressing cancerous bone tumors. (More on that in Chapter Eight.)
Thuja occidentalis (arbor vitae) As early as the mid-nineteenth century, Dr. Compton-Burnett published a paper titled “Vaccinosis and Its Cure by Thuja.” I keep a little squirt bottle of thuja in the refrigerator at the clinic. When I give a pet a vaccine (one of the very few he’ll get from me!), I give him a squirt in the mouth; usually I’ll give him another squirt or two when I next see him.
Valerian (valerian root) In strong doses, valerian acts like caffeine, accelerating the pulse and causing excitability and nervousness. In infinitesimal doses, it acts in reverse, as a calming agent.
If combinations have all but replaced single remedies in my practice, another kind of homeopathic has come to seem even more critical. Question: What do you get if you cross a glandular with a homeopathic remedy? Answer: One of the most exciting therapies I’ve ever used. Injectable homeopathic dilutions of organ and body tissue concentrates. Or, as we jokingly call them at the clinic, “injectable body parts.”
When I began incorporating them into my practice, I didn’t substitute these dilutions for a proven therapy. Indeed, hardly any of the therapies I’ve added over the years have taken the place of more established ones. For pets with serious diseases, that would pose an unacceptable risk. As a result, I can’t say if my rate of success with such conditions has increased as much as it has solely because of the injectable body parts, or because of the way they work in conjunction with other therapies. Nor is there a two-hundred-year history of accumulated knowledge and experience to draw on, as there is with classic homeopathy. This is radical stuff, regarded warily by a lot of homeopaths, let alone by conventional doctors. My own sense, based on experience, is that any therapy which works orally, such as glandulars and classic homeopathy, will work even better when injected. Anything delivered more directly into the bloodstream is bound to have a more immediate effect than when it has to work through the cells of the tongue, the lining of the stomach, or the digestive tract and be exposed to the factors of dilution and enzymatic action. But now, along with common sense, I have dozens of case histories of pets whose dire conditions appeared to take a turn for the better when these injections were used.
One, whom I treated earlier this year, was a five-year-old Lab named Abigail, owned by a woman named Linda. Abigail was diagnosed with kidney failure secondary to Lyme disease. By the time I saw her, she had had well over $1,500 worth of conventional treatment: antibiotics for Lyme disease, intravenous therapy, and more. Still, her kidneys were failing. At the Animal Medical Center, where she was treated thoroughly and well, the attending staff finally gave up, literally sending her home to die. Appended to her medical sheet was a note that read: “Abigail is a very sweet patient. Unfortunately our treatment is palliative as we most likely will not be able to stop the progression of her kidney disease.” She was sent home on six different medications, one for the Lyme disease, one for blood pressure secondary to kidney failure (called renal hypertension), and so forth. Her legs were swollen as a result of fluid retention, she was intensely vomiting, and her red blood count was dangerously down. The way she became a patient was that Linda’s then fiancé was an electrician called in to do work at the Smith Ridge clinic one evening after business hours. I was staying late, as usual. The electrician knocked on my office door. Could I please treat Abigail? She was, he said, in critical shape.
I was due to leave town the next day on a trip, but what could I say? Linda brought Abigail in early the next morning, and I made some fast decisions. First, I said, we’d stop all six drugs she was on. Although I typically don’t “cold turkey” a pet, especially one on that many drugs, we had the dubious luxury of being able to do so right away, since Abigail was clearly about to die. I put her back on intravenous fluids, but now including high doses of vitamin C. Then I gave her an injection of homeopathic kidney: a bit of pig kidney called Ren Suis, distilled and subjected to the “succussions” of homeopathy so that it was, in a Western sense, no longer present, though homeopathically, its imprint of energy was “succussed” to three different potencies. While I was gone, my staff repeated this treatment at the clinic for a couple more days. Then Abigail was sent home and her owners were instructed to give her regular doses of homeopathic kidney orally, along with a few key supplements.
By the time I returned four days later, Abigail was literally brand-new, running around like a puppy, playing with her toys, her vomiting and other symptoms gone. Even now, almost two years later, she remains as vibrant as she’s ever been. As an extra dividend, several conventional veterinarians well versed in Lyme disease, and especially this aspect of it, have been so impressed by Abigail’s recovery that they’re interested in adopting this therapy for their own practice.
We now have “injectables” of virtually every part of the body: heart, liver, kidney, bladder, colon, eye, cerebrum, cerebellum, bone, mammary, and more. Often what we do, in association with the results of a BNA, is inject the appropriate homeopathic body part upon seeing the pet, based upon the specific organ implicated in the disease for which he was brought in (the “presenting” disease, as we call it). With severe cases, this is usually done once a day for three days. However, if the pet in question lives far away and won’t be hospitalized, we mix the remaining two vials into an oral dilution for the owners to administer.
One other injectable we use very frequently which is not homeopathic is an extract of adrenal cortex, also from a barnyard animal, often a pig. (I include it here because we use it so much in conjunction with our homeopathic injections.) Natural cortisone, remember, has an effect similar to, if gentler than, synthetic cortisone, addressing inflammations and other associated problems, but without the side effects that make the synthetic kind the “reliever of all symptoms and curer of none.” Almost always, we mix this with a multiple B vitamin and with concentrated B12. The result, which you could call a “cocktail,” acts as a “pick-me-up,” appetite stimulant, and anti-inflammatory in most pets who receive it. Occasionally, as in the case of Fia, these injectables bring more dramatic results.
