Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kitty Update and More Herbal Remedies

So, I promised you a while back that I'd give you an update on Mr. Sputnik VonWiskars. Considering that he has a mass filling up at least half of his bladder, and that the vet gave him a few weeks to live back in early December, I'd say he's doing pretty well.

In addition to the pharmaceuticals: amitriptyline (anti-depressant that's supposed to help with nervous peeing incidents) & buprenorphine (the narcotic pain killer - which we've reduced the dose to just over half of what he was getting) as well as the curcumin & omega 3 supplements that I wrote about before, we've been trying out a few other herbal/natural remedies that seem to be helping him.

Before I go into the details, I just wanted to offer my general thoughts & mixed feelings on the whole topic of holistic medicine.

The basic concept of holistic medicine, as I understand it, is that rather than simply trying to "fix the problem" directly as traditional medicine does, you try to get the body to heal itself. So the idea is to support and encourage the body's natural healing abilities. This part I'm totally on board with.

Holistic practitioners use a variety of different therapies to achieve this goal. One is herbal and natural supplements. This idea makes complete sense to me since most pharmaceutics are actually derived from natural substances anyhow.

The problem is that since naturally occurring substances cannot be patented, there is very little rigorous research done to assess their effectiveness, side effects, etc. Nevertheless, I do believe these are avenues worth pursuing.

But then there's the whole concept of homeopathic medicine.

Homeopathy takes the stance that "disease symptoms" are really signs of health because they are the visible side effects of the body's own healing process. I can sorta see that.

So, in an attempt to help the body along in terms of healing, homeopathy seeks natural substances that, when administered will mimic the "disease symptom" and thereby increase the body's natural healing tendencies.

OK... this part starts to sound a bit iffy to me. I mean in certain circumstances I can see that working - like a fever is the body's natural way of raising the temperature to a point where many viruses and bacteria cannot live, so it might make sense to assist the body in raising its temperature.

But in general, this whole concept sort of seems to violate a very basic scientific precept: correlation is not causation. In other words, just because two phenomenon are seen simultaneously, does not mean that one caused the other. So I think it's a pretty big leap to assume that mimicking the symptom will somehow increase the body's healing mechanism.

But... we're not done yet - here's where it starts to go a bit off the deep end.

Once a substance has been found that is able to mimic the body's naturally occurring symptoms, this substance is taken and watered down to the point where it is no longer scientifically detectable.

Then this solution that been watered down to the point that it has so little of the "active ingredient" that it cannot be shown to be there, is what is actually administered to the patient. They say it is the "memory" or "essence" of the the substance that does the work.

OK, at this point, you totally lose me. Seriously, it seems to me that all you're really doing at that point is giving a placebo - and the whole idea that the "essence" of the substance somehow remains makes all sorts of warning bells go off in my head.

Anyhoo... suffice it to say that when it comes to holistic medicine, herbal cures make complete sense to me but homeopathy strikes me as a bit, um... unlikely to have any effect. So, after that lengthy introduction, here are the things we're currently using.

The first is a product called Tinkle Tonic.

It's made from a variety of herbs including couchgrass, and it's supposed to help cats with urinary problems. Many people who have cats suffering from cystitis have reported almost miraculous results with this stuff.

In addition to just generally having to pee more frequently than normal, Sputnik's been suffering from these little "episodes" where his urethra gets irritated and he just goes into frantic peeing mode. So while I wouldn't expect it to have any effect on the tumor, but we tried it out in hopes that it might ease some of the irritation he experiences.

I wasn't expecting miracles, but I have to say that this stuff has really helped him. It has all but eliminated those frantic peeing episodes, so I'm very pleased. A few of its ingredients do have a bit of a diuretic quality, so it's made him have to pee a bit more frequently, but all in all, I think it's a good trade-off.

The other product we're trying is something called Essiac tea.
Essiac is a combination of 4 herbs (although there are newer versions that contain a few additional ones) developed by a Canadian nurse sometime in the 1920's. It was apparently based on an Ojibwa Indian cure, and the nurse who developed it (whose name was Caisse - Essiac is her name spelled backwards) used it to treat cancer patients.

OK, I've gotta admit that my first reaction to hearing about this stuff was that it was a bunch of hooey. I mean really, an herbal tea that can cure cancer? Sounds like hype to me.

But, the interwebs are full of accounts of people using this tea with great success to treat both malignant and benign tumors, and my former vet swears by it.

And while the vast majority of the studies on this stuff are aimed at disproving claims that Essiac cures cancer, but I did manage to find a few studies indicating that it might slow tumor growth or even shrink tumors in size.

Since the worst side effect I could find was that several of Essiac's ingredients can have a laxative effect (which would be a good thing for Sputty since he's suffering from constipation and is on a stool softener anyhow) I figured we didn't have much to lose, and we decided to give it a try. Plus, oddly enough, he sorta seems to like taking it.

Without subjecting him to another ultrasound (which I'm not gonna do) it's a bit hard to say if it's having any effect, but he does seem to be feeling better in general. He's been more active and playful since we started the Essiac - even climbing up on the table when he smells his favorite treat! He's also been spending more time in my lap or cuddling in bed with me rather than just sleeping in his bed or in the linen closet (his favorite spot) all the time.

Sooo... I guess time will tell, but at the moment he seems to be doing well and feeling better, and I think that's all that really matters! Anyhow, that's the Sputter Report for the moment!

So tell me, what do you think about the whole concept of using unproven methods for medical treatment? Do you think I'm crazy with the Essiac tea, or do you think it's worthwhile?


  1. I pretty much agree with everything you've said. I'm definitely on board with making the body healthier and in a better position to heal - I take supplements and eat things like fermented foods to make sure my body is in the best possible state to heal.

