My intent is not to frighten people, but to empower those who find themselves in need of assistance. If your pet does not have chronic illness, reading further about this, will only serve to create negativity and fear and is not recommended.
As a person who’s seen dozens of animals obtain wellness on a raw diet, I have to sing the praises of natural nutrition. By “natural” I do not simply mean unprocessed, I mean what nature intended. I’ve seen animals go from a pathetic state where they needed steroids to survive a flea bite, to not needing any flea preventive or medication of any type. I’ve read about heartworm cases that clear up on their own (without the animal becoming very ill), when the only support was nutritional.
Oftentimes, when we take away natural, we leave gaps in nutrition which results in “holes” in the animal’s health. Some holes are seemingly “filled” with medication and other vet care, but this solution is often an illusion. No pet should need steroids, antibiotics, medicated shampoos, or pesticides, if it is healthy. Even torn ligaments, and hip dysplasia can be preventable with nutrition and holistic management (1). While we pretend to fill holes with medications and expensive prescription diets, they may just get deeper.
In modern America, it seems uncommon to know a dog or cat over the age of 10 years who doesn’t need regular veterinary care… that’s if they make it to 10. As a child and teenager, I remember having outdoor (hunting) cats who lived into their 20’s. They never saw a vet except in their first year of life when they were spayed or neutered. These cats were typically vaccinated once or twice as kittens and that was it. And that leads me to my next biggest pet peeve after inferior nutrition- the carelesss use of vaccines.
Vaccinosis is a term used to describe a broad range of side effects caused by vaccines which we are told are “safe”. Vaccinosis may include diseases such as allergies, renal failure, epilepsy, diabetes, and cancer. The uncommon, severe, immediate and sometimes deadly vaccine reactions are nothing compared to the cummulative suffering of pets who develop chronic illness from vaccines. Don’t expect your regular vet to be aware of these as it isn’t typivally discussed in veterinary school.
If you are dealing with one or more of these symptoms please research vaccinosis and holistic treatments. If you need help choosing a treatment, we would be happy to answer a couple questions at no charge. If you need further assistance, we can offer a wellness consultation. Just remember that autoimmune diseases almost always (what I have found, not a medical fact) involve inflammatory processes and certain diets can reduce inflammation (this is a medical fact).
The pet who opened my eyes to chronic vaccinosis and the results of inadequate nutrition was Sage, a foster puppy from Mexico. Aside from being a little skinny, Sage seemed healthy while living on the streets for her first 4 1/2 months of life (photo above). When she was rescued and vaccinated, her health declined to a pathetic state. My vet blamed vaccines. It was the first time I’d heard of a delayed or chronic vaccine reaction even though I had graduated from a two year veterinary technology program. I was “educated” on vaccines in much the same way most vets are, so I understand why they don’t get it.
Sage’s struggle opened my eyes to the immunosuppression and autoimmune disorders, linked to vaccination. Not surprisingly, these are the leading causes of illness in pets today. Combined with nutritional inadequacy, these often make for a disaster. Before you get on me for being negative and fear mongering, know that I have spent 15 years researching this subject extensively. There is a huge amount of evidence linking vaccines to cancers and autoimmune conditions. And lest you say this is “negative”, let me say that I think this is good news. After all, it’s easy to avoid over-vaccinating and it’s often easy to manage vaccinosis with nutrition.
A few weeks after vaccination, Sage displayed many symptoms of a weakened immune system. She had been adopted out but was returned three weeks later with a terrible case of sarcoptic mange. It’s likely the mange mites were lving in non-harmful numbers on her while she lived on the streets. Her immune system was likely strong enough to keep the infection under control despite her diet of trash, and scraps. Once she was vaccinated, that changed. Sage not only developed a mite infestation but she also developed hundreds of warts around and in her mouth. Another dog, Juniper, used to lick the inside of Sage’s mouth to try to sooth the infection and perhaps to try to share some of her immunity. Neither Juniper, nor the other dogs in my care, ever caught the communicable mites or warts indicating further that Sage had an extremely compromised inmmunse system. The other dogs, weren’t on any special diets or particularly healthy, but they were far healthier than the youngster. The sarcoptic mange was treated aggressively with toxic medications and eventually “cured”. The relief of that news lasted less than 5 minutes.
The day she received her first negative skin scraping for sarcoptic mange, Sage received a new diagnosis- Demodectic mange. It was showing as a small spot on her front leg, so we were hopeful we could cure it with medication. Despite aggressive treatment, Sage developed generalized (covered most of her body), demodectic mange with secondary bacterial infections that antibiotics could not control. Sage lived the majority of her puppyhood (age 6 months to 14 months) with fever, swollen glands, and oozing sores on half of her body.