When I first treated her, Fia was a four-and-a-half-year-old Persian cat with all four legs fused at the joints, a condition diagnosed as crippling polyosteoarthritis. Cortisone and antibiotics had done little to help, and so Fia’s condition had been termed hopeless. For the last month, she had just lain still on a pillow, her owners unable to bring themselves to have her put to sleep. Hearing of Smith Ridge by chance, they brought Fia in as a last resort. I thought she was a difficult case, but was hopeful that over time, we could achieve some beneficial effects alternatively, in conjunction with some form of surgical intervention on the fused joints. First, of course, I took a blood sample to perform a BNA. Then, before sending her home with a couple of supplements to await her blood results, I gave Fia an injection of homeopathic “Zeel” from BHI and a very small dose of an adrenal-B “cocktail” at acupuncture points on her back. She hadn’t moved in over a month before I saw her, and the doctors at the major clinic where she had been treated had told her owner that she’d have to be put to sleep within a week. They told her to think carefully about the quality of life Fia would have even if they managed to buy her a little time. Not long after I treated her, I received two slides, along with this note, from Fia’s owner, Nicole Pacich:
Enclosed are the slides of Fia before and after we came to your office July 23. The reason I took those pictures of her when she was sick was I was afraid she wouldn’t make it, from what the other doctors had told me, and I wanted something to remember her by. When I got them I realized how awful she looked, and how miserable she appeared, and I never want to see them again. Thanks to you! I’ll never forget how she walked—two hours after we brought her home from your office.
Three years later she remains in good health, walking normally on all fours.
You’d think that such results would encourage the FDA to allow all of these injectable homeopathics to be sold in this country, but with its usual attention to the trees at the expense of the forest, the FDA has so far not allowed many of them to be imported. Instead, some of these products, manufactured abroad, get detoured through Mexico and Canada to individuals who then bring them across the border—legally and openly through U.S. Customs. So our patients benefit from them, but only after these products have run a course that, though totally legal, makes us feel like drug dealers.
More inexplicably, those same regulations allow an even newer kind of homeopathic matter to be processed and sold in the U.S.: homeopathic diseases. From Washington Homeopathic Products, for example, we now receive highly potentized dilutions of various tumors, each kind to be given as a remedy for its canine or feline counterpart on the essential homeopathic premise that like cures like. Tumors are mostly protein of one sort or another; the homeopathic tumor essence has sometimes been effective in keeping our patients from continuing to produce more tumor protein of their own. In the cabinet beside my desk are more such concoctions: homeopathic mast cell tumor, feline oral cancer, and so forth. Recently, I’ve taken on a very promising line of injectable cancer remedies, also from the Heel company. Although I’ve just started using them, I’ve already seen impressive results.
A final word on homeopathy: miasm. Two centuries ago, Hahnemann used the term in relation to a hypothesis he couldn’t test on any group of “provers,” but which had come to seem logical in light of his exhaustive study of human symptoms and their natural antidotes. Just as the “energy” from a single drop of mineral or plant extract seemed to be felt by the body and produce tangible effects, so might the “energy” from a chronic disease be felt by an entire population and then passed from one generation to the next, creating an inherited predisposition to the disease which couldn’t be detected by medical science but was no less real for that. Over time, Hahnemann came to conclude that three miasms had spread around the world, creating the predisposition in man to the conditions we now know as chronic disease. One he called the “psoric miasm,” after psora, which means “itch,” to denote skin conditions. The second was the “syphilitic miasm,” which led to all manner of immunosuppressive illness. The third was the “psychotic miasm,” an intergenerational “residue” of gonorrhea which led to all forms of mental instability and illness.
John Diamond, a contemporary homeopathic doctor who has written extensively on Hahnemann and his findings, suggests that in the intervening time, a fourth miasm had emerged and, like the first three, spread its energy around the planet. The fourth miasm, Diamond thinks, is cancer. Many holistic veterinarians are convinced that among pets, yet another miasm has appeared in recent decades: the rabies miasm caused by annual rabies vaccines. Its low-level, chronic manifestations: aggressive behavior and—think about it—fear of thunderstorms. Why, they point out, would animals in nature be afraid of something that can’t hurt them? In fact, wolves aren’t afraid of it. Why dogs and cats?
Herbal Remedies and Plant Extracts
I think of herbs and plant extracts as the natural supplements closest to conventional drugs, so rapidly and specifically do they work to ease symptoms. (And many drugs, remember, have chemicals that mimic the active ingredient of an herb or plant.) Used with other supplements, they also often seem to tip the balance—the metabolic balance, that is—for an internal organ struggling to be healthy. And as agents of physical and psychological relief, herbs can be quite extraordinary. Among my favorites are the following:
Aloe vera Every house should have an aloe vera plant, not just for pets but for people. Aloe’s power as a soothing agent for burns, rashes, and stings is well known; half the sunburn lotions on the supermarket shelves contain it. The more natural way to use it is just to break off part of the leaf and apply the aloe it contains directly on the hurt. Aloe can be taken orally, too, in which case it’s great for intestinal function, either in easing constipation or abetting chronic diarrhea. For these needs, simply ask a reliable health food outlet for its highest-quality commercially available aloe preparation.
Apple cider vinegar This folk remedy has so many ostensible uses that believers claim there’s virtually nothing else a person or pet needs. One of its chief indications is to enhance bowel function. I use it in dilute solution for chronic yeast infection of the ear (a problem that occurs more in dogs than in cats). I’ll recommend that owners put a teaspoon of vinegar in half a cup of water and flush it into the ear, which creates an acid environment that kills the yeast.
