kitchen table math, the sequel: help desk - Surfer

Saturday, February 9, 2013

help desk - Surfer

One of our dogs, Surfer, has cancer. We heard yesterday, then today we found out how bad it is.

It's bad. Mast cell cancer, Stage 3. Eighty percent of dogs with this diagnosis die within 8 months.

(Just one thing after another around here, it seems.)

Anyway, I'm posting to ask for whatever knowledge or experience anyone has in this realm. Apparently there is a brand-new chemo drug that targets a receptor on the surface of the mast cell, so Surfer will begin taking that shortly. The vet said they started another dog on the drug 4 weeks ago, and when they saw the dog again the bloody tumor on his face was gone and he looked "5 years younger."

(I'll take it!)

I'm also going to figure out whatever anti-cancer diet exists for dogs. I know quite a bit about anti-cancer diets for people because I went on a health-book reading binge when my mother fell ill. (Best books I read: Anti-Cancer by Daniel Servan-Schreiber and The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.)

However, reading anti-cancer books for people doesn't instantly tell me what an anti-cancer diet for a dog might be, since dogs are carnivores. (People are omnivores, right?)

I'm a believer in diet as a treatment for cancer because of my father's experience. He was diagnosed with three different kinds of cancer in the last 20 or 25 years of his life (squamous cell, bladder, and prostate) and he didn't die from cancer, or even come close. He tracked down all the information he could on cancer and diet, and followed the dietary recommendations to the letter. All three cancers eventually disappeared.

Of course, I think my father had interesting genetics ... which I suspect may have made him more able to deter cancerous cells. On the other hand, he did have cancer - 3 kinds of cancer, no less - so he obviously wasn't cancer-proof, interesting genetics or no.

My dad used all available conventional treatments as well, so it's impossible to say what role diet played in his survival, if any. However, no doctor expected to see his bladder cancer disappear in the way that it did. It recurred for years and then .... it was gone.

I remember my mom's report after what I think must have been my dad's last trek to Mayo Clinic for follow-up.

The doctor said: "You have cancer, and you're going to continue to have cancer, but you're not going to die of cancer."

My father died many years later, in his Springfield townhouse, where he lived on his own, unassisted.

Probably a heart attack.

Definitely not cancer.


palisadesk said...

I don't know how applicable my experiences are to Surfer's situation, but I'll share them anyway.

Case#1 was a 4-year-old dog that conventional veterinary specialists and oncologists had given up on; they had palliative treatments only. On a tip from a relative, I checked out Dr. Marty Goldstein, DVM at Smith Ridge Vet Center (in your backyard, Catherine) and put the dog on immune-augmentative therapy (IAT) with the full support of my regular veterinarian, who read through all the scientific stuff he sent her about the treatment and concluded, "Well, it isn't proven, but it can't do any harm at this point, so if you want to do it I'll support you."

It was not cheap, but it worked -- the dog was in full remission for the next 10 years and needed no further treatment of any kind once the IAT was finished (took about 8 months IIRC).

Here's the link to Smith Ridge:

A friend also had a cat with an untreatable cancer -- tumors in the mouth; I forget the name but would recognize it -- and based on my experience she took the cat to Smith Ridge and cryotherapy cured that cat, who (like my dog) lived another decade or more.

Case#2: I had a dog who was also diagnosed with mast cell cancer but I don't remember what stage. He had huge lumps all over his body -- more than 20 of them. However, he appeared well otherwise -- good weight, glossy coat, normal activity level, etc. He was also 4 years old at the time. I elected to have the lumps surgically removed. which necessitated shaving him all over and stapling the incisions (poor guy looked like Frankenstein for awhile), but the sutures healed, the hair grew back, and 8 years on he has mild arthritis, and a couple of small lumps grew back, but he is doing well for his age.

I have however always fed a natural diet, that is, mostly "BARF" (bones and raw food) but some cooked food as well, with no grains other than rice and flax meal in small amounts. That probably has some effect -- my oldies (I have two right now that are 15) have few health issues, rarely need treatment for arthritis -- my guy mentioned above is doing well on a non-drug supplement called "Fresh Factors" -- and the raw foods are much cheaper than conventional kibble or canned. It just makes sense that less processed food is better for dogs, as it also is for us.

palisadesk said...

More on the diet connection -- I had my dogs with cancer on a ketogenic diet after their diagnosis (they already were on one with limited carbohydrates), and this has some research support for both humans and animals. It doesn't "cure" cancer but may inhibit it to a degree because cancer cells thrive on sugar. I also used some other supplements, such as evening primrose oil. I'm sure you can find out more online that is up-to-date.

