The transformation was unbelievable!!

A fascinating discovery by top Vet Oncologist Prof Clare Knottenbelt who put her own dog Jumble onto a plant-based diet

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Dr Arielle Griffiths vegan vet with Labrador Jumble owned by vet oncologist Prof Clare Knottenbelt who put him onto a vegan diet

💚 What a rare treat to interview someone that I hold in such high esteem - Prof Clare Knottenbelt. She is a veterinary oncologist specialist in the UK and her journey with feeding her own dog Jumble a plant-based diet is just fascinating.

I also feel so lucky to have met the sweet gentle Jumble when I visited Clare at her home in Glasgow in February 2024 to speak at the Glasgow Pet Nutrition Symposium.

We all have so much to learn from our experiences with our own pets, and to share in Clare's journey with her 2 dogs....who have both developed cancer in their lives, is just so interesting.

Want to hear more from Prof Clare all about cancer and our dogs and feeding them a plant-based diet?

Listen to a fascinating podcast where we discuss everything to do with plant-based dog nutrition and cancer in our dogs and yet again using her own experience with Jumble.

No time to listen?

Here is a transcript of the video (Clare's words are in bold print) -

A very, very warm welcome. So I'm just SO excited to be interviewing someone who is just so close to my heart - Prof Clare Knottenbelt who has agreed to give us this talk today.

Clare is just one of those people who is right up there in my esteem. She is a complete inspiration to me. She is one of the top Veterinary Oncologists in the UK. She has actually been a Lecturer at Glasgow University for 18 years and so she is so well known, so well respected. I have spoken to many vets before who have said to me ‘Ooh yes….she was our lecturer.’ They all love Clare.

She stopped lecturing, as she now runs her own business where she offers oncology consultations with owners who live in Scotland, who want to go and visit her. She offers teleconsults as well, and she also offers advice to veterinary practices on the latest techniques with dogs, cats and all pets, with oncology. And on top of all of that -

She's a Mum. She's like us….

A dog owner. An animal lover. But with this experience of running businesses, she also runs a coaching programme, which is where I met Clare. Five years ago now. So in my 50’s, I had just suddenly changed my whole life around when I turned myself vegan, turned our little Ruff vegan, and I threw myself into pet nutrition.

And as a vet, we all suffer with what we call ‘Imposter Syndrome’. I don't think it just purely happens to vets. I think it happens to so many people in other careers. We have this mountain of knowledge, but we're so scared of making mistakes, and we just want to get it 100% right, and we don't believe in ourselves. And this is how I actually met Clare, as she runs a coaching programme, helping vets and other professionals who just want to increase their confidence - just to find their place. And Clare did exactly that.

I feel quite emotional here. But she made me believe in myself. Doing these interviews….next month, I'm giving two talks in London. I'm actually quite a shy private person. I would NEVER have done any of this if it had not been for the help Clare gave with her coaching programme. I've got an enormous amount to thank her for.

But let's go straight into asking Clare, because her journey and her story, and I'm keeping it quite personal today as her journey with her dogs is one that's fascinating because obviously she's a dog lover and a dog owner and she's had two dogs that have had cancer.

And so Clare…please tell us all about your pets and a warm welcome.

Thank you Arielle for a lovely introduction. I feel quite embarrassed by it, but so kind of you to say all those lovely things about me.

Well, yeah. I am a Veterinary Oncologist, and it came as quite a shock to me when my previous dog Huntly who was a Crossbred, I got him as a wee pup, and when Huntly was ten years old, he developed a growth in his thyroid gland.

And unfortunately, by the time I kind of realised I needed to do something about it, it was a little bit too late, and everything had got very, very rigid and stuck.

And there was really very little that could be done in terms of surgical removal. And so we looked at whether it was worth doing the many things that I offer to my clients. So looking at things like radiation therapy, chemotherapies, targeted therapies. But for Huntly, he was very much a dog who loved being at home.

He didn't like going into veterinary hospitals and hardly ever went there. He only went there when I'd forgotten something up in my office and he had to come with me.

But poor old Huntly really found it very stressful. and so we made the hard decision that it wasn't in his interests with his concurrent problems where stress was a really big issue for him that we wouldn't treat him.

And sadly, we lost him to his cancer about six months later. It was a hard journey, but it was a journey that I learned so so much on being an owner rather than being the vet. And, I've really, really understood then what it's like to be an owner,

That kind of feeling as though someone has put a rucksack on your back and they're just popping, a wee brick in it every single day, and you just feel heavier and heavier and heavier and your brain is fighting itself. One part of your brain is going, ‘You're gonna come home’, ‘It's terrible. It's gonna be a disaster’. He's going to be half dead. And the other half is going, ‘It's fine. It's fine. It's fine’. The whole time.

And, I hadn't really appreciated how tiring it is having a pet with cancer. And how frightening. And even as a vet and an oncologist, myself, it's really hard to see clearly and logically when it's your own baby.