Astragalus A literal meaning of this Chinese herb, so I’ve heard, is “old man’s hair still black.” It’s one of the most effective herbals you can find for immune support. Recent studies have suggested that astragalus is especially promising as an anticancer agent, which stands to reason, since it’s immunosupportive. Available fresh or dried, in tablet or liquid form, and also as a principal ingredient in several Seven Forests formulations (available at any health food store), astragalus is an herb I’m using more and more as part of a pet’s overall treatment. I also take it myself.
Chamomile The flower of the chamomile plant has long been recognized as a soothing herb, both for mental stress or irritability and its physical manifestations. People drink chamomile tea, of course, but so do pets: I just let the tea cool and let them drink it. For sleeping disorders, it often works dramatically well. It often appears as an ingredient in the homepathic combination remedies we use for anxiety.
Echinacea Derived from the purple coneflower, echinacea taken orally promotes the healing of cuts and various skin irritations. Internally, it boosts the immune system, so much so that in Germany, a pioneer in echinacea research, well over one hundred nutraceutical remedies for colds, flus, coughs, and other common ailments contain it. Just in the last year or two, echinacea has gained national attention as an herbal remedy so clearly effective that even the news team of 60 Minutes, initially skeptical, ended up endorsing its use in a recent story.
Ephedra Any one of some forty kinds of desert bushes yields this herb, which acts as a bronchodilator, opening up the breathing passages to help ease bronchitis and asthma. As an ingredient in the Chinese herb ma-huang, used for thousands of years as a medicinal tea, ephedra also has a caffeine-like potency to speed the heartbeat and metabolism and increase blood pressure. Those effects have led to its commercial promotion in recent years as a natural energy booster, which the FDA has rightly frowned upon, resulting in warning labels on packages of “Rocket Blast” and other such brands. Since pets aren’t given to recreational drug abuse, ephedra used properly poses no risk in veterinary practice. It does help dramatically with pets who have breathing problems. I use it on its own, in capsule form, as in a product called Dr. Christopher’s Breathe Aid. It also appears in Seven Forests’ Blue Earth Dragon for nasal problems and Pinellia 16 for coughing and asthma.
Garlic A natural antibiotic and aid in digestion, garlic supplements are widely available as pills, tablets, concentrated drops, and powders. I prefer to add it in its natural form—cloves of the bulb—to the food I cook for my pets, and urge clients to do the same. It’s rich in vitamins (particularly A, B complex, and C), proteins, and trace minerals, and is an excellent antibacterial agent and antioxidant. It may also boost liver function and prevent heart disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases—and basically do everything but make your pet fly. I also use Kyolic—aged garlic. In its liquid form, I’ve used it for resistant parasite problems. For nonresponsive ear infections, I’ve reduced its concentration by half with distilled water; a few drops can be put in the ear and massaged gently, with any excess absorbed by a cotton ball.
Goldenseal An excellent infection fighter, both orally and topically. But I’ve also found goldenseal to work in diabetic pets as an herbal enhancement for insulin. I happened on this intriguing potential after finding a booklet called Insulin vs. Herbs and the Diabetic, by Ladean Griffin. Then I treated a diabetic cat whose owner refused to give injections of insulin to restore her blood sugar balance. I prescribed half a capsule of goldenseal twice a day, and the cat’s condition stabilized—for years. Its blood sugar never came down to what conventional veterinarians would call normal, but the cat did well clinically, and lived free of severe blood sugar imbalances until its death at an older age.
Kelp This seaweed product contains iodine, the mineral that supports thyroid function. The thyroid, remember, is the organ that helps control metabolism, especially protein metabolism. So if an animal has thyroid problems and the thyroid glandular combinations for thyroid don’t happen to contain kelp, I’ll add kelp in powder form to the treatment list.
Milk thistle For liver disease. The seeds of this thorny plant yield an extract called silymarin, which promotes proper liver cell function and prevents toxins from overwhelming the liver. In people, milk thistle has become increasingly popular as a preventative of liver cancer. It’s also seen as an antiaging agent, because milk thistle has “flavonoids” thought to capture free radicals. We use it to help restore the liver’s metabolic balance in any form of liver disease, or when metabolic liver function needs to be enhanced.
Red raspberry leaf tea Has a salutory effect on all uterine problems. I know of breeders who use it when a dog is about to give birth; it comes as bulk tea or as an encapsulated powder. I too recommend it to enhance proper birthing; I start by putting it in with food two weeks before an expected delivery and continue with it several weeks after birth.
Valerian Extracted from the root of the plant Valeriana officinalis, valerian has long been used as a relaxant, both for the nervous and digestive systems. If I get a call saying “My animal is going off the wall!,” I say go to a health food store and get valerian root in any of the dozen or more brand-name preparations in which it’s likely to appear. And use it at one-third to one-half the recommended human dose.
Yunnan Paiyao Used in ancient Chinese wars to help stop the bleeding of wounded soldiers, Yunnan Paiyao comes in strips of herbal capsules, or as a powder in a bottle. In either form, the herb comes accompanied by a curious red pellet said by the Chinese to have even more potency to stanch hemorrhages. We use Yunnan Paiyao orally in all sorts of conditions associated with bleeding. We also use it topically, breaking open the powder-filled capsules directly over a wound; the powder cauterizes the wound and promotes healing.
• • •
As with homeopathic remedies, herbs for veterinary care often come in prepackaged combinations. The first one listed is for animals only. The rest are for people; we just don’t tell that to our patients.
Ar-Ease (Crystal Star) For arthritis relief. Primary among its many ingredients are alfalfa, yucca, and devil’s-claw, all powerful anti-inflammatories for arthritic joints.
BLDR-K (Crystal Star) An extract to help with bladder and kidney problems, its chief ingredients are juniper berries, parsley, uva-ursi, dandelion, gingerroot, and corn silk. I like it particularly for cats and small dogs because it comes as a liquid preparation.
