My Dog Survived Cancer with Holistic Medicine: Hudson’s Story
Hudson’s story offers hope that pet parents can work with a team of holistic and conventional specialists to treat cancer. Hudson’s Dream Team helped him survive and thrive for ten more years after being diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. We did this through holistic nutrition, herbs, immune-boosting, cancer-fighting supplements, energy medicine and a modified vaccination schedule. Hudson was a wise animal soul and his journey inspired Healing Fur Souls – Reiki and Natural Holistic Health for Dogs.
Hudson was one of our beloved Golden Retrievers, and the inspiration for Healing Fur Souls. If it weren’t for Hudson’s journey with cancer, we likely wouldn’t have embarked on our mission to care for dogs naturally using nutrition, herbs, energy medicine (Reiki) and other complementary therapies.
We are honoured to share Hudson’s story of recovery from cancer using holistic medicine. He was truly a wise animal soul and teacher. It was our job to listen and learn. And we did. Today, Hudson’s memory continues to inspire us with every single client, every medicinal recipe we develop and with every healing session we offer.
This is Hudson’s story.
Choosing A Puppy: Researching the Best Breeder
Choosing a puppy was a decision we took on with enormous responsibility. We researched extensively and decided on a breeder with conscientious breeding practices and decades of healthy dogs.
After several months, we finally met Hudson! When we picked him up, the breeder told us he had had surgery to repair an umbilical hernia, when he was four weeks old. He still had a large fatty mass on his belly around the wound, but the breeder assured us that the veterinarian cleared him from any health issues and told her he would heal completely.
Taking Hudson Home: Not Eating
So, at ten weeks of age, we took Hudson home with instructions to feed him adult kibble. Hudson had a poor appetite from the start, and would barely eat what we offered, in spite of us trying everything we knew to make his kibble more appetizing. We also noticed that he scratched himself frequently and had a dry, dull coat.
Our puppy’s poor appetite, itchy skin and dull coat were the first signs that something wasn’t right. He wasn’t getting adequate nutrition.
Hudson’s First Check Up – Something is Wrong
Twelve hours before his first check up, Hudson started vomiting and had diarrhea. Our conventional vet expressed concern at the size of his belly swelling and did an ultrasound and x-ray right then. She found that the hernia was still open and omentum fat had pushed through the gap. She was unable to tell whether his intestines had also pushed through, but tests showed a fist-sized mass pushing at his intestines. This was a medical emergency and we were instructed to immediately take Hudson to specialized Emergency Services at a Veterinarian College located at a University about an hour away.
At the Veterinarian College, Hudson had another ultrasound and fluid withdrawn to help identify the size and type of mass pushing at his intestines. The results were devastating. Hudson had a tumour inside his abdomen – measuring 8 cm (3.1”) x 5 cm (2”) – incredibly large for a 10 week old, 17 pound puppy. The immediate risk was that the tumour could cut off blood and oxygen flow to his bowels, so we agreed to exploratory surgery to save his life.
The surgical team jumped into action in an attempt to remove the large mass affixed to his abdominal wall. Unfortunately, the mass was enmeshed so deeply into his tissue (the cells were like screws), that they were unable to remove the whole mass, let alone a safety margin. Part of the tumour remained in his abdomen, and the waiting game began while the team tried to identify this aggressively growing tumour.
The World Begins to Learn About Hudson
We were told Hudson’s case was rare and extraordinary. There was no research, no treatment guidelines, and the academic and clinical worlds had little experience identifying and treating such an aggressive tumour in a 10 week old puppy.
Our local team sent biopsies of the mass and lymph nodes to specialists and canine oncologists around the world, from Canada to Europe and the USA. Hudson was the topic of academic and clinical discussion across the globe. Now we needed a consensus.
Recovery from Surgery
While we were waiting, Hudson’s appetite remained poor. Following the diet advice from three different conventional vets, we tried several different processed, commercial foods with little success. We started giving him Omega 3 oil to add calories, improve his dry coat and support his immune system to fight this tumour.
Modified Vaccination Schedule
As we continued to wait for a consensus on the type of cancer and treatment options, our conventional vet modified his vaccination schedule to minimize stress on his immune system, while still allowing us to socialize him and expose him to the neighbourhood. This meant only the most essential vaccinations were given, such as rabies.
