Updated: Mar 18, 2021
I am a qualified Nutritional Therapist I have been supporting humans suffering from chronic dis-ease for many years with Nutritional Therapy, it is wonderfully effective. Five years of research later I have tailored my knowledge to the canine. Seeing the improvement in my furry clients it made me realise that there is a real need to provide quality information on nutrition. Many dog owners are opting to home feed without understanding of their dogs nutritional needs, the information just isn't out there, hence setting up my successful business The Naturopathic Canine.
Read on to see how a little pug called PugBeast guided me into a world of healing; he was my muse and I brought the
cutting-edge science into a business!
The Beginnings - How it all Started - Chapter 1
Pawsomely Cooked started with a little pug called PugBeast (PB). In Sept 2015 his owner asked if there was anything I could do for him. Sadly, he was suffering from Mast Cell Cancer and his chemotherapy had failed and he had developed new tumours. The steroids were making him sick and he was about to be put to sleep the coming week. I volunteered picked him up after work and I took him home, he came to live with me so I could care for him. The rest is history as they say!
I was his last chance saloon yet PugBeast is now in his fourth year now past prognosis (at the current year of 2021, he made just under six years of extra life and he will be missed). We supported his body with a special therapeutic diet which helped him to live vitally with his chronic dis-ease. It has taken dedication and time but it fills me with love. Nutrition is the root of health - pay money to feed your beloved or pay money to the vet. I believe that.
Wow he is so sick, what if I can't heal him?
I remember the first night I picked PugBeast up. I'd organised my mom and partner to do an emergency trip to the health food store with a shopping list; my first thought was to remove the chemotherapy from his body as it was clearly affecting him. I had to try something, I had become quite attached to him given I used to look after him in the school holidays. PB was my superhero, bless him. He couldn't move and just lay panting. I had a think. I had previously pulled myself back from some brutal blood transfusions through detoxing, I wondered if it would work on a dog? So I decided I would try my very best and give PB the fighting chance every living thing deserves. After giving PB his treatment I lit a candle and sat with him...what would I do tomorrow or the day after?
The first two weeks were pretty brutal. PB had 13 tumours that developed from the original three before chemo and he was very poorly. His neck tumour was the size of a golf ball and it was ulcerated, it looked painful. I applied topical pastes to help reduce the infection and inflammation; he was wrapped up for the first two weeks like a little caterpillar. The first few days for PB consisted of drinking water through a syringe, sleeping, detoxing and being carried to the toilet. We just had to wait and see if his body was strong enough.
On the fourth day he perked up, we carried him downstairs and he held himself up to go to the toilet. He seemed a bit brighter. Over the next few days I applied his pastes every couple of hours until eventually we saw his skin healing and the tumours shrinking. I was amazed but then it was just a single cell and the herbs could create an action; everyday I learned something new to add to my herbalism journey. It look time and effort, the house was a mess, but PB was and still is worth it.
During those early days and zero sleep hours my mind had wondered...what would I feed PB when he was ready to eat? I needed to be well planned! I needed to know what his body needed, what could he tell me?
The time had arrived! I had it all planned… mini saucers with bits of food - lamb for zinc, eggs for choline, salmon for omega, etc, etc - all the things I thought were missing from his diet. I would let him choose, why not? Firstly, PB sniffed all the plates whilst we held him up. Slowly he went for the salmon and had a little bite but it provided so much insight.
The salmon bite was a lightbulb moment for me. PB had intuition and he could communicate. I knew fate had brought us together. The Salmon was anti-inflammatory, he knew what he needed! I removed his kibble and went for the basics as I would do for any patient with a chronic dis-ease such as his. Each day he chose his own dinner - meat or fish. I still let him choose his foods when he shows symptoms and needs a rebalance - with Esmeralda and Elliot additionally having his poor second choice.
Essentially PB cherry picked his way through various proteins and vegetables for the first few weeks. I knew this was dangerous and how would he heal unless he had all the nutrients he needed? How could I find that out? I found the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for calcium, second hand knowledge too but it was the best I had. We fed him the best quality foods we could source (while we ate pizza). I decided instead to work out all the essential nutrients and provide them through food. We had healthy proteins for cell growth and vegetables for healthy antioxidants and organ meat; that would have to do until I could find out more. We made 3 months and then 6 months of extra life. I remember that we didn't think he would have long and so in the April we planned a holiday to Cornwall, he loved it. PB became alive, off-lead, free roaming, nutritious food, sea air, sunshine... oh and he ate a left-over lobster. He knew how to eat that lobster too, leaving the inedible bits behind! We take him every year now and he has a little lobster treat for being a strong boy.