Essiac A combination of four herbs (burdock root, Indian rhubarb root, sheep sorrel, and slippery elm bark) which seems to help support the immune system, reduce the toxic effects of conventional drugs, increase energy level, and decrease inflammation. (The nurse who pioneered its use was Renee Caissé; Essiac is her last name spelled backward.) Now it’s gaining acceptance as a cancer fighter. A lot of owners come into the clinic these days asking if I’ve heard of this new wonder product and saying they’ve used it themselves as well as given it to their pets. At the same time, they’re coming into the clinic because their pets aren’t entirely well. I’m incorporating essiac into my treatment—it’s widely available through many distributors—but haven’t yet reached a judgment about it.
Heartsease/Hawthorn Caps (Crystal Star) For use in heart disease, as its name suggests. Active ingredients are, in addition to hawthorn, heartsease, Siberian ginseng, and motherwort. In my experience, hawthorn is the most effective herbal for heart support, with all the strength but none of the side effects of conventional drugs.
Night Caps (Crystal Star) A natural relaxant and sleep inducer that contains valerian root, skullcap, passionflowers, kava root, and GABA (an amino acid that has a marked effect as a natural tranquilizer). A similar brand is Relax Cap, which has a distinctive herb, called ashwaganda, first used (and so named) by American Indians. It’s also useful for seizures, primarily epilepsy, both because of its valerian and skullcap components. (Skullcap, derived from a kind of mint leaf, helps relax the central nervous system.)
Tinkle Caps (Crystal Star) For a remedy that addresses urinary problems, is this a silly name or what? But it works, ameliorating conditions of cystitis; it’s also effective in treating kidney disease, bladder cancer, and even feline urological syndrome (FUS). Its active ingredients are uva-ursi, parsley, and juniper berries, all of which are known as herbal diuretics that increase urination (and, more of interest to people than pets, help promote weight loss) and flush out excessive fluid or toxic buildup. Its formula is similar to that of BLDR-K, but it comes as an encapsulated powder.
In addition to these combinations, I’ve had great success with a product line of Chinese herb combinations called Seven Forests. One we use a lot is Blue Earth Dragon, for sinus problems; another is Forsythia, for chronic ear infections. Just as an example of what these formulations contain, here’s the ingredient list for Zaocys, a Seven Forests supplement for skin disease: zaocys, agkistrodon, cnidium fruit, schizonepeta, xanthium, astragalus, cicada, red peony, Tang Kuei, siler, dictamnus, and rehmannia. Wow!
Finally, a word on propolis. It’s not an herb, exactly, it’s not a vitamin, it’s … the stuff you find in beehives, if you’re brave enough to look. (Actually, it’s a plant product brought to the hive by the bee.) And here’s a question: What’s one of the only places where you’ll find virtually no infections of any kind? A beehive. Because of its level of propolis. So I use propolis in low-grade infections, as a liquid tincture or a pill, to aid a pet’s immune system. I’ve found it particularly useful with bladder infections, when a pet fails to respond to vitamin C; there and elsewhere, propolis kills bacteria, sometimes as effectively as an antibiotic does, but without the side effects. Now I’m also using propolis salve for topical infections. Works great!
Bach’s Flower Remedies
If homeopathic remedies are energy medicine for physical ailments, Bach’s flower remedies work in the same intangible manner for the emotions. And since the health of the mind and the body are inextricably linked, improvement of a patient’s mental state may bring physical improvement as well. Dr. Edward Bach (1890–1936) was an English homeopathic doctor who determined that dilute infusions of flowers and tree buds could be as efficacious in their way as the plant roots, trace minerals, and other natural elements that Hahnemann had used. As part of his research, Bach would go into the woods, choose a flower, and meditate while holding it. He claimed to feel a particular negative emotion from certain kinds of flowers: sadness, say, or anxiety, or fear. When he did, he would compose a homeopathic tincture to reverse the effect, and administer it to patients experiencing these emotions.
Bach’s research eventually produced a list of thirty-eight flower remedies, each of which addresses a distinct mental condition, from Agrimony (anxiety behind a “brave face”) to Willow (resentment at unfair treatment). The Flower Essence Society of California is dedicated to furthering Bach’s work; it provides complete remedy lists along with other pertinent information, and sells remedies singly or in sets. The remedies come in small, dark-brown bottles (that must, like homeopathic remedies, be kept out of direct sunlight and must not be exposed to extreme temperatures); the general dosage is four or five drops put in a pet’s drinking water daily, or one or two drops put directly in the mouth.
I’ve used flower remedies on pets ever since a low period in my own life, when I picked out about five remedies that seemed to fit my state of mind, took them twice a day, and after a week began to experience a definite lift. The problems in my life hadn’t gone away, but suddenly they seemed less weighty. I’d gained a new perspective. With pets who have physical problems that appear to involve emotional stress, I’ll add a flower remedy to the treatment. For pets who seem physically healthy but act emotionally upset—depressed or lethargic (often with a poor appetite), antisocial or outright hostile (biting or barking), nervous or fearful (often peeing indiscriminately)—I’ll try the flower remedies while also attempting to determine if a circumstance at home provoked the problem. I’ll discuss the emotional links between pet and owner at length in Chapter Nine; let me just say here that many manifestations of emotional distress which call for flower remedies have their origins in the relationship between owner and pet.
