Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Beagle's Battles: Update on Darwin

Sometimes it's easy to feel overwhelmed but all of the bad news there is about animals, especially in relation to the way we treat them. Whether it's through other blogs, my Facebook community, the forums I subscribe to, Twitter or any of the other myriad ways in which I get to hear vegan and animal-rights/abolitionist news it's usually linked to the dark side of the human spirit. So today I realised it was time to redress the balance a little and, albeit indulgent, I'm posting an update about Darwin, my beagle.

As you may know, Darwin is the first animal companion to come to live with My Beloved and I. He was rescued almost 10 years ago from a municipal 'shelter' and has been our constant and faithful companion ever since. Don't misunderstand - he is not loyal because he owes us a debt of gratitude. No, it's more that he knows which house has the biggest cookie jar. Equally, he's not faithful because he adores us...he just hasn't figured out how to unlock the front door and escape.

Be that as it may, loyal and faithful he is - despite his motivations and physical limitations (front door locks tend to require a degree of dexterity afforded only by the use of thumbs). And, from our side, we totally adore him. So it was quite a shock when we took him for a routine teeth cleaning several months ago and learned he had cancer.

They didn't immediately use the 'C-word'; they said 'lymphoma', which I misheard as 'lipoma'. Well, he's had several of those, I replied confidently, and they're always benign....When the full reality sank in and I came to understand the situation, My Beloved and I reviewed our options. Although we live in a somewhat progressive and 'alternate' area, we did not feel sufficiently confident to eshew conventional therapies altogether, so opted for a middle path of chemo combined with a program of acupuncture, nutritional therapy and chinese herbals. And it does seem to be working well: he's following a 25 week chemo protocol and has been officially 'in remission' since week #6. What's more, his quality of life is almost completely uncompromised. He does not suffer nausea or vomiting and retains full control of his 'bodily functions', he has boundless energy and a wolf-like appetite and generally does not show any outward signs of illness. OK, the food regime requires a little care, but it's a tiny price to pay for terrific benefits..

Now let me say up front that I am not a medical doctor, I do not have veterinary skills, and I am not an expert in nutrition: I am just someone who's experimented and observed what works with my particular dog. And I'm also someone who refuses to accept a paltry 6-month prolongation of life expectancy or the idea that we are helpless in the face of illness. So with that caveat out of the way, here's what we've been doing with Darwin to achieve the results so far....

As said, the whole treatment regime includes conventional chemotherapy, twice monthly acupuncture, chinese herbal treatments, nutritional therapy, a multi-vitamin and mushroom extract. Although that sounds like a lot, it's actually really easy. We changed his one-meal-per-day routine to two smaller meals per day to help him have sustained energy and minimize the blood sugar lows. Every morning he has a half portion of his dry kibble - Natural Balance, vegetarian formula (which actually is vegan) - plus about 3/4 cup of cooked red lentils. The idea with these lentils is to boost his easily digestible proteins and skew the balance of his food towards the protein and fat and away from the carbs. He also has his first dose of the chinese herbals  - one capsule hidden in a ball of peanut butter.

In the evening, he has the second half of his dry kibble, again with the lentils, but we also add in a good tablespoon of organic flaxseed oil (for Omegas), a teaspoon of liquid multi-vitamins and the powdered contents of a maitake mushroom supplement capsule. We had experimented with mashed beans instead of the lentils but he doesn't seem to appreciate the texture as much. The cannellini beans were deemed acceptable, but the red kidney beans were apparently something of an affront to his delicate palate. Perhaps had we blitzed them in the food processor that would have been ok, but as it was hand mashing them clearly didn't cut it. The bean skins were carefully isolated and spat out disdainfully onto the floor around his bowl and we were rewarded only by the most half-hearted tail thump you've ever seen. With the lentils, however, the bowl of food is inhaled more than eaten and he always graces us with a big beagle-y smile.

Last thing at night, as a little treat, he gets his second dose of the Wei Qi booster, wrapped either in a peanut butter ball or stuffed into a strawberry. Yeah, taking pills has never been so easy!

A couple of folks have asked me how the treatment is going so I guess this post is an answer to that question. So far, the combination of allopathic and complementary medicines, excellent nutrition, lots of TLC and Darwin's own indomitable spirit seem to be just what the doctor ordered. He's doing great...if you'd like to see what he's up to click here!

Enjoy and stay vegan, friends!