Saturday, April 17, 2010

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posted by Margarat @ 7:31 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Change?

Vida's going through a liter of tea about every four days, so I'm making another batch this morning. I've adjusted the recipe a bit: Astragalus, Calendula, fresh Plantain are all the same, but I've halved the Slippery Elm and filled that in with Marshmallow Root, and brought back a little bit of Nettle Leaf instead of fresh Comfrey Leaf.

Did I need to change? Am I changing capriciously? Am I overthinking? I'm not sure, but I know that there is never one way to do things when it comes to herbs.

There are always multiple choices for supportive herbs, and while some people find that aggravating I actually find it comforting because I know that as long as I stay within certain parameters I'll be doing fine. I also feel that this gives me the freedom to make these small changes to customize it for each animal.

For instance, I've kept the foundation of Astragalus through all the changes I've made, as this is so strongly indicated for her situation with cancer (immune booster, qi booster, affinity for the stomach).

A couple batches ago I switched from Chamomile to Calendula because Calendula's anti-inflammatory and healing aspects for skin were so important to promote healing right in her mouth, and I knew that it would have the same soothing result in her stomach, though it's not often thought of for internal use.

I kept the fresh Plantain because it's such an all-rounder - good for her mouth and her digestion, and so easily picked, chopped, and added for an ideal food.

I decided to add a little Marshmallow Root in place of some of the Slippery Elm because it's a little cooler, and she's getting plenty of Slippery Elm directly in her meals. Sometimes I like the idea of herb partners, they have similar actions but slightly different energetics.

I decided to put a modest amount of Nettle back in to the mix for the mineral nutrients and support. I took out the fresh comfrey leaf because I already have it in her mouth rinse, and admit to some concern about even slight impact on her liver due to the prednisone.

I know that the issue of liver effect from Calendula is contentious, but if the liver is under direct pharmaceutical stress I figured I'd play it safe by alternating the use of the Comfrey (the leaves are young now, which means this is more of an issue - sorry, don't want to look up the chemical particulars for you on this).

The importance right now is support.

It's always important to have a goal with your herbs. The goal might change frequently, but you always need to keep your basic goal in mind when creating teas (and other concoctions).

The goals of this tea are: support of her basic energy, support of her digestion, contacting her mouth with herbs that will help prevent burn side effects (in conjunction with a more specific mouthwash).

This is a concentrated time of support while she goes through radiation. It will all be adjusted again (and again and again...).

I don't think I'm being cavalier about the changes, and the base of the tea is in place so it shouldn't cause her to have to adjust to it.

I love experimenting on my dog, but I think I'm experimenting in a good way, not a reckless way. Believe me, it takes some herbal education combined with good observation skills to do it well.

This experience is an amazing education for me, and will result in my being able to help others with their dogs.

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posted by Margarat @ 10:36 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Who's pain is it anyway

Here's Vida on Day 16 of her radiation (and prednisone) treatment.

Her determined look is because she does NOT want to open her mouth for the photo. I took a lot of pictures, and at least got a straight on look here because I was waving around a piece of Salmon Paws (did I mention the prednisone?).

I swear, as soon as the camera came up, the mouth went shut.

But do you notice - the mouth is ALL the way shut! That is a terrific improvement (just take a look at the photo in the post called "Zap Away" from March 30th).

I'm going to get a proper photo soon, but I've been giving her a break from too much mouth examination handling. Just get her smiling and you can catch a good look (so if your a fan you'll have to come see her in person).

She's going to the chiropractor tomorrow (Cheryl Ricketts-Mulvey), and I can tell that she really needs it. I hope my back feels better after her adjustment too because I swear that I'm taking on some of her various states of being. I think this process is making me a little too open. I don't normally have such a variety of fleeting pains and problems: back, head, stomach... I need to take care of myself a bit more.

So far she hasn't had any signs of burns that I can see. They said it would start 10-12 days in. That makes me feel pretty good about my herbal concoctions.

I've been flushing her mouth four times a day, a process she's grown accustomed to (chin down, squirt one side, squirt the other). I'm currently trying to work out a recipe that includes irish moss to create a gel - and by currently I mean I'm getting up in the middle of writing this to whisk it as it chills to see if that and my reworking of the proportions gives me gel and not jelly.

I'm quite enjoying the freestyling of these remedies. I'm not using anything too unusual, I'm just choosing judiciously and creating products that my dog accepts.

For instance, I don't want to make something for her chin that has a lick deterrent in it, because I think that sets up a negative energy for the healing. If she needs something applied a few times a day in and around her mouth, shouldn't it be tolerable?

The irish moss is interesting because it smells like the ocean, and she seems attracted to it.

So now I need to get some rest so I can get her back to the vet tomorrow morning at 8am for treatment number 12 (of 19). She doesn't want to use the Bio-Mat so I'm going to use it for awhile.

She vibrates with nerves while we're waiting, but they told me that when she gets to the treatment room she jumps her front feet up on the table as if to say "ok, let's get this over with!"

This is a healing job for both of us, and we're gettin' through it together.

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posted by Margarat @ 8:32 PM   1 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ingredients for this week's dog tea

In anticipation of burns starting soon, I've made a new tea for Vida.

Clockwise from the top:

+ fresh Comfrey leaf
+ fresh Plantain leaf
+ dried Astragalus root
+ dried Calendula flower
+ fresh Bison bone
+ dried Slippery Elm bark

Yes, I've resorted to cooking a bone with the plants to get easier compliance. This is because I really want to be sure she's drinking it full strength when asked.

I've formulated this tea to help with the impending burns, to see what I can do to have less severe burns produced during the radiation process. While I did make a wash with aloe juice and calendula/comfrey tea, and I've started irrigating her mouth with it a few times a day, I think that the more frequently I can put helpful herbs on that tissue, the better.