Of the thirty-eight classic Bach remedies, the one I use the most is the Rescue Remedy. That’s no surprise to anyone who’s worked with flowers. Rescue Remedy is the most commonly called for because it addresses both mental and physical stress. I’ll use it with pets who’ve been subjected to any stressful situation, from weaning and relocation to a new home, to injections to turmoil or trauma in the home. To cats who are sensitive to needles, I’ll give a few drops of Rescue Remedy on the tongue; within seconds, you can see the cat relax, enough so that when I ease a needle in to take a blood sample, he barely notices it. When I use it on a pet who’s in shock, or has been hit by a car, bitten by another animal, or subjected to some other acute physical trauma, the results can be truly dramatic.
In addition to his internal injuries, a pet in that condition will have the pale, blanched gums of an animal in physical shock. First I’ll put him on medical therapy: intravenous fluids to maintain his blood pressure, and high levels of a fast-acting, injectable form of cortisone. Usually, the effects of physical shock are reversed in fifteen to twenty minutes. That’s when I take Rescue Remedy and drop it on the gums and tongue. It’s amazing: you can actually see a wave of pink color return, instantaneously. The acupuncture point for shock is just inside the upper gum, right above the line that separates the two front teeth. So I’ll also stick an acupuncture needle in there and twirl it. The wave of pink extends, bringing the pet further out of shock.
One other wonderful use for Rescue Remedy is as grief medicine. When one pet in a household of several pets dies, I recommend that an owner give Rescue Remedy to the other pets. The star-of-Bethlehem, which is one of its ingredients, is the flower that soothes grief—well enough that I often advise a deceased pet’s grieving owners to take it, too.
As distinct from Bach’s thirty-seven other remedies, Rescue Remedy is made from five different flowers: cherry plum, clematis, impatiens, rockrose, and star-of-Bethlehem. It comes as a dilute liquid, but also as a cream that can be applied topically after accidents and other emergencies. I use the other Bach remedies as indicated in my Bach flower reference guide. Among them: crab apple (for detoxification; good after vaccines), snapdragon (for biting or chewing), and star-of-Bethlehem (grief and trauma). Though the best results come when the match between remedy and pet is just right, it’s hard to go too far wrong here. The remedies are utterly benign, and any one of the thirty-eight has soothing properties. (According to Bach, you can also use up to four at a time without negating their effect.) They’re worth a try for your pet; as with most of these therapies, they’re worth trying on yourself as well. I usually recommend that a pet owner get a booklet on the remedies, read up on them, and choose a remedy that sounds right for his or her pet. Who knows a pet’s moods better, after all, than his owner? Alternatively, I recommend that an owner call an expert on the flower remedies. One whom I’ve consulted and for whom I have great respect is Barbara Meyers, of Staten Island, New York (718-720-5548).
I remember reading the New York Times one day in 1971 and being blown away: there was James Reston, distinguished editor of the Great Gray Lady, in China to cover Nixon’s historic visit, and being operated on with … acupuncture! That was the day most of the Western world, myself included, heard of acupuncture for the first time. Though the AMA harrumphed that it made no sense, and skeptics of all stripes ridiculed it as New Age silliness, acupuncture soon made inroads in the U.S. After all, it worked. As one of its first converts in the field of veterinary medicine, I was dazzled by what it could do to ease chronic pain and restore the flow of energy the Chinese called “chi.” I felt the excitement of a whole new world opening up. But never had I been subjected to such condemnation. I felt like a vampire; I’d start talking about acupuncture and people would pull out their crosses!
The fact is that acupuncturists in ancient China regularly practiced on horses, upon which the country’s agrarian economy depended. Gradually they turned their attention to other farm animals, and finally to household pets: dogs, cats, and birds. Adapting acupuncture to veterinary medicine, it turned out, was as easy as could be, since animals possess basically the same network of energy meridians and reflex points as human beings do. And so it acts in all the same beneficent ways: increasing circulation; releasing endorphins (the body’s natural pain relievers) as well as hormones; and, at the same time, decreasing inflammation both internally and externally.
I initially studied acupuncture in 1975, when I took a course to be certified to practice. I was astounded by the responses I saw, and as a recent graduate of veterinary school, I was at a loss as to how to square them with the training I’d received. One day a paralyzed basset hound was flown down for us to study. In school, I’d been taught that if a dog is paralyzed for three weeks, he’s very unlikely to regain his mobility. The basset hound had been paralyzed for three months. During the treatment my teacher demonstrated, the dog stood voluntarily. The next morning, he was walking—shakily, but walking all the same. I couldn’t believe it.
Subsequent demonstrations were no less extraordinary. A Chinese teacher took us to a farm to show us a badly limping horse. According to his owner, the horse had been chronically lame for a year and had not responded to conventional therapy. The teacher located a bulging blood vessel right above the hoof of the injured leg, stuck a thick, 14-gauge needle in, and let a stream of dark, purplish blood spew out. After about three cups’ worth had drained, the blood lightened to a normal hue of red. The teacher withdrew the needle; the horse walked off without limping. The horse, as the teacher explained, had had a stagnation of energy in the blood, or “blocked chi.” The teacher had merely opened the blockage and let positive chi flow freely again. No more lameness. I returned one month later for my next session to find the horse still walking and running normally.
Ordinarily, acupuncture involves no bloodletting, just the painless insertion of far tinier needles at specific points to unblock the flow of this invisible energy, which eases the pains and diseases that blockages cause. But the results are no less dramatic. Even among some conventional veterinarians, it’s now one of the treatments of choice for arthritis, hip dysplasia, and diseased spinal disks. I’ve found it useful, too, in treating neurological conditions (i.e., epilepsy and some kinds of paralysis) and easing respiratory conditions (such as allergies and asthma), digestive problems (like chronic diarrhea or vomiting), and even problems of the skin. (In my practice, these treatments are always coupled with a supplement-and-homeopathic program that renders the conditions more reversible.) And since the release of endorphins literally brings peace of mind, I will use acupuncture just to calm a nervous or hostile pet.