That year people had heard of PB and my therapies and I was asked to help more dogs with dis-ease. I had somehow managed to create a basic food list, in categories so that I knew what nutrients the dogs were getting and hopefully avoid any missing food groups / nutrients. I tried to work optimally and be considerate of the information we have. I had managed to piece together the needed nutrients and found foods to compliment their needs.
Hiding The Evidence
The year that followed took me on a quest for nutritional standards as I needed to do better, longterm. Finding the research for canine nutrient needs was complex, I must have pressed on thousands of links. I wanted more than just the arguments over raw; dogs would never survive on meat and bone alone, but by what standards? I didn't want someones opinion. I wanted fact. I ordered holistic veterinary books but even those only had the basics. Hill's, Science Plan Veterinary textbooks delivered little about nutrition or nothing that I didn't know already. I knew how to clean the body, calm down his system, fix his energetics, that was the easy part... but nutrition, what did I know about canine nutrition and the balance of nutrients. Luckily I have a research masters in music psychology and neuroscience and decided the best way was to start from scratch. I pulled up scientific studies and blasted through them, piecing the bits of evidence together.
The more I learned the more it made me question dog food standards. I began to analyse food types and labels...how could feeding prescription foods create health when their ingredients list was so removed from the diet of a carnivore? Why did commercial foods vary so much? It was like nutrition wasn't even that important. I couldn't believe it! Why had I been so blind to food standards? I guess as a dog owner I lived a 'normal' life, I trusted dog food companies and yet I found out some foods were unfit for human consumption… what?! How could I find out what nutrients were in the food? Why was it so hard to get answers from dog food companies? Who was AAFCO? Was there a version for home-made food? It seemed there was indeed a research cohort for canine nutrition. The information I needed to backup my ideas was hidden and it took far too long, or perhaps I just didn't know the right people.
In these last four years of research I've delved into most things. I've enrolled on professional development worldwide, locally and on-line. I've interacted with veterinary nurses, holistic vets, nutritional therapists, herbalists other naturopaths and great dog mommas (for case studies). Once I found the standards I needed (a collection of scientific studies rather than opinion) things clicked into place. During this time I found out exactly how much people don't know about canine nutrition and how vets refuse to see the importance of nutrition. It was crazy. This little pug had opened my eyes to what I already knew about humans and food processing but somehow, I hadn't considered canine health other than the norm. Wow! And more than that, how political, incorrect, biased opinion (and sometimes dangerous) recommendations actually are... and how this new health movement is making nutrition far too simplified.
Moving On - Chapter Two
PugBeast made two years and then his health slipped. We did have an incredibly stressful situation and this likely affected him too. He developed a chest tumour (undiagnosed). The vet & I didn’t think it appropriate to biopsy given his circumstance as he was still fine in himself. I would simply poultice him for a lipoma and then presume mast cell, if no response. The herbs and general diet were losing effectiveness which resulted in making me more determined to work on nutrition and take my theories even further. If he had everything he needed in terms of nutrients then something must be aggravating him. Turns out he has developed allergies to most meat proteins. With a specialised diet and no allergenic foods I have kept all the tumours in check - he 'lives with them'. I bought him back when I thought he wouldn’t make it. I don’t know how he does it, always surprises me.
Last year made me realise he loves his life though and stress makes us ill. His tumours decrease in size with exercise or after the beach and why exercise and free roaming is just so important. I let him eat a piece of grass or have a good scent. He became poorly in a stressful situation, demonstrating a likely increasing need for nutrients. His tumours increase in size when he is allergic or intolerant to something. It is all about observation and managing symptoms. It has taken hours of research (plus missed cuddle time and long nightly hours) but he appreciates it. PB has now been through a series of elimination trials while balancing his nutrients and through this I have now successfully help other allergic dogs. PugBeast now eats a diet tailored to his body and without allergens. He will likely become allergic over time but for now, his tumours stay manageable. It is just another strategy to healing - holistically. I will never stop learning and strongly feel that through all the learning and experience I now possess I am confident that nutrition is the first stone on the road to health and needed to remain vital.
Quality of life is a second really important aspect for me. PB still has his tumours but they are slow growing. I support his body, rather than suppressing it (or removing bits). He enjoys his food, he is responsive to herbs. I guess I could keep trying new topicals and keeping him bandaged, but quality of life? Naturopaths work to the least harm. He runs in the park for 2 hours, always on the go, barking at birds, having treat- time, he is an explorer. His love of freedom and travelling keep him going, I genuinely believe that. Someone once told me dogs don't have emotions, rubbish. Love heals. So far he has had fours years without intervention or extra pain. I feed him well and heal when I need to. It is a constant process but I get pleasure from looking after him, as I do all my gang. I don't know how long I have him for. He goes to the vet for regular checks and blood tests but so far he has never needed veterinary intervention. His secondary arthritis has become better and he is certainly happier.
