Friday, September 9, 2011

The Red Dog's Anti-Cancer Regimen

Thanks to her extreme longevity both post-diagnosis and post-amputation, our osteosarcoma survivor Shiva the Red Dog has become a bit of a celebrity in the local veterinary world. In response to the many questions we receive from pet owners and veterinary professionals alike, we decided to dedicate a lengthy, detailed post to the subject of Shiva's atypical survival. What follows is a recap of her journey, as well as the anti-cancer regimen we have developed for her in the ensuing two-plus years.

(We cannot quantify, however, the immeasurable comfort we've received from faith. Belief in a higher power is an intensely personal decision best left up to each individual...but without faith and the power of prayer, we have no doubt that none of what you are about to read would have happened. And for that, we are eternally grateful.)

Initially diagnosed in April of 2009 by Dr. Brandi Maples, Shiva – a Golden retriever that was nine years old at the time - has since confounded the experts and thrived in spite of odds made even longer by her inability to tolerate the prescribed post-operative chemotherapy regimen.

Along the way, she’s experienced the support of some of the finest minds (and hearts) in our local vet community. From dear friend Dr. Becky DeBolt, who concurred with Dr. Maples’ diagnosis, to Dr. Mitch Rosenzweig, who agreed with the diagnosis while daring us to hope that Shiva might make it through such a trying ordeal under his surgical care. We also had Brenda Rasch, a local Healing Touch practitioner and physical therapist, treat the Red Dog in recovery as well as several times during her ensuing recuperation.
Bolstered by invaluable advice and support from Drs. Nancy Harvey, Lisa Chassy, Maria Fleming, Cornelia Porter and Daniela Fanikos, Shiva’s Mom and I faced the daunting odds in hope of a few months of what we would come to call “bonus time.” Although pathology results later confirmed the worst, lung mets were not yet present and we found ourselves in what we hoped would be a long window of wellness before the predicted inevitable end.

Two years and four months later, here we are, still going strong.

After Shiva’s successful surgery and equally unsuccessful round of chemo, we were forced to search out alternatives to the conventional therapy available to us. We were fortunate to find an excellent online resource at Founded by Rene and Jim Agredano after their beloved German Shepherd dog Jerry received an osteosarcoma diagnosis, it has become the preeminent place for support, consolation and valid discourse of treatments both inside and outside the veterinary mainstream.

It was there that we met Dr. Pam Wiltzius, a California veterinarian shepherding her own English Mastiff Tazzie through a joyful fourteen month post-amputation journey.  With her help and guidance, we were introduced to an array of nutritional approaches used in the fight against canine cancer both here and abroad. From the more widely-used medicinal mushrooms found in a product called K-9 Immunity, to the less well-known but potentially just as promising Sweet Wormwood-derived substance called Artemisinin, we found hope bolstered by at least some preliminary scientific validity.

We since have added periodic dosing of a product called Hepamether, which is a slightly different, supercharged version of the active compounds found in Artemisinin. After giving Shiva daily doses of Artemisinin for around a year, we noticed some anxiety issues which may be attributable to the accumulation of the substance in the body. Since then, we have cycled her on and off of it, as well as mixed in the Hepamether as a change-of-pace.

In addition to the aforementioned products, we immediately put Shiva on a no grain/low sugar/no red meat diet to reduce the fuel upon which cancer feeds, as well as to eliminate what some consider the inflammatory properties of red meat. She also went on regular omega-3 supplementation and stayed on both her chondroitin-based Fresh Factors and glucosamine-based Dasuquin.

Combined with daily walks to both strengthen her remaining foreleg and combat the arthritis in her hips, this entire protocol is maintained with regularity.

As she has aged, we also have added regular acupuncture and cold laser treatments with Dr. Cheryl Cross and visits to Dr. Marti Drum at the UTCVM canine therapy and rehab pool. All-in-all, not a terribly onerous or expensive investment considering the rich reward of time we’ve received in return.

Oh, and Shiva also survived a battle with a malignant melanoma tumor in the interim that sprouted between the medial toes of her remaining front leg just to make sure we've been paying attention. What fun!

Please note that, while we have had tremendous success with this regimen, there is no guarantee it will work for you and your pet. When faced with an osteosarcoma diagnosis, run - don't walk - to the nearest veterinary oncologist or orthopedic surgeon for a second opinion. Time is of the essence with this disease, and every second counts. The window of time for successful amputation is small. Consult with your vet(s), visit the tripawds website and pray. Then make your decision. That's what we did, and we haven't looked back.

What follows - thanks to requests from all of you - is Shiva's daily diet and supplementation regime, which is unabashedly combined with a boatload of faith on the part of her parents and a mixture of the finest conventional medical care and alternative therapy available. Enjoy!

* We since have switched from Innova to the grain-free formulas made by Earthborn Holistic.

AM Meal:
3/4 cup Innova EVO Turkey & Chicken Formula Dry Dog Food (which we buy at the Red Dog's favorite glorious retail experience Agri Feed), supplemented with cooked chicken or shredded cheese for flavor
100 mg Artemisinin or 40 mg Hepamether (never given together, as both seem to produce a certain amount of anxiety over time)
2 – 3 Fresh Factors
1 Dasuquin
1000 mg omega-3 fish oil

PM Meal:
3/4 cup Innova EVO Turkey & Chicken Formula Dry Dog Food, supplemented with cooked chicken or shredded cheese for flavor
K-9 Immunity-Plus chewable supplement (we used to give her K-9 Immunity capsules and Transfer Factors, but the ingredients since have been combined into a convenient chewable)
1 – 2 Fresh Factors
She takes a day off of each supplement every so often to give her system a rest. While not necessarily scientific, this approach seems to work best for her.

* Please feel free to post questions in the comments section below, message me through the site or contact me through the facebook link on the right side of this page. We're happy to share whatever we can that might help you and your canine friends.