This was made with one liter of water. The bone, astragalus, and slippery elm went in cold water which was brought to a boil and simmered for about 45 minutes. I then added the flowers and fresh leaves (which I minced). I turned the heat off and left it for over an hour before I strained it out. She loved it!

It turns out that Vida's been getting out more quickly from treatments because they changed the gas they were using. I don't remember being told they were using gas at all with the IV, but hey, they probably expect most people don't want to know the details.

They switched from Isoflurane (very commonly used) to Sevoflurane (more expensive). The Iso- gets them both sedated and then awake in about two minutes. The problem is that when they wake up their cognition comes back before their motor skills do, which can obviously be stressful for some dogs. Vida's first action was to try to bark, small muffled barks at first, which indicates her stress. So a few days ago they switched to Sevo-, which gets them sedated and awake in about thirty seconds, and when they wake both cognition and motor skills return simultaneously, which is much less stressful.

I haven't been able to break through her serious nerves beforehand - full body shaking, poor thing. But I have to say, when she comes out, she's not doing that at all. She's happy to leave, but she's much more relaxed. The nervous system is very powerful. You can't always get it to do what you think is best, no matter how many times you give flower essences and press on acu-points. Sometimes you just need to let them be nervous, knowing that it will be over soon.

So that's 8 down, 11 to go. Tomorrow is Friday, then she has the weekend off.

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posted by Margarat @ 1:58 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Smart Dog? Hmmm.. yes but....

Day 9.

6 treatments down, 13 to go.

The steroids have already made the tumor smaller. The lipoma on her rear leg is smaller too, which I hadn't expected. I'll need to ask the vet about that when I have a chance.

Don't worry, she may look like she's wincing but she's just being faced with the sun, and is not keen on having her portrait taken.

Vida is a smart dog. Sometimes that helps this process, sometimes not so much.

I learned today (when she came out in record time again) that when she starts barking the first time she's ready to eat, and when she starts barking the second time she's ready to go home.

She doesn't really like taking the Animals' Apawthecary Ginger/Mint tincture because it makes her burp right away - but of course in an hour she's feeling great and wants to eat (which by that time she usually shouldn't to avoid later stomach junk).

She's learned to eat her sort-of hidden prednisone in order to avoid the indignity of being pilled.

She lets me do acupressure and tui-na to move the qi down, which I need to do a few times later in the day/evening to help her digestion. She gets so warm, it's as though the radiation is creating heat, and it's swirling around her midsection. The qi is all discombobulated. Today I gently stroked her with a zoom groom (a rubber curry), and she burped during that.

She may come to hate what I started today: dabbing her ching and irrigating her mouth to fend off burns. I'm using aloe vera juice combined with an infusion of calendula flowers and (fresh) comfrey leaf. Hopefully, when it does get more irritated, the cold soothing wash will be welcomed.

She's terribly nervous when we are waiting to go in for treatment. I feel bad about that, but I know it will pass. She knows when it's a treatment day because she doesn't get fed first thing, so she spends the next hour trying to change my mind, while at the same time refusing to drink any water. This morning I resorted to spiking her water with meat juice because I knew she hadn't had any water since early the evening before....

She normally doesn't drink at night. The steroids have made her more thirsty, and one night in particular she had a big drink at night. Poor thing wet the bed, so no more night drinking (her decision). I can tell she's feeling dry, but she refuses my entreaties to just have a sip. The dog door is open, but she doesn't want to get caught. The radiation works better on hydrated tissue so it's a bit of an issue. As for her leaking - this used to be caused by a sensitivity to chicken, but in general it seems to be that she doesn't have enough qi down there to do the job, hence the tui-na and acupressure during this process to get it moved back down the body as smoothly as possible.

Often she just wants to take care of herself. This is the disconnect between us, where she doesn't always understand the benefits of what I'm foisting on her. If it's not immediate it's hard for her to make the connection, despite what I try to say. So I just do it. After all, what she thinks about me in this moment is as important as helping her feel better and do better with this process.

I can take the dirty looks.

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posted by Margarat @ 5:34 PM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 02, 2010

What a difference a day makes!

Sorry, cheesy title, but it's true.

Vida was a new dog today, almost back to her old self.

And I'd like to take credit.

Well, I'd like to share credit with all of our friends who've been sending their loving, healing energy our way. I swear I can feel it, and I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

It's certainly not the anesthesia, radiation, and steroids that are making her feel better. It's the herbs, most of all, I think. The astragalus, given by both tea and tincture. The slippery elm. And all the other goodies I'm giving her, helping her detox the side-effects of the treatment, build her qi, and soothe her digestion.

It may seem like a lot of work to some, but the payoff is astounding. This is the kind of care I wish every dog got. Supportive care to help them through this strong process. To use plant medicine to provide gentle support, rather than mainstream pharmaceuticals that throw the body around from one extreme to the other and unable to balance itself.

Today she came to work at the store. I brought a bed from home and put it in the back room, expecting her to spend much of her time in it, resting and avoiding the activity of shoppers and their pets.

Boy was I wrong. She spent the day hanging out by the counter begging for treats, greeting people, and generally grabbing the attention of everyone who came in the door. She wasn't at her highest energy, but I saw her do things I haven't seen her do in over a week: canter, groom herself, and, most surprisingly, perform her "La Vida Loca" trick (catching her tail and walking with it). She really wants to get back to normal, and does it at her own speed. A speed that was much faster today than I expected.

So if you ever think that you couldn't possibly keep up on caretaking for a pet with natural methods, measuring out homemade concoctions, dispensing drops, and cooking, well let me tell you that you must know that it will be worth every effort.

Pour your love into these actions and you will be rewarded. You may not always be able to "cure" your pet, but you will certainly provide them, and yourself, with healing.