Oh, gosh. Thanks for sharing that with us. I feel quite teary with your journey, especially with that rucksack. Yeah. I can relate to that completely. And now you've got your gorgeous boy Jumble.

Yes that's Jumble, and he unfortunately had the misfortune to also develop a cancerous growth when he was actually quite young. So he was only four, five years old.

I kind of lose track with COVID about exactly when that was. But when it developed, he had a wee lump on his head and it was really tiny, but it just wasn't going away. And I was like, ‘Oh, I'm gonna have to stick an needle in it this time.’ ‘I'm just gonna have to get a sample, to set my mind at rest, that there's nothing to worry about.’ So I took home the needle - big mistake! Because when I stuck the needle in it, it turned out it was a mast cell tumour and it swelled to the size of a golf ball.

So I was going, ‘Oh my god’, ‘What's going to happen?’ I went back into full panic mode.

But it settled down, and it was a mast cell tumour unfortunately. But in some ways, fortunately, because once it settled back down, it was back to tiny again. So it could be removed relatively easily. We sent him off for surgery. And because of where it was, it was lying very close to the muscles. So we had to take away some of the muscle as well as the skin around it. The poor fellow was left with a little cut of ear that comes down. It doesn't sit up quite like it used to. And his face was all shaved and he looked terrible.

And I was like, ‘Oh my god. What have I done?’

But again, it really showed me what it was like to be an owner. On the other side, bringing home a patient from the hospital that's had surgery, how stressful that is. How scared you are at that time that things are not right and you've done the right thing and made that call. So, it was fully excised and so no further treatment was needed and he's left with a scar and an ear that doesn't quite work like it used to. But he's still very handsome despite that.

Gorgeous boy…and you just adore him. I know your family just adore him. Your girls and you. And he's got more Labrador than Collie, Doesn't he?

Yes. So he's 3/4 Labrador and a 1/4 Collie, and Labradors are very prone to mast cell disease. So Yeah. Hey.

But the other challenge you have is he loves his food as well. Don’t you?

Yeah. And this comes to really when I met you Arielle, Because meeting you through the coaching programme took me on a journey as a coach as well, because Jumble has always loved his food.

He's not horrific Labrador. You know, you get those ones that literally….They'll eat everything ….hoover the grass off the lawn! They'll really eat anything. He's not quite as bad as that. I think the Collie helps a little bit. Collies tend to be a bit more picky, so it helps a little bit.

But the key with him was he was putting on weight. And he was putting on quite a lot of weight. He exercises well, he was going out for walks twice a day every single day, twenty to thirty minutes each time. So he had a good exercise regime. But I didn't want him to put on weight because, obviously Labradors are prone to arthritis and things like that. I wanted to keep his weight under control. And also, we know that being overweight increases your risk of cancer.

I'm trying to stop the cancer and not keep it going. So it was great because when I first met you Arielle, What I learned…. I learned SO much about what you could do with dogs and plant-based feeding.

Because really, as vets, we learn very, very little about that. Our education in nutrition is pretty much funded by the big pet food companies. And so we learn a lot about all their prescription diets and all of that. But we really didn't in my age, I mean, I graduated nearly 30 years ago, and we didn't have any education on plant-based feeding whatsoever.

And it was kind of perfect timing because I was kind of coming round (Any feeding on any nutrition we learn very little as vets!)

You got told…if you've got kidney disease put them on a kidney diet. I mean, that's it!! It was really really poor. But I've always been someone who's had an open mind, always open to new ideas and listened and seen what the new information is and tried to assimilate it into my work. So I kind of realised…’You know what? The dog could transform and could change. So why don't I do that?’ And part of it was because I was turning 50 and I wanted to make a big difference in the world and in the planet.

I thought, you know what? I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna see what happens when I put him on a fully plant-based diet.

And Oh My God! The transformation was unbelievable!!

I was like…I thought he likes his food. So it's a pretty easy win to have something that he'll eat. That's gonna be a quite easy win for him, I think. But….what I noticed was even feeding him….just feeding him the normal amount, not trying to make him lose weight. He lost weight in a NICE way, and he became this really healthy weight WITH NO EFFORT!

I was like, ‘Well, that was easy!’ Whereas before, I'd be trying to cut back and… avoid the tidbits, and cut back on his food and he was hungry all the time and it was so difficult.

Here I had a dog who was back to a healthy weight and not at all hungry. Not looking for food. Not stealing stuff. Really good…and his coat was just SO shiny. So he was the shiniest dog in the street. And he became a puppy. I mean he was SO playful because it was, I suppose, 4 years ago now, maybe 5, and he was kind of getting to that stage of, a little bit of middle-aged spread, getting a little bit quieter. And he just became this happy-go-lucky youngster again! Asking to play with his ball. Wanting to be out in the garden more, and of course, that helps with the weight loss. Doesn't it?

Yes. Absolutely. And it's also a diet that's so full of the right natural fibre, the right level of anti-oxidants, the right level of the Omega 3 fatty acids that all play a role. Everything is pure and natural. So you immediately get your energy back.