A New Paradigm In Health & Vitality
Degenerative disease is on the rise and that includes our dogs. I see lots of people through my businesses, we are stressed, nutrient depleted and sick. We are toxic because we are eating toxic foods (the body does not recognise processed food which then affects our protective mechanisms, leading to dis-ease).
Society is driven by certainty and quick fixes but sadly this has been detrimental to our health but I think as a society we are wanting to taking charge of our own health and caring about the health of our planet. I think we are becoming more aware of this in our search for new dietary habits, superfoods and a new way of thinking about dis-ease. And, that includes our dogs.
Within society we are led to believe symptoms are bad. But what if symptoms are really just a form of communication, alerting us to problems or requirements? It is perhaps how we treat the symptom that can be 'good' or 'bad'. We must fix that symptom or give the body what it needs, rather than suppress it. Suppression can lead to deeper dis-ease or manifestation of a new dis-ease. It is just a totally different idea to healing but it is effective.
Just like humans, we know requirements to stop outright pathology from a nutrient deficiency. But optimal nutrition is much more than that. We have recommended amounts of nutrients but we need to take into account factors that affect nutrient status. The absorption of nutrients depends on many factors, such as: gut health, the ratios and the interactions of vitamins, processing methods and the balance of ratios within the nutrients
Did I Have The Right To Heal Him?
I began my training in herbalism, nutritional therapy and energetics in 1998. I worked as an apprentice to a private healer in my spare time while I graduated and worked as a music lecturer for many years. I used nutritional therapy to heal myself after severe, repeated surgery and had great results with clients longing to work in nutritional healing full time. Little did I know years later I would be working with doggies and humans. All my human patients have improved - every single one - from significant dis-ease, including: stokes, heart attacks, endometriosis, heart dis-ease, fibromyalgia and adrenal fatigue. And the majority of my doggy clients are much better many living with cancer and far past their prognosis.
The vet couldn't help PB anymore, I was his last chance saloon so I took advice on the veterinary aspects and did professional development on anatomy and studied veterinary books to make sure I was aware. I had an idea and I went with it. It has been tricky developing my business around regulations and I want the best for both my clients and my business. I provide recommendations and I ask that all my recommendations are checked by a veterinarian and my work is chosen by the owner. I see my work as a compliment to allopathic medicine or when it has failed a dog or human and there are no options left.
I value medical science, emergency, diagnostic, end-of-life care, it is amazing. Why can we not use both nature and medical science to heal? I see myself offering a professional service that can add validity as complementary therapy - when the vets say they can do no more. I never 'treat' cancer or any dis-ase - I support the body with nutrition. In some cases, reducing the progression of the dis-ease and many times we find balance and achieve an alleviation of dis-ease.We are working with information we have known about for centuries In essence it isn't about supplements or health foods - it is about education, reducing our processed foods, removing toxicity and eating organically, seasonally - food is our prescription but that needs hard science too.
I certainly don't recommend single supplements or 'magic cures' nor act irresponsibly. There are so many adverts for 'cures' for cancer out there, its really worrying.. Someone could die trying to cure themselves with mis-information - we need regulations. Since 2008 I have seen a huge rising in natural health and the doors opening, with fad supplements and 'pop nutrition' advice. And there is always a popular supplement whether that be beta-carotene, coconut oil, turmeric, taurine and choline over the years. Whilst it is good that people and dog owners are turning to natural health we need to know why we take supplements and how they work. Why have we chosen our dietary approach? Natural is not synonymous with safe - a lack of calcium can be life threatening, a single herb or mushroom can cause death. So how do you know who to trust?
There are many great professional people working in their area quietly and experienced people, people who have been working professionally for over 40 years. These are the people that I do my professional development with. I guess in a world with little regulation you have to do professional development and know your limits, work with the vets to break boundaries - learn but never do harm. I do thorough research to find the science to prove safety and conduct case studies. I have had to grow as a professional and keep up with ever evolving research. A new world is emerging for canine nutrition and human health - we are beginning to care what we put into our bodies. And like any groundbreaking work, you have to fight and earn your place, with safety and responsibly. A good practitioner will make that clear, provide you with the knowledge and evidence to make your own choice and to work alongside a veterinarian so your dog has the very best treatment from both streams. I do see a future where canine nutritionist are as valid as one another and they can both work hand in hand. I really hope that is the case, for everyones sake.
PugBeast had six years of extra life in total, pain free apart from the very beginning and very last days, the last days he will still in the park enjoying life and passed quickly. I am amazed at how the body can heal and convinced that behind every illness is a imbalance in nutrients and/or a build up of toxicity. I will never forget the lessons he gave me and his ability to help me to help others. I guess now he helps me from the Spirit world and I hope to meet him once again.