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When an obese, arthritic, 12-year-old dog walked sluggishly through the doors of her hospital with a cancer diagnosis and a life expectancy of about four months, Dr. Barbara Royal wasn’t discouraged, or saddened, or intimidated by the work ahead of her; she was enlivened by an opportunity to grab from death’s door a life that had living left to do. The dog managed more than to merely hang on for four months; he lived vibrantly and energetically—running, playing, jumping…doing all the things dogs should do—for four more years. But this is really only half of the story. Similarly inhibited by their failing health and missing out on life while facing a murky future, this unexpected transformation encouraged his human companions to pause and ask, “Why not us too?” Within just a few months, the two had dropped over 100 pounds between them, hiked the Grand Canyon, and visited their grandchildren four states away—something which their health had never once allowed them to do. What’s the secret? It turns out there’s not much of one at all.

The impact of a species-appropriate diet and an integrative approach to medicine became powerfully evident to Dr. Royal not through years’ worth of education and the tens of thousands of dollars she spent on it, but by virtue of her own research and through her experience as a zoo veterinarian. The typical veterinary school curriculum in the U.S. includes only a minimal amount of education on nutrition and is taught by biased parties—representatives from major pet food companies—who stand to gain by pushing their product as the only proper diet for domestic animals. “The companies are trying to sell their food and judging things based on money, and I understand that, but my job is really different; my job is to judge things based on health,” says Dr. Royal. “Food really should mean something to us…we’re putting it in our bodies…people say, for $30 they can buy a bag of kibble and feed their Great Dane for a month…but what are they feeding them, and how can that possibly be good? If it’s that cheap, then someone’s cheating somewhere.”

Nutrition is the fulcrum of every choice Dr. Royal makes as a veterinarian, but she’s not blind to the fact that many people simply can’t afford everything she recommends. She reflects on that reality, stating, “Most of my patients say that I save them money in the end, because…every bit of the food is worth what they’re paying for; they’re not buying a bag of food where 50 percent…is sugar, or chemicals, or carcinogens…and that’s going to decrease the amount of medication and the number of times they’ll have to go to a veterinarian.” When it comes to nutrition, a little can go a long way, and she’s willing to work with every client who walks through the doors with their eyes open to the options that lie outside the confines of conventional Western veterinary medicine.

At first glance, it might seem counterintuitive that the booming, multi-billion-dollar pet industry would be churning out such high rates of illness and disease. When Dr. Royal graduated veterinary school, cancer was more or less a rarity, and now one in two dogs will receive the diagnosis. On top of that statistic, arthritis, obesity, allergies, and diabetes are at an all-time high. Why are our pets getting so sick? Driven largely by pet food corporations, the pharmaceutical industry, and expensive surgical procedures, this industry thrives off the structure of Western veterinary medicine—a structure designed to maximize productivity, leaving practitioners and technicians racing the clock and relying on generic treatments and medications in the absence of thorough, holistic, and individualized evaluations.

It’s a different story at The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center, where the literal structure reflects the interests of the animals; there are no exam tables, half doors divide sections of the hospital, and the walls are lined with the natural defenses of antimicrobial tree bark. At least 30 minutes are spent at the beginning of each consultation addressing every aspect of the animal’s diet, which equips Dr. Royal with the foundation she’ll need in moving forward with treatment, whether that means acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal, metabolic, laser, massage, or rehabilitative therapy. She pays keen attention to the behavioral characteristics and preferences of every animal, watching and speaking their language—a skill she honed out of pure necessity while working with wild animals in captivity. If a particular form of therapy is not well-suited for a particular patient, then she’ll reassess and try another. It is this method that has rendered Dr. Royal such an immensely successful veterinarian. “If I were a conventional practitioner and I didn’t have the tools I have…I would be feeding food that’s inappropriate for the species, and I would be seeing diseases chronically come back…and that would be very hard on my soul,” says Dr. Royal.

The interplay between the human-animal bond and the way we view the health of our animals versus the health of our own bodies will frame the core of Dr. Royal’s discussion at the 2019 Metabolic Health Summit: cancer. How can we help an animal use their own metabolism and ancestral cleanup tools to fight cancer, when should we avoid putting them through multiple surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy, and in what way might these answers parallel those in human medicine?

Tune in to hear this enlightening discussion and visit www.royaltreatmentveterinarycenter.com to learn more about the services offered by Dr. Royal and her team. For resources in your area, visit the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association website at www.ahvma.org and the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society website at www.ivas.org. For reading on the subject, check out Dr. Royal’s book, The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets on Amazon.

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