Next week I'll start concocting a topical rinse. If I start dabbing it on early maybe I'll head off the worst of burns.

Today's score, 4 down, 15 to go, with the weekend off. Hurray!

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posted by Margarat @ 9:23 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Choreography of Caretaking

I'm starting to learn the new rhythm of the day for Vida.

What governs this rhythm?

Medicine: anesthesia, radiation, prednisone (steroids). These are so strong that they require everything else be done in response to them. You can't ask them to be forgiving, you have to get your timing down to help her body rebound from the worst of their effects. Not guerrilla warfare, but guerrilla care.

The herbs, acupressure, flower essences, reiki, and food - these all have to partner with each other and be choreographed within the framework of the medicine.

She woke up today hungry, but since she couldn't eat until after her radiation treatment she went to a bowl and drank. She hadn't gotten up at all during the night to drink, despite her evening dose of steroids, so she drank a lot. Within a few minutes she was clearly working hard to hold it down, and spent the rest of the early morning in bed. I left her alone (in part because her bowl of water included tea, which was doing some secret good inside of her).

Then she trots out to the car and hops in. This reminds me not to freak out when she's in bed looking so off.

We had a bit of a schedule glitch, ending up with a later treatment time due to a mechanical glitch. She ate her whole meal at the hospital, and the tea with me in the waiting room (not sure why she waits to drink it with me). She drank even more in the car.

She came home and looked at her empty dish. So I fed her again about an hour later. I figured that I should feed her when she wanted to eat, because later in the day she wouldn't (the previous night she finally ate at 9pm, eagerly, but only when I brought to her in bed). I put her detox tincture, herbs, and digestives in the food. I keep forgetting the fish oil, a sign that I've not quite acclimated to the new routine.

The mantra is "get the herbs in when you can."

The other mantra I'm learning is "get the herbs in when they're needed."

It seems like she gets a couple hours of high off the sweet anesthesia, then it all starts to go downhill (I joked with someone that I was worried she'd become and addict). The downside of the anesthesia hits her - her stomach is gurgling, she lays in bed looking miserable.

The ginger-mint tincture helps (she burps a little). I wash it down with some tea. I give it again a couple hours later with some astragalus tincture and make a note to start earlier with this intervention tomorrow.

I also use acupressure on Earth points (ST36, SP4), and CV12.

I've taken to making her get up every so often to walk around (don't worry, my insistence is completely hands-off). I'm glad if she stops at the bowl, but then have to stop her before she fills up too much. She walks around looking a bit delicate, the hair on her lower back rising up, a sign of discomfort I don't quite understand. I've learned that in the afternoon she just wants to relieve herself and go back to bed.

She's surprisingly warm, as if the heat of the radiation has taken over. Her pulse is a bit fast, as is her breathing. The restless breathing is what bothers me the most because it tells me she's not at ease (though she's quiet in her bed).

Now that I've given her the prednisone again I'm waiting to see if things settle down for the night. I'll probably syringe a little tea/water in later if she doesn't drink on her own (on the way back from her last trip out at night - one that I'll likely have to insist on.

I may get a TCM herb formula from Dr. Weingardt to help her stomach if I'm not able to be more effective on her own.

It's my task to find the balance point. To do what's needed when it will work best, and do it as simply as possible.

I'm glad that her treatment is on a schedule (M-F, 8am). It will help both of us get the hang of this difficult dance together. Then it will be over and we'll be on to bigger and better things. Current score: 3 down, 16 to go.

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posted by Margarat @ 7:35 PM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tricks with Teas and Tinctures

It is becoming apparent that my usually voracious pup, who can be counted on to eat anything I need her to eat, will test my tricks.

It's important for her to eat all the things she needs to keep her strength up, to keep her body healthy through the anesthesia, radiation, and medication for the next month.

Here are the tactics I'm starting with... so far it's going... ok.

The prednisone makes her thirsty. Well, why have her drink plain water when I can have her drink medicinal water.

So this morning I made a witches brew of immune and digestive helpers that I could add to her water and her food (ugh, more about food later). Mainly Astragalus, with Nettle, Chamomile, Slippery Elm, and some of my medicinal mushroom tea. I thinned it down in her bowls, and though I can see that she would prefer to have plain water sometimes, she drinks it.

Now sometimes she feels so crummy she doesn't want to drink either. And frankly, she shouldn't have to if it's just going to come up again (see, she's never been good at holding a lot of water, but she can't help herself right now, poor thing). So I also have some tinctures that I can just squirt in her mouth to ensure she gets something medicinal that will help her feel better eventually.

Animals' Apawthecary to the rescue! Detox Blend, Astragalus, and Ginger/Mint are all on the menu now. I'm so glad to have these easy products to use - I'm pretty discombobulated right now.

So, is my dog feeling chipper this evening (having had an unusual mid-week day off from treatment)? No.

I'm doing my best to leave her alone, but I can't lie that I was a disappointed that she didn't want any of the fabulous dinner I put together for her. I cooked, dammit! She tasted a tiny bit I gave her in her bed, but then I had to pill her with her Pred in a tiny bit of raw, and man was she offended.

Luckily flower essences are always easy. I'm going to use Yarrow Environmental Solution before and after her treatments - misting her because the taste is harsh. I also made her a custom blend - a big mix of stuff that I can give direct and put in everything she eats and drinks. Leave a comment if you want details on these:

American Ginseng (from Woodland Essence)
Goldenseal (also W.E.)
Crab Apple
Five Flower

As I said, I'm trying to leave her alone, but I do work some of the Earth acu-points on her rear legs to try and bring that energy back to it's place. It's almost like her body's energy has abandoned it's post/s in response to the radiation attack, leaving other aspects vulnerable.

Tomorrow's a new day. After 9:30 tomorrow morning it will be 3 down, 16 to go.