There’s no need to go on at length here about how acupuncture works, or appears to work: what the twelve pairs of energy meridians, or pathways, actually are; where the 365 reflex points associated with these meridians are (one for each day of the year—curious, yes?); whether the chi is actually neural electricity or not; and how this energy of life is enhanced at these points. Books have been written on the subject. What I do want to say is that acupuncture is a critical part of our practice, and that if your veterinarian doesn’t at least endorse it and know of an acupuncturist to refer you to when your pet exhibits one of the conditions mentioned above, you need to enlighten him. Over time, I’ve come to favor another form of this ancient medicine: aquapuncture, or the injection of a liquid into the prime acupuncture points, which I’ve found has a more prolonged stimulatory effect than just the insertion of dry needles. The liquids of choice in typical cases are homeopathics, along with the “cocktail” discussed earlier. Generally, I’ve found that the combination of the three—the two liquids, plus the effect of injecting them at acupuncture points—is greater, to borrow a phrase, than the sum of its parts.
Another advantage of aquapuncture is that it takes a fraction of the time to perform that acupuncture does. Earlier this year, a well-known Hollywood agent, Andrea Eastman, began bringing in her old terrier Oliver for acupuncture treatments to relieve his arthritis. Smith Ridge clinic has a full-time acupuncturist, so after an initial consultation to confirm that acupuncture was advisable, Oliver began coming in for weekly treatments and responded favorably. A month or so later, the acupuncturist was away on the day Oliver was to be treated, so I filled in. Partly out of curiosity, partly because it was a busy day and I didn’t really have the time to spend doing a full acupuncture treatment on Oliver, I went with aquapuncture. Instead of at least thirty minutes, the procedure took about two minutes. Days later, Andrea reported that the dog was jumping like a puppy. Now he gets aquapuncture every two weeks and, from time to time, a full acupuncture treatment to enhance total alignment.
A note on acupuncture: I’ve heard too much controversy about its use in treating cancer to want to risk trying it with cancer myself. If a cancer patient has other symptoms that are causing more distress than the disease, typically arthritis, I will do aquapuncture to bring clinical relief, but I address the cancer in the ways described in Chapter Eight.
Within the realm of acupuncture, by the way, lies the practice of magnetic therapy. The coursing of the chi—a quasi-electrical energy—will create magnetic polarities in the body. As a result, I’ve seen magnets used on animals with startling results, from pain relief, lameness, and even solitary tumor regression. I offer these two sources, two dear friends highly versed in the use of magnets: on the West Coast, and especially for horses, Joanne Nor of Norfield Inc. in Los Angeles, and, on the East Coast, Suzen Ellis of “Spoiled, LLC” in Weston, Connecticut (see source guide).
By now, you may have discerned a pattern in many of the approaches I use. New as they seem, they turn out to have come to light decades or even centuries ago. Some, like acupuncture and homeopathy, enjoy wide acceptance in the countries where they were developed, but have met until recently with strong resistance here. Others, like Ehretism, met initial success but were eventually seen as passing trends. And a few, like glandulars, were pretty much dismissed when they appeared, and soon forgotten, until a future generation turned them over like so many mysterious rocks to see what lay beneath. In so many cases, when innovation met convention, innovation lost out. The status quo, when its vested interests are threatened, is like the Great Wall of China: hard to overcome. But sooner or later, a curious thing happens. Innovation, if it works, gets through, and the wall comes crumbling down. So it is now with ozone therapy.
Although ozone was discovered in 1840, its therapeutic possibilities were not noted until 1915, by a German physician named Albert Wolff, who treated skin ulcers with it. Later, other doctors noted that if blood drawn from a sick patient was exposed to ozone, the ozone appeared to energize it; injected back into the patient, the energized blood appeared to strengthen the immune system. Or perhaps the ozone itself killed infections in the body; certainly it did so when infectious agents were exposed to it in the laboratory. Promising stuff, yet what is the principal use of ozone today? To purify water.
In that, ozone does an impressive job, killing organisms in water as it does in blood. As a result, I have a list of twenty-five countries—most of the world’s major ones—that purify their water with ozone. Unfortunately, the U.S. is not on the list. We choose instead to chlorinate our water, using a toxic chemical. (Why go the natural, inexpensive route when there’s a buck to be made from creating a market for another man-made chemical?) In some of the countries where those plants are operating, ozone has been used in medical treatment, with fascinating implications. In Germany, a woman with a gangrenous leg so infected it was about to be amputated was subjected to ozone therapy, as a next to last resort, just as Wolff contrived it. Substantial quantities of her blood were tubed out of her body and passed through an ozone generator under ultraviolet light, then pumped back in—a process called hypertrophic oxygenation therapy (or autohemotherapy). Within twenty-four hours her leg was almost normal.
As reported in a reference mainstay called Alternative Therapies, by the Burton Goldberg group, the treatment of animals with ozone began, ironically, with animal tests to prove how hazardous ozone was to humans! The results were so positive that veterinarians in Europe began going back to Wolff’s original work and applying it to their patients. The FDA remains unpersuaded, so ozone therapy is neither recognized nor sanctioned in any official way. On the other hand, it’s not illegal, at least not in New York and four other states. What that means is that at Smith Ridge, we can use it. I’m grateful for that, because ozone therapy so often produces amazing turnarounds when conventional therapy fails—as it did, for example, with a shih tzu named Lucky.
