Monday, November 22, 2010

Cancer in Pets and People...Can the Similarities Provide a Cure?

- Cancer in Pets and People - Can the Similarities Provide a Cure?
- Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

Transcript of this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

Welcome my pet loving friends, to The Web-DVM. I am your host, Dr. Roger Welton, practicing veterinarian and Veterinary News Network Reporter.

When it comes to the dreaded diagnosis of cancer - we all dream of an eventual cure. Believe it or not, thanks to our canine friends, that dream may not be too far away.

Finding a cure for cancer is one of science’s most challenging and elusive goals. Thanks to our pets, and the fascinating work of a new breed of scientist, the comparative oncologist, some of the pieces of this complex puzzle are coming together.

The statistics about cancer in our pets are surprising. Estimates from the Morris Animal Foundation state that fifty percent of dogs will develop a cancer at some point in their lifetimes and half of those will die from the disease.
As you can imagine, these alarming statistics have gained the attention of many scientists because our dogs and cats often make good models for cancer research. The field of comparative oncology brings together veterinary oncologists, human medical oncologists, academic cancer research centers and the pharmaceutical industry.

At the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research, scientists say that because our pets share our environment and suffer from many naturally occurring cancers, they are probably good indicators of potential causes. In addition, there are many pet cancers that have similar or even identical biological characteristics as human cancers.

But beyond all of the objective data, the strong desire of pet owners to see their beloved dogs and cats live longer means that many new therapeutic options can be tried in order to save the pet. And, since more than 6 million dogs develop cancer each year, veterinarians and cancer researchers can evaluate these new therapies, refine them and potentially provide hope to both pet owners and to the families devastated by a cancer diagnosis.

Perhaps one of the most impressive advancements in comparative oncology is the development of a “canine cancer vaccine”. This novel treatment was recently granted full licensure and is now available for dogs suffering from one of the most common forms of cancer, canine malignant melanoma.

This cancer can be seen in any breed of dog and is highly aggressive. Cancer cells may start in the mouth, footpad or nail bed, but often spread out to affect other parts of the body. For most dogs, a diagnosis of canine malignant melanoma means the pet has just a few months to live, even with surgical treatment and chemotherapy doesn’t seem to help.

But, thanks to new research, the cancer vaccine (called ONCEPT®) is extending the lives of these dogs and giving hope to humans. Some studies for the vaccine showed that treated pets lived an additional three years after diagnosis.

ONCEPT® uses a human protein to stimulate the dog’s immune system into attacking the cancer cells. Since malignant melanomas have such a tendency to spread throughout the body, this type of treatment helps to find and destroy small cancer clusters even after the main tumor is surgically removed. After the initial set of four vaccines every two weeks, patients receive a “booster” vaccine every 6 months.
The implications of this type of therapy are, of course, amazing for our pets. But further, they could have far reaching positive consequences for human cancer patients as well. Research in comparative oncology is exciting and will no doubt uncover many new potential therapies.

That is my show for this evening. I will be taking next week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, but will be back with you in weeks. Remember to keep your pets away from turkey bones and out of the garbage. The holiday season from a veterinary standpoint is one of vomiting, diarrhea, and GI obstructions from cases of pet dietary indiscretion. May you and your pets have a peaceful and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

Blog Talk Radio

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holistic Veterinary Medicine...Helpful Treatment or Terrible Hoax?

- Update on Missouri Prop B (Puppy Mill Act) vote
- Holistic Veterinary Medicine...Helpful Treatment or Terrible Hoax?

Transcript of this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

Welcome everybody to The Web-DVM. I am your host, Dr. Roger Welton, practicing veterinarian and Veterinary News Network Reporter. Let’s start with a quick news update, Missouri’s Proposition B narrowly, but decidedly passed by 51% of the vote this past election. For those of you that did not catch my show headlining this ballot measure, this bill is known as the “Puppy Mill Act,” legislation drafted to combat the state of Missouri’s notoriously tolerated puppy mill abuses.

Specifically, the law limits breeding operations to no more than 50 breeding animals, requires that they be housed indoors and in a manner that gives them unfettered access to exercise. Breeding animals also must be fed daily (imagine that!), and receive yearly veterinary wellness check-ups by a licensed veterinarian. Breeders must submit to regular inspections to prove compliance, and violations of the law will result in a $300 fine or 15 days in jail per offense.

