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Three years ago my mother died and we inherited her 13-year-old Shetland sheepdog Nutkin, writes Julia Stephenson. His sibling had just died with severe joint damage and arthritis and Nutkin was in similarly bad shape too. He was overweight, listless, limped badly and his teeth were covered in plaque.

 


 

 

He came to live with us in London and the vet put him on the arthritis medication Metcam and recommended a general anaesthetic so he could clean Nutkin’s teeth. This shocked me. There was no way I would subject an elderly human or dog to a general anaesthetic unless it was absolutely necessary, so I refused this while reluctantly going ahead with the Metcam.

 

 

While Metcam relieved the symptoms of Nutkin’s arthritis in the short term, fellow dog owners had warned me that the drug sometimes had severe side effects so I began to research alternative treatments. Richard Allport, a holistic vet who specialises in homeopathy, was recommended as a pioneer in natural medicine for animals, so I went to see him.
 

Richard gave Nutkin a check-up and recommended a homeopathic remedy containing arnica, rhus tox and comfrey for his stiff joints, a glucosamine spray (to lubricate joints), and a seaweed powder extract which removes plaque naturally. He followed this up with Baryta Carbonica, a homeopathic remedy for very old dogs which helps reduce the symptoms of old age.
 

He suggested a course of treatments with Jo Boddy, an aptly named dog physiotherapist, for gentle stretching and infra-red laser treatment.


 

 

`Please, no more pills, I’m rattling!’


 

I’ve since stopped buying dog food and Nutkin usually eats the same food as us. `Dogs have been eating the same food as us for thousands of years,’ explains Richard. `It’s only in the last 50 years that special dog food has been developed, and most of it is rubbish.’ He scorns the horrible dry food that vets often recommend and rates a raw diet for younger dogs, even raw chicken (bones and all), which was news to me. Apparently chicken bones are only harmful when they are cooked.
 

Within weeks of coming off Metcam and starting his natural regime, Nutkin’s health improved radically. He no longer limped and was happier and livelier than ever.
 

I’ve since adopted two rescue Bichon Frises, and when one of them began scratching and tearing out his fur in desperation, Richard diagnosed `hot-spots and recommended homeopathic anti-inflammatories, creams and medicines, which led to a speedy improvement. Other dog owners report similarly miraculous recoveries. One of Richard’s clients, Jenny Verney from Jersey who owns an alsation, was over the moon when her beloved dog was cured of crippling stomach pains. `My dog somehow managed to eat something in the park that was covered in bleach, which wrecked his insides. He had an operation, but for two years he suffered diarrhoea and could not ingest his food properly. Richard recommended several supplements including slippery elm, and within weeks my dog was fully recovered and able to eat normally again.’
 

Unhappily, Richard explains that fewer vets are now specialising in natural medicine, which means more animals suffering unnecessarily from harsh medications when natural (and cheaper) preparations are so easily available.
 

As I write, Nutkin has just been diagnosed with a form of oral cancer. He is now over 15 years old and surgery is not an option. However he is under Richard’s expert care and doing well under the circumstances. Although one has to accept the inevitable, we are doing everything we can to improve his immune system and fight the disease. I’ll keep you posted.....meanwhile, I'm blogging about the rollercoaster journey of living with a beloved pet with cancer at http://atearintheheart.blogspot.co.uk/ 
 

 

 

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