Ketogenic diets also work well for dogs with seizure disorders. You may be able to get the dog off all medication.

Hainish said...

"when they saw the dog again the bloody tumor on his face was gone and he looked '5 years younger.'"

Okay, but what is that in dog years?

Catherine Johnson said...

palisadesk - wowwww! THANK YOU!

If you're around, tell me more about your "BARF" diet ---- what kind of meat & what kind of bones?

And why raw?

I'll look up the doc you linked to!

Catherine Johnson said...

And how do you do a ketogenic diet in dogs? (I realize this may take up too much of your time---)

Catherine Johnson said...

It just makes sense that less processed food is better for dogs, as it also is for us.

I know, and I am KICKING myself for having fed the dogs whatever I've been feeding them all these years.

They're off all the processed stuff as of today.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to process the zillions websites I came I just gave them both half a can of Amy's Lentil Soup along with a fistful of fish oil supplements and some diced canned tomatoes.

My dad's diet was heavy on tomatoes (which is what you eat for prostate cancer...)

Catherine Johnson said...

Bad news... IAT is gone for now.

K9Sasha said...

Here's a website that rates dog food. Although many people swear by it, personally I won't feed my dogs raw because when I tried I had a dog come down almost immediately with pancreatitis.

Allan Folz said...

I would be careful with Campbell. His motivations were greater than The Science. China Study in particular aside, what he discovered was that by starving a rodent of vital amino acids (ie. a diet of incomplete protein), the animals would not die of cancer. Usually because an infection or some other mortality event would get to them first.

So stunting an organism generally impacts cancer specifically, good to know, but not altogether useful.

As for the China Study in particular, you might want to look up Denise Minger. There's a tremendous amount of controversy between her and Campbell, and her "story" does seem a little too quaint (cute chick, hard math, a pole-axe into the status quo), but I've never seen the math of her criticism discredited. And I don't think anyone around here would think girls can't do math. Maybe it is all legit and she's not just fronting for her Dad or some other male friend.

As for ketogenic diets in dogs, easy: same as humans. Our species have cohabitated for thousands of years, dogs are well adapted to eating our dinner. :-) So, butter, saturated fats, reasonable amounts of meat. Just be sure to cook it all first, aerobic pathogens aren't too picky on their host species.

The Hyperlipid blogger is a vet something or other with a well, whatever the opposite of lucid is, writing style. He's written at length, though not lately, about his experiences getting cats & dogs off chow diets to save them from cancer. The long and short is refined carbs and O-6 seed oils (soy, corn, canola, etc.) are killing us all, of which our pets are the canaries in the coal mine.

Good luck, I wish you the best.

PS. Have you seen the MS self-cure TED talk? Pretty impressive. Again, best wishes.

Catherine Johnson said...

I would be careful with Campbell. His motivations were greater than The Science.

Hey Allan!

Campbell may be wrong, but I don't see any evidence at all that his motivations were greater than the science. Precisely the opposite. He began life as a believer in protein who was working in the Philippines to close the "protein gap" between poor children and affluent children. He didn't expect to find a link between protein consumption and cancer, and the fact that he did find a link posed a major challenge to his early career.

That is his story, at any rate, and I see no reason not to believe him.

He grew up on a farm; he has a similar background to mine. I know of no one raised on a Midwest farm who had a natural inclination to be suspicious of meat and dairy (and grain)!

Catherine Johnson said...

The long and short is refined carbs and O-6 seed oils (soy, corn, canola, etc.) are killing us all, of which our pets are the canaries in the coal mine.

Yes, I think that's a big, big problem .... which reminds me, I have to find that article on Greece & nutrition that appeared in the Times a little while back.

I read The Omega Diet years ago & became convinced that we have a massive imbalance between 3s and 6s. And I do think -- for what it's worth -- that our pets are the canaries in the coal mine.

Catherine Johnson said...

Funny situation with Surfer....

On Sunday Ed and I were roaming the aisles of Costco, me glued to my iPad trying to re-skim The China Study and Anti-Cancer.

All I could come up with was: buy lentil soup and diced tomatoes. (Today I realize the diced tomatoes are wrong; you need diced COOKED tomatoes, so now I'm buying stewed tomatoes.)

Anyway, I bought the lentil soup, then doctored it up with diced tomatoes, olive oil (for calories, mostly), fish oil capsules & Vitamin E & presented the bowl to Surfer for breakfast.

