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After 365 Days and Over 25,000 Miles, the Documentary I Co-Produced Is Ready for Release

March 12, 2018

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Story at-a-glance

  • Dr. Mercola interviews Dr. Becker and Rodney Habib about their travels last year to collect information for their Dog Cancer Series documentary
  • Rodney’s dog Sammie, who has cancer, is his inspiration; Dr. Becker’s goal is to educate veterinarians about a way to treat cancer that isn’t taught in veterinary school
  • KetoPet Sanctuary in Texas is doing groundbreaking work treating cancer in shelter dogs using a protocol that features a ketogenic diet
  • For dogs with cancer, too much protein is the enemy because like sugar, it provides fuel for the disease
  • Dr. Mercola discusses the importance of metabolic flexibility, ketogenic diets for healthy humans and pets, and confusion about carbohydrates

By Dr. Becker

"Your animal is not going to die if you don't feed him for a few hours or even for a day." ~ Rodney Habib

"The converse is even more important. Not only will they not die, if you fail to implement a fasting protocol, you will prematurely cut short their life. Guaranteed. No question about it. They were designed to fast and if you deny them that because you think somehow they're hungry, you are going to prematurely kill them." ~ Dr. Mercola

Today, we're flipping the script here at Mercola Healthy Pets. Dr. Mercola is interviewing Rodney Habib and me about our shared passion and mission in 2017, which was to help bring awareness to the devastating epidemic of cancer in today's dogs. Rodney is joining us because he was the catalyst for our work last year putting together the Dog Cancer Series documentary, which will be available worldwide as a digital download in just a few days!

Rodney's Facebook page, Planet Paws, is the largest Facebook pet health site worldwide, and Mercola Healthy Pets is the most-viewed pet health website in the world, which means together, we're reaching millions of pet lovers across the globe. In the video above, interspersed throughout our discussion with Dr. Mercola, are clips from the Dog Cancer Series documentary.

Our Motivation to Find a Better Way to Treat Canine Cancer: Rodney's Dog, Sammie

Dr. Mercola kicked off the interview by asking Rodney why he decided to make a documentary on dog cancer.

"The reality is my dog got sick," he answered. "This was my first dog and the love of my life, Sammie. I'll never forget that day, about [four] years ago, when I was playing with her and I ran my hands along her sides and felt a lump — it was the kind of lump so many pet owners find and think, 'Dear Lord, just let it be a fatty lump.'"

"But on March 24, 2014," Rodney continued, "I knew all my hoping and praying hadn't really worked out. My dog was diagnosed with cancer, a spindle cell sarcoma, on the side of her body.

I was your quintessential pet owner who did everything I thought was right. All the foods Sammie ate were organic, hand cut by me. All the meats she ate were ethically raised, grass fed. But no matter what I did, I couldn't stop the tumor from growing … until I stumbled upon this sanctuary that literally changed my entire life."

Rodney is talking about the KetoPet Sanctuary, which is located on a 53-acre ranch in Texas. KetoPet was started in 2014 by a handful of wonderful people who knew shelter dogs with cancer are often automatically euthanized because most can't be adopted out, and veterinary care is too costly. Here's how KetoPet's president, Daniel Orrego, describes the work of the sanctuary:

"The primary function of KetoPet is actually pretty simple. We're here to advocate for dogs for whom there really is no advocacy. What I mean by that is everybody has a pretty good understanding that when a dog is in a shelter, he's in jeopardy. If that dog has a visible lump, he's on a very, very short list.

For the dogs that really do have cancer, that changes the relationship. What we say at that point is, 'Look, don't put the dog down. Let us intervene. Let us take care of the dog.' We'll invest in that animal and bring to bear the highest standard of health care we can, utilizing both traditional therapies and also nutritional intervention as well."

When You've Done Everything Right … and Your Dog Still Gets Cancer

I had similar reasons to Rodney's when it came to the Dog Cancer Series documentary. I see so many pet parents just like him who have done everything right. I've watched Rodney make his dog food. He uses over a dozen ethically raised sources of meats. He adds in herbs, for example, organic turmeric. Everything he uses is fresh and organic.

Rodney also minimally vaccinates his dogs. He has a chemical-free home. And like so many clients I've had over the years who've done everything right for their pets, when that cancer diagnosis came down he was devastated.

Hearing your dog has cancer when you've done everything right has a way of rocking your self-confidence to the core. You end up in a state of fear and panic because you don't know what to do. If you're a pet parent still reeling from a recent diagnosis of cancer in your dog, it can be very confusing and overwhelming to sift through all the information out there to try to formulate a plan to deal with your pet's illness.

One of the main reasons Rodney and I wanted to make the dog cancer documentary was to provide pet owners with the most relevant and impactful advice currently available from the top oncologists, researchers and veterinarians in the world.

As the veterinarian in charge of a cancer patient's care, it's nearly impossible for me to consider conventional standard of care options, which involve either cutting the disease out, burning it out or poisoning it out. What I really want to do is aggressively address the cancer without harming the patient, but that option isn't available with a conventional cancer treatment protocol.