Now I have been vocal about this law falling short in really preventing puppy mill abuse both in its language and lax penalties, however, change for the better often takes time and it is a start. I therefore congratulate Missouri who chose humanity over cruelty and greed, taking the first step to quelling what has been a long standing tolerance of puppy mill cruelty in the USA.

On to our headline topic this evening, in our westernized society, alternative forms of therapy and medicine are often viewed with suspicion and occasionally, outright disbelief. Practices like acupuncture, acupressure or even homeopathy have many critics. Still, when it comes to resolving their pets’ ills, some pet owners are willing to take a chance on a non-traditional treatment.

Holistic medicine is generally defined as medical care of the whole pet, including environment, social and personal factors as opposed to the focus of treating just the disease. Integrative medicine, an approach that I embrace as offering the patient the best overall health care, embraces both conventional Western styles with holistic practices. Many people refer to non-traditional medicine as alternative or even complementary medicine.

These non-conventional approaches include therapies as diverse as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic care, and traditional Chinese veterinary medicine, aka, TCVM. Some veterinarians, like Dr. Aleda Cheng, a TCVM practitioner and certified veterinary acupuncturist, go as far as including high-tech procedures such as stem cell therapy, and cold laser pain relief under the alternative umbrella. As Dr. Cheng says, “all of these treatments help the body heal itself”.
Other alternative practices include herbal medicine, homeopathy and other therapies that might sound a little more exotic but are less well known.

Considerable skepticism still remains for these alternative therapies. Although the site is geared towards human medicine, has made its mission to disclose health related frauds. The major opposition centers on a lack of controlled scientific evidence and dubious diagnostic and therapeutic standards.
But, it’s hard to argue with individual success stories. Dr. Cheng relays how a German Shepherd, decorated for his work on 9/11, suffered from a painful degenerative spinal disease. The acupuncture treatments she performed allowed this dog to continue his search and rescue career, free from lameness and pain.
The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society or IVAS, is also trying to combat the “lack of evidence” argument. Through certification processes and collection of case studies, IVAS hopes to bring acupuncture into the mainstream of practice. For pet owners seeking acupuncture, the IVAS seal is an important credential.

Dr. Brian Voynick cautions that it is important for alternative practitioners to “be a veterinarian first and get a diagnosis”. He describes a limping dog whose owner went to a human chiropractor. After four chiropractic treatments, the dog was still lame and acupuncture was recommended. Dr. Voynick saw the dog on referral and found that his left rear leg was painful and swollen. After taking x-rays, it was determined that the dog had an aggressive bone cancer!

Pets, like their human caretakers, are individuals and it is possible that some animals may respond to these treatments. Certified veterinary acupuncturist and noted author on alternative therapies, Dr. Doug Knueven reminds owners that “integrative medicine is most beneficial for the pet”. He also believes many complementary treatments are more mainstream than people realize. “Glucosamine was once alternative medicine”, he says, “but now is widely accepted.”

When your pet is ill or suffering, make sure you and your veterinarian can reach a diagnosis for your pet before rushing off to try a novel treatment you heard about on the Internet. If you have a strong belief that a holistic approach would benefit your pet, discuss this option with your veterinarian, as integrative medicine is increasingly becoming the accepted means of our approach to veterinary health care.
That is my show for this evening ladies and gentlemen. Please remember to catch my live call-in internet radio show that airs live Wednesdays 9 PM EST from a player embedded at my blog at, where this show is also embedded and there are bonus content and links.

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

Blog Talk Radio

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Natural gas drilling poisons Appalachian wildlife and water supplies

- Natural gas poisons Appalachian wildlife and water supplies

Transcript of this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, pet lovers of all ages, and welcome to The Web-DVM. I am your host, Dr. Roger Welton, practicing veterinarian and Veterinary News Network Reporter.

My friends, as many of you are aware, in light of the BP oil tragedy and the company’s deplorable response to it, I began a Going Green segment as part of my weekly broadcasts to you in order to inform all of you that there clean renewable energy sources out there, means to power our homes and our vehicles, that do not require us to rely on foreign powers that hate us, nor pollute and warm our planet. All we have to do is actively pursue these innovations by taking the plunge ourselves, keeping them as an integral component of our conversations, and get excited to join the rest of the world in moving into a green energy future. Tonight will be my last Going Green talk with you, but is perhaps the most important, so important that I will be dedicating this entire broadcast to it.