It's the same with humans and it happens the same with dogs. And what a wonderful way that you actually got to see it for yourself, which is fantastic.

Yeah. And I mean, even walking through the village, there's a couple of vets who live in our village. And my husband was walking Jumble, not even me. And they said,

‘Oh, how old is he now?’ ‘Well, he's gonna be eleven in October. And they were like, ‘WOW. He looks FANTASTIC. He looks absolutely brilliant.’

‘What is it you feed him on? Because I've never seen an 11-year-old Labrador look this good?!’ And we were like,

‘Well, we feed him plant-based.’ And they were like,

‘WOW That's amazing’. And that was independent - it was an independent assessment. It wasn't the sort from somebody who knew what was coming. She was just blown away by it.

Oh, Clare. I just love that. Wonderful wonderful. That's where you see the benefits with cancer and plant-based are just huge as well. And would you say obesity is one of the main issues that will reduce the level of cancer in dogs on a plant-based diet? What would you say is the main thing?

I think there's a number of ways that it can be really helpful. I think the first thing is, yeah……there is this thinking within the human world. We know in humans, there's a very high incidence of cancers associated with obesity and being obese or overweight significantly increases your risk of developing cancer as a human.

And we know that humans and dogs are very, very similar. One of the kind of thinkings, is that when you are overweight or obese, you just have more cells. You have just got more of everything, and therefore more potential for those mutations to exist and then those mutations that lead on to cancer.

Then you've also got the added issue of more cells, but you've also got the issue of inflammation and we know in humans when you're overweight, you also get high levels of inflammatory markers.

These inflammatory changes also mean that you're more at risk of cancerous change because a lot of cancers start from a place of inflammation and then convert into something more sinister.

So you've got that as well. And then on top of that, you've got the benefits of the plant-based diet of not having any carcinogens in it, which helps because -

Yeah. Red meat. Processed meats. They all have a much higher risk of causing cancer than plant-based products. And obviously, things like your anti-oxidants - very high levels of anti-oxidants, in a plant-based diet.

So all of these factors together to me mean that a plant-based diet should take out some of the risk factors.

Now obviously, we can't take out every single risk factor. We live in the same planet as our pets. We know that there's smoke, there's pollution, There's radiation from the sun. There's things that we cannot change, but there's things that we CAN change, and we do have control over. So, in my mind, there is no doubt that I want my dog to continue to be fed plant-based because I think it will be healthier.

He's showing no adverse effects of it. And, while some people go, ‘Oh they won't want to eat it’….my Mum and Dad's dog who sadly passed away earlier this year. He was very picky and would turn up his nose at things, but he liked…he genuinely liked the plant-based products. He genuinely waned to eat those in preference to his other food.

So, I think people just say, ‘Oh, well, plant-based can't be palatable’.

It's absolute rubbish!

As you've taught me Arielle; dogs can tell what's in the food in terms of almost at a molecular level. So they don't care if their molecule has come from a vegetable or their molecule has come from a piece of meat. They don't care. They can smell the molecule and they know that that's what they need to have good nutrition in their bodies.

Yeah. Absolutely….and have that full balance.

And the other aspect is inflammation of the skin, which I know you made me so aware of ….or any inflammation. And it happens in us well as humans. If we're going to suffer with chronic inflammation, whether it's in your ear or your bladder or your stomach or your colon, you are prone to getting cancer because those cells will mutate and change.

But it’s so similar in our dogs, isn't it with skin problems…or any form of inflammation?

Absolutely. And I speak to a lot of vets and owners involved with managing mast cell disease, particularly when you look, when you start asking about ‘Have they had any problems with their skins?’,

They invariably have. Those animals that have gone on to develop mast cell disease, many of them have, skin allergies, general itch, seasonal itch. I think a lot of people say, ‘Well, what can I do to prevent my dog getting these tumours?’

And, yeah, I can't 100% prevent them happening if your dog's predisposed, but we can make the skin health as good as it possibly can be.

And to do that, I recommend a plant-based diet. And then combining that with Omega 3 supplements, either topical ones or, and you can now get such great plant-based Omega 3 supplements as well.

The Algae oil!

The Algae oils so you don't have to compromise. You don't have to say, ‘Okay. Well, I'm gonna give them fish oil,’ which is a compromise. I can still give them plant-based oils as well to enhance that. And certainly, my learning from Jumble with the tick bite situation was that was an inflammatory focus.

So, I have to be careful with him that he has as good skin health as he can possibly have because otherwise he runs the risk of having problems.

Yeah. Absolutely. Oh, Clare This has been fascinating. I could talk to you for hours and hours and hours. But just everything you've said is just music to my ears and just thank you for your journey and telling us about both your dogs.

Just wonderful for all of us to hear that because it comes from somebody who has experienced everything that we all experience.

We all love our dogs. And your experience is just fantastic. So thank you so much. I've so appreciated the time and thank you.

Thank you, Arielle. It's been a pleasure.





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