The Bad News
At about 16 weeks, we got the call we were dreading. After consulting with specialists around the world, our canine oncologist diagnosed Hudson with spindle cell neurofibrosarcoma, a cancer of the nerve sheath. This was a one of a kind situation with no published research or case studies on this type of deadly cancer in puppies.
So the next steps were to learn from the experience of doctors who were treating this type of cancer in children. Perhaps there was something that the canine oncologists could learn from them to apply to Hudson. But this led nowhere.
Too much chemo would kill him, too little would not affect the cancer…there are just no guidelines… this type of cancer in a puppy is unheard of.
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The News Gets Worse
Hudson’s prognosis was extremely poor.
He was expected to die within 3-6 months, with the cancer expected to spread at a veracious speed. Vets offered their opinions for trying various doses of chemotherapy, but none was based on evidence, as conventional science had no answers. As one vet said, “Too much chemo would kill him, too little would not affect the cancer…there are just no guidelines… this type of cancer in a puppy is unheard of”.
Take him home and love him for the next few months. There’s nothing else we can do.
We asked about nutrition or a “cancer diet” that might improve his outcome or nourish him as he fought to heal himself. Conventional vets said to keep feeding processed kibble as there was “insufficient evidence” for targeted holistic nutrition using fresh, whole food. They booked follow up ultrasounds to watch the progression of the tumour, and wished us luck.
Their words still ring in my head, “Take him home and love him for the next few months. There’s nothing else we can do.”
Sure we cried. We got angry. But then we garnered our inner strength and positive attitude and decided to give Hudson an incredible quality of life, with normal puppy activities, and all the love he could handle. The wisest, most moving words I have ever heard came from Hudson’s Fur Daddy, “He doesn’t know he has cancer, why should we tell him?”
It was at that moment that my joy, courage and inspiration returned.
A Positive Attitude and Search for Holistic Care
We weren’t sitting back and waiting for someone to help Hudson. So we started to build our own knowledge – starting with the healing properties of food and supplements. I was fortunate to have advanced education and science degrees and was well trained in reviewing research. While I searched for evidence-based holistic treatments, we also looked for guidance through complementary medical specialists.
He doesn’t know he has cancer, why should we tell him?
Canine Nutritional Analyst
While waiting to see a Naturopathic (Holistic) Veterinarian, we consulted with a canine nutritional analyst. The goal was to feed Hudson with the best nutrients that might encourage his own body to heal.
The nutritionist recommended a raw food venison or bison meat diet to reduce stress on his digestive system. It would also spare his immune system the stress of having to respond to toxins and inflammatory contents found in processed food, like kibble. We hoped that, by lightening the load on his digestion and immune systems, he could focus the fight on removing the cancer.
Bison and venison are reported to have the least amount of antibiotics, hormones and medications given to most animals in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). As a “clean” meat, bison is not highly processed and is thought to support immunity and nutrition at a more natural cellular level than other commercially processed meats. We were aware that raw food was controversial at that time, but when we reviewed all available research and learned from others’ experience, we found that it made good sense. Although our conventional vet was hesitant to endorse a raw food diet, we continued to be open with her and she supported our choices. She even forwarded studies she came across so that we could continue to be informed.
We finally got an appointment with a highly recommended Holistic Veterinarian who almost exclusively practiced naturopathic medicine. She was hard to find, yet had an exploding practice based on word of mouth and decades of experience healing animals who were considered beyond help by conventional veterinarians. Despite being a fully credentialed, licensed Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine in good standing, her focus on natural medicine was ostracized and shunned by most conventional veterinarians, and her research was censored by academics and legislators. She truly was a wise and fearless pioneer, and had the battle scars to prove it. Now, she was our sole hope.
At our first visit, the Holistic Vet reviewed Hudson’s test results, assessed him and stared into his deep brown eyes for what seemed like an eternity. It was as if she was asking him to help us find the right treatment. Her assessment yielded a consistent and sobering prognosis which matched the one from the canine oncologist, but lowered Hudson’s projected life span even further. She felt Hudson had just 1-3 months left. We needed to move quickly.
Our Spiritual Contract
The Holistic Vet was clear – this would not be an easy fight, and the odds were against us. However, it was in that precise moment that Hudson and I knew that this was exactly where we needed to be, and that this journey was ours to make together. His cancer had meaning; this journey was in our spiritual contract. As if a burden was lifted, Hudson danced outside with the rescued race horses on her property, while the vet and I discussed his Holistic Treatment Plan.