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posted by Margarat @ 7:28 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Zap Away!

It's day two. I'm writing this as I wait for Vida at California Veterinary Specialists Angel Care Cancer Center.

Yesterday the bleeding finally caught up with her and she was anemic. Did refused to eat food in the morning. I syringed some chamomile and slippery elm tea in to her to quite her gurgling stomach. She felt awful! I moved her appointment up a day. Who knew we would not only have a consult, but would start her treatment the same day! Her inappetance turned out to be fortuitous.

[Oh! J from Jimbo's dropped in to see me and brought a bearclaw muffin from Panera - what a sweetheart!]

So - a whirlwind of veterinary news, and a week of really positive veterinary experiences. Started last week with Holly Mullen DVM, continued Sunday with a vaccine seminar by Drs Schultz and Dodds where I saw lots of supportive folks including Dr. Weingardt. Yesterday we met Dr. Proulx and his staff and are starting down a treatment road that my instincts say is the right decision.

Vida is getting radiation for her tumor. 19 treatments! Yes, it seems like a lot, but that's because they want to ensure that they don't too so much per day that she can't function. They want the dog to have good quality days during treatment. So if you need to find me I'll be at CVS in Carlsbad, Monday through Friday, from 8:ooam to 9:30 or 10:00am for the next month.

It's pretty amazing how things have advanced. They can target it so they don't damage any other organs or tissue. They use light sedation (Propofol, Michael Jackson's favorite, causes amnesia of the procedure) that is easy for them to clear from (I brought her breakfast and tea, they feed her right when she wakes up). The actual radiation itself only takes about two minutes, maybe less. The time consuming part is hooking her up to all the safety monitoring stuff.

They say they expect at least 80-90% shrinkage (it doesn't start to shrink immediately from radiation, but does continue after the treatment stops), and control for at least two years. That's the least they expect, so it could be even better.

Here is a photo: Day 2. You can see how big it is, and how important it is for us to treat it. The photo was taken outside the hospital, so she looks really unhappy for that reason ("we're back here again?"), and because she thinks she looks ugly with this big tumor everyone notices.

Side effects? Well, there are no long term side effects because of the cells that are targeted (vs bone cancer). Short term she will have some skin and oral "sunburn" that I'll be treating topically with herbs. This will start in about 10 days and last about two weeks. I feel confident that I can treat that, and look forward to showing how well herbs can work on that sort of thing (I'll be posting details on that when it comes up, so look for the recipes then).

One surprise was the including of Prednisone in the treatment. Dr. Proulx was funny ("you'll probably hate this butÖ.")but explained that Pred induces apatosis in plasma and lymph cancers, so it can help kill it, making the total treatment more effective. So she'll be on 15mg for six weeks. I can give her herbs for her liver during this, so will be picking up some Animals' Apawthecary Dandelion/Milk Thistle tincture (though then wondered if I should go for Detox BlendÖ.).The pred will hopefully cause some immediate shrinkage so it's less in the way.

The other surprise was that I have to take her off antioxidants during treatment. When you think about it it makes sense, because we are trying to ruin those cells, not save them. So, I have to stop using most of her supplements. The thing is, when is it a supplement and not a food? Because the fresh food is ok (Yes, I can feed her raw during radiation treatments!), but the supplements aren't.

I can keep: enzymes, probiotics, fish oil, and Connectin.

I have to ditch: mushrooms (all of them? Still checking), PetLife, Green Mush, Cell Discovery (obviously).

I'd like to think I've "banked" a lot in her system, but many of these things work on a daily basis.

Radiation works best on oxygenated and hydrated cells, so while she can't eat after midnight, she can drink anything, and they use oxygen during sedation in part to make sure cells are well filled.

You're probably wondering how much this is all costing. Well, a lot (for me, not for a rich person). $5,600. Am I crazy? I don't think so. The only other alternative is amputating half of her jaw. She would be miserable (I had a preview this week as the tumor grew more and she couldn't do anything fun without dinging it). And euthanizing this vital, vibrant dog would be murder. If I didn't do this there would be nothing but regret. Doing this is nothing for me but a change in my morning routine and a credit card bill (so send those clients my way, haha!).

I never thought I'd feel this positive sitting in a vet's waiting room, but I do. And you should check this place out, they are an emergency hospital too, and I have to say, the vibe of the place is terrific!

Oh! Vida's doneÖ we're be off to work at Dexter's.

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posted by Margarat @ 9:15 AM   1 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Night & Day Surgeon Consults


All I can say is get good, honest referrals from people you trust.

The first surgeon I consulted with is the big shot in dental surgery around here. His website has photos of him with anesthetized tigers and such. He works at the fancy specialty vet hospital in Sorrento Valley. It was a total waste of my $100. Within 2 minutes he'd decided what should be done (lower jaw removal including the first molar), and barely entertained my questions. Nothing more rude and condescending than a phrase like "well, that's the owners decision of course" when you ask about other options.

It took me a few days to decide for sure that it wasn't just my general worry that was getting in the way, I really didn't trust him.

Today I had a consult with Dr. Holly Mullen at VCA Emergency in San Diego and she was wonderful! The complete opposite of the previous fellow. She explained everything in detail, answered all my questions with compassion and respect. She called the oncologist she was referring me to and then called me later in the day to tell me what he said.

This is the surgeon that my own vet would use on his dog, and that Vida's chiropractor ("Dr Cheryl, 760.744.1111) highly recommends.

She didn't even try to get my dog in for surgery! Yep, it was more important for her to recommend what she thought was best for the dog!

Surgically Vida's cancer is such that unless we go for a radical surgery it will just come back and look just as it did today. So that would mean removing the lower jaw back to the second molar and putting two pins in to keep the two sides aligned. That would probably work, but she would have to radically adjust how she eats and plays. And sometimes the body rejects the pins and they have to take them out.

