So you are ready to be your dog’s health advocate. Good choice!
Can you dissect apart all different things that can affect whether a dog will get cancer, or how long a given dog will live, or if a treatment will definitely work in a given dog with cancer? Sadly, the answer to all of these questions is….not likely or definitely. But, you can look at trends and the big picture, integrating information from different sources, to get some rough ideas of how odds look.
This is a disease that up to this point we, as healers (and I include you in this group), have had a problem dealing with effectively. So, in the search for what could be better, we have to keep on trying, pushing new frontiers. How is this done effectively? Well, in order to avoid personal agendas, random viewpoints, and knee-jerk reactions, we have to settle down and assess things using our noggin to extract the best info we can from the crazy pile of personal stories, anecdotes, magazine columns, sales pitches, crappy studies, and so on.
At the same time, we have to do so with an open mind, so we don’t fall prey to personal biases ourselves! Quite a challenge, especially if someone comes to you with another story of this or that “being good for cancer.” (Sound familiar to anyone?)
A compass that I have found useful is to look at the motivation behind the information stream. Many times it is financial, such as a supplement company publishing a study on it’s own supplement without other studies confirming these findings, or at least showing something similar. On a related note, much funding for cancer research treatments is backed by … the companies that make the treatment (ya think they want to show it works or something??) So the whole system is a little screwed up in this regard. Cancer literature tends to be sparse on non-patentable treatment research. If a substance shows promise and the info is in the public domain before pharmaceutical manufacturers can patent it, it must be changed to a synthetic or naturally occurring analogue. So many things that could work are not studied well due to financial backing deficits.
Another motivation behind those providing junk information for cancer treatments is our old friend the ego. “Hey, did you know…” and there is a whisper of authority in the voice…and a little surge in the speaker at being the one to disclose the coveted information. Buyer beware! Rare is the attention seeker that has checked things out properly. This ego gratifier will argue their point into the dust, even when faced with mounds of impartial evidence contradicting their point. This relentless arguing in the face of a justifiable new viewpoint is a classic sign of ego based motivation.
For more information, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide
Question the source of the information. Just because something is in a book does not mean it is “real”. Just because it is on the news or online is not a good indicator of evidence-based assessments. So many times things are repeated without the repeater checking it out first.
How to tell if info is good quality? The best motivation for providing information is service. Some will feel good making a difference. Pay attention to these people! There will be an acceptance and consideration of other viewpoints without immediate disregard, pending assessment. They will not try to grab at straws in an effort to discredit the speaker. Those who are motivated by doing good deeds will not immediately attack other viewpoints. They will digest and consider, then gather information, then produce a summary. This is a good compass to steer by for you, the information seeker.
Look for studies from good sources. Reputable publications (scroll down the new window). Listen to people who have been doing something for a long time, or those who start their information collection based on these old timers’ perspectives. Look for studies in living bodies (in vivo), not just test tube studies (in vitro). If you can get a study that applies to your dog’s breed, age, and cancer that is great. If not, look for the closest thing to it. Search Medline and Pubmed. Look for large numbers of dogs involved in the studies or case reports if possible. Go international, go interdisciplinary. Don’t be limited by Western perspectives (no, we actually don’t really have the best medicine in the world in all areas). Yes, pay attention to oncologists, especially in the area of chemo, radiation, stats, and allopathic (conventional Western) perspectives. But cancer is often still kicking the rear end of oncology, don’t forget that! Don’t pass wee little Asia and Europe if you come across something from these parts, or any other country for that matter. They have been in medicine much longer that we have. Why limit ourselves when we are still looking?
Synthesize what you can. Do your best. Read this blog. Be your dog’s health advocate.
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.