05/19/2011 09:08 am ET Updated Jul 29, 2011

Good Pet Health Requires Asking The Right Questions

Whisky, a seven year old cat suffering from chronic, recurring Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection, sat on our exam table looking near death. He came to us after several days of hospitalization and tests in another veterinary hospital where a well-trained, extremely competent veterinarian had done everything possible to help break his 106 degree fever. Sadly, his condition continued to deteriorate, and the other doctor suggested that the guardian seek a second opinion at our office because she was familiar with our integrative, functional work in chronic diseases. He arrived with a high fever, loss of appetite and terrible weight loss (he was an 18 lb cat who had fallen to 3.7lbs). He was so thin and frail looking that I wasn't sure he would live through the day. His recent blood count showed a severe infection. I advised his owner of the severity and unlikely chances of Whisky making a meaningful recovery. We discussed referral to a local board certified internal medicine and critical care facility, as well as euthanasia.

The owner declined and asked me, "have you ever seen a cat like this recover?"

I admitted that I had, but warned her of my concern that this case was so advanced there was no way to predict the outcome. I also shared major concern that I did not act in a predatory manner when she was in a vulnerable state. She thanked me for my concern and then told me about her love for this cat and her life mission of rescuing cats suffering from FIV and feline leukemia. She knew the situation well, and explained that the life of the cat was more important to her than money and asked me, "If you were going to treat this cat what would you do?"

I explained that chronic disease was the attempt of the body to battle toxins and dangerous materials that threatened the cat's survival. In this case a virus was inside the cat's cells that co-opted the cat's immune system and made it more susceptible to infection and degeneration. Often other toxins were present as well, and a combination of environmental and viral damages lead to the cat's present disease state or condition - the word "condition" actually means, "what we have agreed upon," and in this case the cat lived in an environment where it had contracted the virus as well as other environmental toxins.

She smiled and said, "That makes sense. Knowing these things, what would you do?"

I told her that the basic plan to wellness or improved health involved finding safe space, getting good stuff into the cat and getting bad stuff out so we could support healing and health emergence. I explained that while the drugs given so far would fight bacteria, support immunity and provide nutrition, we needed to work in additional ways to help this cat. I also explained that these tools were controversial and unproven in veterinary medicine, to which she responded, "Well, when nothing else works, don't veterinarians try new things so that we all can learn?"

I smiled and said that we surely did.

That day we gave Whisky homotoxicology medicines that support immunity in the face of viruses and bacterial infections; drain toxins from the liver and kidney; and balance the hormonal and endocrine systems in the face of immune challenges. We also used agents that support the cellular production of energy. We prescribed therapeutic foods and sent the cat home to see what he would do with the energy we placed in his system. His temperature dropped to normal (100 degrees F) quickly and he immediately began eating. Over the next week his blood test improved and in a few weeks he regained his weight. Whisky received repeated, monthly blood and homeopathic injections for several treatment cycles, and always improved remarkably following each treatment. Another cool thing about this case was that his chronic skin problem, which was diagnosed as miliary dermatitis (a common allergic problem of cats) simply went away. He now lives as a happy guy with his owner in Los Angeles with a household of cats that live with chronic viral challenges. We get to see them regularly and assist them to live more comfortable and happy lives. 2011-04-30-1237483787639JackieLugoWhisky.jpg

So what does this case teach us?

  1. Asking the right question can make the difference between success and failure. The word, "diagnosis" means "to look through and know," and this is much more than simply naming a virus or bacteria or saying someone or something is "depressed." In some cases asking "what do I have," isn't as good as asking "what can we do?" Diagnosing is really communicating with a patient's system and learning precisely what is needed, and then addressing all those parts effectively in an individualized treatment plan that progresses over time, and changes to reflect the patient's needs.
  2. Concentrating on the rightness of a Being allows us to move forward towards healing while looking only at what is "wrong" with them can lead us to quit before we find the right path. My experience said that most of these cats would not survive and my fear of taking advantage of this client needed to be shared and examined before we proceeded. The client's love for the cat and desire to seek out new therapies, as well as her willingness to fail in that search lead us to a place where we could work together. Once we both understood fully, then we could cooperate and share responsibility for the outcome whether it be good or bad. In this case that outcome was amazing and worth every bit of effort and worry required to get there.
  3. If a patient is alive and then becomes ill, there is a capacity to heal present. In this case the feline AIDS virus was present in this cat for a long time, so the simple presence of FIV did not mean that the cat could not recover. It simply meant that one of the factors which needed to be addressed involved the virus and the damage it caused to Whisky's system.
  4. It takes a lot of energy to run a high fever. In my experience when patients continue a high fever it is a good sign that they have energy to fight their health threats and are working to recover. Fevers speed up the body's ability to eat and kill pathogens. Fever can be an important part of recovery and should be respected and not suppressed in most cases. Not all patients with high fevers can be saved, but it means they have energy and are using it to seek survival. When we treat with natural healing often the fever will rise before recovery begins. This is an important sign of change in the system and needs to be supported. If we suppress fevers we often slow recovery. Note that in cases where a fever is very high (in excess of 106 degrees Fahrenheit), we may need to lower body temperature because such fevers can damage the brain and other vital structures.
  5. For medicine to succeed we need to balance our desires to use proven therapies with our patient's need to find treatment plans that they can receive and benefit from. This means that veterinarians must seek out and try new therapies where these seem sensible and workable, and then communicate these results to others for better scientific investigation and validation. As pioneering doctors discover things, then academic veterinarians can work towards understanding the mechanism of action and validity of these treatments. Whisky is alive today because his first veterinarian knew of other options and was willing to give him another chance.
  6. Effective, honest communication in a cooperative and safe environment is critical to proper delivery of medical care whether it be caring for our pets, livestock or our families. This is real health care reform. It grows steadily and leads to improved health of all parties involved in such a system. People need unfettered ability to seek truth and obtain things needed for their health.
  7. Healing comes from the biological nature of our patients. Drugs and pills of all sorts may help a diseased patient in their recovery, but it is always and only the patient's own biological system that does the work of repair and recovery. If we balance and support patients in their paths to recovery then we find "miraculous" things can occur. This kind of work isn't for everyone but those interested and dedicated to the path will seek out and work to find new ways provided they are given the freedom to search and find what they need.

How have you asked the right question and found better health for yourself, your family, or your pets? Has finding answers to those questions helped to change the way you live? Share those stories with us all and let's work to making health care healthier for all!

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