His cancer had meaning; this journey was in our spiritual contract.
Holistic Treatment Plan
There were two simple goals:
- support his immune system
- reduce the size and growth of the aggressive tumour
The cornerstone of supporting his immune system revolved around a whole foods diet that would minimize digestive stress and toxic load, while strengthening Hudson’s body to accept active treatment (natural chemotherapy).
Diet and Targeted Nutrition
The first step was to reduce the toxic load and inflammation from processed kibble.
The second step was to minimize stress on his digestive system by cooking fresh, whole human grade food. We learned that a raw diet is excellent for most dogs, but was not advised for very sick dogs with conditions such as cancer. Hudson needed to be gently nourished at a cellular level to support the treatments that would reduce the spread of cancer.
We immediately started cooking Hudson’s food using human grade food. Each meal had equal proportions of lean ground beef, oats and carrots. Hudson’s appetite immediately improved on this diet and he savoured every morsel!
Hudson taught us to trust a dog’s innate food choices. Dogs that are “fussy eaters” have a reason to avoid food that is not good for their body, and a reason to seek food or plants that provide what they need.
It is curious that Hudson never liked eating anything with sugar such as fruit or processed commercial food and treats. Given that cancer thrives in a high sugar environment, we saw it is another way Hudson was using his innate wisdom in an attempt to heal himself.
As Hudson grew, we added broccoli, garlic, sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, turkey, and fish. Organic/grass fed food sources were preferred but outside of our budget most of the time. To ensure he had sufficient vitamins and minerals, we added human grade supplements as our Holistic Vet recommended.
Please remember that these vitamins and doses were prescribed specifically for Hudson’s weight and condition – they are not advised for any or all dogs with cancer. Always consult with a Holistic Vet to get the right supplements, diet and treatment plan for your dog’s condition.
This was Hudson’s Holistic Treatment Plan:
- Daily vitamin supplements of Ester-C (vitamin C) 1500 mg, kelp 1000 mg, powdered greens 1 tbsp, calcium citrate 1000 mg, magnesium citrate 100 mg, flax oil 2 tsp, and cod liver oil 6000 IU.
- Energy Medicine (Rife therapy) for E. Coli, the bacteria underlying his cancer (1-2 treatments per week).
- Daily herbs: Poke root tincture 15 drops 20 minutes after meals twice per day, graviola ¼ tsp 40 minutes after meals/snack four times a day, astragulas 10 drops daily, cat’s claw 10 drops daily and Laetrile (crushed from 8 extra bitter apricot kernels). During his recovery, we added curcumin (turmeric) to reduce inflammation.
- Altered vaccine schedule. We continued with a minimal vaccination schedule to reduce the stress on his immune system. We met the minimum legislated requirements for rabies, but adjusted the vaccine dose by measuring titres. This helped him to maintain immunity without compromising his health through higher doses than his body could handle. We discussed risks, benefits and options to other commonly prescribed vaccines, but kept these to an absolute minimum.
The Financial Cost
We bought ground beef in bulk, loaded up our grocery carts at Costco, buying 50-100 pounds of vegetables at a time. We spent every single weekend preparing, cooking and bagging fresh meals for our little guy. Oddly enough, we realized that our dog ate better than we did, and this shifted our attention to the importance of holistic nutrition for ourselves.
We joked that our Holistic Vet was “hard core”. She lived and practiced modestly, preparing herbal tinctures from her garden apothecary. She kept her fees lower than most vets and worked tirelessly from her home office to heal every animal that crossed her threshold. Although she held her license as a fully qualified Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine, she had been ostracized and discriminated against by conventional medicine and the academic community for her natural approach to healing.
Our Holistic Vet persevered suffering and discrimination for the love and healing of animals – and we are forever grateful for her nature-based wisdom.
Ready for a Brother
Our breeder remained in contact with us through Hudson’s health ordeal. We spent time on the phone crying together, working through our fear and grief, and holding hope. Out of an abundance of caution, she removed Hudson’s mother from future breeding just to ensure no undetected genetic issues were passed along. Not only did she refund the price we paid for Hudson, she also gifted us with another puppy to ease our expected loss of Hudson. We were still aware that Hudson might pass soon, but we were still going to move the world to save his life.