He was skeptical, but he ate.

Then last night, again with the doctored lentil soup. He was skeptical, and he was wearing his new humongous cone, so we had to sit down on the floor with him and help him eat.

Now Surfer is a dog who has gained a tremendous amount of weight in just the past 2 years. Abby gained a tremendous amount of weight, too, but when I reduced their kibble & canned meat, Abby lost 10 pounds, while Surfer lost only 1. He is WAY overweight ---- and he is constantly starving.

One of the arguments made by ... I'm forgetting the researcher's name now .... is that vegan diets reduce appetite, which is certainly what I find (and what we see in Andrew when we take him off processed cheese, which he craves).

Surfer yesterday had his first vegan day, and this morning he didn't even come down for breakfast. He wasn't hungry!

When he finally did come down he ate just half of his doctored bowl of soup.

Abby, on the other hand, being a Lab (there's some funky genetic issue with Labs & appetite) gobbled hers up along with two bananas & is now lobbying to be given the rest of Surfer's food.

You can't satisfy a Labrador, it seems.

Catherine Johnson said...

There seems to be a school of thought 'on the internet' that grains are bad for dogs.....I haven't spent the time I would need to spend to figure out what the reasoning is, but I've decided to take Surfer off grains, too.

His kibble is made of grains, he's gained a vast amount of weight eating tiny bits of it, and now he's got cancer.

I figure at a minimum a dog doesn't NEED to eat grains, so I'm going with legumes and vegetables.

palisadesk said...

Dogs absolutely don't need grains (I love that line, When did you see wolves attack a corn field?) and at one time I investigated a lot of the scientific and veterinary literature on this topic. When I took all my dogs -- and CATS, who definitely should not eat grains-- off grains and processed food, I eliminated almost all health problems. No arthritis (my case #2 above was one who had been fed kibble his first 2 years before I got him), almost no dental issues, no skin problems, no autoimmune issues, which my breed is prone to, no thyroid problems -- no cancer, either. The 2 who had cancer were both raised by others and came to me later on.

My breed is prone to pancreatitis,too, but the only case I've had was in one who was on a veterinary canned food following surgery. Not to dismiss K9Sasha's concern -- excess fat is generally what causes pancreatitis -- but one must beware of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. I don't recommend raw for everyone, because one must be careful of the sources, and I am fortunate in mine -- I buy directly from a local farming outfit where they raise natural beef (which is low in fat), and from a chicken processor where I get fresh chicken backs packed in ice. (I also use a lot of cooked food), but it is heavy on meat, low in animal fat -- I use grass fed beef and defatted chicken) and the veggies are ground in a food processor to make them more digestible. Tomatoes, spinach and members of the nightshade family, as well as onions, are not recommended.

I have not had an overweight dog in decades, although I feed them a lot and most of my breed (the pets I see) look like watermelons with toothpicks sticking out. Mine are hearty eaters but do not gain weight. The old ones are still hale and hearty. My oldest, now 16 going on 17, is frequently mistaken for a puppy.

So the natural food diet works for me (I got onto it about 30 years ago, but agree that there's a lot of misleading rubbish on the internet about this topic, as about many others).

A large slow cooker is a good investment -- you can prepare large quantities of dog stew and freeze portions for daily use.

A very moderate, popular introductory book is Dr. Pitcairn's Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. He's not a grain-free person but it's a good starter book for many.

Anonymous said...

When I switched my golden to a higher level of kibble (where the carbs are vegetables, but the overall is higher protein), he lost around 10 lbs. in 2 years with the same amount of food. His energy went up, too.

Be careful dramatically changing any diet. It should be somewhat gradual.

I also agree with palisadesk on a number of points. The problem may not be the protein, but the crappy corn by products they use as filler. The higher level (and priced) foods usually use better carbs or just straight vegetables.


Allan Folz said...

RE: Campbell's motivation

I believe he started out honestly motivated by science, but along the way it clearly became about his ego. I think the vegetarianism he pushes follows from his ego and the investment he's made in his advocacy. No one wants to go back and tell millions of people you got it wrong.

I'll have to hunt it the link, but his casein study that started it all off we now know to be flawed. Casein needs a buffer that is found in whole milk to prevent it from being carcinogenic. When he refined the casein out of milk for his study, he left behind the buffer and misconstrued his results. I think Chris Masterjohn has written on it, but I can't recall exactly.

Regards, and again I hope Surfer pulls out of this OK.

Allan Folz said...