In the case of very aggressive cancers such as hemangiosarcoma, where the average lifespan after diagnosis is less than 3 months, even when I use very aggressive all-natural therapies, the cancer progresses faster than I can stimulate the immune system to respond. It's incredibly frustrating that sometimes all our natural healing protocols aren't enough to stop the most aggressive types of cancer.

Why Too Much Protein Can Be Deadly for Dogs With Cancer

Dr. Mercola asked if we learned anything new or surprising during our round the world travels last year to interview some of the top cancer experts. Speaking for myself, I definitely did. My life has changed, and how I approach cancer is forever radically changed. I picked up many tools last year that have dramatically improved the health of my patients in just the last eight months. I am absolutely inspired by what I've learned.

"One of the biggest things I learned was how to see further than the food bowl," says Rodney. "As a raw feeder, one of the most shocking things I found was that the diet that I was feeding Sammie was actually growing the cancer. That's when I stripped all the forms of sugar out of her diet.

When you take the sugar away from cancer, it goes looking elsewhere. I was feeding my dog a high protein, high fat diet. What did cancer do? It went looking for glutamine. Glutamine is the amino acid that's found inside protein. It wasn't until I started to restrict my dog's calories and reduce the meat — the protein —that the tumor stopped growing and started shrinking."

Veterinarian Dr. Loren T. Nations:

"Cancer has an ability to adapt. If we start choking off the energy supply by cutting glucose out, it starts fermenting and using amino acids, proteins, as an energy source. It flip flops."

Author and BioHacker Dave Asprey:

"Some types of cancer love glutamine, the amino acid. Interestingly, just a little bit of glutamine will take you out of ketosis right away.

Dominic D'Agostino, Ph.D.:

"Excess protein in our diet will also shift the liver to produce more glucose in response to dietary protein."

Now, dogs are carnivores, so they need a lot of protein. Protein supports growth, however, in dogs fighting cancer, we don't want to stimulate abnormal cell growth. As author Dave Asprey says, "Protein is a terrible fuel source. Protein is a building block."

My Personal Goal for the Dog Cancer Series: To Educate Veterinarians

In our travels, Rodney and I looked for leading edge researchers and scientists in the human realm, because human medicine is about 20 years ahead of the most advanced veterinary medicine.

"Who did you target this information for?" asked Dr. Mercola. My primary goal is to get this information into the hands of veterinarians, because none of us learned about nutritional ketosis in veterinary school. Even brand new vet school graduates aren't taught the metabolic theory of cancer or how to implement aggressive nutritional strategies to help slow, halt and even reverse cancer.

I want to educate veterinarians who will hopefully put some of these ideas and concepts into practice to help their patients. Yesterday I actually had four veterinarians email me to say how eager they are to learn more. What's exciting to me is the opportunity to raise awareness about what we've learned through the Dog Cancer Series documentary. 

Dr. Mercola Explains Metabolic Flexibility and Why It's so Important

"When we're eating too many carbohydrates, as probably 70, 80, or 90 percent of the population is doing," explains Dr. Mercola, "we're not able to burn fat as a primary fuel. When we lose this metabolic flexibility, our liver loses its ability to produce a water-soluble fat called ketones. Ketones are particularly useful as a marker that of metabolic flexibility.

Most people watching this, and certainly most people in the U.S. — probably 95 percent — have lost that flexibility and can't burn fat for fuel. That means they can't go for a few hours, or certainly more than a day, without food without feeling miserable."

"That's another clue," Dr. Mercola continues. "When you have metabolic flexibility you can, with relative ease, go without food for [three], [four], [five] days or even longer and not feel that discomfort. It's an enormously powerful tool to have under your belt and it gives you freedom.

To me, metabolic flexibility is a better marker of health than being able to run a marathon. The same tools, interestingly, can be used for pets. It's the same darn process. We're all mammals and we have the same metabolic machinery. It works equally well for humans and for pets."

Ketogenic Diets and Massive Carb Confusion

Dr. Mercola's latest book, "Fat for Fuel: A Revolutionary Diet to Combat Cancer, Boost Brain Power, and Increase Your Energy," addresses ketogenic diets. I asked him to discuss some of the mistakes people make when they attempt to switch either the humans or the pets in their family to a ketogenic diet.

"My experience has been that people understand clearly they need to limit carbohydrates since this is a low carb, high fat diet," Dr. Mercola explains. "The most common mistake I see is that people continue this type of eating indefinitely, beyond a few months. That's where it becomes dangerous because we do need healthy carbohydrates — no question — primarily to feed the gut microbiome.

The problem arises with people who start to think carbohydrates are evil and start avoiding them continuously. They get along, but they don't thrive or reach a state of optimum health. I certainly made that mistake and I see a lot of other people making it."

I asked Dr. Mercola to define "carbohydrates," since people tend to put kale in the same category with corn and rice.