Dr. Mullen said if it were her dog she would do radiation instead. This type of cancer is very sensitive to radiation (the oncologist, Proulx, said "exquisitely sensitive"), and might be cured by it (the original biopsy report said that too). At the very least it should shrink it and require less surgery, and it could even get rid of it for a few years, no surgery necessary (mouth intact!).

She felt, and I agree so far, that Vida would have an easier time with radiation treatments than with the surgery.

I never thought I would do radiation on my dog.

I guess my lesson is to experience integrative treatment for my dog. For example, I will use herbs to soothe her mouth after radiation. That is definitely something I can do! And all the supplements she's getting will certainly support her through the radiation treatments so her immune system doesn't get too damaged.

Yesterday Vida got to playing with her dog friend Max and somehow her tumor got slashed. She was bleeding for so long I actually drove to the vet, and of course it finally stopped when I'd gotten there. Cleaning up the blood reminded me of old punk shows where we would be worried about the cops seeing evidence of a fight. That brought some humor to the situation. Luckily my co-worker Heather (Max's owner) is similarly level-headed, and helped so much - she even drove to the market to get some sage to use as a styptic because the store-bought stuff we grabbed off the shelf sure wasn't working. Today it was still not healed well and she bled at the surgeons office, poor thing. Hopefully that settles down until we get started on this new stuff. Fresh chewed up Plantain will be pressed on in a little while (a leaf of plantain and a leaf of sage were in my pocket earlier, ready to be put to use of she started gushing again).


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posted by Margarat @ 2:10 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Other Than Food

Vida is getting a lot of stuff put into her food these days.

The current list:

Homemade Mushroom Tea
Organic Pet Superfood (mushrooms)
Jarrow PetDopholus
InClover OptaGest (enzymes, prebiotics)
InClover Connectin (joints)
USAnimal Cell Discovery (antioxidants by VetriScience)
Quantum Herbal AT/BC (anti-tumor herbs)
PetLife (LifeOne's pet formula)
Sardine/Anchovie Oil
Green Mush

Yep, I think that's it.

Just finished Animals' Apawthecary Dandelion/Milk Thistle tincture. Will do that again when there's another surgery, but in the meantime it's dandelion season so she's eating fresh.

Almost out of probiotics, so considering whether to let those go for awhile (had started those just before surgery).

Waiting for some NK9 supplement to come in - we're tripling up on mushrooms.

[about the NK9 - vet's get info retailers don't - that this supplement is made from a mushroom specially bred to have higher amounts of AHCC, and grown on a substrate to also encourage higher AHCC levels.]

It's been interesting to see how her system has shifted again. No more need for chamomile in her food, and she's back to eating Primal's pheasant blend without a problem - a month ago she was vomiting that food up.

The latest article I read is one that Dr. Weingardt gave me, and we used as a "restart" guide for her care: A Holistic Approach for the Treatment of Cancer by Joe Demers (PDF format)

So yeah, my dog is getting a ton of supplements, but she eats them just fine, she looks great, and is happy.

What supplements should your dog be eating?

Most of us think our dogs are in pretty good shape most of the time, so we don't think that they need supplements. But if you think about preventing illness, you should consider some. Maybe not every day, but plant-based supplements that enhance the immune system should be part of your dog's diet - especially if you live in "civilization" - i.e. suburbs and cities where toxin exposure is an everyday occurrence.

I pretty much consider greens and fish oil to be food, so then my vote goes for medicinal mushrooms.

You can make your own, or get prepared supplements (some are definitely better than others). I've been adding a large spoonful of the tea to my own juice/joint supp. combo morning and evening and I really think it's helped with my own allergies.

It's hard to say what a therapeutic dose is with medicinal mushrooms, and I'm sure it depends on what is being battled. That was one of the discussions we had about what to give Vida. I feel comfortable with what I'm giving her because she's comfortable.

I'm not getting any kickbacks from recommending certain supplements. Heck, I've posted on how to make your own plenty of times, and that's my preference, especially if you're interested in maintainence and prevention. What I'm doing now for Vida is perhaps what I should've done a year or two ago - really go in heavy with larger therapeutic doses. But hey, live and learn.

If you're dogs not sick yet, use nature's preventatives!

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posted by Margarat @ 11:27 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

OK, Iím done freaking outÖ.

Öfor now.

I wanted to write about Vida, but I just couldn't. Not when I was having such a hard time NOT worrying constantly. Writing would've been a reminder, not a catharsis.

She had a "cosmetic debulking" done on the tumor because it was getting in the way of daily fun. Literally. She'd catch a toy and make it bleed. It's called "cosmetic" because we knew it wasn't cutting away enough to be curative (more on that later). I wanted to do enough to make her comfortable again and to let me (us) regroup on treatment.

Imagine my shock when, five days after surgery, I opened her mouth to take a photo of it and it was back! Like a horror movie monster you can't kill. It wasn't nearly as big, but where the cutting had left a concave region at the front, it was convex.

Let me back up a minute.

The vet who did the surgery is the same one who did it a year and a half ago. So at this visit he read aloud from the original biopsy report, which I hadn't revisited since the first time I read it after the original surgery. It's full of doom and gloom, and not a lot of detail (turns out there isn't much info on plasmacytoma). It talks about bone removal, radiation, aggressiveness, etc, etc. He then gave me the name of a surgeon who specializes in orthopedics (read bone cutter). Basically he made me feel like there was no hope but cutting half her lower jaw off (though he consented to do what I'd asked).

So I spent a couple weeks being scared. I woke up most nights worrying about it. I gave the dog and myself lots of flower essences to deal with it. I tried to answer questions from concerned friends and customers as simply as possible, and insisted that they not feel sorry for her (she HATES that). And I felt alone because I was trying so hard not to share it with the dog that is reading my mind all the time.