    However, when they start talking about "the essence" and using such tiny amounts, and having no peer-reviewed science to back it up (easy to do if it really works!), that it starts sounds like a farce. I particularly like the pic showing the toilet in response to water keeping the memory of the essence :)

    I'm glad that Sputnik is getting some relief, it sounds like you are being very sensible about his treatment

    1. Thanks EK. And if water retains the memory of every substance it's come in contact with... I'm thinking it must be suffering from a terrible case of PTSD! :)

  2. There's so much we (and doctors/vets) don't know. Although some of the "logic" seems illogical (insert image of Spock here), if the Sputster is doing better - and if he's playing & doing less hiding - then I say keep doing what you are doing. Whether or not it's working or his body is healing iteself - who gives a shit. The results are what matters. Every ounce of time the two of you have is icing on the cake. Lots of hugs to both of you. And give him a kiss on his forehead from me.

    1. I'm generally not a big fan of icing, but in this case I'm savoring every morsel. I'll be sure to give him a nice big smooch for you. Thanks so much for your support.

  3. Okay, first this is a serious subject and I'm glad Sputnik is doing better but Tinkle Tonic just made me laugh, what a name! I'm really happy Sputnik is acting more like his old self.

    But to your question, no I don't think you are crazy for trying the Essiac tea. I would try anything myself to help someone I loved human or otherwise. When my youngest was diagnosed with ADD and I was pressured by the school to medicate him, big time problems, I went so far as to buy and give him catnip tea and capsules because I heard they had the same effect on ADD children as caffeine which calms them. He didn't like the taste of the tea, but insisted the capsules helped him concentrate on exam days. I don't know if they did or not, could have been a placebo-effect, but I was willing to try anything to keep the teachers off my back and help my son.

    1. Wow, I've never heard of catnip tea. I do know that in cats, while smelling it makes them playful and crazy, consuming it is supposed to be calming, especially for tummy trouble.

      And I know what you mean about the name Tinkle Tonic... but it could have been sillier... how about Pee Pee Potion or Wizzy Wonder Juice? :)

  4. I agree with your take on medicines/homeopathy, and love the toilet cartoon too :)
    There is no reason why the Essiac tea shouldn't work, given that medicines are chemicals, and plants/teas are chemicals too. It's just, like you say, that the teas and plants can't be patented and thus there is not as much research done on them, so you are sort of shooting in the dark a bit more.

    Really glad to hear that he's feeling better and enjoying life more- that's the main thing!

    1. Thanks Nicola, he really does seem to be enjoying life more. And he's beyond thrilled that it's been warm enough to have the windows open. :)

  5. I'm so glad to hear he's doing somewhat better. I would certainly give those things a try. What have you got to lose?, I am not a robot

    1. Ha! I hoped someone would get the Lost In Space reference. :-)

  6. First and most importantly, Sputnik is better. Next,the comments above pretty much sum up what I think. I have never understood homeopathic medicine although some of my friends swear by it. Placebo effect maybe? When discussing "natural" remedies this is what comes to mind. They are chemicals too so one has to be careful about taking them and their side effects just like any other medicine. The other problem is that since most of them are not regulated by the FDA, it's sometimes hard to know exactly what dose you are getting and if it's the same every time.

    With all of that being said, no matter what treatment you are using, you need to do your research just as you did and use your common sense. Sputnik is lucky to have you in his corner.

    1. You hit the nail on the head with the FDA regulations. It gets even trickier when you start talking about small animals, figuring out how to dose them can be um... challenging! Thankfully I've got a lot of Cat Lady friends who have blazed these trails for me! :-)

  7. I could not agree more with you. I like herbals (although the only problem with them is they aren't regulated very well so the amount you get in a product might be more or less than it says it is.) Homeopathy---well, the science just isn't there. My husband is a pharmacist but we stay away from pills unless we just have no other choice. We'd much rather treat ailments naturally.

    So glad to hear your Sputnik is holding his own right now!

    1. Thanks so much for the support. I have had great luck treating my migraine headaches with natural remedies. All the meds my doctors prescribed seemed to have terrible side effects and cause rebound headaches - so much so that I began wondering if the cure wasn't worse than the headache itself!

      With animals I worry even more about side effects from strong medications because they can't tell you what they're feeling and experiencing. I also think that there is far less information available when it comes to animals because so many people simply have the cat or dog put to sleep as soon as a serious medical situation becomes apparent.

      Anyhow, thanks again for the support!

  8. Could you email me as to where you purchased the Tinkle Tonic and the Essiac?
    I will talk to you later. I am really stressed from all that has been going on with me.

    1. Hi Denim,

      With everything going on in your life right now I can't believe you even made time to come read this! I hope you're hangin' in there.

      I'll send you an email with more info, but I got both at a local shop, although they're widely available online. I think has both.

      I opted for the original 4 herb variety of Essiac because I read somewhere that some of the newer formulations contain some herb (can't remember which) that has a very bitter taste.

      Take care of yourself!

  9. I will look into the TT and Essiac as well. I've lost most of my cats to kidney problems. You go Sputnik, your human is doing well by you.


    1. Hey Jes,

      You might want to do some further research before giving either one to a cat with kidney disease. I'm not sure how they are metabolized and you wouldn't want to cause further problems. :)

  10. I had not thought about homeopathy for years but just today I read the graphic novel "Science Tales" which has a chapter about it! I am a fan of Western medicine on an as-needed basis. Like some others, my main concern about plant-based remedies is the quality control and the nasty ingredients sometimes used as fillers. I am really happy that Sputnik is finding some relief and you get to have more time with him.

    1. OK... I have to ask. What's a "graphic novel?" Sounds sorta like a comic book for adults!


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