Real Stories: Angel's Journey

Real Stories: Angel's Journey

Story at-a-glance -

  • This is the story of Angel, a long-distance patient of Dr. Becker's who has a strange disorder called Masticatory Myositis (MM).
  • Angel is a 4 year-old male Husky living in California. He was diagnosed with MM in August 2011. Angel’s vet wanted to put him on a powerful steroid, which is the only treatment for MM recognized by the traditional veterinary community.
  • Angel's owners didn’t want to give their otherwise healthy young dog a potentially devastating drug, so they looked for safer alternatives. Their search eventually led them to Dr. Becker.
  • Dr. Becker has successfully treated several cases of MM using natural therapies like plant sterols and Chinese herbs. Nutrition and supplementation are also a focus of her treatment protocol.
  • Happily, Angel's most recent test results show his condition is now well-controlled, and his new holistic vet in California is working with Dr. Becker to continue the natural healing protocols that turned his health around.

Welcome to Real Stories!

This article is the first in an exciting new Mercola Healthy Pets series we're calling Real Stories.

Each Real Story will feature a pet or wild creature Dr. Becker has treated using a proactive, integrative approach to healing and wellness.

Our goal with Real Stories is to help pet lovers gain a deeper understanding of the nature and benefits of holistic, integrative veterinary care.

By presenting actual patients and details of the healing protocols Dr. Becker uses with them, we move beyond theory to real world application.

We hope you'll find our Real Stories informative, encouraging … even inspirational!

By Dr. Becker

This gorgeous hunk of dog to the right is Angel, a long-distance patient of mine.

Angel is a four year-old male Husky who suffers from Masticatory Muscle Myositis, also called Masticatory Myositis or just MM for short.

Masticatory Myositis

MM is an autoimmune disorder. I've seen quite a few cases of this strange disease, perhaps because I've been successful treating it naturally. Pet owners apparently refer other pet owners, online and off. I'm never exactly sure how they find me!

MM is diagnosed with a 2M antibody titer. If the dog has symptoms (Angel did not at the time of his diagnosis), in my experience they usually include head muscle atrophy and sometimes the inability to open the mouth.

For those of you who don't mind medical-speak, according to The Merck Veterinary Manual1:

Masticatory myositis is an immune-mediated, inflammatory condition that affects the muscles of mastication. The exact cause is unknown. Specific autoantibodies directed against type II muscle fibers have been detected in affected animals.

In acute cases, muscles are swollen and there is difficulty in opening the jaw. In chronic cases, there is anorexia, weight loss, difficulty in opening the jaw, and muscle atrophy.

Diagnostic hematologic values include eosinophilia and increased levels of globulin and muscle enzymes. Electromyography reveals abnormal spontaneous electrical activity in affected muscles. A biopsy sample of the temporalis muscle is usually taken; histologic changes include lymphocytic-plasmacytic cellular infiltrates, muscle atrophy, and fibrosis.

Although spontaneous regression can occur, treatment with oral corticosteroids (gradually decreasing the dosage) is usually effective. Relapses are common, and longterm medication may be required.

Recovery of jaw function and muscle mass in dogs with MM depends on the extent of damage to muscle tissue.

Angel's Diagnosis

Angel was diagnosed with MM in early August 2011, however, he was asymptomatic at the time. He exhibited no pain, had no difficulty chewing, and seemed perfectly normal. In fact, his diagnosis came about in a most unusual way.

Angel always goes with his sister Maggie, a Lab-Chow mix, to her monthly rehabilitative swimming session. The vet tech who handles Maggie's therapy noticed Angel's head felt bony to the touch in areas where you'd expect to feel mostly muscle.

The vet tech asked another individual in the rehab facility what she thought about Angel's bony-feeling head, and the second individual agreed with the vet tech.

So Angel's mom, Kelley, took him to his holistic veterinarian for an exam, and the doctor agreed the dog looked and acted perfectly normal. However, based on what the two people at the rehab facility noticed about the feel of Angel's head, the vet ordered a blood test to check for antibodies for Masticatory Myositis.

Angel tested positive for the disease. You can see his blood test results here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the 2ME Antibody test result of 1:4000.

2M Antibody Detection Test
Courtesy of Comparative Neuromuscular Laboratory

A Case of "The Cure is Worse Than the Disease"

Angel's vet immediately prescribed the steroid Prednisone.

Angel's owners, Kelley and Bruce, were very familiar with Prednisone and knew the drug comes with a long list of serious side effects. In fact, they viewed treating their sick pet with Prednisone as a situation in which "the cure is worse than the disease."

They asked the vet for alternatives to steroid therapy. The vet said there were none.