I used an animal communicator because I wanted to get Vida's perspective, and that really helped clear my mind, mainly because it helped confirm my own instincts on how she was doing. I wanted to be sure she understood what was being considered (she did, and didn't like the idea). I wanted to know whether it was causing her pain now (it's not, and in the scheme of things pain isn't her biggest worry - being deformed is). It reaffirmed my belief that right now she's ok, and if we need to do more radical surgery we will, but it's not something I should rush in to.

My holistic vet wanted me to email him before our post-surgical visit two weeks after with my ideas and questions about what to do next. I wrote most of it immediately after the surgery, and rewrote some just before the appointment. He could tell.

When I walked in the first thing he said was "He scared you, didn't he?" We talked and had a good meeting. We talked supplements (next post) and surgery (going to have a consult with a dental surgeon he recommends so I have that in my pocket when needed). Vida was on the other side of the room glaring when we talked surgery, but friendly and happy when we talked supplements. When I left the last thing he said was "Remember, next time you're freaking out, call me. That's what I'm here for, that's part of the relationship." That's why he's our vet!


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posted by Margarat @ 9:00 PM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pay attention, adjust, subtract ego.

Vida's homeopathic treatment is interesting. I hope it's working. It's certainly doing something.

Observing one's dog during holistic treatments is sooooo important! There are so many clues to help you help them by making adjustments. By observing the animal and taking your ego out of your decisions you will make better decisions for their care.
For example,

I posted last time about the herbal formulas I was going to give Vida to accompany her current homeopathic treatment. I'd spent a few days mulling them over before writing them down, reporting them to her vet, and making up formula #1 and giving it to her.

Then I watched and learned.

First of all, she didn't need that much. I had planned on
one-half a cup twice a day. After all, we were "fighting" cancer, right? We need to get in there and get things done. Her vitality is good, she should do fine with it.

Uhhh, not so fast!

The homeopathics are aggravating her condition (at this point, the beginning of the process is when that's more likely). I can see how most owners wouldn't notice the aggravations as they're a bit subtle. They are also tied to existing symptoms, so they add to the picture.

She threw up twice, two days apart, at the same time of day under the same conditions. 10:00am - which is right in the middle of the time of day that the Spleen meridian is most active. She's need support for Spleen already. She's been more itchy, some reverse sneezing is back. Liver heat, stagnation, weak spleen coming to the fore... Not to mention that changes in her mouth (larger not only in the main growth but nearby spots that had been incipient).

It became clear that her body was having enough work to do processing the homeopathic treatment, and didn't need the added weightlifting of my mondo herb formulas. What her body needed was support. The body needs support to heal. It doesn't need to be run ragged.

to the rescue! Don't make fun of chamomile, it's medicine. I took a look in Cheryl Schwartz's Four Paws Five Directions and found several references that made so much sense (I'm not sure why I didn't use this book as a reference when doing my materia medica, but notes have been added now you can be sure).

We all know chamomile soothes the stomach. It's not discussed much in
TCM-centered references, but Schwartz describes it in a way to rang true for this situation; it "relieves constrained Liver Qi," smooths Qi circulation, helps clear damp heat, reduces inflammation, moistens Yin. There was a discussion of Liver and Spleen fighting each other that I found intriguing.

So she's getting a big spoon of Chamomile tea in her meals. Next batch will have a little dandelion added. Go slow, keep it simple, keep it supportive. Keep the ego out of it!

On a lighter note.... Vida got to go with me on a herb walk here at the Tecolote Canyon Nature Preserve led by John Finch from Self-Heal School of Herbs. She tasted fresh rosehips, toyon berries, and loved the young wild mustard (she kept grazing on it while he talked about the next plant!). She'll try anything - a real herbal dog!

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posted by Margarat @ 7:51 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New Year, New Battle Tactic for Cancer

We started on New Year's Day.

Vida's tumor has returned and grown; now larger than it was the first time around. Dr. Weingardt was not happy about (of course), frustrated by the lack of progress, so we've shifted gears to a homeopathic method developed by a Dr. Ramakrishnan called "plussing." The method uses 200C potencies of alternating remedies, one for the location of the cancer, then Carcinosinum. You start with the organ-specific remedy for a week (we're doing 3 doses 15 min. apart before breakfast), then switch to the other for a week.

There is a terrific veterinary article by Joe Demers that describes it, "A Holistic Approach for the Treatment of Cancer" (super easy to find a PDF online with a topic search like "ramakrishnan homeopathy plussing cancer dogs").

We've only been doing it a few days but there's already been a change. The tumor has gotten more "in the way" - maybe a little bigger, but definitely shifting toward the teeth. The evening before this photo she'd ding'd it on toys so it's a little red, with a blood spot in the center. Nothing like bloody toys to get you to look in your dog's mouth. She didn't seem in pain about it, which is a relief (I did see her in pain once when she did ding the gum edge - the same look a person gets when they bite their cheek).

Some people might be disturbed by this change, but I'm seeing it as a sign of movement because it has happened so quickly. I'm hoping the body is trying to purge it - we'll see. I've emailed Dr. Weingardt for his thoughts.

I also emailed him my "homework" - an accompanying herb formula pairing to alternate:

Astragalus (40%)
Alfalfa (20%)
Marshmallow lf/rt (20%)
Nettle (10%)
Panax (10%)

Dandelion Rt (30%)
Red Clover (30%)
Burdock (20%)
Ginger (10%)
Dill (10%)

#1 one is a building formula, and #2 a cleansing formula. I just happen to be doing a formulating section for my herbal studies, so this will go in for homework for that too, hehe. I think I'm going to alternate these weekly as well, but not switch on the same day as the homeopathics. I'm going to do water extractions, but I may leave some of the plant matter in too.