The good news was that this mange wasn’t contagious and her warts had proven to not be contagious to the many dogs I had fostered, so I was able to take her to the dog park. Sadly, most people wouldn’t let their dogs near the half-bald puppy and I didn’t blame them. I kept her on leash with me away from other dogs until we saw a familiar friend who was allowed to play with her. When she did have a playmate, her delicate skin bled from the dog mouthing or pouncing on her. She didn’t mind, she just wanted to play.
I struggled with the idea of making her live like that but didn’t have the hear to put her to sleep. She was the smartest dog I had ever known. She was freakishly intuitive and would stare in your eyes like she was reading your every thought. When I thought about putting her down, she would bring me a ball and bark at me to play fetch with her, or do something equally demonstrative of her enjoyment of life and seeming will to live. Still, after several months of this, I thought the only fair thing would be to put her down.
With a heavy heart, I gave Sage to another rescue that dealt with dogs from Baja Mexico. I asked the kind foster mom, Katie, to keep Sage for one month with the agreement that if Sage improved, Katie would rehome her. If Sage didn’t improve, Katie agreed to have a vet end the suffering. I was so sad leaving Sage in this situation, but I needed that month to clear my head and get another person’s perspective on Sage’s quality of life. Katie tried to keep an emotional distance from Sage by keeping her strictly outdoors (with a doggy friend, and cozy dog house). When it was time, she couldn’t go through with the euthanasia. She told me Sage was incredibly intelligent and it would be a shame to give up on a dog like her. I knew sage was unusually perceptive and extremely focused on her people. This was the trait I kept highlighting to justify pouring all of my time and money into one quite pathetic looking, struggling, pet as I passed up the opportunity to help many others. I knew as much as my life did not have room for this dog, I had to keep helping her. Little did I know she would completely change the way I viewed health.
The prescribed medications kept her alive but she was not well. I had to find a cure. I tried everything I could think of including the unthinkable- raw chicken. Can you imagine feeding raw chicken to someone with a weak immune system? It seemed like a very bad idea at the time, but I was desperate and had read one testimony on the internet that this worked to cure demodex in one dog. I swallowed my vegetarian pride and fears about handling raw meat and brought slimy raw chicken into my home and fridge (ewww).
To my surprise, the diet changed worked almost imediately. In less than two weeks, Sage’s wounds had healed, her lymph nodes shrank and her fever was gone. In three weeks, she was cured from demodectic mange and the warts that filled her mouth. The photo above shows sage about three weeks into the raw chicken diet. Her skin was healed (Albeit very tanned) and her fur was growing back. In no time, all of her fur returned and she was a beautiful dog.
Each time I tried to wean Sage onto a kibble diet, no matter how “nutritious” or holistic the kibble was, or how closely it resembled the raw diet I was feeding her she relapsed. And, again, a few weeks of a strictly raw diet remedied the illness. I was excited about the new knowledge but as a vegetarian I was eager to get rid of the dog who required me to stock my fridge with raw meat and threatened to eat my cats.
On my relationship with Sage-
I tried to rehome Sage for many years without much luck. She was a very high drive, energetic dog who needed to be working. She was never going to be a dog who was content with two walks a day, she needed hours of outdoor running and then lots of indoor playing with other animals, that’s just the way she was built. She was happy to be a full time service dog and could perform tasks with precision, but she needed to play too. She played more than any dog I had ever met in my life and I’ve met a lot of dogs. If I refused to play fetch with her, she would wear out her 4-legged housemates one-after-the-other and then go play a game of fetch with herself. She was vivacious, to say the least.
One day, someone shared the notion “You don’t choose your dog, your dog chooses you”. A tear came to my eye as I realized I had no say in the type of dog I was going to own. I was already owned. I finally gave up on finding Sage a new home. I wish I’d done that sooner. She deserved to be loved fully and for years she was respected and cared for, but not fully loved. That’s one more thing she taught me- to love with all of my heart, regardless of a pet’s temporary status in my life. You never know when a foster pet is really meant to be yours. You may keep your distance for months or years for the sake of sparing a broken heart when you rehome a pet. The broken heartedness you feel when you realize you’ve missed out, isn’t worth it. (Thank you, Sage, for teaching me this.)
It took me a decade to figure out what Sage new from the moment we met on the sidewalk in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. She ran up to me, climbed up my body as I kneeled, and licked my face as if to say “You are the one!”. She stuck to me like glue and ignored every other person on the sidewalk. She was a wise creature, even at that young age. Sage’s story, my story, shows us that fighting fate is pointless and maybe the the things that seem backwards or wrong are really the answer to our problems. Who’d have thunk.
Dear Sage- I would say “Rest in Peace”, but I you’re probably running marathons on endless beaches in doggy heaven and loving it. Don’t rest, run like the wind, my sweet girl. When you are ready to come back to me, run right into me like you did when I found you (or vice versa?) on the street. I promise not to turn away from you again. The ache I feel in my heart is not due to your physical absence, but do to my emotional absence when you were physical. I would like a do-over.