By the time Lucky was brought in, all four of his legs were paralyzed, the result of a spinal tumor in his neck that clearly showed on a myelogram performed by a board-certified neurologist. The tumor, unfortunately, was too large and embedded to be removed by surgery. The couple who owned Lucky were ready to give up and have him put to sleep, but as a last resort posted a description of Lucky’s condition on the Internet. When a client named Carol Marangoni urged them to come to Smith Ridge, they hesitated: both husband and wife are computer scientists to whom the very idea of holistic medicine sent up big red warning flags. And when they heard me suggest that the only hope I saw for Lucky was initially ozone therapy, they looked at me as if I were a snake-oil salesman. But then they viewed the videotape we have of Snoopy, a white terrier whose malignant spinal tumor and subsequent paralysis we’d reversed with a combination of treatments (and whose story appears in Chapter Nine). The videotape left them almost in tears. “Okay,” they said wearily, “let’s give it a try.”
I took a blood sample for a BNA, the results of which would be a road map for detailed treatment. I also put Lucky on intravenous vitamin C and ozone. At the least, the fluids might make him feel better. Then I laid him gently in one of the boarding cages we have in back for overnight “guests,” and sent the blood sample off to the lab.
The next morning, I came into the clinic and went back to check on Lucky. He was standing. When I called the owners, I could tell they didn’t believe me. I got off the phone and looked in on Lucky an hour later. He was walking. I called the owners again. This time the owner actually asked if I was pulling his leg. Two days later, he and his wife drove down from Albany and Lucky walked over to greet them. We sent the dog home on a full therapeutic regimen. Several weeks later, the paralysis returned. That was a Friday. When the owners called, we talked about the possibility that Lucky had embarked on a healing crisis (see Chapter Six). We also considered whether to bring Lucky in for another “jump start” of intravenous C and ozone, since he’d responded so quickly to the first one. The owners decided to weigh the choices over the weekend. They called back on Monday morning: Lucky was walking again.
That was about two years ago. Recently, I spoke to the owners again, to see how Lucky was doing and ask for a blood sample to run more blood tests. Lucky was playing with his toys for the first time in eight years, the owners told me. Amazing. When the blood results came back, they showed protein values that indicated that Lucky’s immune system was actively handling his condition, so that the cancer had ceased to be a factor in his clinical health.
Currently, we’re using ozone therapy to help relieve other spinal problems and paralysis. We also use it topically, by infusing it into olive oil, to ease chronic ear problems not responsive to other therapies. By far the greatest success we’re having with it, however, is in treating cancer, especially bone tumors. For that, see Chapter Eight.
Imagine again you’re that dachshund coming in to Smith Ridge. I’m hardly a mindreader when I say I know what you need before you trot in the door. Over time, dachshunds have been elongated by breeding, the better to live up to their name—literally, “badger dogs” in Ger-man—as terriers who can dig their way to the end of a badger hole and attack their sharp-clawed prey with surprising ferocity. “Many a zealous dog has been known to plunge into a tunnel after quarry—only to get stuck inside,” blithely reports the Reader’s Digest Book of Dogs. That in itself seems a cruel and unusual fate for any dog, but the genetic legacy of the dachshund’s breeding is worse: a spine inexorably pulled out of alignment as a dachshund ages by the too great length between his fore-and rear legs, and by the weight of his abdomen in between. Chiropractic, the practice of manually manipulating the spinal column and other joints of the body to realign them, is a godsend for dachshunds. It has survived decades of scornful dismissal by the AMA to be recognized by all but the most conservative doctors as a useful tool in easing human back pain and restoring mobility. Along with many other holistic veterinarians, I’ve found it even more helpful with pets, especially dogs bred over generations to look cuter, win more prizes, or hunt better at the expense of their bone structure.
When I first examine a dog or a cat, whatever its breed or mix, I’ll apply pressure to the back of his neck, shiatsu-style, and work my way down his spinal column. If I feel a back muscle jump, I’ll suspect an imbalance and press more sharply with the palm of my right hand or thumb and forefinger in smaller pets. At times, that produces a distinct and sometimes audible clicking sound as the vertebrae realign. Occasionally, the results are more dramatic. A King Charles spaniel was referred to me by a board-certified surgeon who assumed I’d just do acupuncture to relieve the dog’s spinal distress. The dog had severe arthritis of the spine and rear legs, had trouble walking, and hadn’t jumped up on even a low chair in years. I examined the dog, took a blood sample, then performed a chiropractic manipulation of his back. Crack! The sound was so loud I was startled—and a bit worried, to tell the truth, especially when a colleague who was visiting for a day of observation took me aside and only half jokingly asked, “Did you break that dog’s back?” The next day, when I got a call from the lady’s husband, a prominent attorney, I really began to sweat. “What did you do to my dog?” the lawyer demanded. Great, I thought: lawsuit, charges of malpractice, the end of life as I know it. “Nothing much,” I said cautiously. “Why?” “Because,” said the lawyer, “he just jumped on the bed last night for the first time in years!”
The theory behind chiropractic is that such misalignments are not merely painful in and of themselves. They also disrupt the passage of nerve energy along the spinal column. This causes what chiropractors call a subluxation, which inflames the spinal nerves and in turn affects the organs and functions associated with that part of the nervous system. If you choose to believe the Chinese, it also blocks the flow of chi along the involved acupuncture meridians. Almost every cat and dog I treat is subjected to my spinal “once-over.” Most turn out to have at least a minor imbalance or two that a judicious push of the palm or aquapuncture can address.