Other than a little dryness to her coat she's doing great otherwise. She kicked my butt at agility class last night!

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posted by Margarat @ 5:37 PM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter, even in So Cal, so warm & nourish

Yes, hereís Vida sunning herself. I know thereís not snow on the ground here, but I still notice I need to take extra care of myself and Vida in the Winter Season. This means extra support for the Kidney system in particular, as it is related to this season.

For Vida that me
ans, for one thing, getting hot water on her food so that it isnít chilly raw food, and thereís extra moisture right in the meal. I used to worry about making it soupy, but not so much now Ė I donít make anything float, but thereís a layer of water on the bottom of the bowl. In actuality most of that gets taken up by the little bit of dehydrated food, and any powdered herbs I add after (some supplements, like joint ones, need to be protected from high heat). I also donít worry about the water ďcookingĒ the food. If the water is boiling it may show some ďcookedĒ discoloration at the point of impact where itís poured in, but I think any perception of damage you might have about that is overblown. To me, especially at this time of year, itís more important to feed moist food that isnít cold.

Vidaís tumor has grown back, one tooth over from last year. Up until a week or two ago it looked like that last one, but now it has come all the way through the skin. I know the picture is gross, but I think itís important for people to see what a plasmacytoma might look like. It doesnít seem to cause any pain; she grooms herself, chews, plays, just as always. She dinged it once playing, it was as if youíd bitten your cheek or something the way she stopped and held herself tight for a several seconds, but when I looked it was clear from where the blood line was that it wasnít the tumor itself, but the gum at the edge of it that got dinged (cause it sticks out so inconveniently!). Weíre going to see her holistic vet in a few days, and right now sheís back on the Quantum Herbal AT/BC blend, which Iím doing at 12 drops twice a day (she weighs about 40 lbs), plus Green Mush, Connectin, Fish Oil, and mushroom tea (reishi, maitaki, shitaki, chaga).

Plants are where you can find the most variety to put in the diet.

Since I have so many dried herbs I decided to try a new tactic to ensure some nutritional variety (after all, the meat doesnít vary so much). Iíve decided to pick one herb to add for a week. I just keep a spoonful in a small dish next to the other feeding items, and add a pinch to her meal. Then Iíll change it every week.

So for instance, the first week I chose Rosehips. They are very high in vitamin C and bioflavanoids, and are generally very nutritious, especially for wintertime. I think Iím going to try leaves first, since I can just add them to the bowl before I do the hot water and that will infuse them nicely. Roots generally require a bit more cooking, but I wonder if you infuse them if the digestive system can extract a little
more out of them. After all, Iím trying to make it a convenient habit.

Some of the other dried herbs I plan to use are Nettle, Marshmallow, & Red Clover. There are even the standby's of alfalfa and kelp. Then I can start over!

I also have some fresh plants to take advantage of, even this time of year. If she starts to eat grass while weíre out in the yard Iíll encourage her to eat a little Comfrey, Plantain, or Dandelion (she love dandy flowers, but will often spit out the leaves when fed alone). So yes, I bend down and pick small tasty leaves and offer them with interest (ooh, try this, yes, this is good). Juliette de Bairacli Levy often described her hounds as great herbalist, but Iím sure she had something to do with educating generations of dogs on this.

Comfrey isnít something one will find just growing here in Southern California, but itís pretty easy to have in the garden. This photo shows what mine looks like in Winter Ė not a good time to harvest leaves for a batch of medicine, but fine for a little personal use (and obviously some critters are enjoying it). The roots are really what should be dug up and used right now, but Iím lazy (cause I know Iíd need to dry it). Iíve heard that back east Comfrey will get to be six feet tall, but around here we donít (or shouldnít) have the water for that, so itís a manageable garden plant.

Plantain is something that most people donít want to see in their lawns, but itís such a terrific food addition that Iím happy to see it. This is the lance-leaved variety. In New Hampshire we have the round-leaved variety. If you decided to put larger plantain leaves in your blender, chop them first so that the durable veins donít tangle together and bog it down.

If you only have mowed areas you can find it low down to the ground if you look carefully.

Same with Dandelion.

There are some plants that look similar to both these, so itís worth getting some of the details from a plant ID website if you've never picked them.

I hope that this post gives you some ideas on how you can easily add incredibly nutritious plants to your dog's diet - and your own. They work best to prevent serious illness, so never think that your dog is too healthy for them!

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posted by Margarat @ 7:40 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My dog the herbalist

Vida's been grazing the fruit of this tree for years as a digestive.

It's a ficus, though I don't know what variety.

I'm in the habit of calling the fruit "ficus berries" simply because "fig" to most people means the big juicy fruits we eat.

These small fruit have the same basic form as a large fig. A smooth skin with lots of tiny seeds. They aren't what I'd call juicy, but if you don't rake them they'll make a thick layer on the ground that will have a distinct fermented smell at some point as they decay.

They are a terrific source of fiber. In fact, I used to complain about Vida and a previous dog eating too many when together because of how much more poop I had to clean up. Vida eats them "as needed" when she's an only dog (not that they're available all year 'round).

I don't know how she chooses which ones to eat.

Years ago, when an animal communicator, Paula Brown, first communicated with Vida, this habit came up. I didn't figure it out at first because Vida described them as "little rocks" but even then she used them for her digestion.

She's eating them now because she's on a new Chinese herbal formula from her holistic vet, Dr. Weingardt. It's called "Stasis Breaker". She's on it because some growth has restarted in her mouth. She's been on it two weeks, and things are stable. I was warned about diarrhea from this formula, but she's had none. I'll take some credit because I've been giving her some tea for her stomach (chamomile, fennel, plantain, slippery elm), but I'm sure her grazing has helped too.

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posted by Margarat @ 9:15 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Making Mushroom Tea

Soooo easy!