OK, that was easy. Here's Dr. Masterjohn's critique.

Allan Folz said...

BTW, olive oil is still relatively high in O6. Beyond that, I suspect Surfer is going to appreciate lard, tallow, and butter a whole lot more. Of course, if you really need to inspire his will to live a little bacon grease goes a long way.

Have you heard of the movie "Fat Head?" Funny, not too preachy, great intro to the idea animal fat isn't what's killing us. It isn't associated with John Stossel in any way, but it's in that vein. Pretty sure it's on Netflix. Regards.

Allan Folz said...

OK, wow, so I swung over to the "Fat Head" blog for the first time in many weeks and what are the two most recent posts:

Surprise, Surprise! Animal Fat Beats Vegetable Oil in 'Rediscovered' Study

Why The American Heart Association Can't Admit They're Wrong Feel free to substitute T. Colin Campbell for American Heart Association.

With that I don't want to beleaguer my point. There's plenty here for anyone so inclined to follow-up on their own. This shall be the last I post on it unless someone inquires further.

BTW, I misspoke lumping in canola with corn and soy. It's the S's: Safflower and Sunflower that are scary-high in O6. Canola/rapeseed is no great thing, but probably the best house in a bad neighborhood. Cheers.

Catherine Johnson said...

Interesting re: Campbell - will check it out.



I dug into all this years ago, and now I've forgotten....

So you're saying canola is best (in terms of Omega 3/6? I remember once thinking canola was a good thing & then somehow I got off it ------ arrgghhh.

Very interesting re: grains. I absolutely believe it. Surfer has been fat and STARVING, and I'm sure his food is stuffed full of .... god only knows what it's stuffed full of. All kinds of grains, no doubt. He's very heavy, he's eating next to nothing, he's hungry all the time, and he lost one pound in a year (with cancer, no less).

Meanwhile Abby has lost 10 pounds. Abby lost so much weight the vet thought she was the one who was sick.

Surfer is now eating Amy's lentil soups, and his appetite is dramatically lower. (He's not 'sick' yet, so it's not that: he's far less hungry.)

He's also in extremely good spirits. Very cheerful and friendly -- much more so than normal, I think.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'd love to see Abby be less starving. As far as I can tell, Labs have some genetic problem that makes them chronically hungry....but maybe a change in diet could help.

Abby WOULD attack a corn field.

I kid you not.

Catherine Johnson said...

Why are tomatoes bad?

They're so good for cancer in humans.... (I realize dogs are different).

I buy directly from a local farming outfit where they raise natural beef (which is low in fat), and from a chicken processor where I get fresh chicken backs packed in ice. (I also use a lot of cooked food), but it is heavy on meat, low in animal fat -- I use grass fed beef and defatted chicken) and the veggies are ground in a food processor to make them more digestible.

That's the thing .... I looked for grass-fed beef at Costco, but of course they didn't have any .... I'll have to see if there's a source around here that I can get to and not spend every dime I have on.

I'm not necessarily averse to feeding Surfer meat, but I don't want to feed him any more dog-food meat, and I don't want to feed him grocery-store meat, either.

For the time being, I'm feeding him lentils, vegetables, and some olive oil, but I'll swap out the olive for canola.

Allan Folz said...

RE: which oil is best?

None of the above. Seriously. I only mentioned canola as the least worst, thinking you were decided on oils. I also suspect he doesn't like the taste of olive oil. It can be strong and not in what I'd call a dog-friendly direction. It's also relatively expensive, though I reckon that's not your first consideration, but still.

If it's calorie replacement the dog needs, which it seems he does, go with saturated fats: lard, tallow, butter. Also, organ meats are relatively cheap and while people aren't so into them, I suspect a dog would be in love with a little kidney or liver. You should also be able to get left-over trim for free or really cheap from a real butcher.

As for pastured beef, from purely a nutrient stand-point I don't think it is cost-effective. Eat regular beef, ground if the store does it themselves, stew cuts or whatever is cheapest/on-sale if otherwise. For the O3, supplement with fish oil instead. Bonus: again, dogs will very likely prefer an unflavored fish oil.

All this said, go easy on switching to a high fat diet. His system may not be ready to metabolize too much all at once. It may <ahem> go straight through him if you give too much at once. Good luck. Gotta run.

ChemProf said...

A lot of paleo people dislike canola because it is a heat extracted oil, as opposed to olive oil or nut oils.

And our Costco has bison meat, so you might look for that as an alternative. It has a lot of the same advantages as grass-fed beef.