What was even more special about our breeder’s kindness and commitment to health, is that new brother “Harley” was Hudson’s biological nephew! Harley reminded Hudson every day that he was adored and had an important role in raising this energetic puppy.
So there it was, Hudson was on the path to healing – he was meeting his spiritual contract, nourishing his body, living a life where his family “didn’t tell him about cancer” and taking on the roles and responsibilities of being a big brother to Harley.
Hudson’s Follow-Up Appointments: “We don’t want to know.”
We continued to take Hudson to the Veterinary College for monthly ultrasounds to monitor the tumour’s size, which we were warned would grow aggressively and spread to other areas of his body.
Interestingly, that first ultrasound showed no tumour growth. In fact, the specialist couldn’t find evidence of a tumour at all. Not only had the tumour not spread, it had shrunk and essentially disappeared – against every single prediction. Month after month we heard the same joyous result. The team of vets at the College told us to “keep doing whatever you’re doing”, but were not interested in learning exactly what that was. We were actively discouraged from sharing the wisdom that could potentially help other animals. We were beginning to see how each specialty had something important to contribute to Hudson’s health care, but that working together was not going to happen easily or without stigma, discrimination and censorship.
We would have to be the leaders of Hudson’s health care team, and navigate his journey.
Not only had the tumour not spread, it had shrunk and essentially disappeared – against every single prediction.
Ten Years of Vibrant Health
Hudson lived almost ten years after being diagnosed with spindle cell neurofibrosarcoma. He travelled, sailed, climbed mountains, camped, swam in lakes and oceans, ate lobster on the beach and became (for a short time) a therapy dog. He grew to a healthy 94 pounds, was inseparable from his fur brother, and continued to have perfectly healthy annual veterinary exams. We continued to feed him fresh whole foods and maintained a modified vaccination schedule. For all but his final year, we avoided pesticide-based heartworm and flea prevention, opting instead for natural flea and tick solutions.
We Face Another Hurdle
After nine years of exceptional health, Hudson began to gain weight and develop a limp that seemed to originate in his right forearm. We were devastated to learn that our Holistic Vet had passed away, so we no longer had her wisdom to draw upon during this new challenge. We had to remember what we learned and coordinate his health care with the team that we had left. Without the guidance of our Holistic Vet nor access to specialized herbs, we leaned more toward conventional care.
This was our approach:
- We aimed to relieve his symptoms. We made a difficult choice not to spend thousands of dollars on diagnostic tests to try and identify the underlying disease. Even if we knew for certain what the disease was, conventional treatment would likely be thousands of dollars more and with uncertain benefits, risks and outcomes. Instead, we opted to spend our money on his nutrition , happiness and comfort during the remainder of his life.
- We modified his diet to reduce excess weight on his forelimb. His new diet consisted of cooked lean white fish, raw blueberries, carrots, celery, yogurt, tomatoes, local honey, broccoli, safflower oil, flaxseed, plus a daily canine multivitamin supplement and glucosamine sulphate for joint health.
- We added rehab therapies, including massage, laser, chiropractic, acupuncture and a shoulder brace to improve his functioning.
- As soon as Hudson was uncomfortable, our conventional vet started him on on a pain reliever (Metacam) and medication for nerve pain (GABA).
- We invested in a highly supportive, orthopaedic dog bed to ease pressure on his joints and wrap him in comfort (he loved his bed in the sunlight). His bed was similar to the ones here.
We didn’t know what was causing Hudson’s lameness, but suspected a nerve sheath tumour. Without access to the Holistic Vet’s specialized knowledge and anti-cancer herbs, his immune system began to fail. He developed a cough and tested positive for Lyme antibodies.
Regrettably, we felt pressured to use a topical flea and tick prevention product for the very first time. In hindsight, we learned that those pesticides added stress and toxins to his delicate immune system that was trying to heal itself. We also learned that the fish we sourced out was farmed, highly medicated and not a “clean” protein, adding a higher toxic load. Knowing what we know now, we would improve the quality of food, avoid all chemical pesticides, and be more aggressive with immune boosting supplements.
With all this said, the most important lesson we needed to accept was that we did the very best that we could with what we had at the time.
Holistic Sports Medicine Rehab & Traditional Chinese Medicine Specialist
After exhausting our rehab options with little improvement, we travelled to see a Holistic Sports Medicine Rehab Specialist (veterinarian) who also was trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She localized his pain to his cervical spine (C5-C6) with nerve impingement that sent pain down his radial nerve to his right forelimb.