"There's confusion about carbs," he agrees. "Whether you use total carbs or net carbs, in either case, typically, non[-]starchy vegetables like kale would be very low in carbohydrates. It's almost physically impossible to get too many carbs by just eating those types of vegetables.

There are great carb-counter tools on the market that would work equally well for pets. My favorite is Cronometer.com, which is free. You can enter a food and it'll tell you how many carbohydrates, how much protein, how much fat. It's a really elegant tool.

As long as you accurately measure the food that you're entering, it'll tell you to the tenth of a gram how much there is. There's no confusion. It's something that you don't have to do continuously but at least, when you're engaging initially, you can understand what your reference points are."

Healthy Pets (and People) Can Also Benefit From a Ketogenic Diet

The word we want parents of dogs with cancer to remember is ketosis, which is achieved through a ketogenic diet. But Rodney asked Dr. Mercola if there's a benefit for healthy pets or healthy humans in putting themselves into a metabolic state of ketosis.

"There's no question," he replied. "Autophagy is a word many people aren't familiar with. Auto means cell; phagos means to eat. Basically, you're eating cells. Why would you want to do that? At some point many cells become senescent. What is a senescent cell? It's a cell that is aged and damaged and no longer has the capacity to reproduce effectively. These cells essentially just clog up the machinery, providing no benefit to the body.

They're like garbage that hasn't been taken out. Imagine what it would be like if your garbage man didn't show up for a few months. It's going to be a disaster. Similarly, it's a disaster inside the body. When you engage in disciplines like cyclical ketogenesis and intermittent fasting and even multi-day water fasts, you activate the body's ability to engage in autophagy. Interestingly, that whole process also improves mitochondrial function.

Most people have studied the subject in biology and understand that mitochon­dria are responsible for producing the energy currency of cells, otherwise known as ATP. But mitochondria have other important functions, one of which is to catalyze autophagy.

If your mitochondria are dysfunctional, as they are in most people and pets with cancer, then you can't activate autophagy and some of those damaged cells that autophagy is supposed to take care of are cancer cells. That's why it's so critical. It's really a magnificent part of the natural design of the body.

We all have cancer cells. Our pets all have cancer cells. It's not unusual. What is unusual is when those cells get out of control. About 80 percent of the human population has insulin resistance, which is the core of almost all chronic degenerative disease.

Most processed pet diets make bad human diets look good, so for pets, it's probably worse. I don't have the stats, but you cannot feed a pet 60 to 70 percent of their calories from sugar (which includes most carbohydrates) day in and day out and not expect meta­bolic disaster."

Dogs' Bodies Can Adapt to Long Periods Without Food

"My favorite interview of the Dog Cancer Series was Dr. Thomas Seyfried, who is a cancer researcher and geneticist," says Rodney. "This man just came right through the camera. One of the things he really put in perspective for me is how much — actually how little — food we should feed our pets. We know 60 percent of pets in North America are obese, and so are way too many humans.

The biggest fear for many pet parents seems to be that their dog might go hungry. As in, 'He's standing by the treat bowl. He's standing by the refrigerator. He's scratching at his bowl. I have to feed him!' Dr. Seyfried tells the story of a dog named Oscar."

Oscar lived on a farm, and was brought into a laboratory because scientists wanted to test how long a dog could go without eating. They gave Oscar only water and measured chemicals in his muscles. When the dog's urea began to rise, the researchers knew he was starting to starve. They stopped the experiment at day 45, and Oscar returned to the farm.

A year later, the scientists brought him back into the lab to repeat the experiment. They expected to see a rise in urea earlier than 45 days this time around. However, Oscar's urea didn't even start to rise until day 103. At 100+ days without food, the dog was still able to jump over the 3-foot fence to get into his kennel. Oscar had adapted to his state of starvation. What this proves, says Dr. Seyfried, is the incredible ability of the body to survive without food.

'If You Fail to Implement a Fasting Protocol, You'll Prematurely Cut Short Your Dog's Life' — Dr. Mercola

"Your animal is not going to die if you don't feed him for a few hours or even for a day," says Rodney. "The converse is even more important," adds Dr. Mercola. "Not only will they not die, if you fail to implement a fasting protocol, you will prematurely cut short their life. Guaranteed. No question about it. They were designed to fast and if you deny them that because you think somehow they're hungry, you are going to prematurely kill them."

It's important to note that there are some species that cannot fast for extended periods, including cats, but dogs aren't one of them. They are well-equipped to fast.

"I greatly appreciate your time, effort, energy and commitment to compile the information in the Dog Cancer Series documentary," says Dr. Mercola. "I'm really confident it's going to change the pet world and save lives." "And thank you so much, Dr. Mercola, for helping Dr. Becker and me drop some much needed knowledge into the pet world," adds Rodney.

You can find out more about the Dog Cancer Series documentary by purchasing the 4 series DVD hereProduct will ship March 15th.

Dog Cancer Series DVD

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