You may have recently seen T. Boone Pickens’ TV onslaught on how he plans to bring our country into a state of energy independence by pushing for wind turbine energy, an energy source that we all agree is clean, renewable and plentiful, but also to pick up a large bulk of our energy needs, with natural gas. He argues that natural gas can power our cars and provide our electricity needs, as well as it has already proven to heat our homes. He says that it burns cleaner than oil and coal, and we have plenty of it right here on our own land in the United States, so plentiful in fact, that based on current and projected energy needs, there is enough to last us as long as 200 years. Sounds great, right? Not!

Now T. Boone Pickens is correct that natural gas is plentiful and cleaner burning, but what he is not telling you, is that drilling for this stuff is horrifically polluting. You see gas companies rely on a natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting water mixed with chemicals into rock at high pressure to extract the gas. These chemicals are toxic and have proven already to have a high potential to leak into the ground water, not only contaminating water supplies, but also poisoning aquatic wildlife and fishing sanctuaries. Like faulty oil wells, faulty natural gas wells also can leak the natural gas itself into water supplies and wildlife sanctuaries.

The scary part, is the geologists that work for gas companies, have identified the largest natural gas reserve in the country in the Marcellus Shale region, a layer of subterranean rock that runs beneath the Appalachian Mountains from the state of New York, all the way to Tennessee, leaving New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and even western areas of the Carolinas and Georgia potential victims of the path of destruction that could be wrought should gas companies get their way.

In the state of Pennsylvania where gas companies have taken advantage of tough economic times to convince many land owners to sell away their mineral rights, the catastrophic effects of natural gas drilling have already taken their toll. Nearby residents of the Monongahela River, a primary source for fishing wildlife recreation, as well as drinking water for 350,000 residents, were finding that dishwater and washing machine systems were malfunctioning while at the same time, people began to get sick. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) shortly thereafter discovered that the river had become contaminated with chemically laden drilling waste water, specifically with benzene, cadmium, aluminum, and methane. Aluminum is a potential neurotoxin, while benzene and cadmium are confirmed cancer causing chemicals known as carcinogens. DEP provided a quick fix by releasing dams upstream to dilute out the contamination, but this past August, contamination levels spiked again. Drilling waste water also was responsible for killing more than 10,000 fish along a 33 mile stretch of Dunkard Creek, while a spate of other drilling wastewater contamination cases have surfaced in 7 other counties.

DEP has levied fines against the offending natural gas companies for the contaminations, is in a legal fight for imposing a moratorium on further natural gas drilling until a commission can provide real solutions to the problem of drilling wastewater contamination and well leakage.

Pennsylvania currently is at the forefront of the natural gas boom brought courtesy of T Boone Pickens, and is serving as a harbinger for what is to come across a much larger region because, ladies and gentlemen, if T. Boone Pickens and the natural gas lobby get their way, natural gas drilling will spread from New York to Tennessee like cancer, literally! New York State, following Pennsylvania’s example, has already sold off mineral rights of large tracts of land in the Catskill Mountain region for natural gas drilling. The Catskill Mountain region has historically been the supplier of drinking water for the Greater New York City region, long the envy of other major cities for its incredibly clean and potable water piped in from a pristine wildlife treasure. In the current climate of make money and find energy no matter the cost, even this long standing tradition is in jeopardy.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, if T. Boone Pickens and the natural gas lobby succeed in advancing their agenda, many of our nation’s most pristine wildlife treasures will turned into examples of death and destruction and most appallingly, millions of people will get sick and die.

So what should we do about it? Speak up, petition politicians to fight this, and vote them out if they will not. Spread awareness, disseminate this video and let others know that they are being sold an energy source whose collection stands poised to destroy and poison wildlife and people alike. If you own land in the Appalachian region, do not let yourself be seduced with quick money offered to sell your mineral rights. Spread awareness among your neighbors of the peril your community faces should they be seduced into selling their mineral rights, for drilling on their land will contaminate your groundwater and water supply just the same. Refuse to throw away your health, the health of others, and poison wildlife for a quick buck and fleeting energy. Instead embrace all of the options I have given you in my Going Green Segment the past several weeks: geothermal, solar, biodiesel, electric cars, etc. Join me in choosing a future of green, renewable, non-polluting energy, not embracing a past of energy company slash, burn, kill and drill.

That is my show for this evening. Thank you as always for watching. Don’t forget to join me for my live radio call-in show Wednesdays 9PM EST at my blog at where the radio player, as well as this show, is always embedded.

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

Blog Talk Radio

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website