And in fact, the doctor felt obligated to inform Bruce and Kelley that Prednisone was the treatment of choice for MM, and without it, their dog could and probably would get much sicker.

Kelley and Bruce were understandably very worried not only about Angel's condition, but about where to turn for help.

The Importance of a Support System

Kelley began doing her own research. And fortunately, she and Bruce have supportive friends who encouraged them to continue on the path of finding a better treatment alternative than long-term high dose Prednisone therapy.

Having a support system like Bruce and Kelley's is extremely helpful.

When your precious pet is sick and the experts are saying you MUST do X, Y or Z in order to help him or save his life, it can feel overwhelming.

If you don't agree with their treatment advice and choose to search for other options, it's easy to start doubting yourself. You wonder if you're doing the right thing. You worry that while you're trying to find a better solution for your dog, his condition is worsening by the minute.

Often you have people in your life who clearly disapprove of your 'rebellious' attitude toward the Western medicine model of drugs or surgery, surgery or drugs.

If you don't have people in your corner encouraging you to do what you feel is best for your pet, you can feel very alone and frightened that you're making a terrible mistake.

To Kelley's way of thinking, Angel was a young, healthy dog and it made no sense to put him on a potentially devastating drug like Prednisone if there were other options available to treat his condition.

A good friend of Kelley's with a background in small animal health also helped out with research. The friend discovered that a very high percentage of cases of MM are curable if addressed early in the disease progression.

That was exactly the information Kelley needed to feel comfortable she had some time to continue her search for a way to help Angel recover safely from the disease.

Angel Becomes My Long-Distance Patient

As it turns out, Kelley's functional medicine physician had heard of me somehow and thought I might be a good person to talk to about Angel's condition.

Since I'm in the Chicago area and Kelley, Bruce and Angel live in California, there were logistics issues to sort out. But as luck would have it, Kelley happened to have travel plans to Chicago, so we were able to set up a consultation.

After I met with Kelley to discuss Angel's diagnosis and the success I'd had treating Masticatory Myositis, we put Angel on the protocol I use to help dogs with this disorder.

Angel was given a plant sterol compounded by an integrative pharmacy and a Chinese herbal blend called Qing Ying Tang for six weeks. We also stopped all vaccines, transitioned him to a raw diet, and added supplements including krill oil, bone meal and glandulars needed to balance the homemade diet. This would provide his overactive immune system the support it needed to balance itself. An entirely living food diet is also an anti-inflammatory diet, devoid of inflammatory grains his body didn't need.

At the end of six weeks, Angel was retested. The second set of antibody titer results showed he had moved from positive for MM (1:4000) to borderline MM (1:100). (This is same response I've seen in each of the MM dogs I've treated with this protocol.)

I lowered the plant sterol dosage from two a day to one. When he was retested a second time, his condition had stabilized in the borderline range, so I dropped the plant sterol dosage again to one every other day.

Angel will be retested about every 4 to 6 weeks, and I'll adjust the plant sterol dosage downward as appropriate.

Once his 2M titer is negative two checks in a row, we'll taper him off his herbs and then monitor him annually. He will never be vaccinated again.

Angel and Sister Maggie are Like "Brand New Dogs" on Their Raw Diet

As Kelley mentions in her video, beyond Angel regaining his health, both he and his sister Maggie have benefitted tremendously from their new raw diet and appropriate supplements.

In her words, "The change in both dogs … in the way they looked, the way they felt, the way they behaved and their energy level … they were like brand new dogs in just a matter of weeks."

Kelley also makes the point that most traditional veterinarians go right to the symptom and try to cure it rather than going to the system to learn what is causing the symptom.

She and her husband believe in living holistically. When they get sick they try to discover the source of the illness rather than simply medicate symptoms until they feel better.

Kelley confirms what I mentioned earlier – there isn't a huge amount of support for a non-traditional approach to wellness and illness. But she wants to encourage everyone reading here today to stick to your guns and keep searching for answers that feel right to you.

Angel Gets a New Holistic Vet Close to Home

I encouraged Kelley and Bruce to search locally in California for a veterinarian with a practice philosophy that aligned with their desire to have their pets live a more natural, holistic lifestyle.

It's important for every pet owner to have a veterinarian relatively close by who has first-hand experience with the animal.

Fortunately, after some searching, Kelley and Bruce were able to find a holistic vet nearby who is now helping to apply the healing protocols I designed for Angel.

A final word from Kelley:

"Just don't give up. Be brave. Get friends that will stand by you. Do your research. Don't just sit back and wring your hands. There are natural solutions out there. There are vets like Dr. Becker out there. Just hang in there, because that's what's best for your pets."

+ Sources and References