If you want to make amazing immune system medicine for yourself and your dog, you can do this. The traditional method of making medicine from mushrooms is to cook them. Yep, that simple. Simmersimmersimmer for the day, strain and oila!

I got my giant bags of mushrooms from
Mountain Rose Herbs.
Each of these is
one pound of mushrooms.

I got (sliced, & of course organic) Reishi

and (organic) Maitaki (also called Hen of the Woods).

I just put a handful of each in an enamel pot....

Added two quarts of water, put the cover on and put it on the back burner (literally) for the day (started at about 8am 'til about 5pm) to cook. It smells pretty good actually - much better than it tastes.

I strained it with a colander & ladled it into ice cube trays (5!).

Between the two of us it's an ice cube a day. Just a tonic, right, not trying to megadose, no no no. Be sensible and you can use this longterm. Luckily my dog doesn't mind the "earthy" taste. I just add it to my orange juice. Go ahead, try it!

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posted by Margarat @ 7:56 PM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Herb Fest = Brain Full

Well we're back in California. We left New Hampshire the day after the New England Women's Herbal Conference, so I had no time to digest all the information that I stuffed in to my brain that weekend. Here are a few of the tidbits:

Medicinal Mushrooms: if you want cancer fighting properties you have to do a water extraction. Eating dry powder will not suffice (stay tuned to the next blog post). Heck, you want to do a water extraction, period. They are wonderful for healing auto-immune problems (which really are inflammation).

Stress: You need to start with nervines (herbs that relax the nervous system), before you apply adaptogens (herbs that help rebuild a depleted adrenal system and help the body respond to stress). Because dogs can't control their life (and thus can't be asked to change their lifestyle) they should continue with nervines when you start with adaptogens. A relaxed nervous system will allow the adaptogens to work.

The liver: amazing organ! working cells regenerate every five months (in humans), milk thistle can increase that regeneration 5x. Everything that comes in to your body gets dealt with by the liver, so take care of it! Parasite, like fleas, love "dirty blood" (and make more dirty blood when they feed) - you want less fleas on your dog, get their liver working better so the blood is clean.

Think about this... simple reasoning, I love it: Plants evolved soooo long ago, back when there was more oxygen in the atmosphere, enough to be damaging, so they developed antioxidents to deal with it. That's why plants are a great source of antioxidents for us and our pets.

When do "invasive" plants become "native"? Examine how many bugs live off the plant. An invasive from England may have 4 bugs living off of it here, and 200 living off of it in England - after 400 years!

Unless you pollute your backyard with poisons there is probably some great medicine out there. Weeds are your friends.

If your dog has trouble changing foods (gets diarrhea), just give some chamomile tea (with or without fennel) to calm the digestion.

If there is a problem with chronic inflammation, treat the nervous system first.

I found a real disconnect among the attendees I spoke to when it came to feeding their pets. Most of the people I spoke to fed dry food. A few fed raw, but in an unbalanced way. Some said they used to feed raw (but now fed dry). Most did not use herbs as part of their pet's diet. There was one session on pets, packed with people, that got bogged down by all the questions - people are very eager to learn, and don't realize how close they are to getting it. They're hungry for knowledge and context. I know I could do a good job teaching there, so I've asked for a chance (waiting to hear back).


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posted by Margarat @ 3:13 PM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, July 17, 2009


Now that weíve arrived in New Hampshire, Iím finding out that between my improved education in herbs and the increased availability of ready-made raw diets for dogs that I have it waaayyy easier than I used to feeding my dog ďin the manner to which sheís accustomedĒ while Iím here. My local (as in the next town) pet store now carries Stella & Chewyís and Bravo! The single freezer is stocked up, and at the front of the store. I was so excited to go in on my way to the cabin and get a bag of raw food (though itís a bit of a schema problem when I also see Science Diet). In the past I had to make everything from scratch using plain grocery meat and supplement s (calcium, the works). And really, Iím on vacation, right? (sorta). I should be able to feed the dog with some ease. Hurrah!

Vidaís having a little bit of diarrhea, probably just from the four-and-a-half days in the car. When we went for a walk this morning at the town fairgrounds I spied some wonderful looking plantain. I took two leaves to chop in to her food (I think Iíll do one leaf per meal) to help soothe her gut and add some fiber. Plantain grows everywhere, in two varieties. The leaves pictured here are the most common variety in the East. Out in California, at least on the coast, I tend to see the lance-shaped leaf variety more (though this is changing).

Besides the Plantain I also saw Yarrow, Mullein, and Red Clover in bloom (plus some others I didnít know). Itís so different than the native habitat of California that is on a much slower schedule than here in New Hampshire where there is much more rain to encourage the growth and spread of plants. Here there is natural habitat within the town habitat. You park on Plantain to go to the library!

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posted by Margarat @ 1:08 PM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, July 10, 2009

Packing for the road trip

I've been astounded at the number of items I'm needing to bring for Vida on the trip. I'm packing almost as much for her as for myself! But as I look over the pile of stuff (that I won't picture here, hehe), I realize that very little of it has to do with fact that she eats raw food.

We've got leashes, harnesses, poop bags, bowls, bedding, pest control, grooming - all the usual stuff for any well cared for dog. The float coat and water toy take some room, but if she goes on a boat trip she's got to wear a vest (just like a kid, right).

I've got some food and treats for the trip, but doesn't everyone? Freeze-dried Stella and Chewy's doesn't take up more room than dry food.

What does take up some extra room are her supplements. I can't forgo those for six weeks, so I'm doing my best to bring enough of each one.

There is an impulse to leave things home when traveling, but that needs to be weighed against the fact that travel is stressful, and stress effects the immune system, so if anything supplements and appropriate food are even more important.

Luckily the car trunk is roomy!

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posted by Margarat @ 1:55 PM   0 comments links to this post