How to Save Your Dog’s Life

So I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now and should just go through old texts and emails because I’ve told it to well over 100 people. I suppose I just never wanted to jinx it and make my dog sick again by giving credit to the wrong thing, person or regimen. (A post is a post- it makes everything “official”. haha.) But it’s been almost 2 years and I can 100% say my dog does not have cancer. If he ever did is another story…

In May of 2016 my miniature schnauzer Sunny started acting a bit strange. His stomach was really “full” and his breathing a little rapid- kind of like a constant pant. I attributed it to him being hot and fat because otherwise he acted fine- and I honestly didn’t really notice it so this is speaking a bit in hindsight . Then one day he started running into walls, falling off small steps and acting completely disoriented – I was as freaked out if not more than he was and immediately called a vet in Humacao to check on this sudden blindness.

The vet examined his eyes and I quickly learned a regular vet cannot do a full eye exam- that requires a board certified ophthalmologist- but she did notice a lack of response in his right eye… The bigger issue she found was his distended stomach and decided to do an ultrasound. When she sat me down to draw circles around the gray blobs that were supposed to be my dogs organs I grew more and more alarmed. Her tone was calm but I understood she was saying his spleen was enlarged and we needed to do emergency “exploratory” surgery to see what was going on, and possibly a splenectomy. I FREAKED THE F OUT. She said it could be a lot of things but cancer was her most likely diagnosis.

I was so unprepared to hear that kind of news and being an avid researcher of everything I just didn’t feel comfortable agreeing to surgery on a 10 year old dog when the blindness was also going on and I felt had to be related. The vet informed me that there was also a board certified surgeon that worked in the same building as the ophthalmologist (the only 2 board certified vets on the island I would later learn- CEVET is the name) and maybe I should take Sunny to see both of them for a second opinion.

The next day we waited 4 hours to get in to see Dr. Mongil who also performed an ultrasound but with a different conclusion- it had to be the liver. He did a small tissue aspiration of the liver and sent it off to a lab in the states to be tested. We then saw Dr. Bras who did all kinds of drops and poking around and told us Sunnys right retina had completely detached and his left was not far behind. He would be 100% blind in just a matter of days.

I asked both doctors if one could be related to the other and they said anything was possible– although I couldn’t find any example of an owner whose dog had liver cancer/disease/issues and also sudden blindness. And people post EVERYTHING about their beloved pets online- just wait until you need to research something and get lost in the forums for days on end like I did- you become about as qualified as a vet in my opinion!

We went home that evening completely devastated – believing we were spending our last few days or weeks with our beloved dog-child. (I’m seriously tearing up just thinking it- we cried for hours every. single. day. for months!) Sunny was on doxycycline, steroids and several different human-grade eye drops for people with glaucoma or cataracts or something. He was obviously SO sick and I was determined to do whatever it took to give him a fighting chance.

Which included a LOT of online research.

The next week we went back to Dr. Mongil for the lab results and they were “inconclusive”. He explained it could be a lot of different things but needed to do a guided ultrasound to determine what was really going on. (my terminology might be off but basically they needed to stick a tiny camera inside him and poke around his organs to see things- and that a radiologist would then read the results and let us know). Again we had to leave the vet with no confirmed diagnosis, more pills and, for me at least, a very uneasy feeling that these people had no clue what was wrong with my dog.

Out of all the research I did, one of the most impactful was about the health benefits of raw goats milk for dogs with cancer (and humans too- with all sorts of ailments- it’s SUPER interesting!) No store in Puerto Rico carried raw goats milk but I searched and searched until I found an American farmer named Amy in the El Yunque mountainside who raised goats and sold me large fresh jars of milk for $10. This was like winning the lottery to me- you don’t understand how rare it was to find not only a goat farmer but an English-speaking one at that!

I also read a LOT about diets and by then was cooking for both dogs an impressive meal of fresh fish, veggies, fish oil, apple-cider vinegar, etc. Again, there are thousands of diets out there if you want to look around. Between the eye drops, steroids, goats milk and fresh food, Sunny seemed to be getting better… His stomach was still very swollen but it was obvious he was seeing me again and I felt a tiny bit of hope that maybe it was just some rare poisonous frog he licked or something…

And I was right- kinda. After our next appointment with Dr. Bras she examined him and said both retinas had reattached and he could see as well as I could, without my contacts. She admitted this was very rare given Sunny’s age and “other issues”- she had only seen a retina reattach that quickly in one other case… Our elation only lasted as long as it took for us to leave her office and walk into Dr. Mongil’s room to review the radiology report. About 2 hours.

The report was super hard to make sense of but the only part that was meaningful to us was this:

CONCLUSIONS: The sonographic findings are very concerning for pancreatic malignancy with metastasis to the regional nodes.

and

RECOMMENDATIONS: If a safe sonographic window can be obtained, fine-needle aspirate of the left pancreatic lesion and the hepatic lymph nodes should be considered. However, this may be technically challenging due to overlying structures; surgical exploration could be necessary, but there needs to be clear understanding with the client that the purpose of the surgery is diagnostic and at this time it is considered relatively unlikely that surgical treatment is viable.

First of all, my experience is that when you get a report like this- even though it doesn’t say HE HAS PANCREATIC CANCER FOR SURE, every vet I went to after the fact agreed that that is what he had. They said the steroids were what was making him “better” but that was only temporary and that I should prepare myself for the next 2 months. There was nothing I could do. This was agreed on by not only multiple vets here in PR but also my (2 different) vets in the states and a review team at Auburn University’s Veterinarian Oncology Division.

Of course I was 99% sure they were right- they were doctors after all. But then I came across this site and decided to fill out the questionnaire. No vet was going to help us so I had to help myself.

Rick (and his wife Cindy) replied almost immediately with very specific instructions on what to feed Sunny and what all-natural dietary supplements (by NewEarth) he needed to be on.  I suggest you contact Rick yourself because it may vary by symptoms but here is what we did:

  • 2 pills in the morning dissolved in water, 25 minutes before feeding
  • A diet of 1/3 mashed sweet potatoes, 1/3 raw or lightly cooked fish, turkey, chicken or meat and 1/3 raw pureed veggies. We feed twice a day. There are LOTS of specific instructions on the types of veggies and options you can choose but they had to be raw. Also NO dog treats or anything out of a bag or can- only fruits, eggs or real organic produce for snacks.
  • 2 pills in each meal, starting slowly over the first few weeks and then gradually increasing the dosages.

There are other pills we added and took away over the next several months but amazingly, Sunny’s stomach started to shrink, his breathing & eyesight returned to normal. I couldn’t (and honestly still don’t) believe it!!!  To this day both dogs are still on the same diet, taking the same pills. Sunny is 12 and Hilde, my boxer, is 13- which is amazing for a boxer btw… I tried for a while to put them on the “fresh” food from the fancy dog food stores but I am not kidding when I tell you that he started showing symptoms again. I panicked and went back to what we knew and all returned to normal.

This diet + pill regimen is not cheap but compared to my almost $10k vet bill(s), which did nothing to help my dog, is worth every penny. Every time we revisit the vet(s) for yearly checkups they are amazed- they call him my miracle dog and probably assume I’m a witch doctor or something. haha.

I have no idea if Sunny really had pancreatic cancer or something totally unrelated that would have went away on its own, but I can say I have a newfound faith in all-natural supplements, goats milk and a really good diet. I still go to vets (and still get improper diagnosis’s quite often!) and believe that most of them are doing the best they can. But the best a veterinarian can do is nothing compared to what a dog mom (or dad) can do if they really put in the work!

Love,

Megan & SunnyBear

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