In Part 1, I explained a bit more about Sheba’s cancer, and how we have chosen not to do any more conventional treatments, other than the two surgeries she had to remove spindle cell sarcomas from her side.
With conventional cancer treatments off the table, we have opted for some healthy living choices in these categories:
- Natural Supplements & Boosting the Immune System
Each of these will be covered in this series in subsequent parts.
Lifestyle refers to the things we can do in our everyday lives to try to keep Sheba healthy and cancer free for as long as possible. We do a lot of these things already, so in some cases it’s just reinforcing and focusing on keeping her doing the things that can help her. They consist of:
- Reducing stress
- Fresh Air & Sunshine
- New experiences
My reference has been The Dog Cancer Survival Guide* (affiliate link), by Dr. Demien Dressler, which has been a big help through this. I’ve also expanded and added to his ideas with things that I know make Sheba happy; keeping her happy is an important step in keeping her healthy and our goal here is quality of life.
Reducing stress – Obviously, we can’t avoid all stress completely. But part of our reasoning in not taking her to further vet appointments for treatments is to help reduce that stress. We can’t avoid the stress that will be involved in moving to our new home, but other than that we do all we can to just keep her life on its normal course. I want to get her groomed in the worst way, but the Dadz and I agreed that having her spend the day at the groomer would be stress she doesn’t need. So we’ll do our best to groom her at home; and let’s face it, other than keeping her mat free so her skin is healthy, and her tails trimmed, she is not concerned with how she looks. I just love to look at her when she has a new haircut but in the long run I know that’s not important.
Fresh Air & Sunshine – Sheba loves the outdoors more than anything. She wants to lie outside chewing on a ball or just watching the world go by, no matter what the weather is. She enjoys playing outside with Luke and Cricket, digging holes, and when they’re playing fetch she barks away at them when they’re hogging the ball. I think all of those activities are great stimulation for her, even if they’re not hard exercise.
Socializing – Because Luke does not like strangers, I had gotten in the habit of putting all of the dogs in a separate room when strangers came over. But one time I had left Sheba out and I realized just how much she loves to see people and how happy it makes her. So now Luke is separated, but Sheba is not. I had only done it because I didn’t want Luke to have to be alone, but I realized that just wasn’t in Sheba’s best interest. Even though she doesn’t like riding in the car, when things settle down I’d like to at least take her on short visits where she can see more people and/or dogs.
Exercise – This is something we have been good about anyway. We play in the yard for at least 30 minutes or more every day, with the only exceptions being if it’s pouring rain or the yard is too icy to play safely. I also try to get Sheba out for walks, though I know I need to do better there too. I look forward to the new house with new places to walk and explore, and I know that’s going to be good for all of us. We are lucky that right now Sheba feels great, but if she starts to feel poorly, we may have to adjust her exercise plans.
Training – Dr. Dressler recommends that training keeps a dog’s mind stimulated, engages their emotions, and builds self-esteem. I know this to be true since those are some of the main reasons I train so much with Luke. Sheba never took to clicker training, she just didn’t enjoy that or when we tried nose work with her either. But she likes to run through her basics. She loves it when I have a pocketful of treats when we’re outside and I have her practice coming to me and sitting. She has learned to walk better on a leash and pay more attention to me since I started bringing treats, and she has even learned to “heel”.
I want to keep doing those things with her, and am still thinking about doing some other training, I just haven’t figured out what yet. We did have some success with having her “give paw” so I will probably work on that or maybe even try a high five with her. Whether she gets it or not, I know she’ll enjoy the extra time with me.
New Experiences – Sheba can be a little timid at times, but she still enjoys going new places and sniffing around, and there are other ways to give her new experiences. Getting those bully sticks and letting her try them was a great one! She has also enjoyed the new treat games, and just giving her new toys to play with and ultimately destroy keeps her especially happy.
Dr. Dressler also talks a lot about what you might call “New Age” therapies for dogs; things like meditation, visualization, massage, touch therapies, and Reiki. I think all of these things have great potential, but it’s just not something I am into. I couldn’t meditate to save my life. I have tried sitting with Sheba and just relaxing, and honestly….sometimes she just gets up and leaves! I think she is fidgety just like her Mom.
I do, however, pet her and give her positive attention all the time. I tell her how much I love her, and tell her that she needs to be staying with us for a while longer. What she really enjoys is a good chest rub, so she gets lots of those. If she is relaxed, she likes being brushed as well, as long as it’s a soft and gentle brushing (save getting those mats out for later!).
Some of this isn’t earth shattering information, much of it we all do with our dogs daily anyway. But having a dog with cancer makes me more aware of the importance of all of it, and helps me from getting caught up in everyday life and letting those daily activities slide. It also helps me greatly to know that some of the things we are doing might not just extend her life a bit, but they keep her happy for all the time she has left, which is exactly what we are going for. I have hope that these little things can help, and that helps to keep me going and feeling positive as well.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and the things we are trying here are our own choice to try, after doing my own research. You should consult your own vet when making any significant changes to your dogs’ diet or lifestyle.