A note of caution on chiropractic, however. Practiced in its bluntest form, with aggressive manual manipulations, it may disrupt a bodily process of natural healing. A holistic veterinarian I know, Mark Haverkos, practices a gentler variation called network chiropractic, which involves subtle adjustments of the spine and main nerve trunks over a period of time. According to Haverkos, the body sometimes “pushes” a vertebra out to compensate for some internal pressure, and a chiropractor who abruptly cracks it back into alignment may subvert the body’s own more gradual way of dealing with the disruption. Although I don’t as yet practice network chiropractic myself, I do use the occasional chiropractic manipulation to relieve outward symptoms, keeping in mind the need always to address deeper problems.
Here’s another practice that isn’t new, but was merely rediscovered after its initial rejection by conventional veterinary medicine. The difference with cryosurgery, I’m proud to say, is that my brother Robert played a seminal role in its reintroduction.
In the early 1970s, when Robert began his own veterinary practice, the notion that diseased tissue might be “frozen” by liquid nitrogen, so that it might simply die and be rejected from the body, was discredited in veterinary medicine. Cryosurgery (cryo means “cold” or “to freeze”) sounded arcane. It also appeared not to work, since various tumors and other diseased tissue, when frozen, grew back. To my brother, the theory seemed sensible; perhaps the problem was one of procedure. He began experimenting on animals who had rectal fistulas (internal tracts of pus that surface around the anus), and hard-to-get-at rectal and oral tumors. It was easy enough to persuade owners to let him try, since his efforts would be relatively benign: if cryosurgery failed, the fistulas or tumors would simply return and he would be back where he started. But also, these diseases were basically inoperable, because in cutting the tumor out, a surgeon would likely destroy the integrity of the rectum or the mouth itself. In that sense, too, the owners had nothing to lose.
With the first cases my brother took on, the tumors, as expected, grew back. That was when he had his epiphany. What if he froze the tumors a second time in the initial procedure and slightly widened the scope of this controlled form of frostbite to include a narrow border of skin around the tumor? Now the procedure worked as hoped. The body’s immune system rejected the tumor as dead foreign material, and the area adjacent to it turned to healthy scar tissue, which kept the tumor from returning. With the liquid nitrogen clouding around him like dry ice, my brother looked a bit like Boris Karloff in his laboratory. Fortunately, instead of Frankenstein, he produced tumor-free dogs.
Even with two-phase cryosurgery, the tumors didn’t fall off immediately. Days might pass. And as my brother began using cryosurgery on other kinds of cases, the unexpected sometimes occurred. One day he treated a cocker spaniel that had a tumor right in front of his ear. The two-phase cryosurgery seemed to do the trick. Ten days later, the dog’s owner called up very irate. “Why did you charge me all this money for freezing the tumor when it’s still there and looks terrible?” Glumly, my brother agreed to see the dog the next day. That morning, the owner called sheepishly to cancel the appointment: the tumor was lying on the kitchen floor. And where it had been on the dog’s head, the skin was pink and healthy-looking.
What we’ve come to understand with cryosurgery is that every case is different. Sometimes the tumor dissolves, sometimes it falls out. In many cases, the surgical area appears unsightly and smells rotten for several days. Touch-ups of the affected area may be required weeks or even months later. But when the second “freeze” is done (followed, occasionally, by a third “freeze” with very resistant tumors), and if it includes a slightly wider area than the tumor itself, cryosurgery does work, sooner or later, almost every time. Its practice has been taken up in human medicine, too. One common application now is in treating ovarian cysts; another is in freezing tumors in human livers; and for years it’s been used very effectively to remove cataracts.
In my practice, with many of the cancerous tumors I see, cryosurgery has become an absolutely essential tool. And unlike some of the other therapies I use, there’s no leap of faith needed to appreciate its use. With cryosurgery, seeing is believing, time after time after time.
*1The blood urea nitrogen is a by-product of protein metabolism, the creatinine is a waste material produced by muscle metabolism, and the phosphorus is a product associated with bone metabolism and glucose utilization.
*2The glandulars come from chemical-free livestock, not from other dogs and cats! And lest the word conjure up grisly images of a veterinarian feeding bite-sized chunks of animal kidney to his patients, the glandulars come as encapsulated powders, liquids, or pills. It’s worth noting, too, that animals are not killed for this purpose. They’re slaughtered by the meat industry, and their organs are then distributed to the companies that manufacture glandulars. If you’re a vegetarian, as I am, that may seem a Faustian pact, but it’s one I can live with, given how much good I’ve seen glandulars do. And remember: Dogs and cats are carnivores by heritage, so that their systems benefit from glandulars as naturally as their forebears benefited from eating raw animal organs and glands.
*3I’ve found that these preparations in concentrated form are more effective than just feeding an animal chunks of raw glands.
*4Vitamins are measured in varying ways. Some, like A, are measured in international units, or IU’s. Others, like C, are meted out in milligrams or grams.
†5 SGPT is now known by a new name, alanine aminotransferase (ALT).
*6Horses, on the other hand, should be given vitamin A from a beta-carotene source, because they’re herbivores.
†7 On its own, L-carnitine also enhances heart muscle function, so dramatically that conventional veterinarians are now using it to strengthen weak hearts and mitigate certain forms of degenerative heart disease.
*8The body’s natural antioxidants include superoxide dismutase, peroxidase, reductase, and catalase.
*9There is a reciprocal relationship between calcium and phosphorus, regulated by a small gland attached to the thyroid called the parathyroid. The complexity of this relationship is beyond the scope of this book.
*10A personal note: Most homeopaths I know dilute their homeopathic remedies with a 20 percent vodka solution to prevent spoilage. (The brand of choice, I’m told, is Stolichnaya.) In my experience, pets seemed to dislike the alcohol, so I use pure distilled water and refrigerate.