We were gutted to learn that the most likely diagnoses were either right sided intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) or a tumour in the sheath surrounding his nerve.
We modified his treatment plan. In addition to home cooked whole foods meals, we included:
- Prednisone (steroid)
- GABA (400 mg three times a day)
- Omega-3 (4 grams a day)
- Chinese mushrooms yun zhi and chai ge Jie ji tang (believed to increase longevity when living with cancer)
- Herbal blends that contained: White peony root (bai shao), Gypsum (shi gao), Kudzu root (ge gen), Fragrant Angelica (bai zhi), Notopterygium root (qiang huo), Bupleurum root (chai hu), Platycodon root (jie geng), Scute root (huang qin), Jujube fruit (da zao), Ginger root (sheng jiang), Chinese licorice root (gan cao).
- Hudson also received an antibiotic (doxycycline) treatment by his conventional vet for Lyme positive antibodies. He continued to enjoy either unflavoured yogurt or raw goat milk to re-establish healthy gut bacteria, destroyed by antibiotics.
- Vitamin C (Ester-C) 1000 mg daily to support his immune system
- Vitamin B-complex to support his nerve functioning
- Essential oils. We blended peppermint, lavender and frankincense essential oils into a carrier oil (almond oil) and massaged his spine and forearm several times a day to reduce nerve pain. He loved this! It appeared to have an excellent effect on pain management.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) working up gradually to 66-75 mg 2-3 times per day
Canadian residents can click here to order CBD oil for dogs.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, with numerous health benefits. Research is growing, but at the time Canada legalized cannabis products, CBD was just beginning to be recognized for pain management and seizure management. We researched CBD for dogs and introduced Hudson to a small dose in tincture form, which we slowly increased until we noticed an improvement in his energy and playfulness. As his limp eventually got worse, we increased CBD to a heftier dose of 50-66 mg twice a day, and continued to increase it as a palliative measure.
Although CBD is safe and well tolerated, dosing should be appropriate to the dog’s weight and condition, and be increased gradually. Use it under the guidance of a pet care professional. CBD is also often used to support dogs with anxiety – contact us for a virtual consultation or start with this helpful CBD chart.
Canadian residents can click here to order CBD oil for dogs.
An important lesson we learned though, was that we did the very best we could with what we knew at the time.
Hudson’s Final Journey
Hudson continued to inspire everyone around him until he transitioned peacefully and lovingly into spirit, just a few days before his 10th birthday. His soul contract was extraordinary. By eagerly accepting the blueprint for disease, Hudson inspired us to choose hope over fear, nature over chemicals, empowerment over powerlessness and joy over grief.
This is our personal story. We own our experience, knowledge, opinions and decisions. By sharing this story we do not endorse or recommend his specific treatment plan for other dogs with cancer. We do, however support you and your dog’s most healthy, joyful journey.
Lessons from Hudson’s Journey
We learned some valuable lessons from our dear Fur Soul, Hudson:
- Build your dog a Health Care Dream Team that includes holistic, conventional, rehab and complementary therapies specialists. Know that you have options and ensure everyone works together for you and your dog.
- Respect your dog’s intuition about his diet and ability to heal
- Feed your dog a fresh, whole foods diet with clean protein, vegetables, healthy oils and probiotics
- Do your research about the impact of prescription pesticides and over-vaccination
- Stay positive and hold hope
- Cherish your relationship with your dog and learn how he is helping you to achieve your life’s purpose
Hudson and Healing Fur Souls
Hudson is the inspired essence of Healing Fur Souls and his memory lives to help dogs around the world achieve physical, emotional and spiritual health, according to their soul’s purpose.
We are grateful for the opportunity to guide pet parents through the healing journeys of their dogs (while often helping to heal pets and pet parents in the process!). One client lovingly referred to us as her “Doggy Doula”, and another called us “Nurse Doolittle”!
Healing Fur Souls can work with you and your dog to:
- maintain optimal health and prevent illness
- optimize nutrition and nature-based health
- identify the earliest disease energetics through Reiki
- reduce stress and balance your dog’s energies with Reiki to support the body’s natural healing abilities
- determine the soul contract you and your dog have (what is your dog helping you to learn in this lifetime?)
- work through life lessons and spiritual/emotional issues with holistic psychotherapy
Be kind to all beings. Respect the earth we share.