10/17/2012 10:51 am ET Updated Dec 17, 2012

Zena the Wonder Dog

Zena, one of my patients, is a remarkable 10.5-year-old American mastiff who was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus and hypothyroidism in March 2007. She began receiving twice-daily insulin injections. Her mom learned to check Zena's blood sugar at home and kept a careful log of her readings.

But despite the best efforts of her owner and her local vet, Zena's fructosamine levels continued to climb. (Fructosamine levels are one way veterinarians determine how well-managed a patient's diabetes is.)

I met Zena in November 2007. Her owner was desperate to find holistic options to help regulate her pet's blood sugar levels. I started Zena on a pharmaceutical-grade natural supplement for blood sugar support and a carb-free, entirely raw diet. She responded well to both.

Zena's local vet continued to care for her until her mom brought her back to me a few years later with a new and much more serious problem.

A Very-Ill Zena Returns to My Clinic in March 2011

Poor Zena had just been diagnosed with lymphoma of the hard palate -- an oral tumor that was not curable. Zena's parents were told that palliative radiation may shrink the tumor, but if so it would only be for a short time and the tumor would return in her mouth and other locations. (Palliative radiation therapy does not provide a cure. It's used primarily to manage the symptoms of malignancies.)

Zena had aged substantially in the three years since I'd seen her. She was nearly blind and had significant rear limb weakness plus terrible arthritis in addition to the oral cancer. The only good news health-wise was her diabetes was still fairly well-regulated.

Zena's tumor was on the roof of her mouth (there was a visible hole in front of her right canine tooth). The tumor extended into her right sinus, causing a very foul-smelling, thick nasal discharge and foul mouth odor which made her miserable.

Poor Zena sneezed frequently throughout the day. And she sneezed so violently she hit her head on the ground, causing gushing nosebleeds, which made her feel even worse. If she sneezed standing up, her body was too debilitated to hold up her frame, and she would fall down. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch Zena suffer like that.

Helping Zena

Zena had a number of problems that needed to be addressed, so the first thing I did was formulate a plan to go after the most pressing issues first and work down the list from there. Since she was starting radiation treatments, my first goal was to develop a protocol to support Zena's body through that process. However, she also felt really lousy, so she needed immediate help to improve her quality of life.

The initial protocol I created to make her feel better involved the use of olive leaf to fight a secondary bacterial infection in her sinuses. I added the Chinese herb Yunnan Paiyao to reduce nasal bleeding, and two products to support her deteriorating frame. Zena was also started on an exercise regimen to help combat the weakness in her back legs.

Zena sailed through her four-week radiation program other than developing significant corneal ulcerations, which is common when radiation treatments are delivered so close to the eyes. Aside from the eye ulcers, she responded well to palliative radiation therapy and her oral lymphoma shrunk in size by 30 percent.

At the completion of her radiation treatments I started aggressively supporting her immune system with the Chinese herbs Wei Qi Booster and Stasis Breaker.

Working Down the List of Zena's Health Challenges

Zena responded really well to the immune system support protocol, and all symptoms of her oral tumor resolved over the next four months. She no longer had secondary nasal infections that caused the violent sneezing, her eyes had healed (though persistent dry eye requires daily moisturizing drops), and the foul mouth odor also resolved and has not returned.

Zena's aging body responded extremely well in reestablishing her immune defenses, so her biggest issue then became her failing musculoskeletal system.

We started her on a muscle therapy program that included stretching, hydrotherapy, and strengthening exercises. Zena's family was ecstatic to see her enjoying her therapy sessions, and they were very relieved that her body responded by becoming stronger and more stable.

Zena Today

March 2012 was Zena's one-year anniversary living a victorious life with a diagnosis of incurable cancer. She still has no visible signs of an oral tumor. Zena's family remains 100 percent committed to her muscle strengthening program, realizing it is her only hope of continuing to walk, move, and maintain her independence.

Zena is an amazing success story thanks to her resilient spirit and her parents' commitment to address her extra-large and aging body's ever-changing needs.

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Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at:

Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.

By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.